Destination Guide : Florence

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  If you love art, the amount of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks on end, although the big draws are the David and the Uffizi. More than art, there are beautiful Renaissance churches, buildings, and streets. Florence was historically considered the capital of art and culture and it shows. It’s a great jumping-off point for Tuscany wineries, food tours, and it also boosts a great night life (It’s a popular study abroad location!).

Typical Costs

  • Hostel prices – Hostel prices range from as low as $15 USD to as high as $40 USD per night. Private rooms begin at $65 USD for a double bed or $45 for a single, and go up in the summer season.
  • Budget hotel prices – Budget hotel rooms begin at $80 USD per night, but can be as low as $60 USD in the off season for a double bed.
  • Average cost of food – The good thing about Italy is that you can get both pizza and pasta for reasonable prices. You can get 2 slices of pizza and a bottled water for about $10 USD. For dinner with wine, expect to spend around $27 USD, and more if it is a touristy place. you can find cheap sandwich shops all over the city for around $7 USD and fast food costs around the same. Gelato will be around $4 USD.
  • Public transportation costs – A bus ride costs $1.80 USD. For a 10-minute taxi ride, expect to pay between $10-20 USD.
  • Money Saving Tips

  • Eat cheap – Eating at a bar near or on Piazza della Signoria and in the square can be very expensive. Remember – the further you are off of the beaten path, the cheaper it will be.
  • Watch for free – Florence is a great town for people watching. Grab a drink on a patio and take in the fashionista flare walking through town. Avoid the costly museums.
  • Travel on foot – Public transportation in Florence isn’t quite the same (or as necessary) as other European cities as most things are within walking distance. It’s much better and cheaper to walk.
  • Top Things to See and Do

  • See the David – The David is one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. It is a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be. There aren’t many must sees in the world but this is one. I’ve seen it twice.
  • Check out Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio – This is Florence’s most famous square in the heart of the historic center with an open air sculpture exhibit. It’s right near the Uffizi.
  • Climb Il Duomo – One of Florence’s most popular sites is the Duomo (cathedral). This huge Gothic construction project was begun in 1296. It’s one of the most popular churches in Italy. The inside is massive and very ornate. However, the real highlight is walking up to the roof (463 steps to the top). From the top, you get the most panoramic view of Florence and the iconic red roofs that cover the buildings.
  • Visit the Baptistery – The Baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. It’s a real treat for lovers of architecture lovers and religious history.
  • Walk along Ponte Vecchio – The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from the city’s medieval days. The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry.
  • Enter Santa Croce – Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante. It’s an interesting thing to see if you have covered the highlights.
  • Spend a day in the Galleria de Uffizi – The Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art. The most famous painting here is the Birth of Venus and it draws the biggest crowd. Most of the art here is early Renaissance religious art but towards the end of the gallery there are some portraits and Dutch work. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines.
  • Visit the Piazzale Michelangelo – Head to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view of the city. It’s a good hike up a hill but the view of the city is absolutely stunning and you don’t need to pay for it like you do by climbing up the Duomo.
  • Wander the Giardino di Boboli – Known commonly as the Boboli Gardens, thousands of tourists flock here every year. The landscaping and architecture have clearly been influenced by the Tuscan Renaissance style. Sitting near the pond in the summer is like being in a dream. There are ancient marble statues everywhere and the scent from the citrus trees completely floods your senses.
  • Dance at Central Park – Don’t let the name throw you — this place is actually a major club. One of the most popular in the city, it comes complete with two outdoor dance floors, a massive indoor dance floor, VIP area, and a beautiful, artificial waterfall. Each floor has different music and there are usually different DJs every week.
  • Lounge in Liberia Café la Cité – This is a combination bookstore, café, and cultural center. There is free wifi here and rotating weekly events. Founded by intellectuals, this is a great spot for some in-depth conversation with locals and a prime atmosphere for getting some work done.
  • Visit Palazzo Pitti – Until the Medici name blew up, the Pitti family was all the rage in Florence. Also major patrons of the arts, this palace serves as a beautiful ode to the family’s contribution to the cultural advancement of Florence at the time. There are several works by Filippo Lippi and Boticelli to see, in addition to those by many other artists.
  • Explore the National Museum of Bargello – There are several great works housed here by the various Renaissance masters. For a cool $12 USD, you can see original pieces by Bandinelli, Donatello, Antonio Rossellino, and more. It’s just a short walk from the Piazza della Signoria.