Tips & Tricks
Make your Florentine life easier
Here you find useful links, some of my favorite places, info on how to get around and a list of my personal do's and don'ts. Any questions after seeing this list? Looking for a more in-depth travel plan? Make sure to write me. Also, if you feel like there's anything missing on this list, let me know!
General Tourist Information
Here you find links to the official websites to book tickets for the main sights, info on getting around in the city and some other links and info that may be useful while planning you trip. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Scroll down to the FAQ’s. If you can’t find it there, send me a message.
Be smart and skip the lines. Book your tickets in advance:
The best way to get around in Florence is by foot. The centre is relatively small and all the main sights are within walking distance from each other. Do you however want to go to another city, need a taxi or want to use a bus, then these details come in handy:
- ATAF is de company responsible for all the busses in the city
- Florence also has two tramlines, operated by GEST
- There’s two main taxi company’s in Florence: Taxi 4390 and Taxi 4242 For ladies there’s a special taxi service (Taxi Rosa) between 10PM and 4AM. You get a discount and it’s for women only.
- If you want to visit other cities, trains are usually the best option. Check the Trenitalia and Italo websites for details.
- First of all: be nice! – This seems pretty straightforward, but somehow it doesn’t always work that way. You’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, chances are the weather is awesome, there’s good food everywhere. There’s absolutely no bloody reason to fight over a guidebook or be rude to a shop assistant or a waiter.
- Try the language – A simple ‘grazie’ (thank you), ‘per favore’ (please), ‘ciao’ (hi or bye), ‘buongiorno’ (good morning – it means good day, but after the morning most Florentines will immediately skip to ‘buona sera’ (good evening)) or ‘buona giornata’ (have a good day) will get you a long way. These days are plenty of apps that can help you with the pronunciation and Italians are proud people. They love to help you out with the language!
- Get Lost– Don’t just tick things of your to do-list, but give yourself the time to explore the small streets, visit artisan workshops, get some not so standard souvenirs and explore real Tuscan cuisine away from the crowds.
- Keep it Clean– Florence gets millions of visitors each year, which puts a huge pressure on the city’s livability. Clean up after yourself, try to not sit at random steps with your food (what’s your bench for lunch may be someone else’s doorstep), don’t throw your stuff on the ground.
- Have cash on hand– Many smaller bars and shops don’t accept cards yet or will charge you a fee for using them. It’s better and a lot easier to just have a bit of cash. There’s ATM’s everywhere.
- Accept you’re in a different country– Which means some things may not go the way you’re used to. Unless people are exceptionally rude to you (which I think isn’t acceptable in any culture), try to keep that in mind. Service is usually a bit slower, you’ll have to ask for the bill yourself (here it’s considered rude to just drop the bill on the table once you’re done with dinner) and not everyone speaks English. Try to go with the flow. It’s Italy, in the end there’s a solution for (almost) everything, but getting angry usually won’t get you there.
- Hop on Hop off– It may seem like a great way to see the main sights, in Florence it doesn’t really work that way. The main sights are located in a pedestrian area, where the bus can’t go. So you’ll basically be spending a lot of money on a bus tour not seeing anything exciting at all. Walk or grab a bike!
- Tipping– Tipping is very much appreciated, but not necessary. It’s not a common thing to tip in Italy. However, obviously it’s not forbidden to reward good service! If you do want to tip, 5-10% should do.
- Stand in line for museums– Florence can get crazy busy in high season. The last thing you want is to spend half of your day standing in some kind of line (unless it’s for gelato. Gelato is always a great reason to stand in line ;-)). For the main sights you can nowadays book tickets in advance. See the ‘museums and sights’ tab for the main links. For the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo and the Accademia I definitely advice you to book in advance. Slots often sell out. Need help? Let me know!
Frequently Asked Questions
Everything you need to know, and more...
What's the best time to travel to Florence?
It kind of depends on what you’re looking for, but generally speaking I would say spring (March – May) or autumn (September – October) when temperatures are usually milder and the city is a bit less crowded than in high season (June – August). During the summer months temperatures can rise to a whopping 38 Celcius (100 Fahrenheit), which in a city is HOT. Especially since Florence has a pretty humid climate.
The months of January and February are usually the most quiet ones. Temperatures can be anywhere between 5 and 15 Celcius (41 – 59 Fahrenheit) and it rains a lot more than during the hot summer months. However there’s still plenty of bright, sunny days to enjoy!
What are the 'must see' and 'must do' things?
Personally I don’t believe in such a thing as ‘must’. You’re on a city trip or holiday and the most important thing is that you get to enjoy this beautiful city. It very much depends on your personality and interests. If you want to figure out an itinerary that matches what you’re looking for, drop me a message!
That being said, there’s a few highlights that I love. The dome of the Duomo and the view from there are amazing. Same goes for the Duomo Museum. There’s endless amounts of masterpieces to be found in the Uffizi, where some of my personal favourites aren’t the ones where the big crowds gather (contact me for a personalized advice). The David in the Accademia is great, but the ‘Prisoners’ I find even more beautiful and touching. For me, as the name of this website suggests, the beauty is very often in the details of the city.
Is Florence a safe city?
Yes. I always walk home alone late at night and I have never felt unsafe for a single minute. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, there’s Taxi Rosa for the ladies (see transportation tab above for all the details), or just regular taxi’s for anyone else.
There are a few things you have to keep in mind however. Although Florence is not a big city, it is a very touristy one. That means that e.g. pickpockets get drawn to the city. Always be sensible about what you carry with you and keep an eye on your belongings, especially when you go to crowded areas like the Ponte Vecchio, the train station Santa Maria Novella, or the big shops and shopping streets.
Female solo travellers are perfectly fine in Florence and Italy. You may get a bit of extra attention, but if you make it very clear you’re not interested they usually back off. Also in this case the same rule applies: be sensible about how you behave. Don’t get hammered and if you do, take a taxi home. Don’t go home with strangers. Don’t believe everything they promise you straight away. And again, be clear, very clear.
Florence is a very liberal city and gay couples should have no problems at all. It’s safe to be who you are and want to be. Just like it should be!
What's the best way to get around?
To/from the Airport there’s multiple options: A taxi between the city centre and the airport will cost you around 25 euro. They charge a fixed rate for this trip. There’s a bus running between the main bus station in Via Santa Catarina di Siena and the Airport and from February 2019 a tramline started operating between the city centre and the Airport.
In the city centre everything is within walking distance. If you do want to get around a little bit faster, renting a bike can be a good option.
If you want to visit other towns in the region, trains and busses are usually your best options. Check the websites of the various transportation companies for the most recent information. Strikes do happen every once in a while, so also with that in mind it’s a good thing to have a look at the websites while planning. The route info with regard to public transportation in apps like Google Maps is usually not very reliable.
Which neighborhoods to go to? And which to avoid?
There’s no neighborhoods to avoid from a safety perspective. The area around the central station can get a bit dodge at night time, but not to the extend that I have every felt unsafe there.
The main highlights are located at the north side of the river Arno and that’s where most tourist stay. However, personally I think the neighborhoods on the other side of the River, the Oltrarno area, have much more to offer in terms of the real Florence, good food, reasonable prices and places to stay.
What kind of accommodation is the best for my trip?
An answer to this question is not that easy. Also in this case a lot depends on personal preferences. However, I do ask you to please not use websites like AirBnB if you care about sustainability and livability of the city. The growth of AirBnB has destroyed small, authentic businesses and has made the real Florentines leave the city because it has driven up the prices so much that they can’t afford a place to live here anymore.
Stay in a normal hotel or apartment you can find through regular booking apps and websites, or even better, explore and find more hidden gems. I can help you in this process.
Can you give me a list of best restaurants to eat at?
Not really. It’s very personal where you like to eat and I like to adapt my advice to your personal preferences. Also I keep my favorites a bit of a secret, so that I can share them exclusively with my customers. However, a few general guidelines for food in Florence:
- Stay away from eateries in the main squares in the historic center. They’re usually expensive and quality is poor. There’s definitely a few exceptions to the rules, which I’m happy to share with you.
- Don’t get your gelato at one of the shops that have heaps of ice cream piled up. It may look great, but it’s poor quality, factory ice cream. Also, it’s ridiculously expensive. A small gelato with 2 flavours shouldn’t cost you more than 2,50-3,50 euro.
- A lot of restaurants do set menus for lunch. That’s not a tourist trap! It’s usually just a very good deal for good food. Try it!
- There’s different types of pizza. The thin crust ‘Roman’ ones and the thick crust ‘Napolitan’ ones. A pizza having a thin crust is not an indication of poor quality! It’s simply a different style.
- If you sit down in a traditional bar for a coffee, it will usually be more expensive than when you drink it standing. It’s not always the case, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Usually bars have price lists put up on the wall that you can check, and if you ask the barista they will have to give you the prices.
- In terms of price/quality for food I find restaurants outside of the city center usually a lot better.
- If you really have a specific restaurant in mind during high season or the weekend, make a reservation.
How expensive is Florence?
Like any major tourist destination it can get very expensive if you decide that’s what you want. However, it’s very well possible to spend your time here more on a budget. Lunch is usually a better time to get a good deal at a restaurant than dinner, there’s plenty of hostels that you can stay at and there’s many sights that are free of charge to enter.
Can I bring my car on a trip to Florence?
I wouldn’t advise you to do that. The entire center consists of a ZTL (limited traffic zone), where you can only enter with a permit. Without the permit you’ll be fined. To many tourists it’s not clear where the ZTL starts and ends, the signs are not that clear. Apart from that Florentine traffic can be an absolute nightmare and don’t even get me started on parking space….