With grand palaces, vast squares and a particularly spectacular cathedral, Florence may not seem like the place to bargain.
But the grandeur is surrounded by street stalls selling panini, ice cream parlors, bustling markets and small cafes. The capital of Tuscany has been endowed by the Medici family of bankers, who sponsored Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo and Machiavelli, and their influence is everywhere.
It can get crowded. But with smart weather and our guide, you'll be able to see everything you want.
The Tuscan capital was endowed by the Medici family of bankers, who sponsored Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo and Machiavelli, and their influence is everywhere.
Where to stay
Residenza Johanna I – Antiche Dimore Fiorentine
Close to the tranquil San Marco Gallery and a 15-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio, this B&B is set in an elegant apartment building. The charming staff will provide you with a map with recommendations and the rooms, ranging from single to large suites, are full of antiques. Continental breakfast is simple, but free cake and tea is available all day. B&B doubles from £ 54, antichedimorefiorentine.it.
This hotel on Via dei Servi offers spectacular views of the Duomo's Basilica and is close to Michelangelo's David, who lives in the Accademia Gallery. The 12 apartments, accommodating from two to four, are elegantly designed and some have balconies. There is no restaurant, but each room has a kitchenette and there are many dining options nearby. Rooms from £ 93 residencehilda.com.
Florence center is a 30-minute walk away, but the quieter location makes a welcome change of pace. Riva Lofts was designed by Claudio Nardi, who created stores for Dolce & Gabbana and this used to be his studio. There are ten rooms of varying sizes, an outdoor garden pool and a continental breakfast buffet each morning. B&B doubles from £ 96, rivalofts.com.
Just meters from Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery and with splendid views of the Arno River, it is a great base for exploring the most spectacular views of the city. There are eight small but cozy rooms, and a shared kitchen if you need time to eat out. Fold from £ 60, pontevecchiorelais.com. (Prices may vary)
What to see and do
Towering above Florence, the cathedral is a must see and rises magnificently out of the narrow streets. Construction began in 1296 and ended in 1436, with the pink, green and white marble façade making it a unique sight. It may be the most in line for attraction in Florence, and if you can't get in, take a tour to get a sense of the scale. Tickets, £ 16, large museodelduomo.waf.it.
Get an ice cream
No holiday is complete without ice cream. But locals and tourists line up at this city's many gelaterias. Far from the center of Florence, across the Ponte Sante Trinita, Gelateria La Carraia is one of the best. There will be a line (fast moving), but try the Marmo di Carraia (chocolate chip cream) and you won't be disappointed, lacarraiagroup.eu.
Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and Titian are just some of the main attractions at the Uffizi Gallery.
Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and Titian are just some of the main attractions here. The collection is vast, but don't miss the last Hall 90 dedicated to Caravaggio and see Judith de Gentileschi beheading Holofernes. To avoid queues, go at the end of the day when group tours are over. In the courtyard you can see the statues of Dante Alighieri, Niccolò Machiavelli, Donatello and other Renaissance giants. Tickets, £ 17, uffizi.it.
Forte Di Belvedere
It's a ten-minute walk up Boboli Hill to the 16th-century Forte Di Belvedere, making it quieter than most of Florence – and offering the best views of the city. Tickets, £ 2.50, museicivicifiorentini.comune.fi.it/en
There may be a long line to this palace built by a Florentine banker in the fifteenth century. However, the weight of things to see – four museums, the royal apartments and gardens – makes it worth the wait. A walk in the Boboli Gardens, designed by the Medici family, is the highlight. Fountains, box hedges, caves and lawns were the model for many gardens of the great European courts. Tickets, £ 14, uffizi.it.
Where to eat
Tripod Del Porcellino
For all the elegance of Florence, the local lunchtime specialty is a roll full of Lampredotto (the cow's fourth stomach). Join rows of Florentine workers for a salty, herby and texturally challenging meal served with small cups of Chianti for 4 pounds. It is important to find a tent that serves only trippa (gut) and Lampredotto. This is one of the best and conveniently located near Piazza della Signoria. Via di Capaccio, 50123.
Neapolitan pizza is not a Florentine specialty and, judging by the number of American customers, this pizzeria is for tourists. However, this small restaurant near Mercato Centrale serves great food. And a margherita, which will come hot from the wood oven, will pay only £ 5. Via Nazionale, 77 R, 50123.
A plate of meat and cheese with wine and bread at Mercato Centrale
This lively two-story market can get busy and it is important to watch Mediterranean meals when visiting it. So, arrive early. Downstairs, there are stalls selling local produce, including excellent cheeses, Chianti, Vin Santo Tuscan dessert wine and pasta. Upstairs is a more modern affair, with sushi bars and pizzerias, offal pedals and dumpling stalls. mercatocentrale.com/florence.
Ristorante Mama Gina
This trattoria in a former 14th-century palace serves Tuscan classics combined with wines from its own cellar. Each dish, made from generations of ancient regional recipes, is served with charming Italian pride. Florentine tripe and rich porcini mushroom fillets, as well as dishes of fresh pasta, antipasti and seafood. Dishes from £ 8 to £ 14 Mammaginafirenze.it.
Panino (sandwich) is a feature of everyday life in Florence, with the classic ham, mortadella and pecorino fillings dominating. But Semel near the Sant Ambrogio market is a little different. In the rotating menu you can find porchetta, cheese and pear, wild boar with currants or anchovy, fennel and oranges. It is only open from 11:30 to 14:30 and there will be a queue. Sandwiches from £ 3. Lorenzo Ghiberti Square, 44, 50122.
BA (ba.com) flies from London to Florence from £ 123 return. The trolley from Florence airport to the city center costs £ 1.50 and takes 30 minutes. It flies from London to Florence from £ 123 return. The tram from Florence airport to the city center costs £ 1.50 and takes 30 minutes.
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