One of the more popular European tourist destinations, Italy holds its own due to its romantic, enchanting culture and delicious food and wine. From Florence to Rome, Milan to Venice, Capri to Sicily and everywhere in between, there is something about Italy for any traveler to take delight in.
The capital of Tuscany, Florence (Firenze) is home to 370,000 people. Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance, as still seen today by the stunning architecture and art throughout the city created by the likes of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and others. Florence made the Forbes most beautiful cities in the world list in 2010.
A Beginner's Guide To Florence
Getting there: Fly into the small airport or take a bus or train into the Santa Maria Novella station. To get from the airport to SMN (downtown) take the blue SITA bus (6 euros, 10 round-trip) or a taxi (flat rate 20 euros one-way).
Where to stay: Florence is a bustling city, but it is small. You can walk end to end of the city center in less than 30 minutes. Wherever you stay will more than likely be a great location with short walking distance to all the main attractions. Hotels near the Duomo and along the river will be the most expensive, but you can find cheaper rates a little farther out. (And it will still be a short walking distance to pretty much anywhere).
Intro To Florence Walking Tour
-Start at Santa Maria Novella. Walk down Via Nazionale and go through the San Lorenzo Market.
-Head down the Via Cavour for the best first impression of the famous Duomo. Stop and take photos here and look at the Bapistery with the "Gates of Paradise" doors.
-Head south on Via Roma and you'll come across Piazza della Repubblica. You'll see the carousel and the large arch. Turn left on Via de Corso and follow it along (it turns into Borgo degli Albizi) and turn right on Via Giuseppi Verdi to get to Piazza Santa Croce. This church is also the burial place for famous Italians such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. There is also a big statue of Dante to the left of the steps.
-From Piazza Santa Croce, head down Via de Benci and walk across the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. As you walk across the bridge, look to your right and you will find yourself looking at the picturesque view of the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge.
-Once you're across the river, turn left on Via de San Niccolo and follow that up the hill and the steps to Piazzale Michelangelo. After this great leg/calf workout you'll be rewarded one of the best views of Florence. It is definitely worth the walk up the hill! Walk even further up to the San Miniato church for an even more elevated view of the city.
-After you've had your fill of fantastic sweeping views, head back down the way you came and walk along the river towards the Ponte Vecchio. Stop at some of the jewelry shops along the Ponte Vecchio or continue along to the Ponte alla Carraria bridge. Before crossing make sure to stop at Gelateria La Carraria for the best gelato in Florence (in my opinion). At 1.50 euro for a small size, it is also among the best priced gelato.
-This concludes the tour! Head back along the Ponte alla Carraria towards where you started at Santa Maria Novella, or take some time for some pizza or pasta at one of the many restaurants nearby.
Things To Do
Attractions: Duomo, Bapistery, Santa Croce, Boboli Gardens, Gelato Festival (June)
Museums: Accademia (where the authentic David is), Uffizi, Bargello, Pitti Palace, Vasari Corridor
Fashion Museums: Gucci Museo, Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Galleria del Costume
Shopping: Department stores La Rinascente and Coin are near Piazza della Repubblica, as well as some boutiques, premier designer stores (Louis Vuitton, Gucci, etc.), and an H&M and Zara. Jewelry shops/stands line the Ponte Vecchio. You'll also find many other shops scattered around the city.
Markets: San Lorenzo Market, Mercato Nuovo, Santo Spirito
Great Views: Climbing the Duomo or the Bell Tower, Piazzale Michelangelo, taking a bus up to Fiesole
Nearby: Day Trips, Quick Trips, and Weekend Trips in Italy
Day Trips: Venice, Milan, Sienna, Bologna, Cinque Terre
Quick Trips: Rome/Villa Borghese, Lake Como
Weekend Trips: Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Sardinia