Last updated on May 10th, 2017 at 04:01 am
Visit Florence like a local.
24 hours in Florence is not nearly enough. I understood I had to go back as soon as we arrived at the hotel.
Florence is the origin of everything that we know about art, architecture, and technology. In this post questions like what are the best non-touristy spots, when is the best season to visit, budget tips and more are answered in great detail and with a local flair.
I am lucky to have a good friend who went to Florence for ten months and lived among the locals. Today we are immersing ourselves in Italian culture a la Florentine style.
What do you do for work?
I work for a Montreal-based fashion company which specializes in women and girls clothing – Group Dynamite. I am a retail analyst and am responsible for 25 stores in the USA. Conducting market analysis, understanding customer behavior and needs are some of my many responsibilities.
What inspired you to come to Florence?
Since my early 20s, it was my dream to live in Italy. Coming from Eastern Europe, Italian way of living and the idea of “dolce vita” always fascinated me. I wanted to experience this idea “first hand” through food, culture, language and people.
At the time, the best way to that was to move to Italy as a student- so I moved to Florence where I did my masters in fashion at Polimoda University. It was my 10-month dream come true!
What are your favorite places that showcase Florence the best way?
Via de Tornabuoni– enjoy shopping in world famous luxury brand stores
Pharmacie Santa Maria Novella is a 600 years old pharmacy, built by Florentine monks. Now hosts one of the charming shops of traditional elixirs, mixed with contemporary skin products. It is not a “cheap” shopping destination, but worth visiting it. It is indeed a great experience, regarding a variety of goods, service and overall design of the building. Great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts.
Polimoda University central office and the library in Villa Favard. 19th-century villa situated by the river and further away from tourists is another great spot.
The sweet spot of students Piazza Santo Spirito-little square with bars and restaurants. Have a drink and socialize. If you are new to the city and traveling alone- then it is the place to go! Do not be shy- Santo Spirito crowd is very easy going and friendly, you will not notice how fast you will feel as local and will become friends with at least 2 or 3 people.
The staples and landmarks are must visit for sure.
Piazza de Michelangelo– no need to explain it, another landmark that offers you a view of the city. One thing to warn you about are crowds of tourist. Best time to visit is towards the sunset; then you will get one of the most breathtaking views of Florence.
Giardino Della-rose– charming garden with a very nice of view of Florence. Very close from Piazza de Michelangelo, but luckily less crowded. On your way to the garden make sure to stop by at Fuori Porta located on the right side of a little street leading to the small park. It is a little wine bar and restaurant with an excellent selection of Italian wines and great aperitive.
Duomo and the panoramic view of Florence. Scale up 463 stairs up Brunelleschi’s Dome and enjoy the most breathtaking view of Florence.
Museums of Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci: Enjoy two museums of the brands that were born in Florence. Both museums walk you through the history of each brand and feature some of the world renown masterpieces that made those brands what they are today.
Small cute cities to visit outside of Florence:
City Fiesole – charming place, 15 min away from Florence, it gives you another stunning view of Florence.
Viareggio – 30 min away from Florence by train. It is where you can enjoy some beach time away from the humidity of the city during summer.
In Arezzo city, the first weekend of each month has a flea market. It is about 1-hour drive from Florence. For movie connoisseurs, this is the city where the movie “ La Vita e Bella” was filmed
Not a lot of tourist know about it.
What is the best way to explore Florence?
Your two best friends will be comfortable shoes and a “bici,“ an Italian word for bicycle. Remember that Florence was built in 59 BC and as a fortified city, which means that you will be walking in a cobblestone labyrinth, so there will be a lot of “bumpy” road walking and biking involved.
If you choose to discover the city by bicycle- your magic word would be LOCKS, make sure you get yourself a secure lock or take the one from home, to save money. Locks can be quite pricey. Bici theft is a very common business in Florence. So you need to be vigilant if you want to make sure you keep your bike until the end of your visit.
A car is not a good option- driving and parking in Florence, to say the least, is terrible. If you decide to go to the beach, then simply hop on the train and go to Viareggio, a little city 30 min away, by train, from Florence.
Do you have a story to share about your stay?
A navigation story: During my first months of living in Florence, I got lost on my way home. It was in the middle of the night, and I had no clue where I was. Luckily for me, I ran into the same policeman within a span of 1.5 hours twice.
He was kind enough to “supervise” me and drove in front of me to point me the right direction towards my home.
“Do not think that just because a street looks parallel that they actually are”!
What is the best way to save money and get to know locals when visiting Florence?
Best people to ask about Florence and places to see and visit are taxi drivers- they know everything!
Unfortunately, not all of them speak English, so knowing how to speak Italian will be very helpful. Owners of B&Bs are fantastic for a piece of advice as well. Those are the best two options.
Thank you, Anastasia, for your helpful tips! I have a lot to do and see.
Stay tuned for the second part that is going to cover where to shop in Florence, what to pack for summer and winter, and more money saving tips!
Have you been to Florence, Italy? What are your top tips? Share them in the comments down below! Would love to hear them!
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What are you going to do in Florence once you get there?