A complete Florence budget travel guide, for those who want to explore Tuscany cheaply! Includes when to visit Florence, where to stay, what to do, where to eat, how to get around, and more.
Florence, or Firenze as the Italians call it, is one of the most visited cities in Italy. It is also one of the most famous cities in Europe, and the world!
From the iconic landmarks, to the prestigious museums, to the rich, authentic Italian cuisine, Florence has so much to offer travelers.
Many people who visit Italy stop in Florence. Whether you just have a few days or you have a long time to spend in Florence you will not be disappointed with the capital city of Tuscany!
This article will focus on how to explore Florence on a budget.
Because it is so touristy, Florence is not the cheapest place to visit in Italy.
However, it is possible to enjoy this stunning city without spending a fortune.
In this Florence budget travel guide, I’ll cover all the tips you might need for exploring Florence cheaply.
From free activities, to the most affordable Italian food, to cheap accommodation and work exchanges, here are my top budget travel tips for Florence.
So if you want to enjoy Florence on a budget, this is the article for you!
The Ultimate Florence Budget Travel Guide
I will begin this Florence budget travel guide by talking about some basic logistics, like visas and travel insurance. I’ll also discuss when to visit Florence and how long to stay.
Once you have those details of your trip figured out, you can think about what to do, where to stay, and how to get around.
Visas for Italy
Most visitors do not need a visa to visit Italy for stays of 90 days or less.
However, it does depend on your nationality.
Countries like the USA, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and most other European countries do not need a visa for Italy.
Italy is part of the Schengen Area of European countries. So some nationalities do need a Schengen Visa to visit Italy.
This website has a complete list of all the nationalities which may require a visa to visit Italy.
Just do your research well in advance. Check visa requirements before you book your flights to Italy, and make the necessary arrangements before you travel.
Check iVisa to see if you need a visa for Italy.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Florence?
Florence is located in Tuscany, a lush, vineyard-filled region of central Italy.
There is a peak tourist season and an off season in Tuscany. Shoulder season is the best time to visit Florence!
Peak Tourist Season (June – August)
Peak tourist season is the summer months of June – August. This is the summer holiday season in Europe and many other places in the Northern Hemisphere.
The weather is warm and sunny, so flight prices and crowds both increase.
As Florence is already a popular city to visit, peak tourist season means the city can get unbearably crowded.
I personally wouldn’t recommend visiting Florence in summer! It’s very hot and super busy.
Off Season (December – February)
Off season in Florence is winter. The weather can get quite cold, though snow is rare.
Because the cold weather isn’t as pleasant for sightseeing, Florence is much less crowded in winter.
Flight prices also drop during winter!
Though I don’t love the cold, I really enjoyed Florence in winter because of the Christmas decorations!
There are twinkly lights and Christmas decorations all over the city. So you can save money on flights and get to enjoy the magic of Christmas if you visit in December.
Most Christmas decorations come down by late January and February. So if you want to visit Florence in winter, I’d recommend December.
Shoulder Season (March – May, or September – November)
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Florence is the shoulder seasons. Spring and Autumn are a nice middle ground between peak season and off season.
The weather is pleasant, and not too hot or too cold. Flight prices aren’t outrageously expensive, and the crowds aren’t as intense as in summer.
So if you want nice weather for exploring, but you still want to save money in Florence, spring or autumn is the best time to go!
Read next: 15 Amazing Places To Visit In Italy
How Long To Stay In Florence?
The city center of Florence isn’t that big, and you can explore most of it on foot.
I think the ideal amount of time to spend in Florence is 3 days.
3 days in Florence is enough to see all the best museums and landmarks, while having ample downtime to eat and relax.
If you want to take some day trips, I would recommend tacking on extra days. You don’t want to feel rushed while sightseeing in Florence!
With day trips included, I would say 5 days is the ideal time to stay in Florence. Save 3 days for exploring the city, and 2 days for trips out to the nearby Tuscan vineyards and Medieval towns.
Travel Insurance For Florence
Travel insurance is always a smart idea. You can purchase travel insurance to protect yourself from any travel mishaps, which can save you lots of money if something bad happens.
But I’ll be honest, I’ve visited Italy countless times and never bought travel insurance there.
I know! It’s irresponsible!
But for me, visiting Italy means leisurely exploring cities and towns. It means eating, drinking, and sightseeing.
Italy is a safe and developed country. There are no tropical diseases or rabid animals.
The travel system in Europe is very sophisticated as well. I’ve never had any canceled travel plans or lost baggage in Italy.
So, it’s up to you if you want to purchase travel insurance for Italy.
There is always a risk of bad things happening, and insurance can protect you. But if you’re traveling on a budget and you feel confident in your ability to stay safe, you can probably do without buying insurance.
(If you do want travel insurance, I always use Squaremouth Insurance to compare affordable plans).
To further explore this topic, read my Budget Traveler’s Guide To Travel Insurance.
Florence Budget Travel Guide: Flights, Transport, and Accommodation
Once you’ve thought about visas, travel insurance, and when to visit Florence, you can book flights and plan accommodation!
In this Florence budget travel guide, I’ll discuss how to do all of those things on a budget.
Cheap Flights To Florence
The prices of flights to Florence will depend on where you’re flying from and when.
As I mentioned before, flights to Florence in the winter will most likely be much cheaper than flights in the summer.
But regardless of when you’re going to fly, I would recommend checking Skyscanner.
This website allows you to be flexible when searching for flights. You can see the prices for every day across an entire calendar, so you can pick the cheapest day to fly.
Also, consider checking multiple routes to Florence to save money.
Florence has an International Airport, but that doesn’t mean it’s a huge travel hub.
It may be cheaper to fly to Rome or Milan first, and then take a short domestic flight or a train to Florence.
A direct flight to Florence can also be really expensive if you’re flying from somewhere far, like Eastern Asia, Australia, South America, or West Coast USA.
Consider first flying to London or Paris, which are bigger travel hubs with more international flights available.
Buses and Trains To Florence
Maybe you’re heading to Florence from elsewhere in Italy. Or you’re traveling around Europe by train and you’d prefer slow travel overland instead of flying.
Trains and buses are plentiful in Europe.
Especially from other Italian cities, taking a scenic train through the countryside is a lovely way to travel to Florence.
Keep in mind, Europe has some amazing budget airlines. Sometimes it can be cheaper and so much quicker to just fly.
These sites will compare different transport options such as bus, train, rental car, or flight.
That way you can see how long different transport methods will take, and you can compare prices.
Cheapest Transport Within Florence
Once you arrive in Florence, you shouldn’t need to take much public transport to get around.
The city is very pedestrian-friendly. All the main Florence attractions are within walking distance of each other.
And as is true for all Italian cities and towns, walking around is half the fun.
You can really soak in the heartwarming culture of Italy by just walking around.
However, if you do need to take public transport, there are public buses and trams available.
The T2 Tram Line is the easiest way to get to the city center from the airport as well.
You can buy single-trip tickets that are valid for 90 minutes from any authorized locations like tram stops, coffee shops, news stores, tobacconists, etc. They cost 1.20 Euros.
There will be an “Autolinee Toscane” sticker in the window of places that sell bus or tram tickets.
Buy your ticket before you get on the bus, and be sure to validate your ticket by stamping it at the validation machines when you get on the bus or tram.
Read next: Non Touristy Things To Do In Rome
The Best Day Trips From Florence
There are lots of amazing day trips to take from Florence.
From wine tasting in the vineyards of the Chianti Region, to touring medieval towns like Cortona, Pisa, and Siena, to venturing out to Cinque Terre, there is so much beauty and culture outside Florence.
I would recommend comparing tour prices and train ticket prices for day trips.
If you’re visiting a town like Cortona or Siena and you just want to explore the city, you can easily book a local train or bus from Florence. That would be the cheapest option!
But if you want to go wine tasting, a tour is the easiest way to do it.
A local can take you to all the best wineries, and you don’t have to worry about planning your transport.
You can often find day tours from Florence for under $100 Euros as well. Tours definitely save you the hassle of planning, and going with a local guide can be a cool experience.
Just assess your budget and see what you can afford. Get Your Guide has some awesome affordable tours to check out!
Florence Budget Travel Guide: Accommodation
There are some incredible accommodation options in Florence.
Because it is a super touristy city, there is an abundance of nice hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts.
You are seriously spoiled for choice if you have cash to spend.
If you’re looking to explore Florence on a budget, I would recommend staying in hostels or doing a work exchange.
Hostels in Florence
There are lots of affordable hostels in Florence! If you want to stay somewhere cheaply, hostels are the way to go.
There are over 50 Florence hostels on Hostelworld.
Most prices range from 15 – 30 Euros a night for a dorm bed.
Many are also close to the city center so you can walk everywhere.
Here are some examples of top rated Florence hostels:
- PLUS Florence: From 16 Euros per night, 8.5/10 rating with over 16,000 reviews!
- Leonardo House: From 22 Euros per night, 9.1/10 rating with over 2,000 reviews
- Hostel Santa Monaca: From 18 Euros per night, 8.1/10 rating with over 7,700 reviews
Work Exchanges in Florence
To further save money in Florence, consider a work exchange!
You can work in exchange for free accommodation. Sometimes you’ll get free meals or tours as well.
Most work exchange include about 20 hours of work per week. Common types of work exchanges near Florence include:
- Volunteering with a local family in Tuscany and helping with childcare, gardening, or languages
- Working on a farm and helping with gardening, chores, maintenance, etc.
- Helping with hospitality, cleaning, and reception in a guesthouse or hostel
Also check out my article: Worldpackers Vs. Workaway if you can’t decide which website to use!
Couchsurfing in Florence
Couchsurfing is another way to find free accommodation around the world.
Locals join the Couchsurfing community to offer their spare rooms or couches to travelers.
You can sign up for free and find people all over the world who will let you stay in their home for free.
It’s also a cool way to meet people! Just always use your judgment and common sense to ensure you stay safe.
Right now there are over 14,000 hosts in Florence!
Florence Budget Travel Guide: Food, Drinks, and Activities
Next on our Florence budget travel guide is how to eat, drink, and plan activities on a budget.
If you follow these budget travel tips, you can enjoy the most delicious Italian food and the best Florence activities cheaply!
Best Florence Activities
Now it’s time to dive into the best things to do in Florence!
For those on a backpacker budget, you can easily enjoy the best of Florence without spending a fortune. Here are some free and affordable things to do in Florence.
Free Things To Do In Florence
Check out the view from Piazza Michaelangelo: This hilltop public square has some of the best views over the city of Florence! Bring a bottle of wine and watch the sunset over the city skyline.
Admire the Duomo: Officially called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Duomo is Florence’s most iconic landmark.
The best free view of the Duomo is on Via Roma at the edge of Piazza Del Duomo. Look for a brown door with a plaque that says “Las Terrazas Del Duomo”. Just walk inside and take the elevator to the 5th floor, then walk outside and enjoy the stunning view of The Duomo!
Walk Across Ponte Vecchio: This medieval stone bridge that arches over the Arno River is one of the coolest things to see in Florence. Ponte Vecchio, which was completed in 1345, is lined with shops that are fun to browse.
Visit museums and tourist attractions on the first Sunday of the Month: Florence is home to many world-class museums and attractions. Most have entry fees, but on the first Sunday of every month, they are free!
Places like the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery, Pitti Palace, and Boboli Gardens are all free on the first Sunday of the month. But be sure to arrive early because the lines are super long on this day! Visit this website for a full list of participating attractions.
Visit Piazza Santa Croce: Piazza Santa Croce is one of the main plazas in Florence. Wander around, admire the stunning Basilica of Santa Croce, and listen to street performers serenade you.
Other Affordable Things To Do In Florence
Many top attractions in Florence do cost money. But they are so worth it!
You just can’t visit Florence without seeing the world-famous art, architecture, and history on display.
As a budget traveler who often avoids expensive tourist traps, here are the activities in Florence that I think are worth the money.
☼ I will also include links to skip-the-line tickets. Crowds in Florence get can intense, especially in summer! It’s worth getting a skip-the-line ticket so you can spend less time waiting in line and more time e enjoying Florence!
Located near Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery is the best museum to visit in Florence!
The historic building designed by Giorgio Vasari in the 1500s is a work of art in itself. And the sculptures and paintings on display from famous artists like Botticelli and Michelangelo are breathtaking.
- Cost: 12 Euros (For 20 Euros you can skip the line, which is 100% worth it!)
Home to the masterpiece known as Michaelangelo’s David, Accademia Gallery is another top art museum in Florence.
David is incredible to see in real life. I personally thought the Uffizi Gallery was overall more impressive, but art lovers should definitely include Accademia in their Florence itinerary.
- Cost: 20 Euros (It’s also 20 Euros for a skip-the-line ticket, so definitely book that option!)
Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Pitti Palace is a beautiful Renaissance Palace next to the Arno River. The palace is known for its impressive art collections.
Next to the Pitti Palace is the Boboli Gardens, a majestic landscaped green space full of walking paths, fountains, and sculptures.
- Cost: 14 Euros for a combined ticket
Florence’s Town Hall which overlooks Piazza della Signoria is a beloved landmark in the city.
Visit the art galleries and exhibits to learn about the history of the Medici Family, the most powerful family in Florence who resided in Palazzo Vecchio in the 1500s.
- Cost: 10 Euros (22 Euros for a skip-the-line ticket and video guide)
The Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore)
Last but not least, The Duomo. Admiring the outside of the Duomo and visiting the free viewpoint I mentioned is sufficient for those on a tight budget.
But for the full experience, you can enter all the parts of the Cathedral complex: the Cathedral, Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Bell Tower (Giotto’s Campanile), the Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum.
Climbing Brunelleschi’s Dome is challenging, but offers incredible views of the city.
- Cost: 19 Euros for the Cathedral, 22 Euros to climb Brunelleschi’s Dome (Book a skip-the-line ticket to the Duomo here!)
Eating in Florence on a Budget
While visiting Florence, you have to indulge in all the best Italian food.
Italy has some of the best food in the world, so be sure to try all the pasta, pizza, gelato, fresh produce, local meats and cheeses, and everything in between.
If you’re only in Florence for a day or two, I would say just go for it and eat out!
But if you’re doing a work exchange or you’re staying in the city for a week or more, you may want to save more money.
The best way to save money on food in Florence is cooking some meals at home.
Stay at a hostel with a kitchen, stock up on supplies at the local market and grocery store, and cook some simple, easy meals.
Definitely enjoy eating out, but try not to eat at expensive restaurants for every meal or you’ll run out of money!
You can frequent the local market and the cheap local takeaway joints to save money as well.
Here are some amazing local foods that are also affordable:
- Pizza: Pizzerias like Gusta Pizza, La Divina Pizza, and Gustarium sell delicious pizzas for under 10 Euros each. Touristy restaurants will charge around 15 Euros for a pizza, so do some window shopping and you can find great pizzas for as low as 6 Euros.
- Lampredotto sandwich: lampredotto is slow-cooked cow stomach, which may not sound nice but it’s a local specialty. Shops like Sergio Pollini Lampredotto and Da’ Vinattieri sell the classic sandwich for 3-4 Euros.
- Paninis: This classic Italian sandwich is another amazing budget food option. Most paninis cost around 4 Euros and you can load them up with all your favorite local ingredients. Some popular panini shops in Florence include All’ Antico Vinaio, La Fettunta, and I Due Fratellini.
- Gelato: The best dessert in Italy! Be sure to visit gelato shops where the gelato is stored in deep containers hidden from view and has natural colors. Gelato that is piled high in vibrant colors isn’t authentic! A scoop of gelato is usually 2-5 Euros.
And no Florence budget travel guide would be complete without mentioning the best place to eat and shop for food: San Lorenzo Food Market!
San Lorenzo Food Market / Mercato Centrale
Even if you’re not on a tight budget, Mercato Centrale (Central Market) is one of the best places to eat in Florence. (The Central Market’s official name is the San Lorenzo Food Market).
This two-story indoor market hall has some of the city’s most delicious food.
The first floor sells mainly packaged and bottled take away goods, but La Pasta Fresca is an exception.
At La Pasta Fresca, you can get a plate of homemade pasta with your choice of sauce for 5 Euros. It was one of the best plates of pasta I’ve ever had! And it’s so cheap!
Upstairs you can find even more quick, affordable meals from local vendors.
There is also a Trapizzino shop in the Central Market. Trapizzino is a Roman-style street food that’s like a triangular pocket of fresh bread filled with meat, sauce, cheese, or veggies. Each one is just 5 Euros: another cheap and filling meal!
Drinking in Florence on a Budget
Drinking in Florence on a budget is pretty straightforward. Just drink what the locals drink!
Local wine and beer are the cheapest options when dining out in a restaurant or bar.
Ordering imported alcohol or cocktails can put a dent in your wallet.
However, Florence has a huge study abroad community. That means there are lots of cheap bars catered towards college students.
These places often have happy hours and drink deals if you’re looking to drink on a budget.
The Lion’s Fountain and Green Street Bar are two popular and cheap bars in Florence where young students congregate.
Otherwise, the easiest way to drink on a budget in Florence is just buying a bottle of wine from the supermarket or liquor store. You can get delicious wine for as cheap as 4 Euros!
Thanks for reading my Florence budget travel guide!
It’s a lot of info to take in, but hopefully, this guide has helped you plan an amazing and affordable tip to Florence!
Check out my other budget travel guides for Europe:
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