Florence is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities in the world. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, this city is a destination that attracts millions of visitors each year. While it may seem like a city for the affluent traveler, exploring Florence on a budget is not only possible but you are also bound to get an authentic and enriching experience.
In this article, we will guide you through some must-do activities that won’t break the bank, allowing you to savor the beauty of Florence without compromising your wallet.
Climb the Duomo Dome
One of the most iconic sights in Florence is the Duomo, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with its magnificent dome designed by Brunelleschi. The dome is open to visitors who are willing to climb 463 steps to the top, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding hills.
The ticket costs around €18 (US$20) and also includes access to the cathedral, the baptistery, the bell tower, and the museum. You can book your ticket online in advance to avoid long queues.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous and impressive art museums in the world, housing a collection of masterpieces by artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Caravaggio.
The museum can be very crowded and expensive during the high season, but there are some ways that you can save both money and time. One option is to visit the museum during the low season, from November to February, when the ticket costs €12 (US$13.40), compared to €20 (US$22.30) from March to October.
Another option is to get a Firenze Card, which costs €85 (US$95) and gives you access to 72 museums and monuments in Florence for 72 hours, including the Uffizi. A third option is to visit the museum on one of the regular winter free days, which are usually the first Sunday of the month or some special occasions. You can check the official website for the updated calendar.
Walk across the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio, or the Old Bridge, is the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence, dating back to the 14th century. The bridge is lined with shops selling jewelry, art, and souvenirs, and offers a picturesque view of the Arno river and the city. The bridge is also a historical landmark, as it was the only bridge that was not destroyed by the Nazis during World War II.
You can walk across the bridge for free and admire the architecture and the atmosphere. You can also visit the Vasari Corridor, a secret passage that connects the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti, which runs above the shops on the bridge. The corridor is open to the public only on special occasions and with guided tours, so you need to book your ticket in advance.
Enjoy the view from Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is a square on a hill that offers a panoramic view of Florence and its landmarks, such as the Duomo, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Ponte Vecchio. The square also features a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and a rose garden. You can reach the square by bus, car, or bike, but the best way to enjoy the view is to walk up the stairs from the river.
The walk takes about 20 minutes and is rewarded by stunning scenery, especially at sunset. You can also bring a picnic and relax on the grass, or have a drink at one of the bars or cafes nearby.
Explore the Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the most important and beautiful churches in Florence, and the largest Franciscan church in the world. The church is famous for its Gothic architecture, its frescoes by Giotto and his followers, and its tombs of illustrious Florentines, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. The church also has a museum, a cloister, and a chapel decorated by Brunelleschi.
The ticket costs €8 (US$9) and can be purchased online or at the entrance. You can also visit the church for free on some special days, such as the Feast of St. Francis on October 4th
Discover the Accademia Gallery
The Accademia Gallery is one of the most famous and visited museums in Florence, as it houses the iconic statue of David by Michelangelo as well as other masterpieces by the same artist and other Florentine painters and sculptors.
Michelangelo’s David is a symbol of Renaissance art that represents the biblical hero David before he faced Goliath. The statue is a testament of exquisite detail and proportion. Well, you can consider getting skip-the-line Accademia gallery tickets, particularly during peak tourist seasons when there can be long lines at the entrance.
The skip-the-line tickets allow you to bypass these queues, saving you valuable time that you can spend exploring the artworks rather than waiting in line.
Shop at the Mercato Centrale
The Mercato Centrale, or the Central Market, is a food lover’s paradise, where you can find fresh and local products, such as cheese, meat, bread, pasta, wine, and more. The market is located in a 19th-century building in the San Lorenzo district, and is open every day from 8 am to 2 pm. You can shop for ingredients, taste samples, or have a meal at one of the stalls or restaurants.
The market also has a cooking school, where you can learn how to make traditional Tuscan dishes. The market is a great place to experience the authentic and delicious cuisine of Florence, and to save money by buying quality food at reasonable prices.
Relax at the Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are a vast and elegant park behind the Palazzo Pitti, the former residence of the Medici family and the grand dukes of Tuscany. The gardens are a masterpiece of landscape design, with fountains, statues, grottoes, and terraces. The gardens also have a museum, an amphitheater, and a panoramic view of the city.
The ticket costs €10 (US$11) and it includes access to the Palazzo Pitti and its museums, such as the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, and the Royal Apartments. You can spend a relaxing and cultural day in the gardens, admiring the art and nature, and escaping the crowds of the city center.
Visit the Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio, or the Old Palace, is the town hall and the symbol of the political power of Florence. The palace is a magnificent example of medieval and Renaissance architecture, with its tower, its courtyard, and its frescoed halls. The palace also houses a museum, where you can see the original rooms of the Medici family, the paintings of Vasari, and the sculptures of Michelangelo and Donatello.
The ticket costs €14 (US$15.60) and can be booked online or at the ticket office. You can also visit the palace for free on the first Sunday of the month, or on some special occasions, such as New Year’s Eve.
Watch the street performers at Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is the main square and the heart of Florence, where you can find some of the most important and impressive monuments and buildings of the city, such as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, and the Fountain of Neptune. The square is also a lively and entertaining place, where you can watch street performers, such as musicians, dancers, magicians, and mime artists.
You can enjoy the show for free, or tip the performers if you like their performance. You can also join the crowd and dance, sing, or clap along. The square is a great place to have fun and to appreciate the artistic and cultural spirit of Florence.
Florence, with its rich history and cultural heritage, is a city that caters to every type of traveler, even when you are on a budget. Embracing these must-do activities will help you experience the essence of Florence without overspending. From exploring historic streets to enjoying panoramic views, Florence invites you to discover its treasures without breaking the bank. So, pack your curiosity and a comfortable pair of shoes and go have some fun!