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Saving Money and Time in Florence

Rick's recent article on avoiding lines peaked my interest after having spent six weeks in Florence, Italy, a city that's notorious for hordes of tourists and long lines at its major museums. I found the best strategy was to buy tickets in advance on the museums' own websites (translatable into English). For instance, the Uffizi Gallery offers a 5-day pass that also give you entry to the Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, Archeological Museum, and Pietre Dure Museum. You must visit the Uffizi first and reserve a day and time to go there. But it can save you hours of waiting in line for same-day tickets and costs a fraction of what the tour companies charge for "skip-the-line" tickets. Because I intended to go to the Uffizi several times, I treated myself to an annual pass (in essence, a membership for a year) and saved a lot of money and time (including discounts in the gift shop).

There are many other ways to economize in this major tourist destination.

  • Go to places that might not be at the top of everyone's wish list of sites to visit. The English Cemetery is known for it's beautiful tomb sculpture and graves of famous artists and writers, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  • Take public transit. A city bus to the suburb of Fiesole is only 1.5 Euros each way, lets you enjoy magnificent views along the way and upon arrival, and once you get to the town there are no crowds, great authentic restaurants, friendly shopkeepers, and a first-class archeological park featuring Roman and Etruscan ruins. Likewise, the tram between Santa Maria Novella (transportation hub of the city) and the airport is just 2.5 Euros, about 1/10th the cost of a taxi. If you take Rick's advice and pack light, you should have no trouble ditching the taxi ride.
  • Avoid the obvious tourist traps and treat yourself to local pleasures. A bottle of excellent wine at a supermarket is a bargain. The chianti reserva I picked up was about 14 Euros (about $15 at the time) and would have cost well over $40 at home and probably more in a restaurant. It was a perfect treat after dinner in my apartment and would have been just as enjoyable served in paper cups in a hotel room.
  • Ask locals where they like to go for things like dinner, gelato, fresh produce, clothes shopping. Chances are, these places are cheaper and better than the touristy spots. The Mercado Centrale will probably be on the list.
    It's an excellent spot for fresh take out and the best homemade canolis.
  • Look for flyers around town (sometimes tied to posts or on the bridges) for cultural events. I attended a free concert that was part of a Baroque music festival.
  • Look for senior discounts if you qualify. These are not as common as they are at home, but they do exist. The Ferragamo Museum is free if you're over 60!
  • Go to a fancy restaurant just for appetizers or dessert. The rooftop restaurant at the Excelsior Hotel is welcoming, has no dress code, and boasts some of the best panoramic views of the city.
  • Just enjoy a scenic stroll along the Arno, especially at sunset. While the historic side of the river might get a bit crowded, the Oltrarno side is less so and even more interesting.


Posted by
8614 posts

When did you spend these 6 weeks in Florence?

Where did you stay?

Posted by
3153 posts

Thank you for some excellent suggestions. I was in Florence last November and practiced a few of your recommendations. Another suggestion is that you needn’t eat Italian cuisine all the time. There was a restaurant called Sushiland across from my hotel that specialized in poke bowls. Customizable, fresh, delicious, cost about €10. One of the best fast meals I had in Italy! Only wish there was one near my home.

Posted by
3 posts

I was there in May and June. Stayed in an apartment next to Santo Spirito. It was an excellent location, walkable to almost everywhere.

Posted by
2690 posts

I’m really enjoying your posts. I will be in Florence this time next year for the first time, after the RS Village Italy tour.

Posted by
25 posts

Totally agree. We were there this June in a RS tour. We always asked local guide for reference on truffle stores, leather product stores. Got good advice on the stores off the tourist hot spot but much better deal.