I think when traveling, especially in the age of social media, there’s a lot of pressure to get everything done. This means making lists and itineraries, compiling must-sees, and trying to visit every gelato place that TikTok insists is the best you’ll ever have. It can be really overwhelming.
That’s why I tried to make sure I balanced my own expectations and hopes for the trip with room for spontaneity and relaxation. I went into it knowing I wouldn’t be able to get everything I wanted to done, but still determined to have a good time. That mentality relieved a lot of pressure, and ensured that I was truly able to enjoy everything on its own grounds.
With that in mind, I do have some advice and suggestions for if you are ever going to Florence.
- First off, for the iconic Duomo I would recommend booking the Brunelleschi Pass in advance. This grants you access to the Dome, the Bell tower, the Baptistry, the crypt, and the Museum for a three day period and is only $30. For the Dome and Bell Tower you have to select a particular time to climb them, but everything else can be accessed at any point within those three days. I wasn’t able to reserve the Brunelleschi pass, but instead got the Giotto pass which includes everything but the dome and is only $20. Climbing the Bell Tower was one of my favorite parts of this trip. It had amazing views and honestly wasn’t much more difficult than climbing the steps at the Pete!
- The Uffizi gallery was also really cool, especially if you love the Renaissance and art history. I downloaded the free RickSteves app which has podcasts specific for Florence. It also included an hour long walking tour, and a couple others for local museums. The episode for the Uffizi gallery was an hour long and really helpful with giving more information about the paintings and sculptures. Personally, I was fascinated by all the dogs in paintings! Another helpful tip: all public museums are free the first Sunday of every month. My friends and I woke up and got in line at 7:30 for the Uffizi and were able to get in at 8:15 for free, and it wasn’t that crowded until around 11. If not, I think admission is $25.
- The Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens also qualify for the Sunday free admission. The Pitti Palace was a little underwhelming because a couple of its wings were closed for renovation, but it was still cool, especially if you love art. However, I would highly recommend the Boboli Gardens. It was a huge complex, and very beautiful. Again, I would suggest getting there relatively early because it seems Italians are not early risers and it was pretty crowd-free at 9. It was great for pictures, and enjoying the natural beauty. I would recommend bringing a book with you, just to be able to sit and enjoy your surroundings. Florence doesn’t have a ton of green space so it was really refreshing. I got a combined pass for the gardens and palace for $22, but you can get just the palace for $16 and just the gardens for $10.
- Another one of my favorite activities was visiting Plaza Michelangelo, and the free rose garden on the way. I’ve done this twice so far at sunset and plan to go again, but the view of Florence was unbelievable. Unfortunately it was pretty crowded, but I would suggest going up to the plaza a little before sunset to get pictures, and then going back down to the rose garden, which was beautiful and served some food and drinks. My friends and I picnicked there, and it still had a great view and less people.
- Honorary mentions to the Santo Spirito plaza which has a cool Sunday market and amazing restaurants, the Ponte Vecchio, the Basilica di Santa Croce, the central market, and Piazza della Signoria.
I didn’t get the chance to visit the David, but I heard from friends it was really cool so if you’re interested you should book a ticket well in advance. I also didn’t get to take a boat tour in the Arno while I was here because the rainy weather raised the water too high, but I’ve heard that’s amazing as well.
Overall, I’m really happy with my experiences and have had a great time. I hope this is useful advice, but I think the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to do everything! Just enjoy the moment and take in what you can!
I hope to upload more posts soon about my class trips and the various culture shocks, but until then… ciao!
“This is the fairest picture on our planet, the most enchanting to look upon, the most satisfying to the eye and the spirit. To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature, and make a sympathetic one drunk with ecstasy.”Mark Twain (1892)