Updated: May 21, 2015

Planning your Florence Vacation

Florence. Tuscany. Italy. Just the names of these places evoke images in our heads - palaces, renaissance art, fine leather, museums, delicious Italian food! If you need help planning a trip to Florence, you've come to the right place. A vacation in Florence is a wondrous experience, but you can make it even better by planning ahead and choosing the best Florence hotels and accomodations, the best sightseeing activities, the best Florence museums and tours, and the best restaurants. Our guide below will get you started with some research and planning suggestions and tips.



Florence is located in north, central Italy, in the region of Tuscany. The beautiful Arno river flows quietly through the middle of Florence, and is crossed by several bridges, the most famous of which is the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). If you are arriving by plane, you will land at the Amerigo Vespucci Airport (FLR). The Florence airport is located about 6 kilometers from the city center, which is about a $20 cab ride. Bus no. 62 is a direct route from the airport to the city center as well. A bus ticket costs 4 Euros. If you are arriving by train to Florence, the train station is right on the edge of the city center, making it easy to quickly take a cab to your destination. For a good map of Florence, go here (Florence Map: http://www.florence.ala.it/map.jpg).

Florence Sightseeing

As the Renaissance capitol of Italy, art, architecture, and museums are the main things not be missed in Florence. Home of the Medici family, Florence was a wealthy patron of the arts. Start with the beautiful Duomo, the magnificent domed church that dominates the city skyline. Designed by Brunelleschi, it features a dome within a dome to create such a magnificent span inside. You can climb stairs to the top of the dome, or climb the Campanile tower next door for some breath-taking views. Right in the same plaza is the Baptistry with its ornate bronze doors. When it comes to art, the two must sees in Florence are the Uffizi Gallery, home of works by Boticelli and many others, and the Academia, home of Michelangelo's world famous David statue, carved out of a giant block of solid white marble (known locally as il gigante = giant). The official Uffize website is here: http://www.uffizi.firenze.it/. You can save time by getting your tickets in advance, as the ticket line can often be long - visit: http://www.florenceart.it/booking/. Plan on spending 2-3 hours. Florence museum tip: Be sure to check out the little cafe at the Uffizi - it looks out over the Palazzo Vecchio and Piazze Della Signoria, and offers a great view as you enjoy a cappuccino. When is the Uffizi open? Uffizi hours: CLOSED MONDAYS! Other days, open 8:15-6:30.

Where is Michelangelo's David statue in Florence? It's NOT in the Uffizi. It's in The Galleria dell'Accademia. Their official website is here: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/accademia/. Hours for the Galleria in Florence are the same as the Uffizi - closed Mondays, remember. Also, visit the site mentioned above to get your tickets in advance - will again save you a long line. For many, their initial viewing of the giant David is the breathtaking highlight of their trip to Italy - take your time to savor and remember it!

Other highlights as you stroll around the city is the Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge that spans the Arno, lined on all sides by little shops (mostly gold and jewelry, this is the high-rent district). Crossing over the Ponte Vecchio and walking a block or two brings you to the Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens, where you can stroll through historic, romantic Tuscan gardens. Another nice view can be found up at the Belvedere fortress, if you keep walking uphill through the gardens - stop and have a drink. Another great viewpoint for sunset in FLorence is the Piazzale Michelangelo (southeast side of the Arno and up the hill a little bit) which looks out over the whole of Florence - amazing. If you go around sunset, head up the hill another block or two and you'll find a church on your left where the monks do nightly chants - you can drop in and listen for free. Visit the Palazzo Vecchio as well and stroll in the evenings along the Arno, stopping for a gelato or cappuccino - you'll be glad you did!

Florence Tours

A number fo companies offer Florence walking tour, guided tours of Florence, and days trips in the Florence region. Start with http://www.italy.artviva.com/. From their website: "The Best Tours and Tour Guides in Florence, Italy: The Original and Best: We are the first company in Italy to offer high quality guided tours with professional specially trained guides. Our experts make history come alive and give entertaining and informative tours. We continue the tradition with high quality services at a great price. About Our Guides: All our tour guides are highly qualified enthusiastic experts. Our tour guides and historians have a sense of humor and can speak excellent English; ensuring a wonderful tour for you." They offer the Original Florence walk, the David Tour, Uffizi Tour, Evening Walk, Florence for kids, and more. There are both public and private tours: a private tour can cost up to 250 Euros for 15 people, while a 3 hour public tour might set you back 25 euros. Also check out http://florence.city-discovery.com/florence-sightseeing-tours.php for more Florence tour options.

Best Florence Hotels, Florence Lodging, Accomodations, Villas

Florence offers a variety of lodging alternatives. There are a number of very nice hotels like Grand Hotel Florence (Piazza Ognissanti 1) with over 100 rooms and set right on the Arno River - rooms are large as is the price tag - about $500 per night. The Westin Excelsior is another high-end popular hotel, at similar price. Both of the these Florence hotels offer some amazing suites with huge wrap-around terraces and balconies with incredible views. If you have the money, pick either of these. If you are looking for a more reasonable priced hotel, try Hotel Davanzati. With rooms closer to $250/night, this is a smaller hotel with only 20 rooms, set in the historic center of Florence about 3/4 of a mile from the train station. Small family-run hotels like this are a wonderful find in Italy - the staff all speak perfect English and are very accomodating. Hotel Pierre is another popular mid-range hotel, at under $300 per night. Perfect central location, clean rooms, good staff. For some cheaper Florence accomodations, check out Residenza Il Villino. Close to the Duomo, this small property has only 10 rooms and is a converted convent, with interesting architecture -- a great value at only $170/night. Hotel Europa is another great spot - about $180 per night, also close to the Duomo, good size rooms on the 1st floor (request it), very clean.