Florence is a beautiful city… popular with those who appreciate culture, the Renaissance, art and architecture. It is also great for the ‘foodies’ amongst you, with amazing pizzas, pasta, gelato and other traditional local favourites. Despite being seen as a city for romance, it is a wonderful place to visit for the solo traveller too. There are so many things to do, many of which are free. There are plenty of restaurants that have outdoor dining options. Some are on busy piazzas making it a perfect spot to watch the world go by. From my solo trip to Florence, these are some of my recommendations of things to do…
Guided walking tours take you to a selection of places of interest around the city, providing you with information as you walk. Walkabout Florence offer an alternative form of guided tours. They lend you a tablet for the day. The tablet provides you with detailed information about your chosen tour so you can explore at your own pace. Some are museum tours which also allow you to skip the often lengthy queues. These tours start from Euros 20 per person. They also offer more unusual tours such as Vespa tours through the Tuscan hills and Fiat 500 tours. There are plenty to choose from online. I recommend you prebook before you go to help you plan your itinerary and avoid disappointment.
Guided Coach Trips
Walkabout Florence also have full day, guided coach trips which you can prebook. One of the tours takes you through the medieval city of Siena, allowing you free time for shopping. You will then visit a family run wine estate where you will have the opportunity to sample wine and enjoy a traditional Tuscan lunch. Next you will visit San Gimignano, a town set on a hilltop location. Here you can indulge in an award winning gelato (if you still have room!). Finally, you will be taken on a scenic tour of the countryside to Pisa. You will have the opportunity to get up close to the leaning tower and spend some time in the city before heading back. This tour costs Euros 90 per person.
Self-guided Walking Tours
I have recently become a fan of self-guided walking tours. Benefits include spending as long as you like at each place of interest. You also only pay entrance fees for those attractions you are interested in. So, download a city map or pick up one on arrival, plot the places you want to see and tailor make your own self-guided walking tour. If any attractions require an admission fee, try to purchase these in advance if possible.
2. Iconic Buildings
Florence has a large number of iconic buildings for you to marvel at. Some you may wish to enter but, others are just wonderful to look at and photograph. Buildings of interest, to name but a few, include:
- Brunelleschi’s Dome – a stunning and imposing part of Florence Cathedral. It became my place to look out for and walk towards whenever I got lost!
- The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella – home to Masaccio’s The Holy Trinity
- Ponte Vecchio – the oldest bridge in Florence
Shopping is diverse in Florence. There are designer shops for those seeking out Gucci and Prada. There are boutiques as well as popular brands such H&M and Zara! Many shops sell leather products. If you are looking for something a little more unique then head to the Bartolucci store where you can buy wooden toys and souvenirs of Pinocchio. Carlo Collodi, who created the character, was born in Florence.
Florence is full of interesting museums and monuments. You can purchase tickets for each individual museum. However, there are combined tickets which allow entrance into all museums. Check current prices online to find out which will be the most cost effective for you. Note that many museums are extremely popular and queues are likely to be long at peak times. These are just 3 of the most popular ones to visit.
- The Uffizi Gallery – Art museum with its own room dedicated to some of Leonardo da Vinci’s work
- Palazzo Vecchia – Construction of this building began in 1299. It is now the town hall in Florence and an art museum. It is here you will find Donatello’s ‘Judith’. Details of exhibitions and events held here can be seen on its’ website
- Galleria della Accademia – Most famous for viewing the original Statue of David by Michelangelo
5. Cookery School
Throughout Florence there are a number of cooking classes you can try your hand at. These are often followed up by eating what you have made. Classes include making gelato, pizza or pasta. Walkabout Florence that I mentioned earlier for suggested tours, offer a cooking class at a farmhouse in Tuscany for Euros 120 and a pizza and gelato making class priced at Euros 70.
6. Piazzale Michelangelo
As a lover of chasing sunsets, this became one of the highlights of my trip. Piazzale Michelangelo was built in 1869 when Florence was the capital of Italy. It is a large terrace with breathtaking, panoramic views over the city. There is a replica of Michelangelo’s David in the centre and various stalls selling souvenirs. Vans serve reasonably price drinks and snacks. A glass of Sangiovese red, for example, costs Euros 2.50. Perfect on a warm evening, watching the sun go down. It is an uphill climb followed by a number of steps but once you get to the top, it is so worth it! The walk takes around 20 minutes or so from Ponte Vecchio and there are several places to eat in the area too.
7. Horse and Carriage Ride
Horse and carriage rides are a very touristy thing to do. The horses appear to be in very good condition and well cared for. The attraction is pricey but its an alternative way to travel through the picturesque, narrow streets. Prices are quite steep if you are travelling alone, costing Euros 50 per half hour.
8. Central Market
Bustling Central Market is a 5 minutes walk from the main Santa Maria Novella station. The large outdoor market sells a huge amount of leather products. The indoor market has stands selling various types of flowers, fruit, vegetables, pasta, meat and drinks. Upstairs, the food court has a number of food outlets with seating areas. Choices include sushi, rotisserie chicken, cheese, sandwiches and ice creams. Well worth a visit and very reasonably priced too!
9. Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence. It is actually the only bridge which survived the Nazi bombings in WWII. It spans River Arno at its narrowest point and is now home to shops, many selling gold jewellery.
10. The Rose Garden
Just below the Piazzale Michelangelo is the beautiful Giardino delle Rose. It was created by Giuseppe Poggi in 1865. It is a peaceful area to wander free of charge and admire over 350 different types of roses.
Suggested Further Reading:
Gallery of Florence – a selection of photos taken from my solo trip to Florence
Places to eat in Florence – recommended restaurants for solo dining
Things to do in Florence on a budget – suggested things to do for free or under Euros 5
Hotels in Florence – Link to a place I stayed and enjoyed as a solo traveller