How great a feeling is it to get to tick off a must see place from your bucket list. Well that’s what I did this summer. Shamelessly I have wanted to visit Florence ever since reading the novel Hannibal by Thomas Harris. Notice I say shamelessly.
However, the small problem of many little people has meant that it never seemed to be a good time to visit, that was until this summer when unexpectedly I had nearly a whole week with just the girls, aged 16 and 12 years old. And whilst we couldn’t really afford it these opportunities don’t come up
very often ever, it was one of those times when I had to say sod it, I’ll worry about it another day. So off we trotted to Florence at the last minute having done minimal research.
However the little research I did do paid off so I thought it would be a good idea to share my tips on how to make the most of your time in Florence…
Fly to Florence airport if you can rather than Pisa.
It may be a little more expensive but the journey time to the city centre is minutes rather than over an hour. And because there were three of us it worked out better to get a taxi from the airport (they have a fixed €20 fare up until 10pm plus €1 per suitcase) than the shuttle bus (€6 each) which would have dropped us off quite a long way from our hotel and considering it was 9pm that was the last thing we would have wanted in an unfamiliar city.
Don’t get too het up about staying right in the centre of the city
Having booked just days before we went, there was limited availability on accommodation and I was worried that by not staying directly in the centre of the city we would miss out. I was wrong, actually Florence is tiny- it is just packed full of things to do in a a small area and it doesn’t take long to walk anywhere, and because we had to walk, a grand total of about 8 minutes, we saw a whole lot more of Florence that I don’t think we would have seen had we stayed around the Duomo.
We stayed in an amazing hotel called Plaza Lucchesi in Santa Croce, overlooking the Arno river. We could see the Ponte Vecchio from our room as well as the Plaza Michelangelo. The huge bonus of this hotel was it’s roof top terrace and pool. After a ‘hard day’s’ sightseeing it was the perfect place to cool off with a glass of prosecco taking in the stunning views which literally took my breath away. The breakfasts were pretty fab too but one night when there was the most horrendous storm which had people running into the hotel off the streets (it really was that scary) we went to eat in the hotel restaurant and had to walk away as there was not a single thing that any of us fancied eating!
Look into the Firenze Card carefully
Florence has something called a Firenze card which costs €72 and gets you into all the major museums (67 of them) for ‘free’ for 72 hours, plus if other members of your family are under 18 years old and EU citizens they get in free too. You also get to enter through the priority access.
Sounds like an amazing deal and although it can be pre-purchased I thought I’d wait until we got there to buy it. Thank goodness I did, I went to buy it on a Saturday but a kind member of the museum told me that the museums were all free the next day (on the first Sunday of every month all state museums and archaeological sites are open to the public for free. And the museums are closed on Mondays! Also, under 18 year old EU citizens get free admission to most of the museums and churches anyway.
Pre-book excursions from the UK before you go
This helps to keep costs down when you are there. When you are on holiday and trying to negotiate another language it can be hard to work out what the best deal is. I booked for us to go on a day trip to Pisa, I had assumed that most people who visit would climb the tower but only so many people are allowed to climb the tower at one time (no bags allowed either) so if you haven’t pre booked tickets you could be in for a long wait. We booked through Get Your Guide. Also it is worth mentioning that you can book a time to climb the Duomo if you are visiting on a Sunday, well worth it to skip the huge queues.
Although we were in Florence for five nights we only just scratched the surface, for such a small city there is so much to do. It is a truly spiritual, magical place with vast amounts of culture around every corner and if you can pay it a visit I would highly recommend it.