Unfortunately, like most of Italy, Florence can get rather expensive to see, so find out 5 doozy things that you can do on a shoestring.
Recently we were in Florence for 3 nights and it wasn't my first time so I didn't have to go visit the main galleries which take up time and budget, I was free to enjoy everything else that Florence has to offer and I used a big chunk of the budget to stay right in the center of the action at the B&B Le Stanze del Duomo which gave me then the opportunity to save money and time on accessing everything else.
IF YOU ARE ON A SHOESTRING
The beauty of Florence (like many other Italian towns) is that it's walk-able. All the major historical spots are reachable by foot.
If you only have a few nights in Florence, walking is the best, and you will be surprised how much distance you will cover as you soak in the sights. On the left I've highlighted the area that's easy to be reached by foot and that's oozing with stuff to see and experience.
I have one of those step counter apps in my phone and at the end of my first day in Florence I walked a staggering 11.4 Km.
A personal best actually, but in Florence is was completely effortless.
There is so much to see, everywhere, from the blue hues of the sky to the colors of the buildings and hills around the valley and before you know it, you too will have walked as much as I did if not more.
1. Walk around Florence CENTRO STORICO - COST: FREE
Roads in Florence are old. This is not a city that was built 10 years ago, nor 50 nor 100. It's been around for centuries, so this means that the roads and side walks are mostly cobbled with stones of various sizes.
If you are a guy, this won't mean anything to you, but if you are a girl, you know that cobbled roads and heels are worst enemies.
It's uncomfortable to walk on heels on cobbled streets and you raise the risk of tripping, falling or get the heel caught between cobbles thus ruining your shoes.
2. VISIT PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO - COST: FREE
This is where you get the best panoramic views of Florence. There are 2 ways to reach the top of this hill: you can get there by car or bus, or if you are a trooper, you can go up the 441 steps and reach it by foot.
It can be tiring, especially if you do it in summer with hotter temperatures, but I promise you that the view will make you forget the steps you just did, plus it's a great exercise. If you are into photography, I recommend you go to the Piazzale in the early morning or at sunset to capture an amazing scene.
For a quick return to the center of Florence, I jumped on a bus that terminates at Santa Maria Novella train station. Make sure you have small change (€1.20 or $1.58) or even better if you have a local Italian SIM card on your phone as I did, (I will write more about this on another article) , you can pay directly through your mobile phone credit sending a SMS to 4880105. You will be charged the cost of the ticket (€1.20 or $1.58) plus the cost of the SMS depending on the operator. Florence is the first city in Italy to adopt this system.
3. EAT A LAMPREDOTTO - COST: $3.30
Florence like the rest of Tuscany and Italy is a mecca for food, but Tuscany is particularly well known for its peasant food, and if you know anything about food, then you will know that most of the best foods from around the globe are in fact peasant's recipes. In Florence, you are most likely to try foods that you never had before, and you will probably love them.
One of these is "Lampredotto" Florence most famous Street Food sandwich.
What is a Lampredotto
I actually won't go in detail describing what it's made of, okay I lied, it's made with a cow's 4th stomach, so, it's basically tripe, but not like the tripe you know of, so don't get funny and think "Hmmm I'll pass" because if you pass on this, you will regret it.
Mr. Doozy is one of those people that definitely doesn't like tripe and if he doesn't like the "sound" of something he won't try it. I am way more experimental with foods, so I was determined to eat Lampredotto upon visiting Florence and I did, whilst Mr. Doozy went for the Panino Bollito, which essentially is a boiled brisket beef sandwich. Delicious too, and if you don't have the stomach (excuse the pun) to eat Lampredotto at least you can take part in the experience with a Panino Bollito.
We went at one of Florence most popular places to try the Lampredotto: "Da Nerbone".
This is a food establishment inside the Mercato Centrale San Lorenzo, that has existed since 1872. I suggest you go there early because every day, comes lunch time the queue will form quickly.
The red sauce is chili based whilst the green is herbs' and the tripe or meat, will be seasoned with a good helping of salt. They typically use a "rosetta" bread, which is round with a crunchy crust and soft dough.
The juices of either the lampreda or bollito, depending on what you chose, will mix with the condiment and soak into the bread. You may have to wait a few minutes to eat it, as it's really hot and may have to cool down, but be sure to have an explosion of flavors and juices that will make you think you got to Food Heaven! To complement your panino, on the top floor of Mercato Centrale, there's a birreria. Italians love beer so much, that they have several brews "made in Italy" so try a cold one to go with your Lampredotto and say "MAMMA MIA!!!!"
I visited the Uffizi galleries with my parents many years ago, therefore I didn't want to go see them again and also the weather was fabulous and I didn't want to be stuck inside for a whole day or most of it, which would have happened if we had gone to the Uffizi. On this visit I opted for something different, so I went to see the Leonardo Da Vinci's museum : an exhibition showcasing many of his inventions.
4. VISIT THE LEONARDO DA VINCI MUSEUM - COST: $9.25
5. PONTE VECCHIO - Cost: Free
The bridge, used to be home to butchers' shops, but since a decree of the Medici's family in 1593 which prohibited the butchers from conducting business there, the trade was replaced with gold merchants. Today these still exist, plus you can find some interesting antiques too.
Please share your experiences in the comments below.