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.
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
You can cover almost all of Florence by foot, but on the first day we took the bus. Most of the attractions are closely grouped together and signposted by the whirr of camera shutters. Visitors who are lost and do not feel up to asking directions should follow the umbrella hovering above the crowds – it’s guaranteed to be guiding a band of tourists to another one of the city’s attractions.
The open top tour bus is a cheap way to find your way around the city. Get on the bus, stay on for the whole tour, then jump off on the return journey if there is something you fancy seeing and jump back on when the next one comes along. You get a free pair of earphones included in the price of your ticket, which is valid for 24 hours. All tours have either a guide or audio commentary, with frequent departures throughout the day. Most tours take an hour if you don’t hop on and off, although some may take approximately two hours.
The start point is the central train station (Santa Maria Novella). Look for the red open top double-decker bus - you can't miss it! Tours depart every 30-60 minutes, depending on the season, and children four and under travel for free.
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