Florence, the Renaissance capital of the world, is located beside the river Arno in the heart of Tuscany, a picturesque province with hills and mountains. Here you will find the finest examples of Italian Renaissance genius — Michelangelo's "David," Brunelleschi's dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore, Ghiberti's bronze baptistry doors, and numerous other gifts of Raphael and DaVinci. Walk and shop your way across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and then escape the crowds at Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence where you'll find beautiful gardens, fountains, and a great view of the city.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who should go?
For those couples who share a love of art, architecture, and food, there is no place better.
Sculpture-dotted piazzas, art lessons highlighting the world’s most famous art, and a totally walkable city
What's the climate like?
Spring and autumn have the nicest weather.
How do I get around town?
Transfers between the airport and hotel are not included with your vacation package. You will most likely arrive in Florence by rail. The main station is within walking distance to most of the hotels offered by WorldVacations. For hotels farther away than the Duomo, you’ll want to take a taxi.
Florence is a walking city, as it is very small compared to other European cities of such prominence. Starting at the Duomo and going north to Michelangelo’s David or south to the Uffizi, will only take 5-10 minutes, but that assumes you won’t stop and window shop along the way. Most of the city center is pedestrian only, but be on the lookout for Vespas and other scooters zooming through these areas.
Taxis usually wait at stands or can be called for at your hotel or restaurant. They are best used between the train station and your hotel, as again, most of the city center is closed to motorized traffic.
Cars are not recommended in Florence due to parking restrictions, narrow and one-way streets, and all the other local cars on the already busy streets.
What kinds of dining and nightlife are available?
Florence is a marvelous city for Italian food. It can be more expensive than Rome, but good deals can be found. Here are some recommended restaurants in various price ranges:
- Alle Murate
A classic Florentine restaurant in a new romantic space. The chef cooks updated versions of Italian regional specialties.
- I Fratellini
For great sandwiches at great prices, head to this favorite of the locals. It's a very small take-out place located midway between the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo on via dei Cimatori just off the via dei Calzaiuoli. The goat cheese and salami sandwiches with truffle oil may just have you contemplating moving to Florence.
On a small side street in the center of town, has old-fashioned ambience (red velvet banquettes and white-gloved waiters) and a fresh take on Tuscan cooking. Here traditional ingredients are used with flair.
- Teatro del Sale
A restaurant that doubles as a theater. The place is also for members only, but for a nominal fee (less than $10), anyone can dine here and then stay after for the performance.
- La Torre
There is no menu and they only speak Italian. The "Poppa" comes over and recites the primi – basically a long list of different pastas. When you are done with that course, Poppa comes by again and starts reciting the main course. Definitely worth the language barrier challenges, especially the ravioli.
- Trattoria Maria
Packed with tourists and locals alike, as the food is that good.
- Vico del Carmine
Focuses on seafood dishes from Campania, along with pizzas.
A modern cafè with a big following on a quiet piazza in the Oltrarno. There's a simple menu at lunch with interesting sandwiches, plus pasta, salads, and carpaccio. In the evening, a lively crowd fills the place and spills out onto the piazza, where they have tables for dining and hanging out.
If you want to know what’s happening in the after dinner hours, look for one of the events magazines like Events in Florence and Tuscany or Vista. Free magazines include Concierge Information and Firenze Avventimenti. Another great source of information is the area’s churches, which often have evening concerts; check to see if there is a poster outside the church.
Where should I go shopping?
Florence, for its size, has an enormous number of shops. Good purchases are leather, high fashion, shoes, marbleized paper, Tuscan wines, gold jewelry, and Renaissance antiques, not so much for their inexpensive prices, but rather because of their excellent quality. All the major designers have stores in Florence.
Two national chain stores, Coin and La Rinascente, offer just about everything from fashion to foodstuffs and items for souvenir shoppers.
If you are in the market for leather, head to the market – the San Lorenzo street market, which fills the piazza and streets surrounding the church. It’s somewhat chaotic, but with a little patience and some time, you can find some excellent deals on purses and leather clothing. Bargaining is expected. Many of the stalls are an offshoot of a full-fledge store down the street.
Another fun market is the Piazza dei Ciompi flea market. On the last Sunday of every month, the market converts to a semi-antiques market.
When are the local events?
March or April. Celebrated with a pyramid of fireworks set off in front of the Duomo by a mechanical dove.
Festa di San Giovanni
June 24. The city literally shuts down for the celebration of the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Many of the shops and bars are closed and in the evening there is a fireworks display along the Arno River.
Revival Soccer Match
June also brings the revival of a 16th-century soccer match, complete with medieval costumes and culminating with a fireworks display over Piazzale Michelangel
For Catholics, or anyone who is interested, there is an English mass at 5:00 pm on Saturday nights at the Duomo.
Wine bars are becoming very popular in Florence, and are known as an ‘Enoteca.’ Remember, if you sit at a table, you’ll pay extra for service, while if you stand at the bar, you won’t.
Fans will argue over which shop has the best gelato, but Food and Wine says that Vestri may have fewer varieties but their flavors and textures are unsurpassed.
Florence's central produce market, Mercato Centrale, is a feast for the senses and a must for foodies. You can buy cheeses, hams, salamis, and have it vacuum packed for the journey home.
If you are buying some of Tuscany’s beautiful pottery and want to ship it home, be sure to tell the shopkeeper to package it accordingly — and watch them do it. No matter if you ship your items via freight or express courier, be sure to pay the extra 50¢ to $1.50 per $100 of the item’s value for insurance.
This chapel is famous for the fact that it is decorated with one of the most important fresco cycles in Florentine art, the work of three great Renaissance painters: Masolino, his pupil Masaccio, and Filippo Lippi. Located in Piazza del Carmine.
Fast Track Art
If you are in a hurry or simply have seen too much amazing art, the Uffizi’s most famous paintings, the Botticellis, are in rooms 10-14.
Good to Know:
| Florence Airport
There is no direct service to Florence from the U.S., therefore most travelers arrive into Rome and take the train, a 1-hour and 40-minute ride, to Florence.
There is Eurostar service to Florence.
|April – October
|January – March, July, August, November, and December
|Florence is 7 hours ahead of Central Standard Time.
|Government legislation requires all people traveling via air to and from the United States and Canada to have a valid passport. For details on passports, visas, and health requirements, see Entry Requirements.
|15% is usually added to the bill in a restaurant, but if you’re not sure if it has been, be sure to ask. It is also nice to leave some additional change worth a couple of dollars if you were really pleased with the service.
Taxi drivers expect 15% of the fare.
|Italians tend to dress up more than Americans do, and are especially fashionable in Florence.