You’re going for the food, wine, bridges, art and easy access to the rest of Tuscany.
Getting to florence The train is a great and relatively inexpensive option, especially if you book ahead by a month or two (keep in mind that summer travel is always more costly). The airport is about 20-30 minutes by taxi, depending on where you are staying.
Getting around the city Walking is really the best bet, but taxis are available. Ubers are not, but you can check here to see if they have come to the city before you arrive.
good to know
Book ahead Museums and galleries are one of the main attractions in Florence, which means that there are often very, very long lines to get inside. Save yourself time and book tickets ahead through your hotel or directly. You will still have to wait in a line to pick them up but it will be about 10 to 15 minutes versus 45 to an hour.
Best time to visit March through May or September and October are ideal months as it’s not as hot or crowded as the summer months. Some say there is a charm to the city in the winter months when it’s as close to empty as it gets.
eats & drinks
i due Fratellini This sandwich (panini) stand tucked away on a side street near the Duomo is great for a quick bite and is surprisingly less tourist-filled than one would think given its location. The panino is not actually the best you will ever have, but the experience is truly memorable. There is something about standing on the side of the street, drinking a glass of wine and munching on a sandwich that feels fantastic.
Sostanza The butter chicken is the thing to get, and it is better for brunch than dinner. It does seems to be the restaurant on every list, but that’s for good reason. A reservation is ideal, but the Sunday brunch/lunch idea is the best way to go.
Gusta Pizza This is very casual pizza place in Santo Spirito if you are looking for something quick, easy or to go. Grab a pie and a bottle of wine and head to the river to enjoy them (see note below). It’s not going to be mind-blowing pizza, but it’s a good, local spot, if you want something casual.
da Nerbone in the Mercato Centrale Located inside the market, this sandwich shop typically has a line around the corner during lunch time. Go hungry. (Also explore the market.)
Casalinga A small restaurant in Santo Spirito that has a friendly, family vibe with good service and great pastas at an inexpensive price point. We shelled fresh fava beans to eat them bite by bite with a massive amount of cheese as a post-dinner meal. This is a pairing that we highly suggest. It was full of locals, which is one reason we recommend a reservation.
Eataly There is one near the Duomo that you might as well check out. The cappuccino are also shockingly cheap and there are some small goods you can buy. The market location offers classes.
All’Antivo Vineo Great for panini and wine on a take-it-easy night.
Four Seasons Florence Definitely come here for a drink. It is about a 10-minute walk from the Duomo, and they have a great cocktail bar with a gorgeous ceiling, barrel-aged negronis and an outdoor seating area overlooking their private park in Florence. It is filled with gorgeous flowers, fruit trees and small pathways leading to benches that are perfect for smooches (or nice photo ops,).
Rasputin A speakeasy cocktail bar in Santo Spirito where the local bartenders and mixologists go to drink.
La Carraia Across the river from the madness, this gelato spot is our favorite in the city and sits on a corner spot by the river. It is conveniently located by Pescaia di Santa Rosa (see below), if you want get a few scoops and sit by the water to enjoy it. Or, prop yourself up on the edge of the bridge and people watch (we might have done just that).
see & do
Santo Spirito market Across the river from the main tourist sections, there is an outdoor market on Saturday and Sunday in the Santo Spirito neighborhood that is good to peruse for food and local items. Think nice bowls, placemats, local honey and other items that you’ll want to fill your suitcases with and take home.
Pescaia di Santa Rosa This tiny jutting out point in the river is a platform where you can picnic when the water isn’t too high (typically the spring). Hop over the edge with a bottle of wine and pizza from Gusto or simply sunbathe like the Italians do.
Mercato Centrale The first floor is the original old school market that opens early in the morning and is full of meats, fruits and individual stands. The top floor is newer and built by a famous designer to provide more of an updated food court feeling (it is open all week). There’s an Eataly cooking school there with lots of vendors and a communal seating area in the center.
Running Running along the river can a little difficult because some of the bridges and sidewalks near Ponte Vecchio get super packed with people, making it hard to cross, but once you pass that in either direction, it is really lovely running along the water and looking at the architecture along it.
The St. Regis Florence The place to splurge and use your Starwood/Marriott points. With views of the Arno river, the hotel balances the artistic charm of Florence with modern amenities to provide a luxury experience that still gives you a sense of place. $$$$
Four Seasons Florence A short walk from the Duomo, the Four Seasons feels like a resort in the center of the city. It has a large private park in the center that offers quiet grounds for walking, sitting or laying out. A stay here will surely make you feel like royalty. The bar is worth a visit as well. $$$$
Riva Lofts Set on the river, a short walk away from the business of the center of the city, these design-focused lofted rooms offer a welcomed respite from the city. It is the perfect blend of vacation and city living. There are only 10 rooms, which means they sell out quickly so book ahead. $$-$$$
Hotel Milu A lower-cost, design-focused modern hotel that is in the center of the shopping and tourist center, it is a great choice if you have limited time in Florence and want to maximize your experience and keep costs low. Do not expect a lot of frills or extra amenities, but you will find attention to detail in the public area decor and 22 rooms. $$
Local specialities Florence is known for hearty foods like ribollita (a thick vegetable soup), bistecca alla Florentine (a grilled t-bone steak) and organ meats.
Travel From Florence We highly recommend exploring Tuscany. There are a lot of beautiful hotels and properties to rent, plus tons of wine and food to be enjoyed. Wineries with endless landscapes feel like something out of a movie. Cinque Terre is also accessible from Florence, so it’s great to spend a few nights there and then head to the coast.
There will almost always be a lot of tourists Excluding some of the winter months, Florence is almost always packed with tourists. There is a lot of history and art to be seen, which is why it draws a large crowd, so go knowing that and you won’t be as annoyed (you’ll probably still be a little annoyed). July and August are probably the worst months to visit because it will also be very hot in addition to packed with human bodies. If you’re looking to eat, drink, shop and take in some pretty scenery and have already been to Florence, then Verona or Milan might be better choices.