Newest Review: ... sufficed. I also needed to pay 1.50 Euros for a disposable poncho to cover my shoulders and legs (I'd gone in a vest and shorts, and fo... more
Firenze per i turisti: a guide to the city
Sights & Attractions in Florence (Italy)
Member Name: sy2kgbr
Sights & Attractions in Florence (Italy)
Date: 15/08/06, updated on 15/08/06 (1810 review reads)
Advantages: Plenty of culture, art, sight-seeing and an easy-to-understand local accent.
Disadvantages: Cost of living, Italian men, fake beggars and people trying to sell tat in the streets.
Firenze is one of Italy's bigger cities (population of over 400,000) and attracts over a million tourists every year. It was originally known as the city of art (much of the renaissance took place there) but these days, is more well known for being a tourist hot spot. If you avoid the dodgy district (San Lorenzo), walk in pairs and refuse to respond to comments made by sleazy Italian men when you're out and about, it's fairly safe. Here's my mini-guide to the city - I hope it's of some use or interest to you.
WHAT TO SEE
If you try to see everything in Firenze, you'll go mad. Like every other big city in Italy, it has approximately a billion churches (okay, that statistic is slightly made up) and similar interesting old things. The most famous place of interest in Firenze is probably the Galleria degli Uffizi. It's located on Piazzale degli Uffizi, surprisingly enough. It's open from 8.15am to 6.50pm and is closed on Monday. Normally it costs 6,50 to get in, but the queues are horrendous. If you really want to visit the Uffizi, either go first thing in the morning or at around 1pm, when Italians are eating their lunch. If you go at any other time, it just won't be worth the effort. You'll queue for hours (and here, I am not exaggerating).
Like the Uffizi, the Duomo is equally famous. It's in the centre of town, on Piazza del Duomo and is open from 10am until 5pm, except on Thursdays when it closes at 3.30pm, Saturdays at 4.45pm and on the first Saturday of every month at 3.30pm. On holidays and Sundays, it's open from 1.30pm until 4.45pm. It's actually free to go into the Duomo, it just costs to go up the tower. Queues are horrendous though, and the architecture from outside is equally impressive. I'd recommend going to Piazza del Duomo and 'joining' the back of a tour group speaking a language you understand and wandering around the square. You appreciate things more when you're not in a stressful situation, i.e. queuing!
There's not a lot in Firenze you can do for free, but I recommend going to Piazzale Michelangelo for the best (and free!) views of the city. It's a bit of hike, so I'd recommend getting on the bus from Porta Romana (we're talking 1 max per person here) and getting off at the top. The views are amazing and there are public gardens up there, which are absolutely lovely if you're not allergic to pollen;) Entrance is free of charge. You can also walk up to the Basilica di San Miniato from there (not far, but it feels like a million steps!) which is free to enter. One part of the Basilica is closed off unless you pay, but it's a tiny fee and it's not essential to go in.
Apart from these things, I recommend just wandering around the city (with a map!) and stopping at buildings that interest you. If you get sick of all the other tourists, head over to Oltrarno. It's the non-touristy side of the river and the prices are much lower for most things. In the summer, there's music over in Piazza Santo Spirito (in Oltrarno) for free and plenty of outdoor seating. I like Bar Ricci for a good coffee and if you want an ice cream, the gelateria over at Ponte alla Caraia (also Oltrarno) is super cheap. I think it's about 1 for a small cone.
You cannot hail a taxi from the street. You must order one, and to do so, you need a landline number. If you're staying at a hotel or hostel, ask the receptionist what that is, or better still, to book the taxi for you.
Try the following phone numbers for a cab:
(+39) 055 4390
(+39) 055 4499
(+39) 055 4798
(+39) 055 4242
Before calling, make sure you know the time you want to be picked up, the address (number and street name) and the landline of that address. Most taxi firms will be able to muddle through with English if you don't have any Italian language skills - Florence is used to English speaking tourists!;)
For taxi journeys within Florence, the following charges apply:
2,64 fixed fee for just getting in the taxi
5,70 fixed fee between 10pm and 6am
4,48 on public holidays and wekends
0,62 per item of luggage (4 max.)
0,10 every 117m or 16 seconds of travel time
The average cost of a taxi ride betwen the airport and the centre of town is about 15 or 20 euros. You can get a bus to the airport, but the only way out is by taxi or car, so chances are you will need a taxi at some point. The charges are always displayed inside the taxi on an A4 sized card, in both English and Italian.
Remember: the 'real' airport is called Vespucci or Peratola (same place, two names). Many airlines (especially budget ones) will try to get you to go to Pisa which is a different town altogether. If you're not used to travelling around Italy independently, don't bother. Fly straight to Peratola, it'll make your life much easier. It's a false economy going to Pisa anyway.
Bus tickets are not particularly expensive. You can buy a basic 1 ticket on the bus, but generally speaking, you buy tickets from bars and those little corner shops where you can find cigarettes for sale. Once you get on the bus, you insert the ticket into a little stampy machine and it validates your ticket. If you "forget" to validate your ticket, I think you're liable for a huge fine or something, but no one checks.
1,00 for a ticket that's valid for an hour
1,80 for a ticket that's good for three hours
4,50 for a 24 hour ticket
3,90 for a ticket that's valid for four journeys of up to an hour each
7,60 for a two day ticket
9,60 for a three day ticket
16,00 for a weekly ticket
10,00 for 12 of the 1 tickets that are good for an hour
20,00 for 25 of the 1 tickets that are good for an hour
4 for a one way ticket on the airport bus (get on at the train station)
Florence is full of tiny designer boutiques, so if you've got money to burn, shop til you drop! There's a Zara over in Piazza della Repubblica, but that's probably the cheapest you're going to find unless you consider buying clothes from one of the markets. There are daily markets in various places as well as markets which take place at the weekend at certain times of the month. Ask for information in a tourist office (look for the letters APT which stand for "Azienda di promozione turistica"). Probably the most central one is off Piazza del Duomo, on Via Cavour. Staff do speak fairly good English there. Free maps are also available and they're better than most of the ones you can buy ;) Pick up several because you're bound to lose at least one!
If you're on a budget and can't afford to eat out every night, why not consider purchasing your own groceries and cooking for yourself? The supermakets you're most likely to find in the centre are "Conad" and "Standa". There's even one near the Duomo. If you're prepared to go further, over in Oltrarno you can find "Penny Market" and "Esselunga". Penny is great for groceries if you're on a budget and Esselunga is fairly reasonably priced, but of a superior quality to the other shops.
Eating out wise - if you look for food near the Duomo or the train station, it's bound to cost you more than it should. Walk around and go in when you find a menu that appeals to you. Be wary about "menu turistica" - I always feel the options on this are limited and there's a greater chance of getting frozen food heaten up rather than proper Italian food. An "osteria" or a "trattoria" is usually cheaper than a "ristorante".
There are lots and lots of internet cafes in Florence, most of which are aimed at the American tourist. There's a large chain called "Internet Train" which will charge you extortionate prices, even if you're a student, so avoid it like the plague. A reasonable rate to pay as an average person without discounts would be around 2,50 an hour. Anything more and you should walk away.
I particular recommend AS Internet Center and Phone Point over in Via de' Serragli as I'm friends with the owner. Students buying a block of 10 hours in advance pay 150 an hour, which is pretty cheap for Florence. Lots of other small internet cafes run similar offers, so if you're going to be in Florence for a while, it's worth looking into.
Most internet cafes are hooked up with webcams, headsets and Skype. Calling from an internet/phone centre is also fairly cheap - it's generally only 10 cents a minute to fixed lines in the UK. Easy to keep in touch with those back home and stop them worrying!
SAFETY TIPS FOR WOMEN
Do not make eye contact with an Italian man. Do not even look in his direction. "Ciao bella" is the Fiorentine man's way of hitting on you. By saying this in the street, he expects you to stop what you're doing, run towards him and beg to have his babies.
It's fairly easy to ignore a "ciao bella" here and there, but do NOT ever get into conversation with a random Italian man as he will regard this as an invitation to stalk you. Now, it is fine to talk to OAPs if you see them wandering around public gardens and they try to strike up a conversation with you, but any Italian man betwen the age of about 15 and 50 (and possibly older!) will try to jump you, if you're not careful.
Whatever you do, do NOT walk through the quartiere (district) of San Lorenzo at night, especially by yourself. In fact, if you're a man, don't do this either. Florence is not a particularly dangerous city, but San Lorenzo is where all the nastier crimes are known to take place.
As with every Italian city, watch your bag with your life. Hold onto it firmly and if you set it down on the floor at a restaurant, wrap the strap round your foot.
If you feel threatened, make it obvious that you're clutching your mobile phone. The dodgy types think that because you're foreign, your phone doesn't work in Italy. That's normally not true, so visually show that you can call the polizia should you need it. Just remember the international emergency number of 112.
Do not give them any money. They are not real poor people - they are Italian con artists out to get money from the tourists. Plenty hold signs saying "I cannot walk" and later, when they're done for the day, get up and run home. I'm not being mean - it's the honest truth. Most beggars are fake in big Italian cities and commonly found at churches or places of touristic interest.
There are currently two free Italian newspapers in Florence - "Il Firenze" and "Il Leggo". If you don't speak Italian, try looking for "The Fiorentine", an English newspaper produced by an American/Italian journalistic team. It has an excellent events listing at the back. The obvious source of info is one of the tourist offices - as I said previously, the most central one is off Piazza del Duomo, on Via Cavour.
Firenze is a deeply interesting place to visit, whether you're interested in a short trip or longer stay. It can be expensive, but with a little assertiveness and know-how, you can avoid getting ripped off and get a lot out of your visit. I'd recommend going now rather than later, as there are talks of introducing a "tourist tax" to pay for the extra policing and cleaning staff required because of the high touristic presence.
PS I have ticked "yes" next to recommend, I don't know why it's showing up as "no"!
Summary: A beautiful city with an artistic past and touristic future. Worth visiting!
More reviews in the field of Sightseeing International
- In the footsteps of Moses
- This is one solid castle!
- The Alhambra, Granada
- Nerd Factor 9: To Boldly Go Where No Nerd Has Gone Before...
- IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY.
- A gigantic beautiful and stunning building in the park.
- for every occasion
- The mushroom in the sky!
- ? Church ? Mosque? Cathedral? Its a superb place of worship!
- Amazing! Amazing! Amazing! Worth taking the 100 steps to the top