Florence Travel Guide
Michelangelo here, Donatello there. As the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence was the city that brought you all those household names – and they're all still here. The famed Uffizi Galleries and the Accademia are just the start – this is a city stuffed to the gills with museums, galleries, and masterpieces aplenty. Churches are full of frescoed chapels and heavily pigmented crucifixes. Houses are hulking palaces, built with hand-hewn, human-sized stones. Even the stores come with ancient beams and painted ceilings. Sometimes, the beauty is overwhelming.
That's where the other Florence comes in. This is a city surrounded by nature like no other. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and the river Arno is the Oltrarno district, home to cobblestone piazzas, laidback cafes, and artisans plying centuries-old trades. You can stroll along the riverside, explore exquisite gardens laid out in the Renaissance, or wind around cypress-studded hills. At every turn, you'll get killer views of the city and its gargantuan terracotta dome, standing out against the mountains in the distance. In Florence, even the landscape is art.
Central European Standard Time
Best Time to Go
Summers are hot, sticky, and super busy, but other than that, any time is good to visit Florence — not least because you'll spend most of your time indoors in the museums. Florence's Easter celebration of the Scoppio del Carro, in which a team of cream-colored oxen tow a wagon into the Piazza del Duomo and then set off the fireworks inside it, is a huge event. In late June, Piazza Santa Croce is closed off to make the pitch for a game of Calcio Storico — or "historic football," a mix of soccer, rugby and wrestling in 16th-century dress. Festa di San Lorenzo takes place each August, where there are celebrations including free lasagne in Piazza San Lorenzo, in honor of former ruler Lorenzo de' Medici, the man who kicked off the Renaissance.
Things to Know
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I don't speak Italian: Non parlo italiano
I'm lost: Mi sono perso/a
I would like…: Vorrei…
How much is…?: Quanto costa…?
How do I get to…?: Per andare a…?
I don't understand: Non capisco
Calling Code: +39
Capital City: Rome
How to Get Around
Trains: High-speed trains stop at Florence Santa Maria Novella station.
Buses: The city center is largely pedestrianized, though there are trams from the train station that wrap around the center. Coaches arrive near Santa Maria Novella, too.
Taxis: There are taxi stands at main sites including the train station, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza San Marco. Or call +39 4242 or +39 4390.
Car service: Most hotels can arrange private transfers.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Centro Storico/District 1: Florence's city center, also known as District 1, is remarkably compact. Running roughly from the Ponte Santa Trinità to the Ponte alle Grazie bridges, the area north of the Arno contains most of the tourist sites. There are two focal points: Piazza del Duomo, where the gargantuan cathedral swaggers over the city, and Piazza della Signoria, the political heart of the city, where you'll find museums such as the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio gathered around one of Italy's most spectacular squares. The Uffizi ends at the River Arno.
Santo Spirito: Oltrarno — the name means "across the Arno" — covers the city on the other side of the river, but in visitor terms Oltrarno usually refers to the area around Santo Spirito. It's a neighborhood of artisans, small cafes, and grand historic monuments including the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens.
San Frediano: Part of Oltrarno but slightly further west than Santo Spirito, away from the center, laidback San Frediano includes gems such as the Brancacci Chapel, plus traditional restaurants and trattorie with olive-slicked hills rising at the back.
In a basin surrounded by mountains and hills, Florence is humid. Spring is warm — temperatures are in the mid 50s to 60s, feeling hotter when the sun is out — but summer can be sweltering, with an average temperature of 77°F feeling hotter thanks to the humidity. Fall tends to be sunny, with temperatures averaging low-to-mid 60°F in October. Winters are ostensibly mild, with temperatures in the mid 40s, though the humidity gives them an extra bite.
January : 36°F to 52°F
February : 36°F to 55°F
March: 41°F to 61°F
April: 45°F to 66°F
May: 54°F to 75°F
June: 59°F to 82°F
July: 64°F to 88°F
August: 64°F to 90°F
September: 57°F to 81°F
October: 50°F to 70°F
November: 41°F to 59°F
December: 37°F to 52°F
Apps to Download
Firenze the Walking City: Best hiking routes around the sites and hills. iPhone only.