Quick guide: Florence, Italy

Firenze (or Florence, as we know it in English) is a huge marker for art and culture in our known history.

Consider the names: Dante, Petrarch, Galileo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, Banco, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Lippi, Alberti, Toscanelli, Amerigo Vespucci, Machiavelli, Raphael and even Leonardo da vinci . The who’s who of art, science, culture, and politics came from Florence. It is said that Opera was invented in Florence. It is also home to a top 10 museum in world – Uffizi – be it anyone’s list. That is why we chose to devote at least 4 nights to go in and around Florence.

Uffizi Gallery

Inside Uffizi Gallery

Here are some famous artworks at Uffizi

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Florence is relatively a walkable city, for all the wonders that it packs within itself. From the Boboli Gardens (across the Arno river) to the Republic, on a straight avenue named Via Cavour – in this 2.4km stretch, you will find the Pitti Palace (the residence of Medici), the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Museum, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza del Signora, the Duomo, the Baptistery, Giotto’s Campanile and the Accademia. It is perhaps the largest ROI per KM for art anywhere in the world. Your mouth will always be open at the wonders, your fingers will get tired of clicking, your shoulders will be tired of bumping into people and your feet will ache because of the serpentine queues for each and every place of attraction.

Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral

Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral

Duomo Florence, Italy

Duomo Florence, Italy

The heart of the city is the Duomo, which boasts of the largest dome in the world, made out of brick and mortar by the genius Brunelleschi.

Duomo in Florence

At duomo in Florence

The nearby Uffizi hangs “the birth of Venus” on its walls, the Accademia on the other side greets you with the impeccable “David”. You can climb up the Duomo or the bell tower to get fantastic aerial views of the town. You can also hop over to the other side of the river and catch the city from the gardens of Boboli, or from the Michelangelo hill.

Florence , Italy

Florence , Italy

Firenze attracts a lot of tourists, hence it is important to plan out what time you intend to see a site, and whether it makes sense to book online, just to skip the queues. For example, we waited for close to 2 hours in the queue before getting into Uffizi because we lazily walked into it. On the other hand, when we planned, we got effortlessly into the Accademia and spent 30 mins looking at David.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David at Academia

While most attractions are ticketed and well-priced, all attractions are free to the public on a Sunday. We took our chances, had an early breakfast and joined the queues on Sunday. It was absolutely worth it, for even if you are waiting outside in Piazza del Signora, you still can look around so many priceless pieces of art, casually strung around on this rampant or that. Just keep your eyes open!

Here are a few more picks that we clicked

 

How to get there, and where to stay:

Florence has its own airport, which is 20 mins away from the city center. Taxis and buses are available conveniently. I have seen most people take the bus.

Florence is much better connected to the world thru train. Every major Italian city is connected to train and Rome is just 2 hours away. The main train station is Firenze SMN (stands for Santa Maria Novella) though there is Campo di Marte as well as Rifredi. Firenze SMN is the station for tourists. The main bus station is now scattered around the Firenze SMN due to renovation works happening and it’s a bit haphazard to figure out which bus goes from where. The tip is to keep asking the vendors and the officials.

Florence has a good bus service, which is what I have seen most locals and tourists take. People skip taxis as they are relatively expensive. However, the buses thin out after 10 pm and then taxis perhaps are the only mode of transportation. Bus stations and routes are well marked and tickets available in at least 3-4 stores near most bus stations.

Florence has a huge variety of bread and breakfast places, lots of Airbnb and many other options within the central city, which makes staying very pleasurable. We stayed at one end of Via Cavour in a one bedroom apartment (beyond the Republic, near Hard Rock Café) but still found the city eminently walkable.

Florence also has a huge variety of world cuisine. We ourselves landed in Florence on 2nd Oct, and promptly walked into an Indian restaurant named “Gandhi” and had a sumptuous lunch.

Florence also is the capital and the gateway to Tuscany. We used Firenze as our source station to do day trips to Pisa (70 mins away) and Cinque Terre (2hr one side). One could also do a day trip to Siena, Chianti, and back.

Florence and Tuscany are a must if you ever are in Italy, and Italy you must be in! Go ahead, make your plan.

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