Mercato centrale, as it's name suggests, is placed bang in the centre of Florence. And it's a food market. It's kinda like Borough Market is to London.
Inside you'll find the odd tourist that's found their way there but you'll mostly see chefs buying wholesale and locals buying their ingredients for that night's dinner.
The smell of truffles as you walk in will wash over you and, if you're anything like me, pull you in like the tractor beam in Star Wars. It's got some amazing wines (nearly all varieties of Super Tuscans), cheeses, olive oils, bread, huge bags of fresh porcini mushrooms (depending on the time of year) but, for me anyway, the main reason to go is for the cafes at the rear of the market. There's always a queue and it's packed with locals. A good sign. It's very cheap (about €3.50 for a main and €2 for a medium caraffe of wine. The porchetta sandwiches at Nerbone at €3.5 are an absolute must. They're incredible.
Piazza del Mercato, Florence, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/12SI4Jr
Certaldo Alta is a short train ride from Florence. The new part is less interesting, apart from a twice weekly market so head for the old part, Certaldo Alta either on foot or using the cable car from the square. Here you will find a lovely Tuscan hill town with few tourists, some interesting history and quiet bars and restaurants. In the summer there is a music and arts festival so you can listen to jazz in part of an old church surrounded by ancient frescoes. Even better, stay for the night in the nearby Fattoria Basseto, a former Benedictine convent, that is now a budget hotel and hostel. In one of the rooms there is a black and white photograph of the family who still own it, taken in the 1950's by Cecil Beaton.The owners are lovely, you will want to stay, arrange a cooking class at a nearby farm, and not return to Florence!
Via delle Città, 50052 Certaldo FI, Italy
+39 348 4370285
Google map: bit.ly/11ucXCG
Great trattoria and pizzeria in the heart of Florence just yards from the Santa Croce church. In our three days in the city, we had the best pizzas here.
Pizzas were between €6 and €8. For two pizzas and a bottle of white wine, we paid €29.
Surprisingly good value in a central location in Florence.
It is a B&B run by two women from Firenze for women travellers. It is in the heart of Firenze - and from my room I could see the Duomo and a little garden. It is small, cosy, extremely clean and you meet interesting women there. They were kind enough to put me up for free for a night as I was on a tight budget as I was travelling from India. Extremely warm and hospitable women offering a great service to women travellers. They also welcome pets.
B and B for women only
Borgo Pinti 31, 50121 Florence, Italy
Tel : 0044 203 027 7155
Santa Maria Novella station
Google map: tinyurl.com/ydmodtb
Trattoria Anita is a great restaurant in Florence. They have the greatest food and really good prices. The waiters are really nice and funny and make you feel right at home. I go there anytime I'm in Florence and have never felt sorry.
2 Via del Parlascio, Firenze, +39 055 218 698
If you want a good value three-star hotel near the station in Florence and a couple of minutes from Il Duomo, I can highly recommend Hotel San Giorgio. It costs about €30 ppp night, the breakfast was excellent and the staff and manager Piero are mines of information on good value local bars and trattorias.
Friendly people, cheap prices and nice Florentine furniture. It's an eco-friendly hotel, too.
Florence is a beautiful city packed with culture and vibrance. But if you only have a day or two, and on a shoestring budget, I recommend hiring a bicycle for a half a day or a day, especially when the weather is warm. It's one of the most enjoyable and memorable experiences my wife and I had, and it's fairly inexpensive.
The city is not big, and you can easily cover most of the top sights if you're willing to do a bit of pedal power, plus you'll be doing your bit on travelling green!
Also, to stretch your deflated pound that little bit further, scoff down as much breakfast as you can (Italian brekkies are simple fares), and have a late lunch. Find a pizzeria the locals recommend, and don't be ashamed to order a very large pizza. Eat half, and ask to take away the rest (a good pizza should still be good even when it's cold and bashed around in your rucksack). While you're there, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy the distinct flavours of each ingredient. Savour the bursting flavours of the tomatoes, the freshness of the artichokes, the subtle hint of basil, and the purity of the extra virgin olive oil drizzled on fresh mozzarella on the perfect stone baked dough base. Bellissimo! Enjoy it while you can, you simply won't be able to find pizza like they make it in Italy!
Back to the bicycle ride, I would start somewhere by the river, visiting some of the markets and the shops that are just about to open by mid-morning. Florentine streets are narrow, but you should always be able to find somewhere to lock the bicycle during stops. Be equipped with a sense of adventure, and feel free to wander off the beaten track, as somehow it'll always bring you back to the centre anyway. If you prefer, zip around the many piazzas and use speed to your advantage to get to queues early if you like museum hopping.
As the sun starts to sit low, return your bicycle (making note of the closing time where you hired it), and head up to the Piazelle Michelangelo (Michelangelo Hill) by bus. It's a very touristy part of Florence, but find a place to sit down, relax, and enjoy the spectacular changing hues of the sunset as it sails below the beautiful Florentine skyline.
This hostel isn't in the center of Florence - it's on the outskirts, but there's a free bus shuttle service into the center, and during the hot summer months, the pool and quieter location is a welcome respite from the summer crowds.
The location means you get cheaper room rates and heaps of extras - we loved the swimming pool, restaurant, bar and pretty surrounding olive groves.
We hired bikes and explored other parts of Tuscany - and the hostel organize tours to Pisa, Lucca and San Gimingnano.
Beautiful location, views of Tuscany countryside, great free breakfast, totally relaxing, and it was easy to pop into Florence, despite being in another town!
Fantastic little restaurant running since 1860 (the whole time with the same family). We had a delicious meal there (pastas around seven euros, salads four, desserts four) and thoroughly enjoyed both the delicious food and the great service and ambience. Highly reccommended.
43-45 Via Sant'Antonio
Il Ghiro is a wonderful little guesthouse situated very centrally, near the main train station in Florence. It is absolutely fantastic. Reasonably priced, clean, great staff, free web access (and that is a real gift here in Italy) and lots of help available finding anything you want to see, great places to eat etc. Run by Francesco and Paula; we have only met Francesco but he is fantastic (and so is Paula, if the recommendations on the wall are anything to go by). Best place yet. Stay here!
Via Faenza 63, 5013 FIRENZE
The centre of the city is not large, so it makes this place easy to visit in a day.
You can choose to visit Florence by bike, following the cycle tracks that reach the most famous historic sites.
What to see:
- Piazza della Signoria
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)
- The Bargello Museum
- Ponte Vecchio: To one side of the bridge there is the majestic bust of the most famous Florentine goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini.
- Bike along the romantic Viale dei Colli up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the wonderful landscape of Florence
- Panoramic view of the Boboli Gardens
Bike rental estimated prices:
1 hour - about 3 Euro
1 day - from a minimum of 14 Euro to a maximum of 27 Euro
Ostello Gallo D'Oro is a central, pleasant and extremely clean hostel in Florence, owned by the most remarkable couple: Massimo and Silvia.
They drive every aspect of this lovely Florence hostel, and are constantly on hand to make sure that their guests (and you really do feel like a guest rather than a customer!) have everything they could possibly need.
I didn't stay long enough to take advantage of the offer, but long-term guests are invited out to their Tuscan farmhouse for the night.
It was a real wrench to tear myself away.
No. 104 Via Cavour, Florence
Great place on Via Del Proconsulo, near the Bargello. As you walk from the Duomo towards the river you will do worse than to stop in Yellow Bar - the Nona making the pasta between the kitchen and the stairs alone is worth the price of admission (there isn't a price of admission). Very busy, locals and tourists.
Great food at low, low prices. We had dinner for 30 with wine (and not from a fixed menu!) that came to less than 20 euro per person. Wonderful spot.
Via Del Proconsolo, 39/R
50122 Firenze (FI), Italy
Budget airlines fly into Pisa - don't bother with the bus, the road is usually very busy into Florence. Get the train, there's a station at Pisa airport with regular trains to Florence; or go to Pisa Central where there are even more trains to Florence and it's cheaper.
We have recently rented a holiday flat in Pisa for our holiday. The owners were just the most friendly and welcoming people we have ever met. They have another holiday home near Florence, called Casina di Rosa, and we want to recommend you at least consider renting with them because we had such a fantastic experience. They told us that they also organize wine tasting tours, olive oil tours and cooking classes and more. Say hi from Laura and Xavier!
Gloria and Marcel
Santo Spirito, as i think a few have pointed out, gives you a welcome breather from the tourists yet it can only be a hundred yards from the Ponte Vechhio.
It is popular with students and with the locals (nearby are some delis and whatnot so you actually see Florentines) and comes to life after nine or so in the evening.
At the top of the square is Brunelleschi’s spectacular church - as well as having a crucifix by a very young Michelangelo, it was studied and admired by many including Da Vinci and it is easy to see why. It is especially pretty when the facade is lit at night.
There are a few restaurants and a couple of bars in the square, the type of spots where, if you drink too many amerettos, they give you a tequilla on the house - the atmosphere is friendly at all of them.
Istayed at Antica Dimora with a friend but it would be especially nice to go there romantically - ask for a room with a little balcony. You can watch (and listen!) to the market being set up in the morning. The rooms are huge with lovely wooden beams and, maybe vaguely kitsch decor but it feels like you’ve been to Firenze! It’s a short back street walk to the wonderful, wonderful Bobili gardens too.
piazza santo spirito no.9
t. +39 055 2658376
Trattoria Anita is a great but cheap restaurant. We went for lunch and dinner. Two course lunch for two including wine came to 20 Euros. It has a cosy wooden interior and very friendly staff. Food was delicious and certainly good value. Added bonus is it is near Gelateria dei Neri so you can pop for icecream afterwards!
Via del Parlascio 2/r
Tel: 055 218 698
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