A love affair between culture, commerce and good living, this fine city has long been fêted as the most aesthetically pleasing in all Italy.
Notching up more past glories than the average continent, Tuscany’s capital still leads from the front: between its fairy-tale squares, centuries-old churches and sprawling palaces run streets alive with energy, style and irresistible shopping. It’s luxury goods galore on Via Tornabuoni, artisan jewellers on the mediaeval Ponte Vecchio and delectable deli fare everywhere – the riches on offer are enough to get the most ardent anti-capitalists scrabbling for the plastic. The city centre is architecturally breathtaking, and compact enough to stroll in an afternoon; follow heart-stirring glimpses of the gingerbread-hued Duomo and its frosting-pale Campanile down narrow streets, and eat Italian soul food in a simple trattoria.
Do go/Don’t go
Florence is packed with tourists throughout the summer, when it’s also very humid; go in early spring or autumn if you can.
- Planes Florence airport (www.aeroporto.firenze.it) is a 20-minute drive from the city centre; an official taxi into town should cost no more than €30 max. You can also fly into Pisa airport, from where a direct train takes just shy of an hour and costs around €6 (trenitalia.com).
- Trains The main station (Firenze SMN) is behind Piazza Santa Maria Novella, with high-speed connections to other cities in Italy and Europe.
- Automobiles Having a car in Florence can be a hindrance – in fact, it’s next to pointless. Driving through the restricted central zone (ZTL) can result in hefty fines. If booking a hire car, it's essential to send the vehicle details to the hotel (and give reception an estimated arrival time) so they can arrange a temporary permit for you. However, it's much more hassle-free to go on foot in the city and save driving for the surrounding Tuscan countryside, where a vehicle is essential.
- Taxis You can’t hail a cab on the street; go to a designated fermata di taxi. The major ones are manned 24/7; most operate 7am–1am. Socota is one of the biggest cab firms (+39 055 4242; radiotaxifirenze.it).