Florence Travel Tips: Things to Know Before You Go

Pickpocketing: Get an across-the-body bag. Florence is in high tourist season during the summer, which means pickpockets are everywhere. No matter how well you think you blend in, they can suss you out from a mile away as a tourist. NEVER carry your passport around with you.

Transportation: Buy a public bus pass at any shop with a sign outside that has a blue and white “T” on it (this means “tabacaria” or tobacco shop). Don’t try to hop on buses for free. Fines are 45 euro each time and controllers are not nice about it, especially if you’re American.

Quick Tip: Florence is very walkable, I hardly ever rode the bus so unless you’re staying way out of town or heading home late at night, walking is sufficient.

Relating to the People: When you go into a store or a restaurant, even if you’re not buying anything, say “buongiorno,” “grazie,” and “ciao”. It’s good manners and you’ll get much better service.

Tipping: You don’t have to tip. Sometimes servers put a service charge of 10% but you still don’t have to tip. Most Europeans just round the bill up to the next euro.

Climb the Cathedral Dome: For 8 euro you’ll get the best views of the city and valley all around. You climb up winding staircases and come out right underneath the art on the cathedral ceiling (which is so cool to see up close) and then snake your way up further until you reach the top. You won’t want to climb back down it’s so beautiful! Plus it’s a great way to orient yourself with the city because you can literally compare your bird’s eye view with everything you see on your map.

Quick tip: Go early morning or late afternoon to avoid long lines.
Other Must-Sees: Uffizi Gallery (home to the Botticelli room and a few works of Da Vinci). Boboli Gardens (at the Pitti Palace across the Ponte Vecchio–bridge.) Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria del Academia (no pics allow but if you’re careful you can secretly snap a non flash photo). Ponte Vecchio, meaning old bridge, is Florence’s pedestrian-only bridge joining parts of Florence across the Arno River (don’t miss the jewelry shops on the bridge).
Shop: San Lorenzo market is right next to San Lorenzo church and three minutes walk north or Santa Maria Novella train station.  Here you can bargain for items, see my shopping guide for more details on how to shop Florence.

Nightlife:

Red Garter (across from Santa Croce) is fairly American, but fun and upbeat every night of the week. It’s also a great backpackers hangout if you want to meet other travelers. On Tuesdays Red Garter has beer pong and karaoke.

Lion’s Fountain (near Piazza Salvemini) another American-like bar but you’ll find some locals in there too on quieter week nights. This was an especially popular place to go after San Giovanni’s day on June 24 for continued celebration.

Twice (further down the road from Red Garter toward Piazza Santa Croce always has good dancing. Watch out for foreign men who claim to be Italian and try to pick up girls here.
Central Park and Meccano (both near Santa Maria Novella station) are outdoor clubs with several dance floors, high security, multiple DJs and great music.

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