You may have heard Florence referred to as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”. Well, it’s all that and then some. Florence is a cultural and historical hub that draws millions of visitors every year. From its stunning Medieval and Renaissance architecture to some of the most famous museums in the world, to the absolutely delectable Tuscan food and wine, Florence truly has something for everybody. Traveling to Florence on a budget can be on the trickier side, but with some careful planning and some Insider tips, you can visit this stunning city no matter the budget you have, so pack your bags and brush up on your Italian customs.
If you are traveling to Florence on a budget, there are a few key areas where you can save the most amount of money. Starting with:
The Old City of Florence is quite compact, and therefore it is easily walkable from end to end. If you are staying in the old city, you shouldn’t need to worry about running a car. Not only will this allow you to take in the true essence of Florence at your own pace, but it will also save you some money on transportation costs.
Now if there’s inclement weather, or you’re going too far to walk, public transportation is a great way to get around Florence on a budget. Florence is home to an extensive network of buses and trams that are efficient and affordable. A single ticket costs just €1.50 and is valid for up to 90 minutes, allowing you to hop on and off lines as necessary. You can find these tickets at any Tabacchii store, newsstand, or ticket machine (usually found at tram stations).
For those who are looking to get a little bit more active (or are looking to burn off all the bread and pasta they’ve been eating), bike rentals are quite common throughout Florence. In fact, it’s the favored method of transportation for many Florentines. You’ll see many locals of all ages riding their bikes all around the old city as they go about their day. There are several shops around Florence offering bike rentals at reasonable prices. This is also a great way to get around the city’s many parks and gardens such as the Boboli Gardens and the Parco delle Cascine.
Do keep your eyes out for walking tours that will take you through Florence’s many sites and landmarks. Many tour companies offer free or low -ost walking tours exploring everything from the city’s history to its legendary cuisine. Not only will you learn more about the city, but you will also get to meet some other travelers and locals.
Florence is one of the most legendary shopping cities in the world. Known as the epicenter of leather craftsmanship, there is no doubt that shopping in Florence can blow your budget. If you’re looking to get a little retail therapy, but are on a slim budget, don’t fret, there’s still some fantastic budget-friendly options.
One of the best places to check out for the local markets. The San Lorenzo Market or Mercato Centrale is probably the most popular in the city. It boasts somewhere north of 300 stalls selling everything from leather to jewelry to clothing and other assorted souvenirs. In the Mercato building, you’ll find a foodie’s paradise, with delicious, affordable food and endless options for produce, meats, and cheeses. There are also a few spots that sell high-quality kitchenware which, in my opinion, makes for some of the best souvenirs!
When shopping at outdoor markets, it’s important to remember that bargaining and haggling are part of the culture here. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with vendors to get a better price. Do you remember to be respectful and don’t try to lowball them. Start with a lower offer, and work your way up to something that makes both you and the seller happy.
That being said, if you are looking for small and inexpensive souvenirs, be sure to check out local shops. They will still have similar postcards, magnets and small trinkets that souvenir shops will have, but usually at a lower price. Alternatively if you’re looking for something to bring back for family and friends, consider locally made products like olive oil, wine, or handcrafted pottery. I can assure you they will get more use than a magnet that says “Florence”
10 Quick Tips for Traveling to Florence on a Budget
1. Plan Ahead
Book flights and accommodations early to get the best deals. By booking or starting to plan early, you’ll be able to take advantage of any special deals or discounts offered by airlines or hotels. This is super important when traveling to such a popular place, as prices can really skyrocket in the summer. The best time to book a flight to Europe is between 1 and 7 months ahead of time, so if you start looking at that 7 month mark, you should be able to get the best deal possible for your travel dates.
2. Avoid Peak Season
Visiting Florence in the off-season (November to March) can save you a lot of money on flights and accommodations. Peak season typically occurs In the summer months of June July and August. You’ll want to try to avoid these months, and not just because they’re much more expensive. Florence, due to its geography, can be very hot and humid in the summer. Late spring and early fall can get you warmer weather, (but not “heart of the summer” heat), better prices, and lower crowds. But if you’re looking for the real bargain, the winter months can be a fabulous time to visit. You’ll practically have the city to yourself!
3. Walk or Use Public Transit
Taxis can be expensive in Florence, so opt for walking, biking, or public transportation instead. Florence is such a compact City to begin with, with tight, old, meandering streets. Due to this, there’s no question the city is best experienced on foot. If you’re feeling extra bold, and have it in your budget, consider renting a scooter for the day to explore the area around Florence.
4. Drink the Vino della Casa (House Wine)
No trip to Florence is complete without sampling the most famous export of this region – wine! Being as that Florence is the seat of Tuscany, there’s no need to splash big dollars on fancy bottles of wine (though, you won’t be disappointed if you do). The house wine is often as good as any wine you’ll get at home. Sometimes it’s even made by the restaurant owners themselves. Either way, if you’re on a budget, get the house wine.
5. Look for Free Activities
Many of Florence’s top attractions are free, including the Piazzale Michelangelo, the Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio. Also, many of the world-class museums in Florence offer free admissions on certain days of the week. For example, the Uffizzi Gallery has free admittance on the first Sunday of the month. So if there’s a museum you’re dying to see, be sure to take a look to see if they have a free admittance day that aligns with your travel days.
6. Shop Like a Local
Visit local markets and grocery stores for affordable food and drink options. These are also a great place to spend an afternoon or even do a little shopping. Mercato Centrale is right in the heart of the old city, within a few blocks of the train station. If you’re looking for a more local, authentic experience, check out at the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. In fact, one of our favorite restaurants in all of Florence, L’Ortone, is right across the street from the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Be sure to put it on your list if you’re looking for a sit-down dinner.
7. Eat Like a Local
Avoid touristy restaurants and opt for local trattorias or pizzerias for affordable meals. Cibo Povera, literally translated from “poverty food” is a long-standing tradition in Tuscan cuisine. These incredible dishes leverage ingredients that are low on cost but high on flavor to create the regions most famous dishes, like Ribolitta – Tuscan bread soup (seriously, try it – it’s DELICIOUS).
8. Take Advantage of Discounts
Many attractions in Florence offer discounts for students, seniors, or those with disabilities. Be sure to always ask if there are any discounts available before purchasing any tickets while you’re at the booth. If you’re looking to do any activities like food tours or bus trips out to the Tuscan countryside, avoid signing up with guides soliciting at the train station and around touristy sites. Do a little research before on sites like Viator, and you’ll be sure to get a better price (and likely a better experience)!
9. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle
Florence (and most of Italy, for that matter) has many public drinking fountains with clean drinking water, so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce plastic waste! This map will show you the locations of all of the potable water fountains. Not sure if it’s potable water in that fountain you found? If the water is coming out of little metal spout that points downward – that’s the tell.
10. Stay in Alternative Accommodations
Consider staying in a hostel, homestay, or apartment rental for a more affordable and authentic experience. Apartments will allow you to cook some of your own meals to save a little money, and hostels or homestays allow you to either meet fellow travelers from all over the world, or a peek into home life in Italy.
Despite it being one of the most popular destinations in the world, Florence can be pretty darn expensive for budget travelers. However, with some careful planning, it’s absolutely possible to experience all the marvels of Florence without breaking the bank.
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