As the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital of Tuscany, Florence is an Italian gem that attractions tourists looking for fine art, fine dining and fine fashion. With glorious countryside surrounding it and many more cities to discover close by, it’s the perfect place for a short break or a longer trip during which you hire a car and explore this rich region. So here is your definitive guide to a city break in Florence.
There are two choices when visiting Florence; you can either fly directly into Amerigo Vespucci international airport and take the short 15-minute journey into the city centre or land in Pisa and take a one-hour train to Florence. Whilst the first option will save you money on airport transfers, the second may allow you to book a cheaper flight in the first place. Airlines such as British Airways and Iberia will fly directly to Florence from London Gatwick, whilst low-cost airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair will take you to Pisa from Luton, Stansted or London Gatwick.
Buses from Amerigo Vespucci will cost around €6 whereas trains from Pisa Centrale station (easily reached from the airport by bus) are around €8 one-way.
Where To Stay
Antica Dimora Johlea
The fact that you have to travel a little bit further to reach the main sights is soon offset by the excellent rates that this charming guesthouse offers. You will be positioned in a quiet spot in the north of the city but still only a twenty-minute walk from the banks of the River Arno. There are only six rooms, each of which is decorated vibrantly and features an elegant four-poster bed. Wi-Fi and parking are both available and there’s no better way to start your day than with breakfast on the fantastic roof terrace. Expect to pay about £70 a night off peak and £120 during peak season.
In a city teeming with history, boutique hotels are quite scarce and those with affordable prices are even rarer. Hotel Universo is one such example, though, featuring a quirky 70s theme throughout and situated perfectly. Balcony rooms overlook the Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the train station is just a five-minute walk from your front door. Again, parking and Wi-Fi are available and rooms can be found for roughly £90 per night.
Plaza Hotel Lucchesi
If you really want to splash the cash, then what better place to stay in this artistic city than the hotel where D H Lawrence wrote ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’? This four-star property has a history that goes back over 150 years and is within touching distance of the city’s most popular sights. The roof terrace features a pool, cocktail bar and stunning views overlooking the Arno, whilst rooms offer free Wi-Fi, air-con and plush LCD TVs. Expect one night in a double room to set you back around £130 in the low season and more than twice as much during the summer.
The easiest way to get around during your Florence city break is on two feet. Many of the tourist spots are in close proximity to each other and you can realistically walk from one side to the other in half an hour. If you do need to get around quicker or the walking begins to take its toll, there are plenty of buses and one tram line that can help you speed up your travels. Tickets can be used across both forms of transport and cost €1.20 for 90 minutes.
Where To Eat
Grabbing a sandwich on the go will never be the same once you have stopped for lunch at this quaint little deli. It takes its name from the Italian word ‘Panino’ (the singular of panini) and that’s exactly what you can expect to find. These grilled delights filled with top-quality cured meats and fresh veggies are a great way to fuel your sightseeing.
If you’re looking for a casual sit down meal then the atmosphere at Zeb will provide just that. Italian cuisine is based on passion and family values and you will find an abundance of both in this gastronomia on the banks of the Arno. As every good Tuscan restaurant should, Zeb offers fantastic homemade soups, boiled meats and intricately prepared pasta dishes.
If you want to really get to know Tuscan cuisine, an evening at Ora D’aria is a must. Relying solely on word of mouth and pinpointed for a Michelin star in the future, the restaurant aims to push the boundaries of Italian cuisine but still remain true to its delicious roots. The menu features dishes such as ‘pigeon cooked two ways’ and one of the best Florentine steaks that you will ever taste, whilst the vast wine cellar will give you an excuse to sample a few of the world-renowned vintages grown in this wine-loving region.
Top 3 Things To Do
In a city filled with art, it is difficult to pick a favourite gallery but anyone who appreciates brilliant brushstrokes cannot leave Florence without visiting the world-famous Uffizi Gallery. This is where you will find works by greats like Da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael but don’t expect to be in and out in an hour or so. The sheer volume of Renaissance pieces on display means you are best to head for your own personal highlights rather than trying to see everything. To avoid the crowds, the best times to go are when it first opens and at lunchtime. This will leave you enough time to hot-foot it across town to see David at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Pontificate At The Ponte Vecchio
You may think you’re in the wrong Italian city for bridges, but not if you like them old and with shops built into the structure. The bridge itself is usually swamped with throngs of tourists and artisans selling their wares, but you can get a great view and photo opportunity from Ponte Santa Trinita, just downstream.
Climb The Campanile
Although it stands alone, Giotto’s Campanile is part of a complex that includes the Duomo and Florence Cathedral, both of which are well worth a visit too. The 414 steps to the top of this Gothic bell tower will lead you to one of the best views of the city, a vantage point which Giotto himself never got to enjoy as he died during the early stages of construction. A ticket costing €15 will grant you entry to all of the monuments in this impressive complex.
If you are looking to enjoy a Florence city break, we can help you plan every bit of your stay. Contact us today and we will tailor-make your perfect trip.