Florence, Italy: renowned for its creativity, momentous impact on the arts, huge variety of ice-cream and of course, as my friends wistfully noted, ‘Italian stallions’. With its towering palazzos, maze of markets, and winding alleys, it is paradise for any romantically inclined daydreamer.
The city itself is a cluster of world famous galleries, each abundant with enough old masters to fulfil an art historian’s wildest fantasies. Although it’s worth just touring the streets and enjoying the smaller hidden gems of the city, it’s almost infeasible to visit Florence without paying a visit to the Uffizi.
Europe’s centre for Renaissance Art and overflowing with Leonardo’s and Botticelli’s, it is a must see. Even if you aren’t particularly partial to galleries, the building itself is a work of art and offers stunning views over the city. However, it is also a must a see for all other visitors to Florence, so arrive early to avoid seemingly never-ending queues.
If the Uffizi hasn’t quenched your thirst for art yet, then it’s well worth paying the Bargello Museum a visit. Slightly more off the beaten track, this is an exquisite palazzo holding an awe-inspiring sculpture collection. It’s fairly small, so you can end your visit with lunch in one of the many pizzerias situated in the neighbouring piazza.
As your feet begin to ache and your eyes blur at the sight of yet another Leonardo, perched overlooking the city is the serene oasis of the Giardino Boboli. If you have time, it is worth paying a visit the Galleria Palatine, the palace for whose pleasure the Giardino Boboli was created. Not only does it house further collections, including Florence’s modern art gallery, it is still preserved in all its royal splendour. The gardens themselves are just as stunning. Beautifully designed, they provide an island of serenity in the midst of this vibrant city.
Whilst it may be one of the cultural centres of Europe, or arguably the world, direct flights to Florence from the UK are few and far between. It’s much easier on the purse strings of your student budget to fly to Pisa and then take a very straight forward shuttle bus to Florence itself.
My fellow dorm mates told me this, accompanied with knowing nods and inevitable sly ‘thank god this wasn’t me’ smiles after they found out I’d flown directly to the city. Horrified, it dawned on me that my return flight to Florence cost £269.20 in comparison to the £104 return they were able to bag by flying through Pisa. This led to a few bitter moments when I realised that the extra £165 I spent could have been put to better use to buy one of the many beautiful but expensive handbags that litter Florence’s markets.
All the usual airlines travel to Pisa from various London airports so take your pick from Ryanair, EasyJet or British Airways for your 2 hour flight.
Where to Stay
Florence is right on the tourist trail for anyone doing the rounds of Europe, so there is an abundance of hostels – all which are significantly cheaper, and just as sufficient, as nearby hotels. Hostelworld is a great way to suss out what’s on offer, but I would recommend the Archi Rossi Hostel where beds are as cheap as £16 per night with breakfast included. Very close to the train station and coach park, it has great transport links and all it takes is a five-minute walk before you’re in the city centre. However, if you’re willing to splash out, Airbnb has many central apartments for an average of £40 per night.
Florence itself is tiny, with all of the main attractions within five to ten minutes walk of each other so exploring the city by foot is a no brainer – plus then you have an excuse to try the vast selection of pizza and pasta on offer, because you need to keep up your strength, obviously!
Euros. I recommend exchanging money in the UK (at time of printing Debenhams is the cheapest) as ATM are a hidden rarity in Florence.
So, if you’re longing for a beach holiday perhaps Florence is not your next destination, but if the opportunity to leave feeling more culturally and carb filled is calling you, I can’t recommend it enough.