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Florence

Transportation and Accommodations

Getting to and from

Depending on where you are traveling from, Florence can be very easy or difficult to get to. The airport is not very large so you will not get a direct flight from the US here. However, you can connect in one of the major European cities fairly easily. You can fly directly into Florence, or fly to Pisa (about 1 hour away by bus) if you want to leverage the budget airlines. You can also fly into Rome or Milan and take a train.

Out of Florence

About a 20 euro cab fare flat fee to airport from city center and vice versa (slight fluctuation with very early hours or very late hours and luggage). There’s also a bus that takes you to the Santa Maria Novella train station but I never did this, I just split the cab fare with a few people.

Small airport and not that many flights out of here, but definitely check here first because it is easy to get to and always nice to just fly out of Florence

Out of Pisa (train or bus)

Ryanair flies out of here so that is often the main reason people go here. Note that when you fly Ryanair, you need to allow time to get your Visa checked (if you do not have an EU passport).

You can easily get to the Pisa airport by taking a bus from the Santa Maria Novella train station. There are two main companies that do these buses, Terravision is the company I used. They tend to have buses every 30 minutes to an hour so just look online and see what time you need. It takes about an hour by bus to get there, but it is very easy and costs 5 euros each way if you by ahead of time and just slightly more if you buy at the bus stop.

You can also take a train but the bus was so easy.

Out of Rome

A lot more flights out of here, but need to account for getting there with the train

Be careful, there are two Rome airports. If you decide to take the train from Florence to Rome, then make sure you figure out where to pick up the correct bus to the airport. There tend to be more connecting flights back to Rome at the bigger airport so when we flew through the bigger airport, we connected back to Florence.

If you fly out of the smaller airport, Rome (CIA), then here’s how to do it.

Take a fast train from Florence to Rome. Then catch the Terravision bus to the Rome airport. You can buy these tickets ahead of time or at the station. To find the Terravision bus: Get off the train and walk out of the area with the trains. Go towards the food and then turn right and go outside. Once you’re outside, make another right and walk down the street. Go past the pharmacy and then you’ll see the Teracafe. If you have pre-purchased a ticket and have it printed, you can budge the line and get your “boarding pass.” If you haven’t purchased a ticket, get in line and purchase a ticket and receive your boarding pass.

Once you’ve found the bus, take the bus to the airport, which takes about 40 minues.

Out of Milan

Another place to check for flights since you can again take the train from Florence to Milan and fly out of Milan

Out of Bologna

I never flew out of here, but I looked into it because you can take a train to Bologna and fly out of their airport

By Train

We used TrenItalia to get to Venice, Milan, Rome, and other quick day trips like Viareggio (beach town) and Pisa. For the longer journeys, you should book a few days in advance and you have assigned seats on the train—we booked 5 days in advance. For a pricing idea, the round trip to Venice cost me 69 euro.

Getting Around

Florence is a small city, and can be seen in a few days. You can get around all the key areas on foot, and really should not need to use public transportation. However, taxis are around if you have a longer distance to travel or you can look into the buses. However, after living in Florence for 4 months, I never needed to use the buses. A friend of mine used a bike to get around Florence as she had longer distances to travel in a short period of time. Note that the streets in Florence are all cobblestone so biking is not on smooth paths. Roads are small and often one-way. The sidewalks are also small so bikes are forced on the road and end up maneuvering very close to cars on the roads.

Accommodations

Stay within a 10 minute walk of the Piazza del Duomo and you will be set. As mentioned above, just about all the key Florence things to do are feasible on foot. The Duomo is in a very centrally located area and puts you in the heart of Florence

Things to do and see

Climb the Duomo

Do it very early in the morning or else very long wait. It was a 3 hour ordeal for us between visiting the cathedral (where they are very strict on your dress code so girls make sure to wear a dress to the top of your knees and bring a sweater/cardigan to put on because even in a short sleeve dress, they make some people buy a shawl which are being sold on the streets). Note: be careful of street vendors because some are selling to you illegally and YOU can be fined for purchasing from them if the police catch you/them.

Piazza Michelangelo

My favorite view in Florence. It is worth the climb on the other side of the Arno (doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to get to the top and it is an unbelievable view).

Santa Croce

This was my favorite church in Florence! The front of the church is beautiful, full of colors and it is just huge. I would highly recommend going in this church when you get a chance!

Uffizi Gallery

The most visited museum in Florence, tons of artwork.

Galleria dell’Accademia

This is where the famous David is by Michelangelo! Must see

Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace

On the other side of the Arno river. I was not very impressed with either (but the gardens are still worth a trip—it had not rained recently so everything wasn’t too green), but we purchased a 10 euro ticket that gave us admission to the part of the palace where there was a costume gallery and then the opportunity to walk through the gardens. There was a nice view of the back country at the top of the gardens

Fiorentina Soccer Game

You can get student deals going to the box office (I believe). FlorenceforFun also gets good deals for students if you go by their location (on Ghibellina). Definitely get to at least one game for the experience! Need to go to a soccer game in Europe

Palazzo Vecchio

I went in the museum and climbed the tower here. The museum is very nice, lots of rooms and amazing art on the walls and ceilings. It was actually a really nice view (especially of the Duomo) from the tower.

Santa Maria Novella

Beautiful church, worth going in

Santo Spirito

Church more on the outskirts/out of the hustle and bustle. It was created during the Renaissance time period whereas Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo, and Santa Croce were all Gothic so very different styles. Not as jaw dropping of a church but still not a bad idea to check out at some point

Gelato Festival

When I was there, there was a Gelato festival that went all around Italy and ended in Florence. It was held in the Piazza Michelangelo and it was basically just a truck with 20 different, very unique flavors. You got to try any flavor you want and got 5 servings of gelato. Then you voted for the best flavor and got one more gelato. It was really cool and fun to try unique flavors! It was at the beginning of October.

Gucci Museum and Cafe

It costs 7 euro to go in the Gucci Museum. It’s interesting but not necessary. I did it with my parents when they were here so it was a nice quick thing to do together and then we enjoyed drinks in the café. The hot chocolate is very unique, almost seems like a liquid chocolate.

Medici Ricardi Palace

This wasn’t really necessary to do. There wasn’t much here so we didn’t spend much time here.

Wine Tour!!!

A must. Be sure to check out Tuscany and its famous wine region. There are a lot of Chianti vineyards close to Florence, easy for a day trip or you can venture further out to areas around Montalcino (famous for Brunello), Siena, and San Gimignano.

Bargello Museum

This is Florence’s 3rd most visited museum. It has a lot of sculptures as well as other art

Basilica di San Lorenzo and Medici Chapels

Nothing too grand on the inside, but nice on the outside

San Miniato al Monte

This is up my Piazzale Michelangelo and is another church in Florence

Orsanmichele

Church in Florence

Wine in a Piazza

Just sit on the steps at Santa Croce with wine one night! I loved these nights. There are no open container laws in Italy so you can sit outside in public areas and enjoy your drinks.

Cooking Class

These can be simple to very long and complex. I did one with my university that was free and okay. We looked into doing a 5 or 6 hour one that was more expensive but a lot more elaborate. I would definitely recommend doing some type of cooking class while you’re in Florence!

Leather School

This is located behind Santa Croce. It is kind of hard to find, but you can see the workshop and check out the store for some prime leather goods.

Piazza Michelangelo for a sunset!

If it’s warm, bring wine, friends and paninis!

Apertivos!

You buy a drink and then can get a bunch of appetizers from the appetizer buffet bar. We did it at a place called Zoe’s across the river that was very good.

Mercato Centrale

Very big indoor market and a bit overwhelming. I wasn’t as impressed with it as I thought I was going to be.

Sant’Ambrogio Market

More of a locals market, I liked this one more. It is open everyday but Sunday from around 8 to 1 or 2 in the afternoon

Leather

You will see a TON of leather shops all throughout Florence. However, I would highly recommend going to Massimo’s Leather. It is located close to el Mercado Centrale. He is awesome, speaks great English, and has really nice bags, wallets, and other things like jackets. He gives great deals for students! Don’t buy leather from the leather places on the street when you first get there. You’ll start to notice which ones are better quality and which ones are bad, so make sure you get a good deal!

Florence Day Trips
Pisa

You can buy train tickets at the train station in Florence. Trains to and from Pisa run multiple times an hour, but try to get one that is only an hour or slightly longer if you can (just saves some time)! You can buy your return ticket at the station in Pisa or in Florence so we just bought ours in Pisa to have flexibility. Tickets cost about 10 euro each way.

You really do not need more than an hour and a half here. It takes 20 minutes to walk to the Leaning Tower of Pisa from the train station. Once you are there, the Leaning Tower, Cathedral, and Baptistery are all in one area. We decided not to climb the Tower or go in the other buildings because it costs 18 euro and you had to wait a while so we thought it was a waste and not worth it.

Fiesole

This has a beautiful view of Florence from the other side. It is a cute little town, but we didn’t spend much time here. We just went up here for the view. There are also some hiking trails up there, but I never tried any of these out.

Getting there:

Take the #7 bus heading to Fiesole from Piazza di San Marco or you can opt to splurge on a cab. (**Note: purchase two single ride 90 min bus tickets, should be 1,20€ each, from any Tabaccheria. Then, when you get on bus, validate one of the tickets using the machine and use the other one for the return trip). Get off the bus at the final stop in the central square of Fiesole. Immediately upon stepping out of the bus, turn left and head straight. Keeping the view of Florence on your right and the roundabout of the center on your left. You have to go up a somewhat inclined road, and then should be on Via Giuseppe Verdi. Follow this until there is a fork in the road and an incredible view of Florence on your right. Then veer left onto Via di Monte Ceceri. Continue on this road until you see a brown sign that says “Parco di Montececeri”. Follow the arrow and then look for a pebble path on your right and head down it. You have now entered the park, and there will eventually be a trail map and brown signs directing you to different sights

Milan

This is a bit more aggressive of a day trip, but Milan feels more like a big city and was not somewhere I needed a lot of time. I went to Milan because the world expo was held there. While in Milan, I also visited the Duomo, which I would highly recommend doing. We went inside of the cathedral and climbed to the top where you can pretty much walk on the roof. This was very cool and different! We also went in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

If I hadn’t done the expo, I would’ve liked to see “The Last Supper”. However, we did not have time. Note that you need to book reservations to see this far in advance so I recommend looking into it early.

Getting there:

You can take a train from Florence to Milan in about 2 hours. It is very easy, just make sure to book about a week in advance. We waited until just a few days and got stuck buying the business class seats since all cheaper tickets were already sold out. Typically it’ll cost about 70 euros round trip.

Perugia

Perugia is part of the Umbria region in Italy. I visited Perugia with my school while studying in Florence. They drove us there by bus, not sure the best way to get there otherwise. It would probably be a good idea to look into day trips there with companies perhaps. I thought Perugia was a bit bigger and not as quaint as some other small towns. However, they have a lot of chocolate! We got a walking tour of the town and also drove to the Bacci chocolate factory.

Assisi

We also visited Assisi with our school. I really liked Assisi and would recommend doing a day trip to it! It is really small, but cute and a change from busy Florence. Overall though, as it is a small town, there is not a lot to do aside from walking around, grabbing a bite to eat and seeing Francis Church. Like Perugia, Assisi is in the Umbria region.

Food and Drink Recommendations

Dinner

La Giostra

AMAZING restaurant! It is expensive, but delicious with a nice atmosphere and great service. They give you Prosecco, some appetizers, and Limoncello on the house. The Pear Ravioli is very unique and my parents loved the pear risotto. I had a stuffed chicken for my secondi and it was delicious, along with my meat pasta for primi. There is only an Italian menu but the waiters help decipher it when asked. Lots of famous people including Brad Pitt, Bono, Jennifer Aniston, and many more have enjoyed meals here. I would recommend making reservations in advance.

Pandemonio

This was one of my favorite meals in Florence! I went with my parents, but could’ve gone with friends for a slightly more expensive meal. It is on the other side of the Arno and a bit of a walk, but definitely worth it. It is not in a touristy area at all. Mamma comes and takes your order and she is a wonderful host, on top of all the food being delicious and a wonderful atmosphere. They also gave Limonchello on the house.

Osteria Santo Spirito

Delicious place on the other side of the river! We had a wonderful dinner, sitting outside on an October night. The food was amazing, but huge portions. Thus, either order ½ orders or just get appetizers and primi OR secondi. By the time I ate most of my primi, I was wishing I had not ordered a secondi dish. The piazza where this is located has a more local feel (Piazza Santo Spirito), and is much less touristy than some other areas.

Trattoria Borgo Antico

This place was really good! We went for someone’s birthday dinner and it was delicious. It is in the Piazza Santo Spirito. Definitely check out this area, it has a more local feel and the food is amazing!

4 Leoni

Awesome restaurant across the river!! The menu is in Italian but they are helpful in translating it. You need a reservation to go here, is on the nicer side and is a bit more expensive than other options.

Ristorante di Fagioli

This place has a more casual feel, and the menu is only in Italian, but the food is great. Our waiter spent at least 5 minutes going through the entire menu with us, which was very helpful. I tried the Florentine Steak here with my dad (made for 2 people so we split it). It was okay, glad I tried it, but you have to eat it pretty rare.

Acqua al Due

Great steaks here! Make sure to try the Blueberry Steak, it is very unique and very good. You can order an assortment of any of the courses (appetizers, salads, primi, secondi, dessert) and they bring a few different tastings of dishes (they’re commonly well liked dishes).

Pizzeria Il Teatro (on Ghibbelina)

20 euros never-ending wine and 3 course meal (3 pastas, appetizers and dessert). GO HUNGRY. We thought they were lying to us and asked during the meal to make sure we were really only paying 20 euros because it seemed impossible. The other two times we went, we had family style but that was about 20 euros as well and they keep bringing you food. You get 2 appetizers (bruschetta and fried dough basically) and bread of course. Your table then gets a bunch of pastas to share (3 of the chef’s picks) and you can ask them to bring more out if you finish everything. Then some dessert is also included and you have endless wine.

Trattoria Pizzeria Dante

This restaurant is located across the river. It is a great deal, 5 FREE bottles of wine for students in Florence

Yellow Bar

This is between Santa Croce Piazza and the Duomo. They serve good Italian food and is a more casual dinner spot.

Trattoria 13 Gobbi

Famous for their chocolate cake! It was pretty good, but I didn’t love the frosting, had a bit of a fruity taste, but the chicken I had was delicious.

Il Latini

This restaurant is very good, but go HUNGRY. Their best deal is the 40 euros all you can eat family style meal (includes appetizers, wine, primi—so pasta, secondi—so meat, and dessert). We got screwed on the appetizers because they come and ask if you want an assortment of appetizers and they ended up being 12 euro a person. Otherwise food is great, but I would recommend the family style option

Trattoria ZaZa

Touristy but good, especially if you can sit outside. It has a huge menu and is located near El Mercado Centrale

Simon Boccajerana

Located on Ghibellina near Santa Croce. I went here my first night in Florence, good food!

Osteria de Benci

We went here with some of our roommates for a casual dinner. It was affordable and we had a nice meal! It is near Santa Croce. I did not get it, but they are supposed to have some of the best Florentine steak in Florence.

The Diner

American style food. It’s good if you’re craving some American food

Il Gatto e la Volpe

Located on Ghibellina near Santa Croce and is great for big groups. You can do family style so they bring out appetizers and entrees to share and there is endless wine all for just 20 euros.

Lunch / Quick bite

Pino’s

The real name is Salumeria Verdi. This spot is delicious and is right off of Via Ghibelina on Via Giuseppe Verdi. I LOVE it! Pino is awesome and the paninis are my favorite in Florence (warm, cheap and just great!)

Natalino’s

Another place I liked to get paninis, and definitely one of my favorites. Located near Lion’s Fountain on Borgo degli Albizi

Oil Shoppe

If you need something that is not straight carbs, this please has great salads! Of course, you can still find carbs here though as they have a lot of paninis.

All’Antico Vinaio

Famous paninis place and is located on Via de Neri. Good, but I thought it was over rated. I would recommend going earlier when there is no line if you can! (11:30 am was a great time to go to avoid excessively long lines)

La Prosciutteria

Pretty good, would definitely try it. It is on Via de Neri

Gelato

Gelateria de Neri

Amazing ice cream place!!! This was my favorite with my go-to flavors being nutella and cookies! (they have vegan ice cream here for those in need of it). It is located on Via de Neri, about 5 minutes from Santa Croce.

La Carraia

Delicious – I liked their peanut butter flavor and the Bacci flavor. The dark chocolate (fondente) is very good too. This was easily my second favorite gelato spot.

Edoardo

This place is known for their waffle cones and making them in front of you so that they are warm. Cannot go wrong here and they have an amazing cinnamon flavor. The nocciola (hazelnut) was also wonderful. (They have vegan ice cream here for those in need of it)

Vivoli

Supposedly the best ice cream in Florence. The gelato is very good, but I liked some other places better

Venchi (chocolate place)

Good gelato!

Grom

Another good one, located near the Duomo.

Festival del Gelato

This is on a side street (Via del Corso) near the Duomo. I liked the Snickers flavor‘

Perche no!

Cafes, Brunch, and other:

Gucci Café

Very cute café and you can just go for tea/coffee or can hit it up for brunch or lunch

Le Vespe

A lot of people like getting American breakfast here and great place to grab a tea or coffee. It is located on Via Ghibbelina

La Milkeria

Cute shop and delicious food! I got a waffle with fruit and nutella. They also have lots of other breakfast food like crepes, pancakes, etc.

Sugar and Spice

If you’re craving some American dessert (so cakes, cupcakes, brownies), stop by this cute litter bakery!

Nightlife

Club 21

Before you go here, prepare yourself to get nice and sweaty. It is a downstairs club with a bar and dance floor but it gets HOT. It was way too crowded the first time we went and we did not stay long because we were dripping sweat after 5 minutes. Need a solid buzz to go here unless you don’t mind sweating and rubbing up against all the other sweaty people

Space

A lot more fun than Club 21, but it is far away and seems pretty sketchy outside. Wednesday night they play more American music and in general, if you get there before 12:30, cover charge is 1 euro instead of 10 euro.

Bamboo

I went to this club a few times. I had a good time, but it’s a bit different. It’s nice, but the VIP section is basically the dance floor so if you’re not in that, you aren’t dancing and if you are in it, those who aren’t in it are watching you since it is in the center.

Red Garter

Bar with beer pong on Tuesday nights. Definitely lots of Americans here, but a fun pregame or weekday spot if you are studying abroad

Lion’s Fountain (college shirts here)

Monday nights are dollars for euro nights so they except dollars for euros (ie 5 euro drink can be paid with 5 dollars)

Naima

This was a big one when we were in Florence. It’s a fun bar and people would often go here to pregame.

Kikuya

Giant fishbowl drinks here and fun place to go hang out at for a more casual night

The William

Also laid back atmosphere; good place to go and just grab a beer and hang with friends. We liked to play darts here. This was one of my favorite hang out places for chill nights

The Scottish Pub

Laid back atmosphere; good place to go and just grab a beer and hang with friends

Margarita Bar

Fun place, especially during happy hour when then offer 4 euro margaritas. Happy hour is from 4:30-8:30

Kitsch

They have good margaritas too! Only went to it on our first night in Florence

Other Notes

Things to Know

Addresses are very weird. Red numbers are typically business and restaurants. These are completely separate from the blue/black numbers and blue/black numbers are for residential locations

People constantly try to sell things to you whether it is selfy sticks or ponchos or paintings or purses on the street. Just ignore them. Especially the people with temporary selling points or the fake designer bags (you can actually get fined for purchasing these)

People will come up to you at dinner with flowers and try to sell them, just get used to it, but ignore them. If you acknowledge them, they will stick around longer

Mosquitoes do suck. I don’t usually get bitten and I would get eaten here. It was terribly annoying but not too much you can do. I tried closing windows when it was dark outside and light inside the room, and especially around dusk (no screens on windows). They were definitely worse when it was warmer, but are still around when it cools off.

Shopping

Groceries are easy and definitely cheaper. Note: you have to weigh all your fruits and vegetables and print a sticker with the price on the bag

I had no problem buying straightener, curler, and hair dryer here. Not worth bringing yours from home because it’ll break with the higher voltage outlets in Europe

Can get school supplies here, they are slightly different but can still find notebooks, pens, pencils, and some folders

Tiger is a great place to get schools supplies, some basic home supplies, and other random things (I got a yogamat here!). There are at least 2 in the city, one near Santa Maria Novella train Church and train station, and another closer to the San Lorenzo church

Use 99 cent store for things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning detergent and materials, Tupperware containers, some school supplies, etc.

There is an IKEA about 30 minutes outside of the city. There is a shuttle you can catch near the Santa Maria Novella train station.