Planning a trip to Florence? Let me just say that you made a very wise decision. Not only is it an art lover’s paradise, its picturesque narrow streets, churches in every corner, old bridges and let’s not forget the museums make it one of the top tourist places to visit in Europe.
I got incredibly lucky last year when I got to live and study in this amazing city for one whole year. Pretty soon I realized that Florence (like any other European city) can be quite heavy on the wallet. As a student, I had to find a way to save some money, only to spend it later on Gelato and Museum passes of course!
Here are some money saving, (and sometimes) life saving tips to travel/live/study in Florence on a budget.
Florence city centre is quite small and can be easily covered by foot. In fact I highly recommend it!! But if you want to explore the Tuscan countryside or are too lazy to trek up to see Piazzale Michelangelo, or you booked your stay on the other side of the river, you’re gonna need some form of public transport.
Taxis are kinda expensive (https://www.numbeo.com/taxi-fare/in/Florence ) and no one really takes them except tourists or people travelling with heavy luggage.
Buses and Trams are much cheaper options and are very frequent and hassle free. Just remember to buy you ticket at the Tabacchi store (stores which sell coffee, cigarette and such) beforehand. It will cost you 1.20 euro and is valid for 90 mins, multiple vehicles. There is no option to buy tickets on board in the Tram and sometimes bus drivers might refuse to sell you tickets because they often run out of it!! Anyways don’t risk it, just buy it beforehand.
MOST IMPORTANT!! Remember to validate the ticket by stamping it from the yellow box on board, otherwise it is seen by Italian Officials as not buying ticket at all. And you can be fined anywhere between 50-200 euro per person!! Believe me the inspectors show up from nowhere and I have witnessed people (mostly harmless tourists) getting fined so many times. Just make sure to VALIDATE and you’re good!
Street walking around Florence
Whilst you are enjoying the grandiose facades around you, beware of pickpockets! Losing all your cash and passport is a situation you don’t want to be in!
Also more often than not, Italians take Traffic rules as merely suggestive guidelines. It might flabbergast some people but I’m from India and I totally get it! So keep an eye out while crossing the streets and watch out for Bicycles and Vespas!!
Florence attracts tourists throughout the year, but it is especially busy during summer- May-September.
Museum waiting lines can be as long as 2hrs on a busy day. So plan your time well. There is a possibility to book tickets earlier online by paying an extra 2-3 euros. So if you’re on a tight schedule this might work for you. Alternatively you could buy a Firenze museum pass which will get you VIP access to most of the popular museums and is valid for 72 hours and costs 72 Euros. http://www.firenzecard.it/?lang=en
Firenzecard can be purchased online or at the authorised points of sale in Florence.
If you are visiting Florence during the beginning of the month, here is a piece of information which will change your life forever. The State museums offer FREE entrance to everyone on the FIRST SUNDAY of every month in Italy!! The queue is usually longer (quite understandable) but try getting in early. Here is the list of Museums which offer free entry:
Where to eat??
Coming to Florence and not having the local food will leave your trip incomplete! Florence is bursting with Pizzerias, Ristorantes and such. Try not to fall for tourist traps here. Sometimes small shops on narrow streets serve the best authentic food at half the price of eateries in the Squares or Piazzas.
Or you can eat your heart out at Mercato Centrale, or Mercato di San Lorenzo located near San Lorenzo. It is a beautiful Cast Iron and Glass structure which hosts a gourmet cafeteria on the top floor and fresh local produce, cheese, meat, vegetable market on the ground floor, where you can try multiple local dishes along with a wide selection of wines. FYI..It also houses a culinary school!!
Italians are very passionate about food and classify eateries in several layers. So where do you want to eat?? Osteria? Trattoria? Pasticceria? Ristorante? Paninaro?….the list goes on!
I think this blog explains it best!
While it is quite something to sit under 15th century art and sip onto some fine Vino, but it was a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Money saving trick:
Taking advantage of being in Tuscany, you can opt for the In House wines. It costs a few Euros and is not bad!
OR buy wine from the Supermarket instead. They offer a huge selection and have discounted prices. It would cost me somewhere between 2-6 euro for a bottle of table wine, compared to around 18 euro at the eateries. Plus in Italy you can drink anywhere (I mean anywhere!).
This is a very Italian concept where some Restaurants add a bill of approx 1-5 euro per person to the table. It is like service charge and not a Tip. Tipping in Italy is optional. It will be always indicated in the menu if the restaurant applies these charges it or not.
So, if you’re in a hurry or just want to have a quick espresso, stay at the bar counter and pay for the food only. Plus it’s a great way to make new friends!
The orange enclosed area forms the city centre. It is easily covered by foot and contains most of the attractions and is always full of Tourists.
The other side of the river is calm, laid back and you can interact freely with Italians (They love to talk!). It also has some of the authentic ristorantes, gelaterias and is easier on the pocket.
Shout out to Girl in Florence for her super helpful blogs.
PS: Also it might be wise to bring your finest wardrobe, because Italian men sometimes wear suit to drink morning espresso and Italian women look like million bucks even when they are just walking the dog or grocery shopping. Just saying!