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Florence, Italy

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Florence, Italy

Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital of the region of Tuscany in Italy, with a population of about 366,500. The city is a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence was the home to powerful families, creative geniuses and scientific masterminds who left their legacies in the city's many museums and art galleries.

Politically, economically, and culturally Florence was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years, from some time before 1300 until the early 1500s.

Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages", a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine whose family had been exiled to Arezzo. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, Lyon, and Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years'... Read more

Florence, Italy

Destination:

Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital of the region of Tuscany in Italy, with a population of about 366,500. The city is a cultural, artistic and architectural gem. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence was the home to powerful families, creative geniuses and scientific masterminds who left their legacies in the city's many museums and art galleries.

Politically, economically, and culturally Florence was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years, from some time before 1300 until the early 1500s.

Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages", a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine whose family had been exiled to Arezzo. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, Lyon, and Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years' War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of the papal palace in Avignon and the reconstruction of St. Peter's and the Vatican when the papacy returned to Rome from the "Babylonian captivity."

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio pioneered the use of the vernacular, the use of a language other than Latin. In their case, Tuscan, which, because of them, became Italian. Because Dante, et al., wrote in Tuscan, Geoffrey Chaucer, who spent a lot of time in Northern Italy and who stole Boccaccio's little stories, written in English. Others started writing in French and Spanish. This was the beginning of the end of Latin as a common language throughout Europe.

The Florentines, perhaps most notably Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1466) and Leon Batist'Alberti (1404-1472) invented both Renaissance and neoclassical architecture. These architectural styles revolutionized the way Rome, London, Paris and every other major city in Europe from Barcelona to St. Petersburg were built.

Florentines were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his "enterprise" to the Spanish monarchs, and which he then used on his first voyage. Mercator's famous "Projection" is a refined version of Toscanelli's map, taking into account the Americas, of which the Florentine was obviously ignorant. The western hemisphere itself is named after a Florentine writer who claimed to be an explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci.

Galileo and other scientists pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy, anatomy, and so on. Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, and many others laid the groundwork for our understanding of political science.

Opera was invented in Florence.

And that is just a smidgen of what went on in this city, which never had a population above 60,000 from the first attack of the plague in 1348 until long, long after it became unimportant.

And there were the Medici, perhaps the most important family that ever lived. The Medici's changed the world more than any other family. Forget all the art for which they paid. They taught first the other Italians how to conduct state-craft, and then they taught the rest of the Europeans. Just to cite one example: Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589), married Henry II of France (reigned 1547-1559). After he died, Catherine ruled France as regent for her young sons and was instrumental in turning France into Europe’s first nation-state. She brought the Renaissance into France, introducing everything from the chateaux of the Loire to the fork. She also was to 16th and 17th-century European royalty what Queen Victoria was to the 19th and 20th centuries – everybody’s grandmamma. Her children included three kings of France, Francis II (ruled 1559-1560), Charles IX (ruled 1560-1574) and Henry III (ruled 1574-1589). Her children-in-law included the fourth king of France, Henry IV (ruled 1589-1610), plus Elizabeth of Hapsburg, Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame), and Mary Queen of Scots.

And that is without mentioning any "artists." From Arnolfo and Cimabue to Giotto, Nanni di Banco, and Uccello; through Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello and Massaccio and the various della Robbias; through Fra Angelico and Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, and on to Michelangelo and Leonardo, the Florentines dominated the visual arts like nobody before or since. And this list does not include many who, in any other place would be considered among the greatest of artists, but in Florence must be considered among the near-great: Benvenuto Cellini, Andrea del Sarto, Benozzo Gozzoli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Fra Lippo Lippi, Buontalenti, Orcagna, Pollaiuolo, Filippino Lippi, Verrocchio, Bronzino, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelozzo, the Rossellis, the Sangallos, Pontormo, just to name a few. And this list does not include the prolific Ignoto. Nor does it include the near-Florentines, such as Raphael, Andrea Pisano, Giambologna, the wonderfully nicknamed Sodoma and so many more, such as Peter-Paul Rubens, all of whom spent time in Florence and were educated by it.

Connect

Since there are a large number of tourists around, the center of Florence is brimming with webcafés and telephone call centers. Most evenings there are long lines for access to the phone-booths.

You can also buy a pre-paid card which will give you a steep discount on international calls by dialing a special number.

Wireless LAN access is becoming popular. Even when offered for free, you will need to provide your name and contact details to the provider of the service to obtain an access code. This is because of Italian anti-terror laws. Anonymous access is not possible.


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Florence, Italy: Port Information


There's no cruise port in Florence. You can take an organized tour to the city when your liner docks at the port of Livorno or get there on your own. It'll take you about 90 minutes by car or approximately 90 minutes by train.

Get around Florence, Italy


Firenze card

The Firenze Card is a 72-hour pass for Florence allowing access to 72 museums. In some museums, you can queue jump the reservations procedure with the pass but it is best to check with individual museums. NOTE: As of 01 November 2015, the Firenze Card no longer covers public transportation. To add public transportation to your Firenze Card you have to buy an extra Firenzecard+.

By foot

Most of the major tourist sights in Florence are within an easy walking distance of each other. It is possible to walk from one end of the historic center of Florence to the other - North-South or East-West in a half hour. Walking is not only an easy way to get around, but it also offers the chance to 'take in' much more of the city life. Be warned though, that electric motor scooters are small enough to fit where cars cannot. They are silent but quick and in the summer they often travel into the plazas. Some of the streets in central Florence are closed to traffic. Many more are simply too narrow for buses to get through. Therefore, bus and car tours are not recommended. This is a very small, very compact city that really needs to be seen by foot. And, of course, if you need to, you can always buy a new pair of shoes in Florence.

By bicycle

There is a bike rental service organized by the city. Bikes can be hired at several points in the city (and returned to the same place). One of the most convenient for tourists is located at SMN station. There are other locations at many railway stations, but often with restricted opening hours.

While there are hills north and south of the center of town, almost all of the historic center of Florence is easy for bikers, because it is as flat as a hat - flatter than that. But there is a problem: Traffic is terrible with buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians are fighting for almost no space. So pay attention.

Beyond the city bikes, some of the hotels in town provide their guest with free bicycles. Bike shops also often rent bikes and some of them organize guided bike tours in the countryside.

By taxi

Taxis are available. Taxis should be called by phone and the nearest one available is sent to you through the company's radio system with its meter ticking away. In Florence, it can be difficult to hail a cab from the street curb. You either call for one or get one at the very few taxi stands. One popular taxi stand is at the central Santa Maria Novella Train Station and in a few major squares. The first taxi in the taxi stand line should be free - ask in case of doubt. Be aware that most taxis do not take a credit card for payment. Be sure to have cash and ask in advance in case you only have a credit card with you. Please note that taxis in Florence are relatively expensive. Tipping is not expected unless the driver helps you carry luggage etc.

By bus

Another way of getting around is by using the public buses from ATAF. To get the best price you may have to go to the central bus station. You can buy tickets at tabacchi (shops selling tobacco, which are marked with official looking "T"s out front"), kiosks/newsagents/bars where the symbol "Biglietti ATAF" is shown, as well as at the ATAF ticketing office at the bus station outside Santa Maria Novella train station. Remember to ask for a bus map. Several ticket options are available. One very convenient is the 4-rides ticket and the "Carta Agile". The former needs to be stamped when entering the bus (from the front and rear doors of buses - the central door is supposed to be exit only; though now it is more accepted to enter from the central door). The latter has an embedded electronic chip and needs to be held close ("swiped") to the upper part of the ticket machine inside the bus: the "beep" of the machine will inform you that a ticket has been paid and the display will show you how many more tickets ("swipes") you have left. Within 90 minutes of stamping/swiping, you can hop-off & hop-on on any bus of the urban ATAF network. Unfortunately and completely against Italian law, it is not uncommon to see bus drivers talking merrily on their mobile phone while driving. Don't expect riders to complain about it and don't panic - they will still drive with the same non-comfortable style as when they are "only driving." Hold tight to handrails as Florence traffic is unpredictable and frequent sudden braking is necessary. Bus rides are not by all means "smooth." Buses are "safe" but pickpocketing is quite common. Please keep a close eye to your belongings and avoid showing off cash/jewelry/etc. especially in very crowded buses (especially for lines 17/23/14/22 - generally speaking any crowded bus can give a chance to pickpocket).

By tram

There is one tram line operating in the city of Florence. It connects Santa Maria Novella train station in central Florence with the southwestern suburb of Scandicci on a 7.4-kilometer route with a total of 14 stops. The tickets used on ATAF buses can also be used on the tram. Hours of operation: daily 5:00 AM-12:30 AM. Frequency: 3–11 minutes depending on day and time of travel 1. Duration: about 23 minutes between Santa Maria Novella and Scandicci. This tram began service on 14 February 2010 and is the first streetcar line in the city of Florence since 1958.

By car

Driving inside the historic center of Florence is virtually impossible.

Only residents with permits are allowed to drive there. Enforcement of the "Limited Traffic Zone" or "ZTL" is by camera. Violators will be tracked down and fined, but the fine may not arrive for a year or more after the infraction. The fines start at about €90. Once you enter the forbidden zone, it is virtually impossible to pass only one camera, and each time you do, it is a separate fine.

In addition, Florence has some of the tiniest streets in Europe, an amazingly fiendish one-way system that confuses even the locals, and some streets that just come to an abrupt end, with little or no warning.

Parking on the street in the historic center is out of the question. It may only be done by residents with a permit, and all other cars are towed away instantly - if not sooner - to some godforsaken suburb from which it will cost you hundreds of euros to get yours returned.

That said, you may be able to arrange a very temporary - about 30-minute - exemption through your hotel, which will need your license number and other information to make arrangements with the authorities. You will then have to get the car from the hotel out of the ZTL before the exemption expires.

A car can be useful to reach some destinations just outside the city center, like Fiesole or Settignano (these sights are also reachable by bus service), or for day trips to wonderful places such as Siena, Volterra, Arezzo, etc. It is possible if a bit tricky to rent a car in Florence and get out of town and back to the car rental agency without violating the ZTL. Those tempted to do so should make sure to get precise directions from the rental agency.

  • Barocchi, Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini, ☎ +39 0552670619, fax: +39 0552729793, e-mail: info@barocchi.com.

 

What to see in Florence, Italy


Florence is filled with many churches stuffed with some of the finest art in the world: Santa Maria del Fiore, San Miniato al Monte, San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Trinita, the Brancacci Chapel at Santa Maria del Carmine, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, SS Annunziata, Ognissanti, and more.

Then there are the art galleries. The Uffizi and the Pitti Palace are two of the most famous picture galleries in the world. But the heart and soul of Florence are in the two superb collections of sculpture, the Bargello and the Museum of the Works of the Duomo. They are filled with the brilliant, revolutionary creations of Donatello, Verrochio, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelangelo, and so many other masterpieces that create a body of work unique in the world. And, of course, there is the Accademia, with Michelangelo's David, perhaps the most well-known work of art anywhere, plus the superb, unfinished prisoners and slaves Michelangelo worked on for the tomb of Pope Julius II.

To get a great overview of the city, you have plenty of choices: climb the dome of the

Cathedral

or

Giotto's Bell Tower

which is much easier or head for

Piazzale Michelangelo

a large parking lot on the hillside just south of the center of town, or climb a bit further to the church of San Miniato al Monte, a sublime 11th-century masterpiece, with superb Renaissance sculptures. At vespers, the monks add to the beauty with chants. Unsurprisingly the historic center of Florence has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Piazza del Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore topped by Brunelleschi's dome is the third largest Christian church and dominates the skyline. The Florentines decided to start building it in the 1200s. At the outset, they were unsure how they were going to do it. It was "technology forcing", not unlike like the American Kennedy Administration's decision to put a man on the moon. The dome was the largest ever built at the time, and the first major dome built in Europe since the two great domes of Roman times: the Pantheon in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In front of it is the medieval Baptistery, where every Florentine was baptized until modern times. The two buildings incorporate the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in their decoration. In recent years, most of the important works of art from those two buildings and from the wonderful Bell Tower, designed by Giotto, have been removed and replaced by copies. The originals are now housed in the spectacular Museum of the Works of the Duomo, just to the east of the Cathedral

  • Santa Maria del Fiore. Also known as the Duomo di Firenze is the city's beautiful Gothic cathedral, the symbol of the city. Brunelleschi's huge dome was an engineering feat of the Renaissance. A statue of Brunelleschi is sited in the piazza, with his figure looking upwards towards his dome. It is possible to climb the Dome (entrance on the side of the church), which has 464 steps. Usually has a long lineup.
  • Giotto's Tower (Campanile di Giotto). Adjacent to the Duomo, you can climb the tower for a magnificent 360-degree view of the Duomo, Florence, and the surrounding area, and requires some tenacity to climb 414 steps.
  • Baptistery. Famous for its bronze doors by Andrea Pisano (14th century) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (15th century) and a beautiful interior the vault of which is decorated with 13th-century mosaics (the only medieval set of mosaics in the city).
  • Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Duomo), Piazza del Duomo 9 (Directly behind the dome end of the cathedral), ☎ +39 055 230 2885 (Reservations). The Cathedral Museum, with artworks formerly in the Duomo and surrounding religious buildings, including sculptures by Donatello, another version of the Pietà (different from that one of Saint Peter's Basilica, in Vatican, Rome) by Michelangelo, and the losing entries in the famous contest held in 1401 to design the doors of the Baptistery. Models and drawings of the Cathedral.

Museums

The Uffizi is the most famous, but Florence also has other amazing museums a short walk away with world-class artistic treasures. In all, Florence has something over 80 museums. Among those at the top of most lists are the City hall, the Palazzo della Signoria (aka Palazzo Vecchio), a wonderful building with magnificent rooms and some great art; the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Palazzo Davanzati, the Stibbert Museum, St. Marks, the Medici Chapels, the Museum of the Works of Santa Croce, the Museum of the Cloister of Santa Maria Novella, the Zoological Museum ("La Specola"), the Bardini, and the Museo Horne. There is also a wonderful collection of works by the modern sculptor, Marino Marini, in a museum named after him. If you are interested in photography, you should not miss the superb collection of works by the early photographers, the Alinari brothers. The magnificent Strozzi Palace is the site of many special exhibits. Note that all state museums, meaning all the main museums, have reduced prices (50% off) for EU citizens aged 18–25 and entry is free of charge for EU citizens aged over 65. It is best to book ahead at the ticket counters as it can be busy.

  • Galleria degli Uffizi, Piazzale degli Uffizi, ☎ +39 055 294883. Tue-Sun 08:15-18:50, Mon closed. Ticket office closes 45min earlier. One of the world's most famous fine art museums with collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures from classical antiquity. Included is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. There are often long lines and several hours' wait is common, starting even before the doors open. You can call +39 055 294883 to make a reservation in advance and walk right in. The phone operator will give you an extension number which you quote at Gate 3 to pay (cash only) and get the tickets. Online booking is available but is much less convenient because it costs more, has a 24 hour waiting period, your specified time may change and you need to print an email. The restaurant/caffè has a large balcony overlooking the main piazza with good views of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is a great place to take a break for art lovers making a non-rushed visit to this fantastic collection. This cafe is rather expensive, however. Street performers are often seen outside the Uffizi.
  • Bargello (Museo Nazionale del Bargello), Via de Proconsolo 4, ☎ +39 055 294883. 8:15 AM-1:30 PM Tu-Su and the 1st, 3rd & 5th M of each month. Closed the 2nd & 4th M of each month as well as May 1st. This museum houses one of the best examples of Renaissance and Mannerist sculpture. The works of many great Renaissance sculptors are on display here, including Michelangelo, Donatello, Ammannati, Bandinelli, Andrea and Jacopo Sansovino, Desiderio da Settignano, Giambologna, and Antonio Rossellino. The museum is near Piazza della Signoria and can be seen in a few hours.
  • Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell'Accademia), Via Ricasoli 58-60. Tu-Su 8:15 AM-6:50 PM. Highlights are Michelangelo's David and the unfinished Slaves. The David was recently cleaned in a controversial project. No photography is allowed inside. Wait times can be under one hour in the off-season. It is possible to reserve at the academia in advance and save yourself the long line. If you're only interested in see David and Rape of the Sabines and are short on cash you can see replicas in Palazzo Vecchio where you can also take pictures. Note that while restoring or repairing art, the gallery often showcases the replicas (you can tell because the toenail is intact for David, for example).
  • Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti). On the quieter south bank of the Arno. The former Medici family palace contains galleries of their art and treasures. The Boboli gardens behind the Palazzo offer wonderful walks and excellent views of the city and the countryside south of the city.
  • Museo Galileo, Piazza dei Giudici 1, ☎ +39 055 265 311. 9:30AM-6PM, Tu closes at 1 PM. This museum shows the evolution of the instruments used in various scientific fields such as mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy. The room of Galileo Galilei shows some of his original instruments as well as models from his drawings. The room of Spheres and Globes houses an excellent cartographic collection. In a rather macabre twist, the museum also has the middle finger of Galileo's right hand on display.

For those making longer stays in Florence, the city also has an interesting archaeological museum (the Etruscan art collection is particularly good), a Contemporary Art gallery, seated in Palazzo Strozzi, and other collections.

Old town center

  • Palazzo Vecchio. Old city palace/city hall, adorned with fine art. The replica of Michelangelo's "David" is placed outside the main door in the original location of the statue, which is a symbol of the Comune of Florence. The site displays an important collection of Renaissance sculptures and paintings, including the Putto, by Verrocchio, and the series of murals by Giorgio Vasari at the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Houndreds) - the hall which used to display the now lost Renaissance masterpiece, that is, the so-called Battaglia di Anghiari, by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Ponte Vecchio. The oldest and most famous bridge over the Arno; the only Florentine bridge to survive WW2. The Ponte Vecchio (literally "old bridge") is lined with shops, traditionally mostly jewelers since the days of the Medici. Vasari's elevated walkway crosses the Arno over the Ponte Vecchio, connecting the Uffizi to the old Medici palace.
  • Santa Croce. Contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and many other notables in addition to artistic decorations. There is also great artwork in the church. And when you're done seeing that, a separate charge will gain you admission to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Croce, where you can see a flood-damaged but still beautiful Crucifix by Cimabue (Giotto's teacher), which has become both the symbol of the flooding of Firenze in 1966 and of its recovery from that disaster. The Pazzi Chapel, a perfectly symmetrical example of sublime neo-Classic Renaissance architecture is also worth visiting.
  • Santa Maria Novella (near the train station). A beautiful church with great artwork, including a recently restored Trinity by Masaccio. Also, the Chiostro Verde, to your left when facing the front entrance of the church, contains frescoes by Paolo Uccello which are quite unusual in style and well worth seeing, if the separate entrance is open. Off of the church's cloister is the wonderful Spanish Chapel which is covered in early Renaissance frescoes.
  • Orsanmichele. A beautiful old church from the 14th century, which once functioned as a grain market.
  • San Lorenzo. The façade of this church was never completed, giving it a striking, rustic appearance. Inside the church is pure Renaissance neo-classical splendor. If you go around the back of the church, there is a separate entrance to the Medici chapels. Be sure to check out the stunning burial chapel of the princes and the sacristy down the corridor. The small sacristy is blessed with the presence of nine Michelangelo sculptures.
  • San Marco Convent. Houses frescoes by Fra Angelico and his workshop. Fra Angelico painted a series of frescoes for the cells in which the Dominican monks lived.
  • Great Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Florence (Sinagoga e Museo Ebraico Firenze), via Farini, 6, ☎ +39 055 234 6654. June-Sept, Sun-Thurs: 10:00 - 18:30, Fri: 10:00 - 17:00; Oct-May, Sun-Thurs: 10:00 - 17:30; Fri: 10:00-15:00. Closed except for religious services on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Lovely Moorish-style synagogue built in 1882 and a museum with many artifacts and documentation of Florentine Jewish life going back many centuries; visits are guided. 

South bank of the Arno

  • Boboli Gardens. Elaborately landscaped and with many interesting sculptures, behind the Pitti Palace. Wonderful city views. Don't miss the Bardini gardens. Entrance to that is included in the combination ticket price for the Boboli, and it's a short walk from the Boboli Gardens. There are great views of the Duomo from the Bardini gardens.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square). Plaza on a hilltop with a great view of the city (go there by bus) or climb the stairs and paths from the Lungarno della Zecca.
  • Santa Maria del Carmine. Famous frescoes (Masaccio’s Adam and Eve Banished From the Garden and others by Lippi and Masolino) in the Brancacci Chapel.
  • San Miniato al Monte (uphill from Piazzale Michelangelo). The Sacristy contains frescoes by Spinello Aretino. In the cemetery near this church, there are graves of famous people of Florence, including Carlo Lorenzi (Collodi) - author of the famous Pinocchio. Also, turn around when you reach the top of the stairs before entering the church, to see perhaps an even greater view of the city than from nearby Piazzale Michelangelo.
  • Santa Felicita (on the Oltrarno, or south side of the Ponte Vecchio). Contains frescoes of the Annunciation and a painting of the Deposition of Christ by the brilliant and weird mannerist painter, Pontormo. They are to be found in the Barbadori Chapel, which is to your immediate right when entering the church.

What to do in Florence, Italy


Great places to walk include along the Arno and across any of its bridges; through narrow, medieval back streets in the Santa Croce area; and in the Oltr'Arno - on the south side of the river, in many ways like Rome's Trastevere or Paris's Left Bank - but far, far smaller.

  • Climb the Duomo or Campanile. Traverse the winding staircases inside the Duomo or the nearby bell tower to see some of the best views of Florence. Not only can you see the Tuscan countryside in the distance and the impressive palaces and churches of Florence in the fore, but it also shows you just how large the Duomo is.
  • Stroll the Boboli Gardens. These extensive gardens behind the Pitti palace provide excellent views of the city of Florence and numerous sculptures in a relaxed environment. Stop in the hilltop café, grab a drink and a seat outside and enjoy the view.
  • Street Performers by the Uffizi, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. In the evenings street performers often put on a show here. Performances can range from violin duets to people dressed as sculptures. A nice place to stop while you eat your after-dinner gelato.
  • Enjoy the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a big square on a hill, but somewhat distant from the traditional tourist sites. It's easy to reach it even on foot using the stairs called "Rampe di San Niccolò". They are on the side of the Arno river just in front of the national library. Do this during the summer and during the night to admire Florence's lights.

Outside the city

  • Impruneta's spa, Via Cassia 217, Terme di Firenze (From the city of Florence, take the Autostradale Firenze - Siena and the SR2. The spa is on a lefthand turnoff from the R2, approximately 13 km south of the city of Florence.). The thermal waters of Impruneta spring from two sources and are used to treat respiratory diseases, liver, gastrointestinal, and skin allergies.

Learn

Photography

  • Florence Photography Workshop & Tour, ☎ +39 348 840 0459, e-mail: info@florenceinferno.com. 12 PM-6 PM (1.30 PM-7.30 PM in July and August). Discover Florence with your camera and with a professional photography teacher (a Vogue-featured American photographer) and an official Florence guide at your side.

 

Cooking

  • Cooking Class. Florence and Tuscany are becoming synonymous with "cooking class." Tuscan cuisine is appreciated worldwide and a cooking class experience is now more and more part of the attraction of Tuscany, as a way of carrying back home memories and improved cooking skills. There are many in the area, either in historical villas in the countryside or in central Florence, from Florentine use of tripe and giblets to the use of organic ingredients from the local producers, and classes range widely in size. During high season, make sure to book in advance.

What to eat and drink in Florence, Italy


Eat

Remember that restaurants have separate prices for food to go or eat standing up versus sit down service; don't try to sit at a table after paying for food or coffee from the restaurant's to go booth. Also ask always beforehand for the price if you want to sit at a table. Otherwise, you might be uncomfortably surprised. 

Florence's food can be as much of a treat to the palate as the art is a treat to the eye. There is good food for any price range, from fine restaurants to take out food from window stands. The best price/quality ratio you will find outside the historical center where normal Italians go to eat. The worst ratio is probably in the neighborhood of Mercato di San Lorenzo where there are a lot of tourist restaurants, while many of the best restaurants in the city are found in the Santa Croce district. In some, requests for pizza may be met with a rebuff. For local pizza look for small shops near the Duomo.

The best lunch places don't always turn out to be the best dinner places. Dinner in Florence really starts sometime between 7 PM and 9 PM. If a place looks like they're preparing to close before 8 PM, it might not be the best option for dinner. Reheated pasta is not very tasty.

Typical Tuscan courses include Bistecca alla fiorentina which is huge t-bone steak weighing from 500g to 1,500g. It has always price given per 100g. Crostini toscani are crostini with Tuscan liver pâté.

There is also a uniquely Florentine fast food with a 1,000-year history - lampredotto, a kind of tripe (cow stomach, or calf for preference, but a different part than the more familiar white "honeycomb" kind, dark brown in color; the name comes from its wrinkled appearance, which apparently reminds locals of a lamprey fish). The trippaio set their carts in the public squares in the center, dishing out the delicacy straight from the cauldron in which it is being boiled with herbs and tomatoes, chopping it and slapping the portions between halves of a Tuscan roll; the top is dipped in the broth. A mild green parsley- or basil-based sauce or a hot red one goes with it.

There are many gelato (Italian ice cream) stands; some connoisseurs consider the better Florentine gelato the finest in the world. Often gelato is made in the bar where you buy it. Because of this, there are many exotic flavors of ice cream like watermelon, spumante or garlic. It's hard to find a gelato place open very late, so after dinner might not be an option. Near the Duomo though, there are a few places open after 10 PM.

Tuscany is also the wellspring of cantuccini, also called biscotti di Prato. (Please note that in Italian, the singular of biscotti is un biscotto). It's traditional to enjoy them after a meal by dipping them in Vin Santo ("Holy Wine"), a concentrated wine made from late-harvested grapes, but you can also buy bags of them in stores throughout the city and eat them however you like.

Budget

There are numerous caffè and pasticcerie where you can find excellent sandwiches. Pizza sold by weight is an equally excellent solution for budget dining (vegetarian and vegan options are almost always available), as is any caffè displaying a "Primi" card in its window where you'll find pastas and other dishes at low reasonable prices. The delis (rosticcerie) are very affordable (and the food is often quite good), and some also have dining tables if you don't want to take away.

You can buy the makings for a picnic or snack at the Mercato Centrale. This large market has everything you might need, often at more affordable prices than supermarkets. The stalls will also sometimes vacuum seal whatever you buy so you can take it home with you.

A general rule: the closer you are to the historic old town, the higher the price.

  • L'Azdora, Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 14R. Very tasty and cheap food.
  • Il Vegetariano, ☎ +39 055 475030. Via delle Ruote, 30 r. A welcoming budget restaurant that serves delicious and healthy food to a nice mix of locals and tourists. One can sit in the more formal front room, the eclectic middle room, or the peaceful outdoor garden in the back. Daily changing menu with vegan and gluten-free items clearly marked, many luscious desserts on display, salads, soups, hearty brown bread, and a good selection of coffee, tea, wine, beer, and liqueur.
  • I fratellini, Via dei Cimatori, 38R, ☎ +39 055 239 6096. Nothing but the essentials: panini and wine from a tiny hole in the wall. Patrons eat on the sidewalk while resting their glass of wine on small shelves nested along the street wall.
  • Oil Shoppe. Via S. Egidio 22r. This quaint deli has affordable hot and cold sandwiches made with a variety of meats (try the meatball sandwich), sauces and fresh vegetables. It is open from 10.30AM to whenever the bread (white, wheat and sub rolls) runs out, which is usually between 6 and 7 in the evening. During the peak period from February to June, it can get very crowded in the day with students, but their love for the sandwiches there is apparent in their loyalty. A good mid-day meal to take with you on the go as you explore Florence, Via S. Egidio is not too far off the beaten track. The Oil Shoppe also sells its own extra virgin olive oil, which they generously use in their sandwiches.
  • Trattoria Mario, ☎ +39 055 218550. Via Rosina 2/R (near Piazza Mercato Centrale); (no bookings) The restaurant opens for lunch and they sit you with other people walking into the restaurant. There is a menu on the wall and the food is great and if you can, save room for a secondi (meat plate).
  • Trattoria Le Mossacce, Via Del Proconsolo, 55R, ☎ +39 055 294361. Lunch until 2 PM, Dinner starting at 7 PM. A local eatery that has been well-reviewed by multiple publications. Local produce and meats are prepared simply using traditional recipes and time-honored tradition. Some pastas are made fresh daily, so ask for the daily special. If you want to experience Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine-style steak), they do it amazingly without breaking your wallet. They sell and cut the steak from a larger rib slab in increments of 100g (with a minimum of 500g per serving).
  • Leonardo, Via de' Pecori 11, ☎ +39 055 284446. 11:45 AM-2:45 PM for lunch, 6:45 PM-9:45 PM for dinner. Closed on Saturday. A cozy self-service restaurant at the corner of Via de' Pecori and Via de' Vecchietti. About 2 min walk from Duomo. Although there is a menu at the entrance, it is better to go straight to the restaurant, see what they have on their counters and pick what you like. You can also order Bistecca alla Fiorentina.
  • Za-Za, Piazza del Mercato Centrale 26R. A very nicely decorated restaurant with many vegetarian choices. You can choose to sit inside or outside in the piazza. The menu is huge, lots of choices, and the prices are fair. Service is outstanding, they really cater to your needs. Make sure to try the chianti house wine. Highly recommended. Beware: between the two doorways for Za Za, there is another, far more touristy trattoria. At first glance, it looks like part of the same place. Don't be fooled!
  • Il Giardino di Barbano, Piazza Indipendenza 3-4r, ☎ +39 055 486752. This restaurant just on the edge of the center offers a great way to escape the tourist restaurants and enjoy a good pizza between the locals. This restaurant offers great wood oven pizza's (try the O' Sole Mio) that you can enjoy in the garden (in summertime) or take-away and friendly staff (that recognize you on your second visit).

Mid-range

  • al Tranvai, ☎ +39 055 225197. Piazza T.Tasso, 14 r. An excellent restaurant for authentic Tuscan fare away from the tourist center. This place gets very busy around 8 PM with the locals, so be there a bit before. Very traditional Tuscan food at decent prices. The rabbit, asparagus souffle and fiori fritti are excellent and the service very welcoming and warm.
  • Palle d'Oro, Via S. Antonino, 43/45R (From Santa Maria Novella train station walk a bit south (about 200m) then you will get to Piazza Dell'Unita Italiana. Via S. Antonino looks almost like an alley, from the plaza it will be on your left side), ☎ +39 055 88383. Three generations of the same family have managed the restaurant, started as a wine seller (they have also been producing wine). They specialize in Tuscany traditional food. Quality of food is excellent since they are not only good cooks but also use very good quality ingredients.
  • Trattoria Cammillo, Borgo San Jacopo 57/R (near the fountain at the 5 way dangerous intersection south of the river), ☎ +39 055 212427. closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Fairly good Tuscan cuisine, with a number of options for vegetarians and vegans. Make reservations.
  • Sancho Panza, Via De'Vanni, 2/4 R (next to Piazza Gaddi), ☎ +39 055 702100. Open for dinner only, closed Wednesdays. Excellent Italian cuisine (pizza, meat, fresh pasta...).

Splurge

  • Restaurant Terrazza Brunelleschi, ☎ +39 055 235 80, fax: +39 055 235 888 95. Piazza Unità Italiana, 6. From the Panoramic "Terrazza Brunelleschi" Restaurant you can catch all of Florence in a glimpse: the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore designed by Brunelleschi and Giotto's famous campanile, the roofs of the age-old buildings of the historical center and the green hills that surround the city on the horizon.
  • Enoteca Pinchiorri, ☎ +39 055 242777. Via Ghibellina, 87. Situated in the center, near Santa Croce, perhaps the most expensive and exclusive winery and restaurant in Florence. You will choose from a selection of the best Italian wines. You will be presented with separate bills for the food and for the wine.
  • Il Cibreo, ☎ +39 055 234 11 00, fax: +39 055 244 966. Via Dei Macci, 118/R. In the center near Santa Croce. Vast and great choice of Tuscan food, with highly selected ingredients.
  • Trattoria da Tito, ☎ +39 055 472 475. Via S.Gallo 112/r. Although a bit of a walk from the main attractions, this restaurant speaks for itself with mandatory reservations. Great Italian food with the great Italian atmosphere. Dinner often includes impromptu free drinks and a lively wait staff.

Dessert

  • Gelateria dei Neri, Via dei Neri 20r. Ice cream in many flavors, some experimental, all excellent.
  • Festival Del Gelato, Via Del Corso 75. 50 flavors and has an upbeat atmosphere
  • Perché No Via dei Tavolini 19. Freshly made daily from quality ingredients. The pear will be made with real pears and will taste of pears. Typically fruit flavors will be made with seasonally available fruits. Chocolate flavor will taste of cocoa rather than chocolate milk-powder. If you are a chocolate fan, this is the place to go. Specialties are "sorbetto" (ice cream made with water rather than milk, both with fruit and standard flavors, and "mousse" ice creams. Ask for the "special" taste of the day.
  • Vivoli, ☎ +39 055 292 334. Via Isole delle Stinche, 7/R. Close to Piazza Santa Croce. Vivoli has a good gelato fruit selection, so definitely try the fragola, or strawberry. Make sure that you ask for the cream on top as well, because it adds another element to an already great dessert.

Drink

Tap water is safe but those who prefer bottled water will find it plentiful.

Make sure to sample the excellent wines of the region.

Chianti is the local wine that can be ordered cheaply. Many eateries will offer carafes of various sizes of "house chianti."

Bars

  • La Cite. A very nice and cozy cafe/bookstore. Good prices, nice atmosphere, good books. Borgo San Frediano 20r.
  • Enoteca Le volpi e l'Uva, ☎ +39 055 2398132. The must of the tasting wines and savory titbits. Piazza dei Rossi, 1.
  • Uffizi Museum The bar at this museum offers an amazing view overlooking la Piazza della Signoria, but it's only accessible through the museum, so you'll have to buy a ticket.
  • Irish Pub (The Fiddlers Elbow) Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This pub has plenty of seating, in addition to live music and great staff.
  • Bebop - Can be found north of the Duomo on the right on Via Dei Servi, before you reach Piazza d Annunziata.
  • Ambrosia - Found in Piazza de Ambrosia. This is primarily a wine bar, and you can sample some great wines at a low cost provided you come with friends and share the price of whole bottles.
  • Rivoire Piazza della Signoria. Founded in 1872 this terrace facing the Palazzo Vecchio is a Florentine institution.
  • Paszkowski or Gilli. Situated on the Piazza Republica, next to the hotel Savoy. Note that the terraces on the other side of the piazza are equally pricey.
  • Été, Via Faenza 63. A lovely little café with warm service and good local beer and wine. 

 

Shopping in Florence, Italy


There are a few places to buy things, from the high-end jewelry stores lining the Ponte Vecchio to some of the most famous shops in the world; Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, Valentino, Prada, Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Buccellati, Frette, as well as many more wonderful shops that aren't yet world famous. Souvenirs related to art and Florence's sights can be found everywhere. Books, leather goods, art handcrafted journals, frames, pencils etc. in that gorgeous Florentine paper with swirls of color and gold are great gifts.

It is increasingly difficult to find bargains, but keen-eyed shoppers can still find good deals on smaller, side streets running off of those above and elsewhere in the center of town. Better stores in/near the city center offer superb leathers at sometimes decent prices...perhaps after some bickering. Goldsmiths on the Ponte Vecchio display beautiful and quality work but can be very expensive. Shops that are not located in the very center of the city are significantly cheaper. There are also superb shopping streets, such as the Via Tornabuoni, the Via del Parione, and the Via Maggio. The San Lorenzo market is now largely for tourists. There are also a couple of collections of "outlets" in the suburbs.

Some of the most uniquely Florentine shops and sights can be found in the Oltrarno, which is Florence's "Left Bank" and home to countless generations of artisans. This section of town can be found by crossing "Ponte Vecchio" (the old bridge) or Ponte Trinità from the center. This "undiscovered" Florence is a must-see.

  • Enoteca Mondovino, Via S. Agostino 27-29/R, ☎ +39 055 215214. Decent wine and Liquor store with an interesting collection of potable bitters in the back (Italian and German).
  • Beaded Lily Beads & Designer Jewelry, Via Toscanella 33r (In the Oltrarno - Steps from Piazza Della Passera), ☎ +39 055 239 9182. An inspiring array of unique beading supplies, handmade designer jewelry, Italian Tubular Wire Mesh Ribbon, Italian chains, yarns and more. Now offering glass beadmaking and jewelry design courses.
  • Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Via della Scala 16 N. An old pharmacy, which sells high-quality beauty products like soaps, shaving cream, eau de Cologne.
  • Pitti Vintage - Italian & European Vintage Clothing & Accessories, Borgo degli Albizi 72r, ☎ +39 055 230 2676, e-mail: shopkeeper@PittiVintage.com. Fendi, Ferragamo, Gucci, Lancetti, Valentino. Specializes in Italian and European designer and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.
  • Cose Del 900 - Italian Glass Connection, Borgo San Jacopo 45R (Just two minutes from Ponte Vecchio.), ☎ +39 055 283 491, e-mail: Shopkeeper@ItalianGlassConnection.com. Monday - Saturday 10:30 AM-7:30 PM. Since 1981 - Specializing in sized-to-order, affordable beaded jewelry featuring handmade Murano glass beads.
  • Zei Cinofilia, Via P. Colletta n.30/32r, ☎ +39 055 2477909. 9AM-7PM. Since 1962 the pet shop has been selling stylish Italian accessories for cats and dogs.
  • Ortigia SRL, Borgo San Jacopo 12R (next to the Ponte Vecchio), ☎ +39 055 282129. Luxurious soaps, scents, creams, candles and lotions inspired by the aesthetics, colors, and scents of Sicily.
  • Creature Diverse (Bottega d'Arte), Borgo San Jacopo 76/r (just across the river from central Florence), ☎ +39 055 2382206. noon-7:30 PM. Sarah, the designer/owner of this jewelry and curio shop, doubles as a designer for some of the best-known luxury brands (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc). Buy her stylish, hip originals here. Great souvenirs for women (or Jewelry wearing men).
  • Ottica Fotografia, Via dei Pecori, 19r, ☎ +39 055 287966. Monday - Saturday 9 AM - 6 PM. Claims to be the oldest shop in Florence, and this can easily be believed. The shop has survived just in front of the Cathedral and is well worth a visit - especially if you need glasses made or repaired, good quality inexpensive sunglasses, or old school camera film. (Or anything else from an odd assortment of interesting items found in the window!) Owner Mario speaks fluent Italian, French, and English.
  • Albrici, Via dei Serragli 20R, ☎ +39 055211095, e-mail: info@albrici.com. Monday 3 pm-7 pm Tuesday - Saturday 9 am-1 pm 3 pm-7 pm. Antiques and home decor store located in the traditional neighborhood of the artisans' workshops of Florence, the Oltrarno. It's been recognized by the city of Florence as a "Historical Florentine Store" due to its 50 years-long history.
  • Recollection by Albrici (Albrici), Via dei Serragli 22R, e-mail: recollection@albrici.com. Monday 3 pm-7 pm / Tuesday - Saturday 9 am-1 pm 3 pm-7 pm.. Inside the historic store Albrici, Recollection is a place for selected vintage clothing and accessories that tell the history of fashion from the 1920's to the 1990's.

Beware: If the police catch you while buying a knock-off version of something with a brand from an (illegal) street vendor, you can be fined up to €10,000. You'll see plenty of people on the street selling imitation Gucci sunglasses, Rolex watches, and Prada purses dirt cheap. It's okay if the item doesn't have a real brand on it, but buying a knock-off is illegal.

Safety in Florence, Italy


Florence is generally safe, but take precautions against the opportunistic thieves common to major tourist attractions: pickpockets and purse snatchers. Savvy thieves congregate in crowds, particularly around Santa Maria Novella train station. If you have a bag with a classy, noiseless zipper, it will be opened. Also, exercise caution on buses: pickpockets can be active on crowded ones and, as everywhere else, they preferably target tourists. Occasionally, some types of beggars can be insistent and distracting while at the same time another thief quietly steals your wallet or phone. Again, this is nothing new to major tourist spots.

Stay healthy

Beware of Stendhal syndrome, also known as hyperkulturemia, namely, dizziness caused by being overwhelmed by Florence's fantastic art. Yes, it's a real syndrome, named after 19th-century French author Stendhal, who suffered from it during his stay in Florence. If you get overwhelmed, rest your eyes and legs, get some food (remember gelato), and save the rest of Florence for tomorrow.

Language spoken in Florence, Italy


Italian is the official language. English is widely spoken.

LOCAL TIME

11:35 pm
July 21, 2019
Europe/Rome

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Mon

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scattered clouds
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scattered clouds
Wed

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few clouds
Thu

26.95 °C/81 °F
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