Florence=tourist-magnet=expensive. But before you call off the trip, read on. We've scouted out budget-friendly Florence so that you can see Michelangelo's city and still have some euros to spare.
Florence Budget Tips
We always recommend starting your stay in any city with a quick visit to the official tourist information office.
Florence’s main tourist office is located outside the main train station, on Piazza della Stazione 4/a. It's open from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
Another central tourist office in Florence is located at Via Cavour 1r, just three blocks north of the Duomo. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. There is also an office at the Amerigo Vespucci airport, open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
Unfortunately, very few of the informational pamphlets and brochures on offer at Florence's official tourist offices are free, although you will be able to pick up a free map. Other items offered at the tourist office, such as museum guides and pamphlets, are all moderately priced. In advance of your trip, visit the Agenzia per il Turismo di Firenze online.
Museums in Florence are not dirt cheap. Few student discounts are offered and there are plenty of signs to remind you of this fact. At the tourist offices, be sure to inquire about "Sere al Museo," specially designated evenings when certain museums are free.
Tickets for the city's most popular museums, including the Uffizi, Accademia, Medici Chapels, Galleria Palatina, Museum of San Marco, Bargello and Encounter with Giorgio Vasari, can be reserved at the official Florence museum website.
Here are admission prices for some of the city's most popular museums:
Uffizi Gallery: €6.50 (adults); €3.25 (reduced)
Accademia: €6.50 (adults); €3.25 (reduced)
Palazzo Vecchio: €6 (adults); €4.50 (reduced); €2 (ages four to 17); €14 of €16 (family)
Free Places and Events
Florence is a walking city. One beautiful place to walk is the Mercato Centrale. Another sprawling outdoor market is the Mercato San Lorenzo, which surrounds the San Lorenzo church and offers great prices on leather goods and bags.
Every June 24, Florentines celebrate the day of their patron saint, San Giovanni Battista with a tremendous display of fireworks shooting off from Piazzale Michelangelo. The show starts flying at about 10 p.m. and can be enjoyed along the Arno River.
The incredible Duomo Cathedral is free of charge. Recently restored 16th century frescos await, and volunteers offer free tours (check at the tourism office for more information).
Free guided tours are also offered at other sights around town, including Palazzo Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella and the Brancacci Chapel. Check with the tourist office for more information.
For hundreds of years, and long before dance remixes, the monks at San Miniato have been singing Gregorian chants during late-afternoon vespers. The public is invited to listen at the Piazzale Michelangelo south of the Arno River (ask at the tourist office for times).
Unlike many cities in Europe, Florence offers few senior discounts for admission to theaters, museums, and public transportation.
Still, it never hurts to ask if members of the AARP can get discounts on hotels, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached at in the United States at 1-888-687-2277 or visited online.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC), the most widely accepted form of student ID, provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. However, the use of the ISIC card in Florence is limited. Most museums do not offer student discounts and make this point clear with signage at entryways. Exceptions include the Uffizi and the Accademia, though in both cases, discounts are offered to student-age European Union citizens only.
This clarified, the ISIC card comes with benefits. All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the US call 1-800-223-7986 or visit the ISIC online. Applicants must be degree seekers of a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs about US$22 depending what city you buy it in, and is valid until the end of the year issued.
When it comes to Cheapo eating, Florence offers molto choices. Though supermarkets in the tourist heart of Florence are hard to find, there are plenty of specialty shops where prices are relatively low. These specialty shops are an emporium of high quality products.
The salumeria sells cold cuts and cheeses, while cheese and yogurt are sold at the latteria. Vegetables and fruits can be bought at a produce stand or the alimentary, while bread and pastries are on offer at the forno or the pasticceria. And don't forget about gelato! Stick to the duller, more natural gelato colors. The bright gelato tends to be highly processed and taste artificial.
Even if you're not shopping to buy, you owe it to yourself to at least stop by the Mercato Centrale, a two-story marketplace encompassing an entire city block. Cheese wheels, freshly cut flowers and huge porcini mushrooms will delight you. The Mercato Centrale is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. in all months except July and August, when it closes at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
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