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Vacationing in Florence, Italy: Travel Tips

June 25, 2024

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I recently visited Florence with my family, and it quickly became one of my favorite cities in Europe! As a smaller, walkable city, it has a warm, welcoming energy that makes you want to move there! Compared to other cities in Italy, it has fewer tourists and is a great gateway to other places like Tuscany and Cinque Terre. As a travel agent, I learned a lot while I was there, so here are some of my top travel tips for visiting Florence, Italy with all of its good food, delicious wine, and gorgeous art.

Lauren of The Travel Mechanic standing at overlook with Florence, Italy in the background

Traveling to Florence

While Fiumicino Airport in Rome is the main international airport in Italy, Florence does have a small airport right inside the city. There are no direct flights from the United States to the Amerigo Vespucci Airport in Florence, but you can fly there with minimal layovers in cities like Munich, Brussels, or Amsterdam. Italy also has a fantastic railway system, so if direct flights are your priority, you can fly to Rome and take the train up to Florence. 

The best times of year to visit Florence are the Fall and Spring for beautiful weather and minimal crowds. Summer is not only hot and filled with tourists, but Italy is also known for “shutting down” during the summer months. Many locals close up shop and head down to the beach during August. So, if you want to make sure you get the full experience, it’s best to avoid visiting during summer. If you don’t mind cooler weather, visiting in February or March will ensure the fewest amount of tourists and a truly authentic visit to the city. I recommend booking your trip to Florence well in advance for the best rates on accommodations and the most availability for tours. 

Overview of Florence Italy including the opera di santa maria del fiore

Where to Stay in Florence

There are so many fantastic hotels in Florence for both couples and families. On our most recent trip, my family stayed near the river at the Plaza Luchessi, which is a cute hotel with a lobby bar, breakfast, elevator, and great accommodations for families. The rooms are split into two levels, so the kids can go upstairs and the parents can stay below in a king bed. We had views of the river and was just so nice and relaxing.

Another great option is the Hotel Savoy, which is right in the center of the city and where all the action is. The hotel is centrally located and offers incredibly spacious rooms, which are hard to come by in Europe. With some many hotel options, there are so many to choose from.

If you prefer more space and villa-style accommodation, that is very popular in Tuscany. We have many options for you to choose from but keep in mind there are usually minimal nights required to book a villa in Italy. And believe me, as a travel agent who has been there, you are going to want to stay a few nights in the Italian countryside!

cacio e pepe pasta served on blue dish in florence, italy

Italian Wine

Unsurprisingly, my favorite part of visiting Florence was the food and drinks! Italy as a whole is known for its incredible wines and cuisine, and Florence was no exception. The regional wine specialty in Florence is the Chianti, a light-bodied, savory red wine made almost entirely with Sangiovese grapes. It’s a very food-friendly wine that pairs well with most meals, but it’s especially popular with charcuterie boards or tomato-based pasta dishes. You may notice that you’ll see both “Chianti” and “Chianti Classico” on wine lists – these are both delicious options that differ only in the region in which the grapes were grown. Also, I noticed on our trip that there were some restaurants that didn’t offer wine by the glass, and only by the carafe or bottle. So be prepared to take some wine back to the hotel with you if you can’t finish at dinner. 

In addition to wine, a common term you may come across in Florence is “aperitif” which roughly translates as a happy-hour cocktail! These are low-ABV drinks used to help stimulate the appetite (in contrast to a digestif, which helps you digest after you’ve eaten). The most popular aperitif we came across in Florence was the Aperol Spritz. However, The Savoy had a wonderful “Hugo Spritz” which has elderflower, prosecco, and mint. We absolutely loved it! These are great drink options for those who prefer to avoid feeling too intoxicated or full from heavier drinks. 

Delicious Food

The food in Florence is as incredible as you’d expect. Every single meal we had on our trip was spectacular! But there are definitely some tips and tricks you can use to avoid “touristy” restaurants. I tend to avoid places that are popular on Instagram, as well as anywhere that has menus in English posted on the outside of the restaurant, or a staff member outside encouraging you to come in. These restaurants may have perfectly fine food, but I always try to prioritize having an authentic experience when traveling, so we look for places that are filled with locals rather than tourists. 

Some of our favorite meals throughout the trip were the most simple. Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian dish of pasta with butter and parmesan cheese that is absolutely out-of-this-world good. We also loved Tagliatelle with Wild Boar, which we saw on almost every dinner menu. If you are feeling a little too carb-heavy, you can also opt for some of the incredible steaks that Florence is known for, which were served on the bone and were truly phenomenal. And for breakfast you absolutely have to try the sweet croissant-like pastry known as a Cornetti, served with a classic espresso. 

And, of course, I couldn’t talk about food in Florence without mentioning gelato! My daughters made it a priority to try a different gelato every day of our trip, and we looked forward to it every day! There are so many amazing flavors, but my favorites were the lemon and the white chocolate pistachio. When choosing a gelateria, avoid the shops with open containers piled high in the glass display and look for shops that serve gelato out of lidded stainless steel containers for the best quality. 

Lauren of The Travel Mechanic holding a cafe latte in front of Ghibellina bakery and coffee

Things to Do in Florence

In addition to the incredible food, Florence is known for its history, art, and architecture. There are tons of museums and churches that you can visit on your own, or tour with a guide. Our favorites were the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Academia Galleria (home to the David statue!). 

For wine lovers, I highly recommend booking a wine window tour! Wine windows are tiny windows into restaurants with a bell that allow you to order a glass of wine to-go. Tours are often led by sommeliers who will teach you all about the wines and the history of the windows. 

If you prefer a more hands-on experience, I highly recommend taking a cooking class. From pasta to pizza, gelato, and tiramisu, there are so many classic Italian dishes you can learn to make from a seasoned professional. While these classes aren’t available to children, this is a great option for couples or adult families visiting Florence.

Florence, Italy Travel Tips with The Travel Mechanic

My recent trip to Florence was absolutely incredible, and I want to provide the same amazing experience for you and your family! If you’re looking to visit Florence for a family trip, honeymoon, or even a solo vacation, I’d love to help you plan your dream trip. Contact us for an easy vacation planning experience that will ensure you have an amazing time in this beautiful destination. 

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