Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens require a valid passport to enter Italy.
Security: Florence is generally safe, but, as with any major city, pickpockets, purse snatchers, and panhandlers frequent crowded tourist areas and busy train stations. Stay alert, secure wallets and bags, and store valuables in a hotel safe.
Time Difference: Florence is six hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: The currency of Italy is the euro. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: The country code for Italy is 39. The city code for Florence is 055. The full city code, including the 0, must always be dialed, even when calling within Florence itself. You can find many Italian phone numbers at www.paginegialle.it.
When to Go: Florence has a mostly Mediterranean climate, which means hot, dry summers and generally mild winters. Average summer temperatures in July are 77˚F (25˚C), but can be much higher. The best times to visit are spring (April-May) and fall (October-November). However, the city is busy year-round.
Getting There: Florence has a small airport, Amerigo Vespucci (www.aeroporto.firenze.it), also known colloquially as Peretola, with a handful of flights from main European cities. Most European and other short- and mid-haul flights use Pisa’s Galileo Galilei International airport (www.pisa-airport.com), 80 minutes by road or rail (www.ferroviedellostato.it) from Florence. Some U.S. carriers such as Delta have started seasonal services to Pisa, but most U.S. and other intercontinental travelers will need to fly to Rome Fiumicino or Milan Malpensa, Italy’s main airports.
Getting Around: A car is unnecessary and not advised for exploring Florence, where there are strict parking restrictions. Virtually all of the city can be covered easily on foot. Cabs are plentiful, and if you need a bus, ATAF (www.ataf.net) runs an efficient and inexpensive transit system.
Money Belts: Petty crime is generally not a problem, but Florence’s streets, buses, and markets are always busy, so watch for pickpockets. Pack a good concealed wallet, money belt, or neck pouch.
Passport: You need a passport but not a visa to enter Italy. Hotels usually ask for your passport for registration purposes. They may return it immediately, a day or so later, or when you check out.
Sunscreen: Florence has plenty of narrow, shady streets, but you’ll need sunscreen walking by the Arno, taking a coffee at an outdoor café, or on strolls to outlying churches—the Tuscan sun can be strong, even in spring and fall.
Hat: Not necessary in much of the city, but pack a light sun hat if you’re visiting in summer and plan on walking to San Miniato, or exploring the countryside or open-air archaeological sites of nearby Fiesole.
Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes can be a problem when dining out on summer evenings or at night if your hotel room does not have air-conditioning and you are forced to sleep with the windows open.
Plug Adaptor: U.S., U.K., and many other visitors will need a plug adaptor to use with electrical items. Italy’s power supply is 220 volts, so a voltage transformer may also be required for U.S. electrical goods.
Comfortable Footwear: You’ll cover a lot of ground on Florence’s unforgiving sidewalks and cobbled streets and piazzas. Pack light, comfortable footwear for sightseeing, but also something smarter for the evenings—Italians dress up more than most to dine out.
Sweaters and Long Sleeves: Pack a light sweater for summer evenings, a heavier one if you are visiting in spring or fall. Women should pack a light item that covers the shoulders to wear when visiting churches.
Rainwear: Florence is wetter than you might think, even in high summer, when thunderstorms can bring brief but torrential downpours. Rain is possible throughout spring (slightly less so in early fall), so pack a light rain jacket. Alternatively, invest in a cheap umbrella when you’re in the city.
Medicines: Toiletries and medicines are available in Florence from an una farmacia (pharmacy) identified by a green or red cross outside the store—but most medicines have different brand names in Italy. To avoid confusion, you may wish to bring sufficient supplies of your own medications. Also bring copies of any prescriptions to show pharmacists or medical staff to prevent misunderstanding.
The Florence Visitor Center (Agenzia per il Turismo di Firenze)
Official Florence visitor website (English version available); gallery opening times, event listings, itineraries, food, accommodations, and tips for activities. www.firenzeturismo.it
Maps, background, and practical information to help plan a visit. www.aboutflorence.com
Background and practical information on the city’s major museums and galleries. www.firenzemusei.it
Stylish site with general information on the city and many useful links. www.firenze.net
Busy site from one of the city’s main service providers. Information on art, music, theater, shopping, and more. www.fionline.it/turismo
Practical and other information on most museums and galleries in Florence and beyond. www.museionline.it
Prebooked Gallery Tickets
Avoid long lines at the Uffizi, Accademia, and other major city galleries by prebooking admission online. Several commercial sites offer the same service at higher prices. The official Uffizi site has links to the site. www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi
Official gallery site. Images of paintings, virtual tours, historical notes, and an index of artists. www.uffizi.org
Your Way to Florence
Accommodations, specialty shopping, language schools, transport, and opening hours. www.arca.net
Online version of Tuscany’s main newspaper; Florence section with local news, listings, and information. www.lanazione.it
Online version of Italy’s leading populist center-left newspaper; has a dedicated Florentine site. firenze.repubblica.it
Nove da Firenze
Florence’s first online newspaper, founded in 1997; real-time updates, news, culture, sport, and archive. www.nove.firenze.it
The Florence Newspaper
Comprehensive English-language online newspaper with local and regional news, comment, listings, food and wine, and general information. http://theflorencenewspaper.com/
Searches media sources for material on all aspects of Italy, including Florence. www.newscrawler.it
Gazzetta dello Sport
Online version of Italy’s top sports daily and the country’s most popular newspaper; see also www.goal.com, which offers dedicated news of Florence’s soccer team. www.gazzetta.it
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.