I’ve been to Florence a couple of times, the first an art trip to Italy. Yep, Florence started it and is to blame. I’ve been obsessed with going back every since, and have managed fairly well I feel.
Florence is a very different experience to stay and for a day trip. This sounds obvious, most places are, but the difference struck me at the time and does still. Not that I would recommend one over the other, any chance to see Florence is fantastic, but the day trip was certainly more exhausting. While I’m sure we packed as much into each day as onto my five day (I think, it’s been a while) trip, I remember that trip as refreshing and relaxing despite the business.
It’s wonderful if you can stay near the centre, we were up a long street but it was a street lined with interesting shops and – stopping in whichever we fancied – it did not feel long. The Uffizi Gallery I have seen twice and loved it both times. Though uncertain about the idea of museums or galleries charging money at all, I happily forked over for this. It helps that they have lots of concessions rates (best to double-check online for the latest) so all young people (not just students) have a cheaper rate to get in. I think it was only five euros, and my provisional license was enough proof. I have only bought tickets at the door, and this has been fine. I think I would find ordering tickets online beforehand stressful, but you do you.
I would suggest not being put off when you first arrive though. Both times I remember crowds by the door. The first we avoided having cunningly (or stupidly, depending on how you look at it) been distracted by the posters being sold on the street and therefore were left behind. Posters is the wrong word for thick paintings and pictures lining the pavements – the best deal comes when you really don’t want another to fill your suitcase. The prices get smaller and smaller until you have to go back and buy one, thinking what socks you can chuck out in its place. We managed to find the gallery and were allowed to rush through, explaining we were part of a group that had already gone in. The second time was far less stressful. We were perturbed by the crowds, who it turned out were just milling near the entrance. We had only a few minutes to wait, bought tickets and were inside. There is a place for your heavy bags also if you are on a day trip.
I used to not be a gallery person, this was when my time there was mandated by others. Choosing the galleries or museums, choosing the amount of time spent in them, and what and for how long I chose to look at things, greatly improved my enjoyment. The Uffizi was no exception, it is relaxing and enjoyable to walk and see what you find (so I shall say nothing more). The best thing is to go with someone completely un-enamoured by galleries or museums. They will want to go within fifteen minutes, and make you feel quite the cultural being.
As with all the places so far, I just enjoyed walking around the city. As far as I know it is pricier than other cities, but we found a good cafe with a lunch deal and enjoyed it. My favourite thing to see, both times, was the markets. What a materialistic thing to be a favourite in Florence! No, I shall change it to my second favourite. The first favourite was the locks on the fences near the Ponte Vecchio. (The Ponte Vecchio is lovely and fun to see, but comes second to the markets).
The markets are huge and range from the affordable, to the not affordable, to the very not affordable. I got a masquerade mask at one of them for only a few euros and still have it (I can see it on my window sill now) and the prices of these – though all similar – varied wildly. I enjoyed looking at all the pretty merchandise, picking among the gorgeous leathers and scarves and statues and decided what I would get if I was weighed down with excessive coins, and really enjoyed picking my gifts and souvenirs from the other markets. What’s next? The ice cream! Of course. We shopped around to find cheaper, the shops on the main street in the centre are very pricey, but we always found cheaper on side streets and they were absolutely delicious.
I’m sure there’s more, beautiful gardens filled with statues (and little shade), street performers, the stunning beauty of the Duomo (you can’t get lost, you just head back towards whichever part of the Duomo you can see and work out your way from there) on top of gorgeous sunny days. I remember that my room had shutters, I loved the shutters. It was wonderful pushing them open in the morning and feeling the morning air before it was baked to all of its midday glory.