Planning to visit Florence soon? Cool stuff. It was my home a few years back so I’m always happy to hear when new visitors are headed to one of Italy’s best cities.
Before you head there though, there are a few things to know so that you have a smooth arrival and a great time.
*This article contains some affiliate links, which helps support all of our free advice when you make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much!
Pisa airport is far from the city center
If you’re flying to Florence from other parts of Europe, you’re most likely going to be flying into Pisa airport because the flights there are usually much cheaper than to Florence’s city airport.
Unless you’ve got at least €150 to spare to get yourself from Pisa to Florence by taxi, then you’ll have two options for getting to Firenze (Florence in Italian)– bus or train. Both options cost about the same, about €12 one way, and take about the same amount of time– 60-70 minutes.
I usually recommend taking the bus. It’s a bit easier than taking the train, because you just throw your bags under the coach, buy a ticket from the guy next to the bus, hop on, and 70 minutes later you’re in Florence. Taking the train requires one transfer at Pisa Centrale station.
On a final note, both airports are small and have very limited facilities. If you have a lounge pass like Priority Pass, you’ll want to definitely use it when departing from Florence (and FYI, the Florence airport’s lounge is quite a bit nicer than Pisa’s.) You can also buy one-off passes but I’m not seeing any prices listed online for those.
Florence has many great areas to stay in
Because the city center of Florence is pretty small, there are so many great areas to stay in and it’s not easy to go wrong. Personally, I love the quieter, more local Oltrarno area, especially around Santo Spirito, but there aren’t any really bad areas as long as you’re within a 15-minute walk to the Duomo.
When choosing your accommodation, I recommend checking reviews to see if there are a lot of comments about outside noise. If your window backs onto a busy pedestrian street, it could be very loud, even with the windows closed.
Some hotels that I’d recommend in the Oltrarno area:
Horto Convento (stunning. A bit of a walk away but it’s in a very quiet area and has its own garden, your room will look onto it.)
Oltrarno Splendid (beautifully designed and you’ll be SO close to Gelateria Carraia, one of my favourite gelato shops. Grab a gelato and eat it on the Ponte alla Carraia, right next to the shop.)
Boheme Apartment (fits four, great for families, and just a couple minutes’ walk from the famous Gusta Pizza and Gusta Panino)
Taxis in Florence are expensive
When I lived in Florence, I was fairly broke and anytime I had to take a taxi, I cringed at the cost. If you’re a budget traveler on your own, don’t expect to be able to afford a taxi ride, so keep that in mind when looking at accommodation. But, as mentioned, Florence is a very walkable city and you’re never too far from anything that you’ll need a taxi. Also, if there’s four of you, the cost per person likely won’t be too bad at all.
All that said, I don’t think you should walk on your own after 1am, if you find yourself in that situation, it’s probably best to splurge on a taxi back to your accommodation.
You can’t call taxis on the street
If you do want to get a taxi, say, from dinner back to your hotel, you can’t just put your hand out on the street and just call it like you would in New York or London. Taxis in Florence only pick up passengers if they’ve been called (on the phone) or from a taxi stand. If you struggle to find a taxi stand, ask the host at a nearby restaurant or shop if they know where to find one. There’s of course a big taxi stand at the Santa Maria Novella train station, Florence’s main station.
More information on how to call taxis, prices, and more can be found on the Visit Florence website.
Florentines eat dinner later
Italians eat dinner quite late compared to other countries, so if you think you’ll show up to a restaurant around 6:30pm to eat, it might not even be open! Expect to eat dinner from 8pm.
If hungry, go for aperitivo
If you find yourself pretty hungry before it’s an acceptable dinner time, find a bar that’s serving aperitivo and have some nibbles. Aperitivo is like the Italian version of happy hour, during which you get a drink and nibbles for a set amount of euros. Some bars just offer a few bits to eat, while others have a decadent buffet. One of my favourite things to do in Florence is have aperitivo al fresco with friends and a glass of wine in hand.
A favourite spot of mine to have aperitivo is Colle Bereto, a posh bar/club with a lovely patio that’s worth waiting to get a seat on.
Summer in Florence is HOT
I personally don’t recommend visiting Florence in the summertime because of the heat, and the hundreds of thousands of tourists in the small city center makes the temps rise even more. If you can withstand mild winter weather, January is the quietest time to visit, as well as the cheapest. I also love March- April and October-November, as the weather is lovely and the crowds aren’t quite as large as in the summer.
Eat the Florentine cuisine
The biggest faux pax, in my opinion, that people make when visiting Italy is assuming that the BEST things to eat no matter where they go are pizzas and pasta dishes. But each city and region has its own specialities that are the best types of food to try, and is what they do best. In Florence, the specialities include Bistecca all Fiorentina (Florentine Steak), Ribollita (a Tuscan soup), Lampredotto (which is actually INTESTINES! but yummy) and Tuscan-style crostini.
Book your museum visits ahead of time
Many of Florence’s museums and attractions are world-famous, which means that everyone who visits the city wants to experience them. The lines can get STUPIDLY long, especially from May to September, but you can avoid them by booking tickets in advance. You’re given a certain time to go, so you lose flexibility in your itinerary, but could save yourself hours of waiting in line outdoors.
Rick Steves has a really good article breaking down your options for booking your visits ahead of time, including an explanation of the Firenze Card. You can also skip the lines at the Accademia and the Uffizi Gallery by booking tours with The Tour Guy (and they’re a great small business to support in Italy.)
Have cash on hand
Italians aren’t super trusting of credit and debit cards yet, so some shops and restaurants only take cash. I recommend having around €40 on you in case you stop for lunch or to shop and can only pay cash.
If your bank will charge you an arm and a leg to withdraw cash abroad, consider getting the Travelex Money Card to avoid major fees.