Quick visit and lunch in Florence: what to do for free

what to do for free in Florence

Passing through Florence for a few days?
Here are some things you simply cannot miss.

What to see first?
Not everything requires a ticket: Florence is an open-air art museum, and there are many things you can do for free just by walking around the city.

1. Museums

If you’re fascinated by art and history, you can visit Florence’s state museums for free during certain periods. On the first Sunday of every month, state museums and iconic city landmarks such as the Uffizi Galleries and the Accademia Gallery offer free admission. For a pleasant walk among sumptuous palaces, stroll through the Boboli Gardens, another state-run site with free entry.

2. A walk to Piazzale Michelangelo

To admire one of the most stunning views of Florence, head up to Piazzale Michelangelo. This 19th-century square, located on the hills south of the Arno, features a life-size bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David, standing in the center and overlooking the city. The original is housed in the Accademia Gallery in the city. To reach this magnificent viewpoint, you can climb the “Rampa dei Poggi” staircase from Piazza Giuseppe Poggi or drive up the scenic Viale Michelangiolo from the city center.

3. Beach bars on the Arno River

Think it’s impossible to spend a day at the beach without leaving the city center? This small beach along the Arno River will surprise you! It offers all the amenities of a seaside resort, such as a beach bar, sun loungers on the sand, and tiki-style straw umbrellas to shield you from the heat while you enjoy the view and atmosphere of Florence. Here you’ll find music, fun, and games like soccer and bocce in the afternoon. It’s a great spot to relax at sunset.

4. Visiting city markets

In Florence, you can find some excellent local markets where you can discover all sorts of bargains: fresh produce, knick-knacks, souvenirs, household items, artworks, and antiques. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, you can stroll among the stalls with the locals doing their shopping, to immerse yourself in the Florentine atmosphere and culture. The Mercato Centrale, just north of the Basilica of San Lorenzo, is the city’s main food market. If you’re looking for a flea market, go to the market in Piazza Santo Spirito on Sundays.

5. Palazzo Strozzi

Palazzo Strozzi hosts some of Florence’s rarest and most special exhibitions, ranging from ancient and Renaissance artworks to contemporary art and even installations of scientific experiments in the courtyard. The palace itself is a marvelous example of Florentine Renaissance style. The permanent collections are well curated and often accompanied by clear and comprehensive information panels. It offers such a variety to suit the tastes of any enthusiast. Admission is free on Thursday evenings starting from 6:00 PM.

6. Santa Maria Novella Cathedral

This magnificent cathedral, located in the center of Florence, is one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture. Santa Maria Novella is a basilica dating back to the 15th century. The charming marble facade catches the eye with a suggestive combination of emerald green and white motifs. The interior, even more colorful, features frescoed ceilings and a collection of masterpieces by some of the greatest Italian artists. Nearby is also Florence’s oldest pharmacy, which produces perfumes and many body care products: definitely worth a visit.

7. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Piazza del Duomo is an unmissable place and perhaps the most visited spot in Florence. The square is home to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo, with its large dome known as the Brunelleschi’s Dome. Surrounding the square are other historically significant landmarks of the city, such as the imposing Giotto’s Campanile, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Museum of the Opera del Duomo. Visiting the Duomo is free, and you can rent an audio guide for around €2.50.

8. Parks and Gardens of Florence

Florence boasts some of Italy’s most beautiful parks and gardens, most of which are free to visit. One of the most renowned is the Boboli Gardens, superbly maintained and adorned with a collection of 16th-century sculptures and Roman antiquities. From Piazza Vittorio Veneto, you can access Florence’s largest park, Parco delle Cascine, which features vast lawns and scenic avenues along the Arno River. Other Florentine gardens worth visiting include the Horticultural Garden and the Rose Garden, where you can simply sit on the lawn and admire the landscape.

9. Medici Villas: UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Florence

As the legacy of the Medici family, rulers of Florence throughout the Renaissance, the Medici villas are a collection of 15th-century villas and gardens that offer the opportunity for picturesque tours of the Tuscan countryside. The construction of these villas, in perfect harmony with the surrounding natural landscape, reflects the artistic and cultural patronage of the Medici family. Among these, special attention is deserved by the magnificent gardens of Villa di Castello, located on a hill outside Florence, and Villa La Petraia. There is free admission.

10. The Oblate Library

Entry to this public library is entirely free. Even if you’re not interested in books, some parts of the library certainly merit a visit. Beyond the spacious cloister, you’ll find reading rooms with massive shelves of books primarily dedicated to local history. On the second floor is a more modern collection, with reading rooms equipped with computers and other multimedia facilities. On the top floor, there’s a splendid outdoor study area with a view of the Duomo on the horizon.

Where to have a quick lunch in Florence

If you are strolling around and you just wanna grab a bite, street food is a perfect way to have a quick lunch.

What to absolutely eat:

  • Lampredotto.
  • Tripe
  • Tuscan flatbread
  • Sandwiches with cold cuts
  • Florentine “coccoli”
  • Florentine flatbread
  • Gelato

Another idea for a quick lunch, brunch or just a snack in Florence is to stop by Melaleuca: here you can try the best cinnamon rolls in the city, specialty coffee that you have never tried before, and more.

Should I tip in Italy?

It is not mandatory to tip in Italy, but tips are greatly appreciated.

  • Restaurants: in restaurants, tipping is neither required nor expected. However, it is appreciable to leave a couple of coins (5-10% tip) if you believe you have received first-rate service or if there were many of you at the table. In any case, before leaving a tip, check the receipt to verify that the service is not already included. Often in tourist areas you will find the wording “coperto” or “service” on the receipt, this means that the cost of the service is included. The cover charge is a fixed amount charged based on the number of guests, while the service charge is a percentage of the total cost of the meal.
    Italians typically round up the total of a meal to tip. For example, if the cost of the meal is €18, they will leave €20.
  • Taxi: it is not necessary to tip taxi drivers and it is right to always ask for change even if it is only 1 or 2 euros. The only exception can be made if the taxi driver helped you load and unload very heavy luggage.
  • Hotels: it is normal to leave one or two euros for the doorman who brings your bags to your room. You can also leave a couple of euros for the cleaning service, but it is not necessary. Finally, it is not necessary to tip the concierge or concierge, but if they help you with reservations and high-quality advice, the gesture of leaving a symbolic amount as a tip is greatly appreciated.
  • Touristic guides: tipping is not mandatory for tour guides, but it is certainly a much appreciated gesture. The tip varies based on the quality of their service, a standard tip is around 5-10% of the cost of the activity. Normally on private tours, given the exclusivity, you tend to leave higher tips than on group tours.

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