FlorenceChances are if you’ve found yourself in Italy, you will eventually wander to Florence. And you should. It really is as great as people make it out to be.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of posts in the blogosphere that will tell you what to do, where to go, when to visit, etc. I’m trying to avoid that because it’s already been done too many times. After two very different visits to Florence – I attempted to do Florence in 20 hours with some friends, then I went solo to partake in a teaching course – I can say I’ve gathered a few helpful tips to make your journey to Firenze as successful as possible. Take a look for yourself.

IMG_1962TAKE YOUR TIME. I’m saying this first because it’s tempting to try to fit Florence into a day or a day and a half. I’ll admit, it’s possible. I’ve done it. I ran around the city for ten hours and hit nearly every major attraction. It was semi-fun and completely exhausting. The best part of that day was the glass of wine at the end of it. But Florence is so much more than the museums and statues. There are so many bars, alleys and shops that are charming, and they shouldn’t be overlooked. Spending two or three full days in Florence is completely worth any extra money or time you will spend. I promise. This also gives you the luxury of actually grasping and comprehending all of the history and art you’re absorbing. It can be overwhelming, and if you’re rushing through the city going from place to place without really understanding what you’re seeing or why you’re seeing it, you’ve missed the authenticity and beauty of Florence.

DSC_0009BRING EARPLUGS OR HEADPHONES. This is really only necessary if you are staying in the city center. More than likely, the hotel, flat, or hostel at which you are staying will have a wall with a window facing a street that will quite busy throughout the night, especially if you’re staying over a Friday or Saturday night. If you plan on getting any sleep, bring earplugs or headphones to play some music or white noise to drown out the noise coming through the window. With the amount of international students and young people in the city, the noise level is unavoidable, and the old buildings of Florence aren’t really made for sound-proofing. Of course, you may be one of those people that will be out on the street instead of resting up after a long day of walking miles and miles (and that’s okay!).

DSC_0035AVOID EATING NEAR TOURIST HOT SPOTS. Of course. You’ve heard this a million times, right? It’s just that it’s SO tempting when it’s 8 p.m. and you’ve walked 14 miles and you’re just so hungry and it’s so convenient and the waiter is inviting you to come in and the menu has pictures and oh my gosh my stomach won’t stop grumbling. Yes, I’ve been there. I’ve succumbed to the internal and external forces that draw me to these places in many cities, Florence included. But here’s the thing…Florence lies in the most well-known region of Italy (Tuscany). The city is littered with amazing places waiting for you to find them. And you should. Because your wallet and your stomach and your friends will thank you. The extra kilometer and the five additional minutes of discomfort is worth it every. single. time. Capisci?

DSC_0003DON’T USE ANY BUSES. Seriously, don’t you dare consider taking that oh-so-enticing, shiny red, hop-on-and-off bus (unless you physically aren’t able to walk miles every day, then of course, by all means, please take this bus; it really is convenient). But if you can avoid it and you are physically capable of a lengthy amount of walking every day then PLEASE do not take any public or tourist transportation. A big part of experiencing Florence is having the freedom to go off the beaten path and take your time strolling from place to place (see point one). Every street in the city is unique and most shops are worth a few minutes of your time. You can’t do this if you’re whizzing by on a bus. Also, this is a really good way to earn that pizza at the end of the day.

IMG_1952ENGAGE WITH LOCALS. Trust me, Florentines are used to seeing thousands of tourists shuffling in and out of their city every day. Many of them speak English, but they are always much happier to help you or have a conversation with you if you try to speak some Italian. That’s a general guideline for surviving Italy, but it especially rings true in Florence. Just try. You don’t need to speak fluently or even grammatically correct (although that would be nice, wouldn’t it?). They appreciate your effort to understand their language and blend into the culture, rather than just taking pictures of it and leaving. The locals have just as many interesting stories to tell as the statues and museums and churches if you engage with them.

So there you have it. Five tips to make the most of your trip to Firenze. What else would you add?

As always, thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments, suggestions, questions, etc.

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