*I spent 3 days in Florence in March 2012, and it’s definitely my favorite city in Italy. Inside of this Florence Guide, you hear about my experiences and get tips and recommendations for things like culture, food, nightlife, and things to do.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, and please check out my other related posts on Florence:
10 Things to do in Florence
7 Italian Foods to Try
Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Florence
Top 10 Italian Words
You know how some places just WOW you? That’s exactly what Florence did to me.
After strolling around the city for a short while, my first impression was wonderful and I couldn’t believe how clean the city was. The streets were MUCH cleaner than Rome (where I was coming from), so that instantly made me enjoy the city.
Along the river, there are some magnificent views with the historic architecture in the background. The petite alleyways and massive squares of Florence are magnificent — they will put you in a daze.
In case you aren’t aware, Florence was the birth of the Renaissance in the 15th century. Therefore, you will find arguably the best art in the entire world in various art museums around the city. I’m usually not a fan of art museums (or museums in general), but I was truly stunned by detailed murals, paintings and sculptures that I saw in Florence (shown in pic).
Florence is a small city, so you can easily get places by foot or bike. I just walked everywhere and I felt like this was the best way to enjoy the city.
Also, it’s important to note that Florence is pretty expensive, so make sure to save money when you can (on accommodations and food).
Ok, now it’s time for some quick facts!
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: Italian
– Population: 370,000 (city), 1.5 million (metro)
– Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and is referd to as the “Athens of the Middle Ages”
– Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region
– The Duomo di Firenze is the 3rd largest Cathedral in the world, and is the symbol of the city
– In 1339, Florence became the first European city to have paved streets
– The region of Tuscany is world-renowned for its wine and cheese
– Michelangelo’s famous Renaissance statue “The David” was created in (and dedicated to) Florence
Culture & People
One thing that I learned about the culture in Florence is that “Patience is a Virtue.”
You are going to need to be patient everywhere you go. Simple things like waiting in lines, walking on the sidewalk, and ordering at a restaurant happen at a shockingly much slower pace than you are probably used to.
For example: Every time I walked into a restaurant, it took 30 minutes to an hour just for the server to acknowledge our presence. I literally saw them walk by our table multiple times without saying hello or taking our drink orders. This attitude and mindset is typical of Italian culture- they want to give you time to socialize with your friends. The bottom line is to never be in a hurry when you go out for dinner, and expect to be there for multiple hours.
The same mentality goes for most places in Europe, but I found the customer service in Florence to be noticeably worse than most.
There are lots of cultural activities that you can do around town to soak in the blissful Florence atmosphere. My favorite things were visiting the open-air markets (near Piazza San Lorenzo), having a picnic in the beautiful Boboli Gardens, and getting a taste of the Renaissance architecture at the Pitti Palace.
You’ll soon find out that Florence is a very romantic place, because you’ll see many couples holding hands and kissing about the city.
Italian people aren’t the friendliest and I believe they have a slight prejudice against Americans. I found them to be disrespectful and snobby to my friends and I, for no apparent reason whatsoever. They seemed to feel superior to all foreigners in the city. I was constantly given dirty looks, mocked, and I was even hassled in a few situations.
One of the girls I was traveling with was verbally abused on the streets outside of the bars. The nasty Italian men were even touching her inappropriately. I think Italian people don’t like Americans in Florence because so many of them study abroad and swarm the city with their loudness on the streets and in the bars around town…
But anyways, I am sure that there are plenty of nice and welcoming Italians out there that you’ll meet! This is just coming from my experiences.
That being said, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to make some new Italian friends. You might have better luck than I did. Click this link to learn the Top 10 Italian Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
My favorite thing to do in Florence was see the art at the incredible art museums!
The best one, in my opinion, was The Galleria Delgi Uffizi Art Museum. The Renaissance art collections inside this building are mind-blowing and the detail is surreal. Everything was done by hand. Give yourself at least 3 hours to see everything there.
The best views of the city are found on top of the Duomo and the Bell Tower. If you choose to hike up the Duomo, keep in mind that it’s no so easy and a bit claustrophobic. But the views at the top are amazing (shown in pic)! You can see a 360 view of the entire city, and it looks majestic with the mountains in the backdrop.
My favorite place to hang out and people watch was in the main square called Piazza della Signoria. Grab yourself some delicious gelato (there are street vendors everywhere), park a seat on the steps and simply observe everything around you. It was one of my best memories in Florence.
The David is Michelangelo’s marble statue of the Biblical hero, David. The original David is located at the Accademia Gallery and it’s a must see. It’s really amazing to see it up close in front of your face. There is also an exact replica in the Piazza della Signoria square (shown in my pic).
I’ve been to several cities in Italy (Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence), and there is no question that Florence has the BEST Italian Food! Be prepared to pack on a few extra pounds, because the food is just that delicious.
Every pizza and pasta dish that I ate was better than the previous one. I finally found the most delicious pizza place that I have been waiting for my whole life. It’s called Gusta Pizza, and trust me that you NEED to find this place. I can still vividly remember eating it and thinking to myself “I should never eat pizza again, because nothing can be better than what I just had.” You can see what a slice looks like in this picture.
The pasta dishes were creamy and amazing, and the gelato was made perfect to a T. Lastly, don’t forget to have a glass of Italian wine (or a few) because Florence is located right in the middle of Tuscany, which is known to have the best wine in the world. You can get a tasty bottle for €3 Euros, and it’ll be better than any wine you can get in the states. Chianti was my favorite kind of wine.
If you want to learn more about the best local foods, then please read my post on 7 Italian Foods to Try.
The nightlife in Florence is awesome and very underrated!
A huge reason that the nightlife in Florence is so fun is because there are LOTS of students. Florence has over 30 Italian language schools, several big Universities, and attracts a large study abroad community. The nightlife scene is bound to be fun in any place where you have a lot of university students from 18-23 years old, right?
The clubs are always packed with young partiers, and they are open all night long. They may be a bit pricey, but don’t let that discourage you from all the fun! Just be a smart money spender. If you are not a club type of person, don’t worry because the bars are awesome too. When I went out one night, I lost my friends and stumbled into several bars where met lots of cool people, and had myself a great night. This just shows that the people in Florence are friendly, outgoing and welcoming!
For a complete list of where to party, read up on my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Florence.
And that’s about it — I hope you have a fun trip!