Europe

Florence, Italy Visitor’s Guide

There are a lot of cities with a deep and rich history in Europe, and the city of Florence, Italy is certainly no exception. Founded by Julius Ceasar in 59 BC and considered to be the “cradle of the Renaissance” in the time of legendary artists and scholars such as Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo, today Florence is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and attracts millions of tourists each year. Visitors flock to this amazing city to visit its many wonderful museums and art galleries, eat the delicious food served in its restaurants, and tour the many structures that were built by this amazing culture.

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In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to Florence, Italy.  I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there so that you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip.  In addition, I outline the top things to see and do while you are there and where the best places to stay and eat are.  With this information in hand, you can be confident that your trip to Florence will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.

At A Glance
Top Things to See
How to Get There
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Recommended Tours and Excursions
Photo Gallery

At a Glance

Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure you have all of the passport, VISA, and immunization tasks for your trip are taken care of.  In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what language they speak in Italy and what currency they use so that you can plan any translation needs you might have for your trip and exchange currency before your trip if necessary.  I have included some of this key information below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.

Passport requirements exist. See below for details.
Immunization recommendations are listed below.
The official language in Italy is Italian.
The official currency in Italy is the Euro.

Passport Requirements

When visiting Italy, you must have at least 6 months of validity on your passport beyond the date in which you are planning on arriving in the country.  You will also need to have at least two blank passport pages in order to be processed into the country.  Presently, you do not need to have a Visa if you are planning on staying in the Schengen area of the EU for less than 90 days, but starting in 2021 American citizens will be required to get a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) authorization.

Italy Passport and VISA Requirements
PASSPORT VALIDITY: At least six months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen area
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: 2 Pages Required
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Not required for stays of less than 90 days (changes in 2021)
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY: 10,000 Euros or equivalent
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT: 10,000 Euros or equivalent

Travel Immunizations

There are not any immunizations that are required by law to enter Italy and there aren’t any significant risks for contracting Malaria, Yellow Fever, Typhoid Fever, or other deadly diseases while in the country.  However, making sure you are up-to-date with your basic immunizations is always a good idea.

If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.

  • Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance, so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
  • Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
  • Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you.  This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultation will be covered by your insurance up-front.
  • Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them.  Walgreens is able to give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.

In case you are unsure of what travel vaccinations you might need, I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.

  • Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
  • Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
  • Rabies (if you are going to be working in close contact with animals).
  • Dukoral (gives you 3-month protection against travel diarrhea).
  • Flu Shot

Top Things to See and Do

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Not only is Florence one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but it also has a richer history than almost any other city in Europe.   After all, few other cities in the world played as pivotal a role in the development of art, science, and culture as Florence.  With so much beauty and history on display, it should be no surprise that there is so much to see and do within the city.  With so many amazing landmarks and attractions to see, it can be difficult deciding which ones to prioritize for your travel itinerary.  To help you prioritize, I have included a list of my favorite things to see in Florence below for you to review.

Florence Attractions Map

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Florence Cathedral
Ponte Vecchio
Piazzale Michelangelo
Statue of David
Giotto’s Campanile
Basilica of Santa Croce
Baptistery of Saint John
Uffizi Palace and Gallery
Piazza della Signoria
The Boboli Gardens

Florence Cathedral

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With a beautifully detailed and ornate design that you really need to see in person to fully appreciate, the Florence Cathedral may be one of the most celebrated cathedrals in the whole world.  Known as the Duomo locally, the cathedral is the cultural centerpiece in a city that is overflowing with cultural history.  While construction on the cathedral started in 1436, the stunning front facade wasn’t finished until the 19th Century.  While the interior of the church pales in comparison to its exterior, taking the time to tour the cathedral is well worth it.

Ponte Vecchio

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The city of Florence is world-renown for its beautiful churches, museums, and statues.  However, it could be argued that one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks is actually one of its bridges.  The Vecchio Bridge, or Ponte Vecchio as it is known locally, spans the Arno River in downtown Florence and is one of the most prominent features in the city’s old town.  Unlike other bridges you might be accustomed to, the Ponte Vecchio is covered with a wide variety of street shops for visitors to peruse as they make their way across the river.  When you near the center of the bridge, you are treated to one of the most spectacular views of Florence and the river.  For these reasons, the Vecchio Bridge should be near the top of the itinerary of any visitor to Florence.

Piazzale Michelangelo

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If you are looking for a spot to get a great Instagram photo while in Florence that all of your family and friends will love, then the Piazzale Michelangelo is just the spot you are looking for.  Located on a hill on the South Bank of the Arno River near the Boboli Gardens, the Piazzale Michelangelo offers some of the most breathtaking views of the city.  Street artists fill the square to create the most beautiful sidewalk drawings, while in the center of the square you will find an amazing bronze statue of David to explore.  But the biggest treasure the Piazzale Michelangelo offers is some of the best views of the Florence Cathedral and the Florence skyline.  If you get the chance, make it to the square either right before sunrise or right after sunset.  The beautiful pictures you will get at sunrise and sunset will blow your mind!

Statue of David

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It would be an absolute shame to visit the city of Florence and miss the opportunity to see one of the world’s most famous sculptures while you are there.  There was a lot of incredible art that came out of the renaissance period and the Statue of David by the infamous Michelangelo is undoubtedly one of the more well known.  This beautiful and intricate statue depicts the biblical figure David, who was the first King of Isreal.  He is said to have defeated the Goliath in the mystical gospel story.  While the original statue is safely kept in the Galleria dell’Accademia, there is a replica statue that you can see in the Palazzo Vecchio. If you have time, I would definitely recommend checking out both.

Florence Statue of David Map

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Giotto’s Campanile

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Built during the early 1300s, Giotto’s Campanile is one of the most beautiful and most mysterious buildings in the city of Florence.  Many visitors mistakenly think that it is just another part of the Duomo, but it is, in fact, its own structure entirely.  The building is split up into five distinct levels with beautiful marble finishes.  If you have the time, I would strongly recommend touring the inside to appreciate the beauty of the finishes and would recommend climbing the 414 stairs of the tower.  The views of the city of Florence from the top are absolutely stunning!

Basilica of Santa Croce

Basilica of Santa Croce

If you only have the time to tour one building while you are in Florence, the Basilica of Santa Croce should be near the top of your list.  Not only is the church one of the most beautiful churches in Europe, but there are also some truly legendary people who are interned inside of this church.  Constructed at around the same time as the Florence Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Croce sits perfectly in the middle of the Piazza di Santa Croce, so it is hard to miss.  The church’s beautiful front facade includes some of the most stunning marble panels that you will see throughout Europe.  These pink, green, and red tiles form some of the most breathtaking mosaics.

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However, the church is most well known for being the final resting place of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and some of the renaissance period’s other notable figures.   The image above is the tomb of the infamous Michelangelo.  This is why I would strongly recommend touring the inside of the church.   If you don’t have the time to see the inside of all of the buildings in Florence, this should be one building you take the time to properly tour.

Baptistery of Saint John

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The last of the three main buildings in the Piazza del Duomo is the Baptistery of Saint John.  The Baptistry is near the Florence Cathedral and looks very much like it is part of the cathedral, but it is completely separated from the cathedral and sits near the center of the square.  While there are many features on the exterior of the Baptistry that set it apart and make it one of the most beautiful buildings in Florence, the most unique and beautiful feature is perhaps the three sets of bronze doors that have biblical scenes engraved on them.  When you are in the Piazza del Duomo, it is impossible to not notice these beautiful doors.  If you have time, I would strongly recommend taking a tour of the inside of the Baptistry.  The ceiling of the building is covered with a stunning golden fresco that depicts the Last Judgment of Jesus and other well-known biblical stories.

Uffizi Palace and Gallery

Uffizi Palace

I am typically not a big fan of museums (those that follow my blog closely know that I am more of an outdoors person), but one of my favorite places to visit in Florence Uffizi Palace and Gallery.  Located near the Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery is widely regarded as one of the top museums in the world.  In addition to the marble statues and detailed stone columns that make the palace itself beautiful, the Uffizi Gallery also holds one of the best collections of Renaissance Art from legends such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael.  If you have dreamed of seeing masterpieces like Da Vinci’s “The Baptism of Christ” or Botticelli’s “The Adoration of the Magi” with your own eyes, then you won’t want to miss out on seeing the Uffizi Palace and Gallery.

Piazza della Signoria

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If it weren’t for the Piazza del Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria would probably be the most important square in the city of Florence.  Located just to the south of the Piazza del Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria has its own share of notable structures that tourists typically want to see.  Most notably, the Pallazo Vecchio, with its enormous clock tower, the Neptune Fountain, replica statue of David, and Hercules statue are quite popular with visitors.  If you don’t mind walking, I would definitely take a stroll thru the Piazza della Signoria and check out these wonderful landmarks and do some shopping in the stores that line the outside of the square.

The Boboli Gardens

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If you get tired of walking thru the streets and touring churches and museums, I would suggest taking a stroll to the Boboli Gardens.  These 16th-century gardens span roughly 45,000 acres and include a breathtaking array of plants, flowers, ponds, fountains, and statues.  It is a great place to go to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the city and have some time to yourself to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

How to Get There

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The best way to get to Florence will depend largely on your itinerary in Italy and where you are coming from.  If you are visiting from outside the country and are planning on just seeing Florence, I would recommend flying into Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola (FLR), which is the international airport in Florence.  It is a large airport, so there are plenty of airlines that offer flights to the city.

If you are planning on seeing other cities while in Italy, you might consider looking at flying into another airport inside the country.  Whether you decide to fly into Florence or another location will depend a lot on what type of airfare deals you are able to find and what your itinerary in Italy looks like.  No matter which airport you decide to fly into and out of, the rail system in Italy is spectacular, so the travel from one city to another is typically quite easy.  In order to help you start to put together your travel plans, I have included a map below for you to review that outlines some of the cities with major airports in Italy and the typical travel time by trail from these cities to Florence.

Getting to Florence Map

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Best Time to Visit

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One of the most important decisions you will need to make when planning your trip to Florence is what time of year you would like to visit. Factors such as the average temperature, amount of rain, and the number of other tourists in the city are all factors that will influence when you decide to plan your trip. To aid you in making the right decision for your trip, I have included some important information for you to review below. In addition to the summary of the different tourism seasons, I also outline the average temperature and precipitation you can expect in Florence throughout the year.

High Season (May thru July and September)

Typically the busiest months of the year in Florence are during the summer. From May until the end of July, the city will be more crowded, hotel rates will be higher, and tour availability will be harder to find.

Low Season (August and December thru February)

During the month of August, most Italians take a holiday away from the city, so the congestion isn’t as bad and the hotel rates tend to be a bit cheaper. The winter months of December thru February also tend to be much less crowded and expensive in Florence. Although you can expect cooler temperatures in the evenings, along with more fog and rain than in the summer, you should have a much easier time finding tours, getting restaurant reservations, and navigating the city streets.

Shoulder Seasons (March thru April (except Easter) and October thru November)

These times of the year are considered by many to be the best times to visit Florence. During the Spring months, outside of the Easter holiday, the temperatures are much warmer than during the winter, the weather is typically dryer, and the summer crowds have yet to arrive. The same can be said for the autumn months of October and November. The temperatures are typically quite comfortable and most of the crowds are usually gone by this time. The only downside to visiting during the autumn is that the weather is usually much wetter than it is during the spring.

Average Temperature (°F)

Temperatures in Florence are typically mild year-round, so you don’t have to worry about planning your trip around extremely hot or cold temperatures.  However, the summer months of June thru August do see noticeably warmer weather than the winter months of December thru February.  If warm temperatures are important to you, then you might want to consider visiting in the summer.  To give you a better understanding of what types of temperatures you can expect in Florence throughout the year, I have included a chart that shows the average high and low temperatures in Florence for each month for you to review below.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

The city of Florence doesn’t get an overwhelming amount of rain throughout the year, but there are some months that are typically wetter than others.  If you are planning on spending a good amount of time outdoors during your visit, you might want to think about visiting during the summer months of June thru August when the weather is typically the dryest.  However, even if you visit during the autumn months of October and November when Florence typically receives the most rain, typically there are still plenty of days of sunshine during the week to enjoy during your visit.  For a better understanding of how much precipitation Florence gets and at what times of the year, I have included a chart for you to review below that details the average amount of precipitation in Florence by month.

Where to Stay

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Another big decision that you will need to make when planning your trip to Florence is where you will stay while you are visiting.  Florence is a big city and there is a wide variety of accommodations to choose from.  You will find an assortment of hostels, hotels, and other accommodations available on AirBnb and VRBO.  If you are looking for a hostel or hotel for your stay, I have included a list of recommendations at various price points for you to review below.

Florence Italy Hotels Map

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Hostel Archi Rossi ($)
Hostel 7 Santi ($)
Hotel Orcagna ($$)
Hotel Orto De’ Medici ($$)
Hotel David ($$$)
Hotel Davanzati ($$$)
Residence Hilda ($$$$)
Firenze Number Nine ($$$$)
Hotel Spadai ($$$$$)
Hotel Brunelleschi ($$$$$)

Where to Eat

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The country of Italy is known for its amazing cuisine, and the city of Florence is no exception.  Throughout the city, you will find many amazing restaurants and cafes to choose from.  Whether you are looking for some authentic Italian pizza, pasta, Mediterranean food, or something completely different, Florence has it all.  If you are looking for some recommendations for restaurants to try while visiting Florence, I have included a list for you to review below.

Florence, Italy Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurant Cuisine Price
Il Teatro Italian, Pizza, Mediterranean $$-$$$
Melloo Italian, Pizza, American $$-$$$
Le Volte Italian, Steakhouse, Mediterranean $$-$$$
Fattoria Rossi Firenze Italian, Mediterranean, European $$-$$$
IO osteria personale Italian, Mediterranean $$$$
Il Barretto Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean $$$$

 

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In addition to all of the amazing things that there are to see in the city of Florence, there is also an abundance of fun and interesting things to do in the city and the surrounding area.  Whether you are interested in a cultural tour, a vineyard tour and wine tasting in the Tuscany region, or something more active and exciting, there are tours and excursions available for all interests.  If you are in the process of finalizing your trip itinerary and needs some ideas on tours and excursions to take while in Florence, I have included links to some suggestions for you to review below.

Air, Helicopter & Balloon Tours
Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours
Cultural & Theme Tours
Day Trips & Excursions
Family Friendly
Food, Wine & Nightlife
Outdoor Activities
Shopping & Fashion
Sightseeing Tickets & Passes
Spa Tours
Tours & Sightseeing
Transfers & Ground Transport
Walking & Biking Tours
Water Sports

Florence is an amazing and beautiful city.  Around every corner, there is something wonderful to photograph.  If you are interested in seeing some of the photographs that I captured while visiting Florence, I have included a gallery for you to review below.

Florence, Italy

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10 replies »

  1. A very nice guide as always. You’re not going to believe me when I say this, but of all the places we stayed in Italy, Florence was my least favorite. I know!! Everyone loves Florence. I didn’t dislike it – I just didn’t understand why everyone was gushing over it. If the Boboli Gardens are up on a hillside? If so, I remember that area fondly. 🙂

    • Thank you so much!!! Funny you say that because I have a few family members who thought the same thing of Florence. I think they built it up so much in their minds that it didn’t live up to their expectations.

      • Expectations do play a big part. Each of the four of us in our traveling group chose a location and one of our traveling partners LOVES Florence. Maybe that got my expectations out of whack. Also, we happened to be there during some annual fashion convention or something, so it was a bit more crowded, even though we went in early June.

  2. Wonderful guide as ever Josh. Brings back some great memories of visiting Florence in 2015, it’s a city I really enjoyed visiting. Long overdue a return to Italy so might have to consider going back to Florence once things are a little more normal again.

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