What an incredible experience it is to visit Florence, Italy! If you’re a budget traveller like me, you’ll be happy to know that Florence is a city that can be explored without breaking the bank. From stunning architecture to mouth-watering cuisine, there’s so much to see and do here.
Florence, Italy is a city with a rich history and cultural heritage. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence was an important center for art, architecture, and commerce in the 14th and 15th centuries. During this time, it attracted some of the greatest minds of the era, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo Galilei. This legacy can still be seen today in the city's numerous museums and galleries.
Florence is also renowned for its beautiful architecture, much of which dates back to the Renaissance. The city is home to several iconic structures that cannot be missed while exploring.
I have been lucky enough to visit this gorgeous city several times; alone, with ATB Mady, and with groups of teens on a band performance trip. There truly is something for everyone in Florence.
Explore the Piazza del Duomo
The Piazza del Duomo is one of the most iconic landmarks in Florence and is home to the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This beautiful square is surrounded by cafes and gelaterias, making it a great place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the city. Admission to the cathedral is free, but you’ll need to pay to climb the dome or visit the nearby Baptistery and Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
One of the must-visit attractions in Florence is the iconic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo. This stunning cathedral is a symbol of the city and one of the largest churches in the world. The exterior is adorned with beautiful green, pink and white marble, while the interior is just as impressive with its frescoes, stained glass windows and intricate detailing.
The Duomo is open every day from 8:30 am to 7 pm and admission is free. However, if you’d like to climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views of the city, there is a fee of 16€. The views from the top will make the climb worthwhile!
The Baptistery is located directly across from the Duomo. The doors of the Battistero di San Giovanni are among the most famous examples of Italian Renaissance art and architecture. Commissioned in the early 14th century, these doors have played an important role in the history and cultural identity of Florence. The Baptistry is a prominent religious building in the city, and its doors have long been seen as a symbol of the city’s artistic and cultural heritage.
The original bronze doors of the Baptistry were created by the famous artist Lorenzo Ghiberti and are known as the "Gates of Paradise." These doors were completed in 1452 and depict scenes from the Old Testament. Ghiberti’s doors are widely considered to be masterpieces of Renaissance art and are considered some of the greatest works of art from the period. They are known for their intricate details and highly realistic depictions of biblical stories, which helped to establish the style of Renaissance art.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
This museum showcases the art and architecture of the city’s iconic cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo. The museum was established in the late 19th century to preserve the art and architecture of the cathedral and its surrounding structures, including the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Campanile tower.
The museum is home to a wide variety of significant exhibits, including original sculptures, architectural elements, and works of art. Some of the most famous works on display include the "Madonna and Child" by Giotto, the original bronze doors of the Baptistery, and a replica of the "Gates of Paradise" by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The museum also offers a detailed look at the history of the cathedral and its construction, including the various phases of work and the contributions of important artists such as Brunelleschi, who designed the cathedral’s dome.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is open every day except for certain holidays, with varying hours depending on the season. Admission costs vary, but a standard ticket is 16€ for adults and includes entry to the museum, the cathedral, and the nearby Bell Tower. Discounted tickets are available for students, children, and senior citizens. Guided tours of the museum and its exhibits are also available for an additional fee.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery
One of the world’s most famous art museums, the Uffizi Gallery should be high on the list for anyone visiting Florence. With masterpieces from artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo, this museum is a true treasure trove of Italian Renaissance art.
Established in the 16th century, one of the most famous works in the Uffizi is Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus," a stunning painting that depicts the goddess of love and beauty emerging from the sea. The painting is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance art and is one of the most famous images in the world. Other notable works in the Uffizi include Michelangelo's "Holy Family," Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation," and "The Adoration of the Magi" by Giusto Utens.
In addition to its impressive collection of paintings, the Uffizi also features a variety of sculptures, decorative arts, and manuscripts. Visitors can also admire the museum's architecture and design, including its spacious halls, ornate ceilings, and beautiful frescoes.
The Uffizi Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm, and admission is 20€. I recommend purchasing your tickets online and in advance.
The Galleria dell'Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s famous statue of David, as well as other masterpieces from the Renaissance. The main draw is the David and that area gets quite crowded. This museum is open every day except for Mondays, and admission is 16€.
Although there are plenty of replicas of David throughout the city, seeing this statue in all its magnificence is a treat. Take your time to truly admire the detail and accuracy of the statue.
Piazza Pitti is a historic square located in the heart of Florence, Italy. It is home to several important buildings, including the Palazzo Pitti, which was once the residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Visitors to Piazza Pitti can also explore the beautiful Boboli Gardens, which are situated behind the palazzo and offer stunning views of the city.
Today, the palazzo is a museum and one of the largest art collections in Italy, with works by artists such as Botticelli, Rubens, and Caravaggio.
Admission to Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens is relatively inexpensive. A standard ticket was 15€ for adults and includes entry to both the palazzo and the gardens. Discounted tickets are available for students and senior citizens. The palazzo and gardens are open every day except for certain holidays, with varying hours depending on the season.
The Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are a must-visit for anyone visiting Piazza Pitti. These lush and expansive gardens were created in the 16th century and feature a variety of unique landscapes, including formal gardens, fountains, and grottoes. Visitors can also see sculptures and other works of art scattered throughout the gardens.
Admission is 10€, and the gardens are open every day except for the first and last Monday of each month.
Piazza della Signoria
If you’re looking to soak up some of the city’s history, head to the Piazza della Signoria. This beautiful square is surrounded by historic buildings, numerous sculptures and statues, and many, many people. The Piazza is always crowded and lively -- as such, it attracts a large number of street vendors and pickpockets. Be aware of your valuables at all times.
The piazza is surrounded by some of Florence's most famous attractions, so it's a sure thing that you will find yourself in the Piazza numerous times during your visit. This is where you will find the Uffizi Gallery.
This is also the place to find my favourite Florence fountain: the Neptune Fountain which is sculpted from white Carrera marble and bronze.
Take time to check out the statues and enjoy a prime people-watching experience.
Ponte Vecchio is one of the most iconic landmarks in Florence. This medieval bridge dates back to the 14th century and is considered one of the oldest bridges in Europe. It was originally built as a means of crossing the Arno River, but over the centuries, it has become much more than just a bridge.
Ponte Vecchio has a rich history. During World War II, the Germans attempted to destroy the bridge as they retreated from Florence, but local residents rallied to save it. As a result, Ponte Vecchio remains one of the few bridges in the city to have survived the war unscathed.
In addition to its historical significance, Ponte Vecchio is also famous for the jewelry and souvenir shops that line its sides. These stores are some of the oldest in Florence and offer a unique (and very expensive) shopping experience for visitors. Budget travellers can always enjoy browsing.
The Santa Croce Church
The Santa Croce Church is one of the largest Franciscan churches in the world and is home to the tombs and beautiful works of art from famous figures such as Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo and Machiavelli.
The church is also known for its beautiful stained glass windows, which were added in the 19th and 20th centuries, and its impressive frescoes, which adorn the walls and ceiling
Admission is 8€, and the church is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Santa Maria Novella Basilica
Santa Maria Novella is a Gothic-style church located near the main train station and a short walk from Piazza della Signoria. It was built by the Dominican Order in the 13th century and is considered one of the greatest examples of Italian Gothic architecture. The church underwent several renovations and additions over the centuries, including the famous façade designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 15th century.
Inside the church, visitors can admire a wealth of artistic treasures, including frescoes by famous Renaissance artists such as Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, and Filippino Lippi. One of the most famous works in the church is Masaccio's "Trinity" fresco, considered a masterpiece of early Renaissance art. Another notable artwork is the series of frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the life of St. John the Baptist.
Santa Maria Novella is open to visitors daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, except on certain holidays. Admission costs €6 for adults and €3 for students and seniors. Group tours and guided tours are also available for a fee.
Carousel Ride in Piazza della Repubblica
No matter your age, a carousel ride is always fun. The carousel in Florence, located in the Piazza della Repubblica, is a beloved attraction for locals and tourists alike. The carousel was first installed in the piazza in the late 19th century and has been a fixture of the city ever since. The carousel is housed in a beautiful glass and metal structure that is illuminated at night, making it a magical sight to behold.
The carousel is open every day and operates during various hours, depending on the season. It typically opens in the late morning and closes in the evening. The cost to ride the carousel is very reasonable and is typically just a few euros per ride.
In addition to its artistic and architectural heritage, Florence is also known for its fashion and leather goods industries. It was the birthplace of the luxury fashion house Gucci, and many other high-end brands still have their headquarters in the city. A stroll through the city's central shopping district, the San Lorenzo market, is a great way to experience the local fashion scene.
The San Lorenzo Market
The San Lorenzo Market is one of the largest outdoor markets in the city and is a great place to find souvenirs, clothing and handmade goods. The market is a bustling hub of activity located in the heart of the city and is a sprawling indoor and outdoor space filled with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and handmade crafts to clothing and jewelry. The market is a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the vibrant energy of Florence.
San Lorenzo is known for its leather goods and the market is home to many vendors selling high-quality leather products, including jackets, bags, and shoes. The market is also a great place to find unique and handmade gifts, as well as local specialties like olive oil, wine, and cured meats. There are also several cafes and restaurants in the market, offering a delicious selection of local and international cuisine
The market is open every day except for Sundays, and admission is free.
The statue, located in the San Lorenzo Market, is a bronze statue that is widely considered to be one of the city's most iconic landmarks. The boar is a symbol of strength and determination and is said to have mythical powers. One legend has it that rubbing the nose of the statue brings good luck. Another legend states that if you rub his snout and place a coin in his mouth so it falls into the grate below, you will return to Florence. (my coin went in the grate!)
The money collected from tourists who place coins in the statue's mouth is used to maintain the city's public fountains. The tradition of collecting money in this way dates back to the 16th century and is still upheld today, ensuring that the city's many beautiful fountains remain in good condition for generations to come.
Visit a Leather Factory
The Pierotucci Leather Factory is a family-owned business located just outside of Florence, Italy. Established in 1980, the factory is known for its high-quality leather products, including handbags, jackets, and shoes. The factory is committed to using traditional techniques and using only the finest materials, making its products some of the best in the world.
Purchases will stretch your budget, but even if you choose not to purchase, a visit to the workroom is incredibly interesting. Be aware that their goods are beautiful and incredibly tempting. I walked away with a stunning (and very expensive) handbag. I have zero regrets.
Visitors to the Pierotucci Leather Factory are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the production process, including the cutting, stitching, and finishing of the leather products. The factory also offers a showroom where visitors can browse and purchase its products, as well as see the various stages of production up close. In addition to leather products, the factory also offers a range of other Italian-made items, including clothing, accessories, and gifts.
Food & Drink
When it comes to food and drink in Florence, there’s no shortage of delicious options. One local specialty sure to please beef-eaters is the famous Florentine steak. This juicy, thick cut of beef is grilled to perfection and served with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper. This is always a large and generous portion, so settle and enjoy.
Another local favourite is gelato, which can be found in almost every gelateria in the city. Protip: Look for the gelato shops with gelato less bright in colour. This is more likely to use natural flavourings.
... and I need to give a shout-out to the best tomato stew that I enjoyed while travelling with my teenage students! School board rules forbid teacher-chaperones from drinking alcohol (a very sensible rule but sooo hard in Italy) so I only ordered water for my meal. My waiter was very upset that I wouldn't order wine and he insisted on placing a glass on the table for the photo...
Take a Cooking Class
For something a little different but a bit out of town, you might want to consider taking a cooking class. We choose a pizza and gelato-making class held in one of wineries in the Tuscan hills just outside of the city. We selected from the many options available from Viator.
It was a lovely experience including a tour of their winery and wine tasting before we headed into the kitchen. This was a fabulous experience and pizza-from-scratch is a regular meal in my house... I don't think I've ordered a pizza since. Gelato is a little more complicated, but I do make it several times a year.
Accommodations and Transportation
For budget-friendly accommodation, I recommend staying in a hostel or Airbnb. I stayed in a hostel and a couple of 3-star hotels during my stays and found them to be a great option. They were clean, safe and in a central location, making it easy to explore the city.
Transportation in Florence is easy and convenient, with buses and taxis readily available. However, the city is also easy to explore on foot, which is what I did. Walking is a great way to take in the sights and sounds of the city and get a feel for the local culture.
Tips for Enjoying Florence on a Budget
Eat like a local: Instead of dining at expensive restaurants, try eating at a local trattoria or pizzeria. You can find delicious food at a fraction of the cost, and you'll get a taste of the local culture.
Walk or take public transportation: Florence is a compact city that's easy to explore on foot. If you need to travel a bit further, consider taking the local bus or tram. A single ticket costs 1.50€, and you can purchase a daily pass for 5€.
Visit museums and galleries on discount days: Many museums and galleries offer discounted admission on certain days, so plan your visit accordingly. The Uffizi Gallery, for example, offers reduced admission on the first Sunday of each month.
Stop and listen to the street musicians -- these are often highly accomplished and trained artists
Book your accommodations in advance: If you're traveling during peak season, it's best to book your accommodations in advance to avoid paying peak prices. Consider staying in a budget-friendly hostel or Airbnb.
Florence is a city that should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Whether you’re a budget traveller or not, there’s something for everyone here. From stunning architecture to mouth-watering cuisine, there’s so much to see and do. So, pack your bags and start planning your trip today!
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