Florence TRIP OVERVIEW

Stay on the far side of the Arno River, called the Oltr’Arno, near the river and the Ponte Vechio, in the glorious neighborhood  lined with 13th century palazzos, pensions and towers.

 Take a walk-about along the river, looking across at the opulent architecture on the other side. You are staying right where you need to be…close to everything, but at enough of a distance to be able to actually see it. You will cross the river multiple times a day to visit the many iconic sights on the other side. But even crossing the river on the Ponte Vecchio will be its own delight. In addition to the many intriguing shops that line the Ponte Vecchio, the views from midway across are stunning, particularly at sunset.

  • Visit David, both the towering replica that stands where he did for centuries, outdoors in the Piazza Signoria in front of the Medici Palace. Then visit the original statue at the Academia along with some of Michelangelo’s remarkable uncompleted works.
  • Order Lasagna (scored 10!! out of 10) at La Loggia at an outdoor table across from Piazzale Michelangelo. Then look at the original artwork on display in the Piazza. Select a favorite to take home and frame.
  • Visit the San Lorenzo leather markets in search for just the right take-home from Florence… a jacket, gloves, a portfolio, a wallet, a belt…
  • Eat lunch across from the Duomo where you can closely study the intricacies of the marble work. After lunch, walk closer and go inside. 
  • Wander the Boboli Gardens behind Pitti Palace, from the fountains to the grotto. Then explore the palace to see how the Medici family lived.
  • Hunt for treasures along the Ponte Vecchio. There are many lovely but affordable pieces mixed in with the more opulent ones.
  • Sit in the Piazzas, enjoying drinks, dinner, or even just gelato. Watch the people parades.    

 

How to Get to FLORENCE

Book an overnight trans-Atlantic flight to Florence coming from the US or Canada. Traveling from Great Britain or continental Europe, your travel day will be much shorter, whether by plane or train. Check round-trip flight costs both to Florence and to Rome. If the Rome flights are significantly less expensive, consider flying in and out of Rome and taking the fast train through to Florence.

To book your flight:

  • Start at least 1½ months ahead.
  • Fly hub to hub if possible. Larger airports, particularly hubs (Paris, Rome, London), often have cheaper fares.
  • Book on Tuesday at around 3 pm when airlines release a restricted number of seats with deep discounts.
  • If possible, fly on less popular days, when fares are cheaper. Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays tend to cost the least. Fridays and Sundays are the most expensive days. 
  • Book one ticket at a time to avoid paying the same price for both tickets even when one ticket otherwise would have cost less.

Use the MyFlightSearch.com website to locate the best prices and flight options. Enter your dates and your choice of departure airport, then Florence or Rome for your destination. Here’s a compared result between RT to Florence ($1031) and RT to Rome ($817), using Charlotte NC as the departure city. The added expense of the train at the time of this search would be $60 RT and takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.


Note that you will have options presented that may save you significant money, especially if you can be somewhat flexible about your travel days. Also, take a close look at the Cancellation Policy. It is rare to be able to change a plane reservation more than 24 hours after booking. As long as MyFlightSearch offers the option of making flight changes for a modest fee, this is a considerable benefit. 

Where to Stay in Florence

Plan to stay on the far side of the Arno River, called the Oltr’Arno, near the Ponte Vecchio. This will put you in the middle of a glorious neighborhood, lined with 13th century palazzos, pensions and towers, possibly with a view of the river and the opulent architecture on the other side. You will be a modern-day “neighbor” to the Medici’s whose Piti Palace and fabulous Boboli Gardens will be just down the street.

Many of the accommodations in this area are apartments, each with unique characteristics and charms. If one apartment is booked, read the descriptions for others that are close by. Start your booking process early, since some of these gems can accommodate only a single set of guests. Apartments offer the benefit of a sitting area, living space and a kitchen. You may not be planning to cook while you are here, but it will be nice to have a fridge for wine, cheese, olives, breakfast items and leftovers. Apartments can have reasonable rates, although some add a charge for cleaning fees. A few small hotels also border the river, some with panoramic roof terraces and beautiful city views.

Although this choice of location will put you across the river from much of what you will be visiting during your stay here in Florence, Crossing over the Ponte Vecchio will be its own delight and adventure, with its goldsmith shops lining the sides of the bridge and its stunning views up and down the river from the open spot near the center. The Medici family used the corridor above the bridge as their own private walkway back and forth across the river between their offices (“ufizzi”) on the right bank and Piti Palace on the left. The Ponte Vecchio will take you quickly into the heart of the narrow medieval streets on the other side of the river. In addition to the intriguing shops that line the bridge, the views from midway across are stunning, particularly at sunset.

Three Great Sample Options

Madame Tina

Borgo San Jacopo, 2

In the center of the historic district of Florence, overlooking Ponte Vecchio. Free WiFi access, TV. Seating area and a full kitchen with dishwasher and microwave. 

Pitti Palace is 1,150 feet away, and the Uffizi Gallery a 10-minute walk. Close to shops, restaurants, markets  and cafes.

Great views, great location, comfortable, spacious. Also has a washer with nice drying rack.

Rinascimento Palace

Uniquely decorated apartments with views of the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi. Air conditioning, free WiFi,  flat-screen TV, kitchen, washing machine.

Just 800 feet from Ponte Vecchio bridge; 1,650 feet from Uffizi Gallery and Piazza della Signoria square. Pitti Palace is a 5-minute walk away. Close to almost all attractions.

The apartment is spacious and newly remodeled, with all new amenities.

Ponte Vecchio Terrace

Via de Bardi, 50

2-bedroom apartment with balcony providing an amazing view over Ponte Vecchio and the Arno river.

A few steps away from the main attractions of the city. Supermarket being across the road and a taxi station (taxi rank) on the corner. An 11-minute walk from Uffizi Gallery and 0.7 miles from Ponte Vecchio.

Free WiFi and air conditioning.

On the booking.com website:

  •  Use Map View to do a flyover of Florence and focus in on the area where you will be staying.
  • Zoom in to narrow down your options. You will know you’re in the right area when your map looks something like the one below.
  • Hover over the bubbles to see the prices.
  • Click on options that deserve a closer look.
  • Look at the photos, description and reviews. Check for AC and room sizes.
  • Consider superior rooms with more space, views and possibly balconies.
  • Then pick someplace wonderful.

The advantage of staying in this area of Florence is that you will be right in the heart of it all. You will be able to walk to the Ponte Vecchio and the Ufizzi and many other sites, as well as the market, restaurants and shops.

Trip-at-a-Glance

A pre-planned trip to give you everything you need for stress-free travel while retaining your freedom from group tours to enjoy the full experience of being there…

Coming soon: Your Great 5-Day Trip to Florence (the book)

Day #1

Arrive in Florence by plane or train. Taxi or Uber to your accommodations near the Ponte Vecchio, across from the Uffizi. Staying near the river on the “other” side—the “Oltrarno” —will put you near the “heart of it all.”

Begin your walk-about to explore your neighborhood and orient yourself to this remarkable city by strolling along the river. Here you will have before you the full spectacle of the Ponte Vecchio, with the imposing Uffizi Gallery bordering the river across the way, and the Duomo dome behind it.

Find a spot where you can study the Ponte Vecchio, with its shops clinging to the sides and the row of windows along the top, marking the private corridor used by the wealthy Medici family to walk In this city of narrow medieval streets, your best chance to learn your way around will be via the river and its bridges as well as the Piazzas, where the dim, cavern-like streets empty out into space and light. 

Today you will learn one bridge , Ponte Vecchio, plus 4 piazzas (squares), two on each side of the river—Signoria and Repubblica on the Right side, Pitti and Santo Spirito on the Left. You will return often to this bridge and these piazzas. And your mental map of how to move among them will give you a sense of beginning to know your way around. 

Stop for lunch at the Golden View, with its glorious outlook over the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi. After lunch, continue your walk-about, crossing the Ponte Vecchio, pausing to browse the intricate hand-crafted jewelry. There have been shops on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. 

Then move on to your first Piazza, Piazza Signoria, the courtyard in front of the Uffizi Palace, with the sculpture of Michelangelo’s David (this is a copy) to the left of the entrance. This is where the Dominican priest, Savonarola, staged his bonfires of books and art, and where later he himself was burned, ending his reign of terror.

This piazza is a maze of masterworks. Take your time to peruse, photograph and appreciate. And spot some outdoor tables facing the square where to return to later for drinks, snacks or meals.

From Piazza Signoria, walk onward to reach Piazza della Repubblica (left on Via Porta Rossa and right on Via Pellicceria), surrounded by majestic arcades, with an imposing triumphal arch as an entrance, and a Merry-go-Round. Make note of the piano bar for future reference.

You likely will be ready for a rest by now, so step inside the Rinascente Department Store that faces the square and make your way up to the rooftop bar. Here you will be at eye-level of the famous Duomo dome, completed two centuries after the cathedral itself, when building technology was at last able to engineer a way to prevent the massive cone from collapsing in on itself. On your way back down to the street, make note of any interesting parts of this massive store to which you may want to return.

Now head back towards the bridge and cross back over to the “other” side. Stop by the wonderful Sapori & Dintorni Store just across the bridge to pick up supplies for your stay—wine, bread, breakfast items, cheeses, salami, olives, deli, fizzy water—and take them back to your digs. Now that you are “home,” take off your shoes and relax for awhile, soaking in the delights of your location. Here you are…a temporary resident of Florence, the Cradle of the Renaissance. 

 This evening you have dinner reservations at an outdoor table at Ristorante Borgo Antico in Piazza Santo Spirito on “your” side of the Arno. Walking there will take you past Piazza Pitti, with Pitti Palace as its backdrop.  As you walk along, peek into the shop windows at antiques and artisan-created treasures and select any enterprises to which you may wish to return during your stay in Florence. 

Day #2

Spend the morning at the Uffizi, the Palace Offices of the Medici. This building that was once the locus of Florentine government, is now home to a vast treasure chest of art.

Selectively view the art, focusing in on Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring. Locate the portraits of Michelangelo and Raphael (Halls 35 and 66), and also Leonardo da Vinci’s one-and-only panel painting.

From the far end of the corridors, pause to look out the windows for another view of the Vasari Corridor that runs along the top of Ponte Vecchio.

Walk to Piazza Santa Croce for lunch at Finisterrae before heading to the Bargello, a former prison that now houses the major sculptures commissioned and collected by the Medicis.

Day #3

Walk to the train station for breakfast on the top floor of the Hotel Bargello, with rooftop views of Florence.

Then head to Accademia Gallery where you will have scheduled Priority Entrance to visit the “real” sculpture of David.

You will have left enough time before your scheduled entrance to the Medici Chapels to wander the San Lorenzo Leather Market in search of something wonderful.

Then lunch across from the Duomo so you will have ample time to study the intricate marble work before going inside.

Later in the day, catch a taxi up to the hilltop town of Fiesole to visit Etruscan artifacts, then enjoy a sumptuous dinner in a restaurant that overlooks Florence.

Day #4

Spend a day on the left bank of the River. Visit Boboli gardens (including the grotto) and Pitti Palace. Don’t miss the Grotto with sculptures in Boboli Gardens. 

Call a taxi or Uber to take you up the steep climb to Miniato Abbey, above Piazza Michelangelo. Walk down (7 minutes) for lunch outside at La Loggia on the Piazza.

Browse the original artwork on display in the Piazza and select one or two to take home as lasting momentos of your time here in Florence.

Start your walk back down to river-level with a stop at Vip’s Bar, with its phenomenal views down over Florence. From here it will be a short walk to Giardino delle Rose to take in the rose terraces, Japanese garden and sculptures before continuing on to Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolo for dinner. 

Day #5

Breakfast across from the train station overlooking the Duomo and the rooftops of Florence. Take the train to Cortona for the day.

Visit the remarkable Etruscan Museum, where the Roman-level of excavations is the more recent, with the Etruscan-level beneath it. Take some time to explore the shops and streets of this charming town.

Then lunch in a vaulted Etruscan-style restaurant. Head back to Florence by train and find the piano bar in Piazza della Repubblica for drinks before dinner.

 You will have made dinner reservations at whatever has been your favorite restaurant during your stay. Feast and relax and muse about your wonderful time here in Florence, sharing your peak moments and discoveries. 

Coming Soon…

Your Great 5-Day Trip to Florence