You’ve snaffled your last Pierre Marcolini egg, shrugged off a wintry layer and booked your first pedi of the season, and yet your summer vacay seems aeons away: there's no better time to book a city break. Florence, with its compact, easy-to-get-around layout and balmy climes is perfect for a spring fling, before the summer coachloads descend. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Aim to go April-June… As come July the city roasts and heaves, while in August most businesses shut down and everyone who’s anyone leaves for the Tuscan hills.
Getting around… Exquisitely walkable, Flo is divided by the river Arno. Centre-north lie The Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio, Centro Storico; Santa Maria Novella and Via Tornabuoni are west; Duomo and San Marco north and Santa Croce is east. South of the river is artisan ‘rive gauche’ Oltrarno.
Taxis are yawny off-white and can’t be hailed on the street – you have to use a designated rank or call one (note: Florentini rarely tip drivers). If the weather turns sour, you’re laden with luggage or you simply want to feel impossibly chic and important, book one of Ri.Mo.Rent’s fleet of Mercs with a discrete driver.
Address numbers… Are defined by colour; red ‘r’ (rosso) is used for shops and restaurants, and black (nero) for residential; thus 28r and 30 are not necessarily located next to each other. Top Tip: use the LUXE Florence digital guide’s offline maps with directions for stress-free navigation.
Opening hours... Restaurants and services tend to close on Sunday, and almost all museums are closed on Monday. Artisans and most small shops close from 1-3.30pm, all day Sunday and on Monday mornings, plus all of August.
Book well ahead… For the city’s best tables (see the LUXE Florence guide for reccos), service is usually included but it’s sweet to add 5% anyway.
What to wear… The weather in spring can be glorious, but changeable, so pack layers (and a brolly). Remember this is Italy, where style is in the DNA, so dress sloppily at your peril – keep it casual but chic. Stilettos + cobbled streets = click, clack, splat. Forgo the heels and pack a pair of flats to scoot around in.
Bag lady… Avoid buying rip-off handbags from the pesky street hawkers (apart from being terribly déclassé, you risk being landed with a €10,000 fine for doing so). For affordable arm candy, hotfoot to Cellerini for gorgeous artisan leather bags without the price tag, or take the 45-minute drive to discount designer paradise The Mall.
Access all areas… The city is literally one huge, glorious treasure chest, with hidden vistas around every corner and architectural treats in every courtyard, but the queues for museums and galleries can be horrific. Two words: plan ahead. Either buy the Firenze Card (€72 for 72 hours) or reserve your entrance tickets in advance to reduce your queueing time considerably. For maximum enjoyment, hire your own personal guide, or book one of Context Travel’s excellent docent-led small-group or private tours.
Don’t miss… Maggio Musicale, Florence’s famous music festival offers a smorgasbord of ballet, opera and symphonies by big-name Italian and international performers. Starting 5 May 2018, performances are held in venues across the city, but the main stage, the striking, modern Teatro dell’Opera on the edge of the Cascine Park is worthy of a visit alone. Tickets (particularly in the gallery) are often a steal. Runs until 13 July 2018.
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