10 Things to Know Before You Go to Florence
Florence is a magical city, nestled in the heart of Italy. It is a perfect European destination for young and old to explore history, Italian cuisine, and beautiful sights. Florence is a popular tourist destination year-round. I have put together my top 10 tips to know before visiting Florence. For more Florence recommendations, check out The Ultimate Florence Travel Guide.
1. The pasta (and all food) is amazing.
My favorite Italian meals have all come from Florence. It has some of the best traditional Italian fare in Italy. Especially for such a popular destination, it is quite easy to find the mom-and-pop type restaurants serving affordable Italian food.
Read More: Florence’s best restaurants
2. The city is very walkable with the train station being very close to the city center
It takes no time to get from one side of the city to the other. All the major Florentine sights are very close together, which makes sightseeing a breeze. My last trip I ventured a little outside the city center on foot, which only took about 30 minutes. The main train station, Santa Maria Novella, is right in the center of Florence. Assuming you don’t have too much luggage, it should be an easy and beautiful walk from the train station to your accommodations.
3. The wine is magical
This is the case for all Italian wine, but particularly in Florence given its close proximity to Tuscany. Sit down at a restaurant and ask for a liter of their house wine, and chances are it will be better wine than you’ve ever had at home. Oh, and it’s very cheap!
4. Tourists cannot drive in the city (with some exceptions)
Tourists are not allowed to drive within the city limits of Florence, and fortunately there is no need to (see Tip #2). You will not need to rent a car unless you plan on leaving Florence and driving to say, Tuscany. I rented a car on my last trip and had to walk slightly outside city limits to pick the car up. Driving on the outskirts of Florence was a little nerve-racking, but manageable for first-time foreign drivers (don't forget your international drivers license!).
Recommended: The Ultimate Florence Travel Guide
5. Certain parts of the city will make you think you are in a US college town
A LOT of college students study abroad in Florence. I was in Florence at the start of the winter semester and stopped in for a panini at Pino’s. It was packed with college students swapping stories about their first days of class and their upcomimg weekend plans. I'm glad so many US college students get to enjoy an amazing city, and don't be surprised if you stumble upon packs of young English speaking students!
6. Lots of leather is fake, or not authentic Florentine leather
Don't be fooled, the leather bazzar right outside the Centeral Market in Florence does not sell authentic Florentine leather. There is quite a large selection of leather goods at the bazaar, but if you are looking for the real deal, check out my recommendations.
7. Watch out for scooters
I love staying in Oltarno when in Florence. The narrow streets and alleys are what make the area so charming to me, but no street is too narrow for cars or scooters to speed down, so don't get complacent. Always be aware and look both ways.
8. Florence is a popular place year round
Florence is a tourist destination year round. There are slower times (January-March) than others, but you can expect crowds at popular tourist sights all year. I don’t enjoy crowds, but who does? Just be prepared to wait in line or fight some crowds to get that perfect picture.
9. Reserve museums in advance
In continuation from Tip #8, if visiting the Uffizi Gallery or Accademia is high on your list, go ahead and reserve your ticket in advance. Both museums are crazy busy, which is understandable given the incredible artwork housed in both. If you are positive you want to visit one or both, go ahead and get your tickets before leaving home. You will be very glad you did when you get to walk to the front of the line.
10. Be prepared for hot summer days
Italy is hot. I’m not complaining, but I want you to be prepared to wear loose fitting clothes, drink lots of water, and take mid-afternoon breaks during the summer months. When going at the beginning of June, we had some days that reached 90 degrees which made walking around the city in the afternoon unbearable. I tried to arrange our schedule so we would have a leisurely afternoon lunch full of pasta, wine, and talking so by the time lunch concluded the temperature was starting to drop.
Recommended: The Ultimate Florence Travel Guide
Florence is a great city with so much to offer. I hope you find these tips helpful and if you are planning a trip to Florence, contact me for a free trip itinerary.