Fly- Check to see if prices are cheaper into Florence or Pisa airports.
Train – The train system in Europe is excellent and one of the only things that runs on time in Italy. When you buy your ticket you STILL have to validate it at one of the machines before you board the train! Even if it says the time and date on your ticket!! You should see people sticking tickets into machines that will stamp the time and date on your ticket and you’ll see these scattered around the station. Florence is a bigger station so you might have to be more proactive about it.
Flixbus is a cheap option to take the bus into town. It’ll drop you off at the main train station which is in the center of town.
Rideshare with BlaBlaCar: This is the couchsurfing of transportation. Split the costs of gas (and sometimes driving if it’s over a far distance) and get a ride with a local (or anyone with a car) who is headed in the same direction as you.
Unlike its neighbor France, hitchhiking is not very common in Italy and you may have a hard time flagging down a ride.
7 Santi: Overall a very nice hostel. There is a patio that’s really nice to hang out on. The rooms were clean and staff was helpful. The only thing I didn’t like was the location. It’s pretty far out of the way.
Overall: 7/10 Price: €25 EUR ($29.64 USD) for a 4 bed dorm – prices fluctuate with the season Average for Florence
Hostel Archi Rossi: Really enjoyed this place! The breakfast is ON POINT. It’s a giant free free buffet with a mixture of Italian, American and Chinese breakfast. The dorm was clean, had AC and had a bathroom attached. There was a nice courtyard and the absolute best part was the location- a few minutes walk from the train station and right near the center. Book this hostel pretty far in advance as its location makes it very popular. The only thing I didn’t like was there really a common area. I didn’t feel like there was much space for me to hang around after check out. But I would highly recommend this place due to the convenience of the location alone- but mixed with the breakfast and clean facilities it’s a must.
Overall: 9/10 Price: €26 ($30.83 USD) for an 8 bed mixed dorm Slightly above average- but not expensive
Eating: Florentine food is very humble. The bread, for instance is not made with salt because it was much too expensive back in the day. Most restaurants will serve traditional saltless bread. Try it with olive oil and a little balsamic if you want to add a little flavor.
Crostini al fegato- A typical Tuscan appetizer of chicken livers mixed with capers and anchovies spread on lightly toasted bread.
Bistecca alla fiorentina- T-bone steak. ’nuff said.
Trippa alla fiorentina- Tripe with ground spices and occasionally grated cheese. Eat with potatoes or beans.
Trattoria 4 Leoni (Four Lions)- A bit on the pricey side for a backpacker, but not totally unreasonable. Make reservations for dinner but lunch you shouldn’t have a problem. Same day reservations can only be made by phone. Try their fiochetti di pera in salsa ed asparagi- their famous pear pasta with asparagus sauce. It sounds odd but it’s incredible.
Doing– Art, churches, city views, day trips, free walking tour
Art is king in Florence. If you’re like me and art isn’t you thing, this stuff is still pretty amazing considering the cultural significance of it all. This is the birthplace of the Renaissance, after all. The David is absolutely stunning and completely worth the wait to get in. There is nothing like it. In my opinion, this is one of those things that actually lives up to its fame. Lines get long mid-day, go early and wear sunscreen!
The Duomo will be hard to miss. As one of the most stunning cathedrals I have seen, the Duomo of Florence is famous for good reason. Pictures simply cannot do it justice.
Get a ticket to climb the 463 steps to the cupola. Along the way you’ll see some incredible frescos, get to visit the bell tower, and eventually come to the top where you’ll find a great view of the city.
Price- Free to visit the cathedral, €15 EUR ($17.80 USD) to visit the extra stuff (cupola, bell tower etc.)
Speaking of good views, visit Piazzale Michelangelo for a stunning lookout over the city and a great place to watch sunset.
Price- Free to go, walkable but uphill
Ponte Vecchio- An extremely old bridge in the heart of the city. It is lined with shops, as has always been the case- and it is said that the concept of bankruptcy originated here. This bridge was the only bridge in Florence to not be destroyed by the Nazi’s. It is rumored that Hitler believed the bridge too beautiful to destroy.
Arezzo: Ever seen Life is Beautiful? This is where it was filmed.
Chianti: Chianti is just one of the beautiful towns in the heart of wine country. Ask around Florence to for bike tours that head to various vineyards.
Pisa: Hop on a train to get a picture holding up the tower. I didn’t feel the need to do much more than that.
Sienna: Sienna is a really cute little town. Twice a year (July 2 and August 16) Siena plays hose to the famous Palio which is a traditional bareback horse race representing the different parts of town. This is a bucket list item for me! Book EARLYYYYY if you want to do and stay the night. Tickets and accomodation are hard to come by. If you go any other days of the year you can enjoy a quaint little town and some delicious food.
Staying: 4 – 6 days here would be great if you’re doing day trips and taking your time seeing the city.
Going: Head south to Rome or if you’re going North make your way to Venice, Verona, Milan, Emilia Romagna, Genova or Cinque Terre, depending on how much time you have.