Welcome to Florence

Guide to Florence, Italy
“It was pleasant to wake up in Florence..to fling wide the windows..to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and, close below, the Arno.” E.M. Forster, A Room With A View

Florence is a sun-baked tapestry of art and life. It is cool Renaissance churches and tiny side streets, glowing, ancient paintings and stone bridges thronging with wasp-buzzing Vespas, classical marble sculpture, gleaming white amongst the cypresses, and waiters swooping through the pavement tables with trays of cappuccinos. Florence may be the world’s greatest art gallery, but it is also a living city, with its own character and drive. One of its most charming traits is how simple it is to dive into the flow of its architecturally breathtaking streets.

Even if the guide book accidentally plunged into the Arno, it wouldn’t matter- by walking, it’s possible to see all the city’s glories unfold before you. The flourishes, carvings and statues are all on public display, endlessly photographed and touched and remarked upon, yet never losing their ability to astound. Statues, palaces and churches lie around every corner- a narrow alleyway of busy cafes will suddenly open into a vast plaza, shadowed by another great classical edifice, or a wander across a crowded bridge will reveal another gallery, crammed with world-famous works of Art. In this proliferation of riches, Florence can be overwhelming, and it’s wise not to try to do too much. Simply sitting in a café in the shadow of the Duomo eating a cold gelato delivers as much Florentine atmosphere as any cultural tour, and in this golden and pink city, crossed by the satin waters of the Arno, just standing and staring is often all that needs to be done.

Guide to Florence, ItalyGuide to Florence, Italy


The Duomo

It would be perverse to visit Florence without exploring its most famous symbol, Brunelleschi’s Duomo more
Piazza Duomo 50122 Florence 055 230 2885

Santa Croce

Santa Croce is overwhelming, a centuries-old curation of masterpieces more
Piazza di Santa Croce 16 50122 Florence 055 246 6105

Ponte Vecchio

Crossing the bridge is an essential part of any stay in Florence, from the Piazza della Repubblica towards the gilded walls of the Pitti Palace more
Ponte Vecchio 50125 Florence


Trattoria Ponte Vecchio

In defiance of all expectations, it is, in fact, excellent- with wonderful food, perfectly reasonable prices and friendly staff. more
Lungarno degli Archibusieri 8-r 50122 Florence 055 292289

Il Santo Bevitore

This is a place where the staff seem to enjoy their work, and the chefs genuinely care that the food they send out is impeccable more
Via di Santo Spirito, 66-red 50125 Florence 055 211264

Ora d'Aria

The glass-walled kitchen allows diners at the seven tables to watch the chefs preparing classic Tuscan dishes more
Via Georgofili 11/r Piazza della Signoria 50122 Florence 055 200 1699

Guide to Florence, ItalyGuide to Florence, Italy


Le Volpi e L'Uva

There is a vast selection of Italian and French wines by the glass, and the knowledgeable and friendly staff are happy to offer a sip before buying more
Piazza Dei Rossi 1/r 50125 Florence 055 2398132


A café bar which offers all things to all people more
Via Del Corso 36/r 50122 Florence 055 21 42 47

Dolce Vita

Cocktails are served all day- presumably the louche clientele are the sort of artists and actors who can knock back a mojito at lunch without doing any damage more
Piazza Del Carmine 50124 Florence 055 284595


Residence Hilda

Charming and modern, Residence Hilda is a chic apartment-hotel, with twelve suites more
Via Dei Servi 40 50122 Florence 055 288021


The location is the greatest draw- set by the Arno, overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, you could spend your entire time in Florence sitting by the open window, as the city passes beneath you. more
Vicolo dell'Oro 6r 50123 Florence

Villa Casagrande

Stay outside Florence, in a shady Tuscan town, which allows visitors to escape the teeming tourists and baking heat of Summer in the city more
Via Giovanni Battista del Puglia 61 Figline Valdarno 50063 Florence

Guide to Florence, Italy

In The Mood


A Room With A View- EM Forster

Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

Dark Water - Robert Clarke

Death in Florence (Inspector Bordelli 4) by Marco Vichi and Stephen Sartarell


A Room With A View

Tea With Mussolini

Under The Tuscan Sun


Francesca Caccini: O Viva Rosa


A visit to the Uffizzi may be essential, but is not necessarily joyous. The gallery is immense, hot and almost continually crowded with tour groups and art lovers of all nations. Split your visit into sections if possible, never attempt to ‘do’ the whole thing in one day, and view the art in order of preference, rather than the gallery’s vast, chronological stretches. A pre-consulted guidebook is a huge help.

Michaelangelo’s David is in the Accademia, bestriding tour groups like a Colossus. Be prepared for queues and crowds around the statue- you will not be alone in silent contemplation.

Like any major city, there are pickpockets in Florence, and it’s important to be careful in areas around the station and the main tourist routes. Paranoia, however, is unnecessary- just keep your bag zipped and firmly ignore beggars. “Vattene” – go away- is a useful word.

Break sightseeing into at most,  just two attractions a day- trying to do too much will simply be exhausting and overwhelming. Santa Croce and the Duomo, or the Uffizi and the Pitti, will easily fill a day. Break for coffee and snacks regularly- cafes around the major attractions can be very expensive, so venturing further into residential areas can save a fortune.

Wear comfortable shoes and sun-block- in Summer, Florence can be boiling, and much of the city rewards walking rather than public transport or taxis, as there is so much to see.

Florence is comparatively good for wheelchair users- the city is fairly flat, and attractions are close together, while the Uffizzi and the Accademia offer free admission. Book ahead to let them know.

If you intend to visit several galleries and museums, invest in a Firenze Pass, which allows free access to transport and museums, including special exhibitions, for 72 hours. Museums include the Uffizzi, Accademia, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. The card costs €50.

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