The Best Time To Visit Florence
Florence is a magical city all year long but there are considerations when planning to visit Florence on a budget. May marks the beginning of high season, when droves of tourist from around the world come to visit the city. By the end of the month, prices begin to rise dramatically throughout the city center. You can still find Florence accommodation this time of the year if you are willing to stay just outside of the city center.
I do not suggest visiting Florence during August. The month is marked by the holiday Ferragosto, when locals leave the city to go to the seaside. Many businesses are closed and the temperatures are very hot and humid.
If you are a sun-worshipper like myself, I would recommend visiting during April or September. In April, the weather is beginning to warm but not uncomfortably so. The city is never really dead but in April, the herds of people are not yet unbearable. If you visit during September, you will arrive just after all the craziness of summer tourism and the weather is still warm enough to take a day trip to the sea.
If you don’t mind cold temperatures, I would recommend November and December. November is olive harvest season and the surrounding hills of Florence are known for their quality olive oil production. All the local markets and restaurants become stocked with fresh pressed olive oil that is absolutely sublime. December is very cold but the city is beautifully decorated with lights. Santa Croce hosts a Christmas market in its piazza where you can purchase warm spiced wine while exploring all the booths of crafts and treats. In front of Santa Maria del Fiore (the duomo), there is a Christmas tree lighting ceremony that will leave you feeling jolly. New Years Eve is a huge event for the city and you can ring in the New Year by watching firework displays over the Arno river.
Budget Things To Do In Florence
As a huge food enthusiast, my favorite thing to do in Florence is to visit the many markets around the city. Mercato San Lorenzo is a great place to get artisanal products, fresh produce or a quick bite to eat. If you want an unfiltered look into the high energy markets, Mercato San Ambrosia is where the locals go. There are also farmer’s markets that are held in Santo Spirito and Piazza del Indipendenza on select weekends.
There is no shortage of places to shop in Florence. The pop up markets that show up throughout the city are a great place to find clothes or trinkets at reasonable prices. If you head south of the Arno to the San Lorenzo area, you will find many artisan work shops such as metal and wood workers with there doors open. You can peek at them hard at work using time honored techniques on the ancient streets.
Experiencing aperitivo is a must if you are visiting Italy. I recommend the centrally located Kitsch 2. The giant buffet and delicious drinks make for a great bargain, and why this local’s spot made it on my budget guide for Florence. Pay the cost of your drink and enjoy the generous spread of appetizers set up for patrons. Aperitivo is a great way to get a cocktail and some food without breaking the bank.
Places To Visit In Florence On A Budget
Visiting Florence on a budget is much easier if you plan your trip during the first Sunday of the month. The first Sunday of the month all state museums are free. This includes the Academia, which house the statue of David. The Uffizi, Florence’s most famous renaissance museum and home to The Birth of Venus is also free on these days. You can find a complete list of the participating museums here.
Even is you don’t manage to make if on the first Sunday of the month, there are still many affordable and free places to visit. For example, Piazzale Michelangelo is considered the most romantic and obligatory place to see the sunset in Florence. The rose garden that is located directly beneath the Piazzale is a locals favorite to enjoy a picnic or take sketches of the city. A 5-minute walk away is San Miniato al Monte Church and cemetery, which just celebrated its 1000th anniversary. Inside this beautiful church you can catch morning and evening mass in Latin with Gregorian chanting.
One does not visit Florence without having gelato. In Italy, gelato is a snack and not exclusively a dessert, so indulge. A favorite pastime in Florence is enjoying a gelato on one of the beautiful bridges while watching the river. You can find our full guide to gelato here.
Walking around Florence is free and an unforgettable experience in itself. You never know what link to the past you may find, for example, one day Briana and I stumbled upon Galileo’s house accidentally. That is the reality of Florence, just about everywhere you walk has historical significance. Save your money a talk a stroll through the same streets as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Dante.
Where To Stay In Florence On A Budget
The are several options for places to stay in and around Florence. There are hotels, hostels, agriturismi and air bnb. Factors such as being able to cook or staying in the city center will help narrow down the type of accommodation you choose.
If you want to stay in the city center, there are plenty of hotels, hostels and air bnb options available throughout the year. Cheap hostels in Florence are in large supply and can be a great way to connect with fellow travers.
Santa Monaca Hostel, in the hip Santo Spirito area, has rooms as low as 16 euro a night. This is a “no frills” hostel but it is in a great central location at an affordable rate.
Hostel Archi Rossi, is just minutes away from the main train station, S.M. Novella. It is a short walk from several sights such as the Medici chapel, San Lorenzo and Santa Maria del Fiori (duomo). Rooms start at 40 and include a generous breakfast.
Cheap hotels Florence start at about 40- 60 euros a night. Florence Dome Hotel, Hotel Palazzo Vechio and Hotel Unicorno are all in the city center and modestly priced.
Air bnb has a huge presence in Florence giving you plenty to options to choose from. Prices in low season can be as low as 30 euro a night but skyrocket in the summer months. A great option during high season is to stay just outside of the city center. You can find beautiful homes, reasonably priced and escape the sounds of the city.
A great option for Florence accommodation is agriturismi. An agriturismo is typally a farm that offers bead and breakfast services. Many of these functional farms offer an inside look into the artisan practices that make Italy famous.
Agriturismo Borgo Stella has rooms starting at 62 euro a night in low season and is half-hour from the city center. Agriturismo Massanera, Il Poderaccio, and Fattoria Il Milione are all great nearby options.
How To Get Around Florence On A budget
If you do end up staying just out of the city center, you will be happy to learn that Florence has reliable public transportation. The same ticket or card can be used on both the tram and ATAF buses. Each time you swipe a card or stamp a ticket, you have unlimited rides within a 90-minute time span. Google maps synchs up and provides accurate timetables with all the local transit. You can find more detailed transit info, such as where to buy tickets, here.
I would avoid taxis unless absolutely necessary, they can be very expensive. There are also bike rentals throughout the city center that can be unlocked digitally through an app (Mobike).
Cheap Tours To Do In Florence
No budget guide for Florence would be complete without a list of the cheap tours the city has to offer. Viator offers a day tour that includes visiting Siena, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and having a Chianti wine tour. Prices start at 63 euros. Looking for something a little shorter? Try their ½ day Chianti wine tour for only 45 euros.
City Wonders offer a 2-hour evening walking tour for only 34 euros. The tour includes a history of the medieval era and the powerful Medici. Participants are guided to some of the lesser know areas of Florence and the tour ends at one of the cities many gelato shops.
Calf Tour and Travel offer a unique opportunity to explore the hidden passages of the famous Ponte Vecchio. The 75-minute tour is 43 euros and includes lunch.
Fattoria San Michele a Torre is an organic farm and vineyard. They offer several affordable options and are just 15 minutes south of the city center.
No matter how you decide to spend your time in Florence, there is something for everyone. Florence never disappoints and as you can read, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to enjoy yourself. I hope this Florence blogger guide helps you enjoy your time in this wonderful city I call home.