Book ahead for accommodations
Scheduling your trip between the end of October and the beginning of March will net you substantial savings. Not only will flights and accommodations be cheaper (and crowds be more subdued), you’ll pay less to tour what many consider this Tuscan city’s main event: the museums.
Make a list of free things
While the low season is certainly cheaper and less crowded, Florence is actually a busy destination any month of the year. To score the best deals on the most centrally located accommodations, reserve a place to stay as far in advance as you can manage. And if you’re worried about changes in plans, pay a little extra for free cancellation. This is extra important if you’re visiting in the busy summer months.
Choose your hotel wisely
While many of the must-sees in Florence will cost admission, there is a lot to be enjoyed here without forking over an entry fee. Browsing at San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, walking across the city’s only remaining medieval bridge, Ponte Vecchio, and climbing up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo for sweeping views of the city are highly recommended and free. Also, watching leather artisans at work in the Santa Croce neighborhood will cost nothing more than your time and energy.
Get local advice
Picking your location can be a winning ticket to saving during your trip to Florence. Want a view of the Ponte Vecchio from your room? Be prepared to spend. Luckily, Florence isn’t a sprawling city like Rome, so you don’t need to stay in the exact center to be within walking distance of most top attractions.
One of the biggest appeals for most folks visiting Italy is enjoying the food. Savor local eats without upending your budget by limiting your meals to mostly set menus at lunchtime — not only will you save money, you’re more likely to be offered seasonal specialties, so you can try different dishes when you’re not ordering a la carte.
Just remember to walk a ways away from any tourist attractions before sitting down to eat or drink anything. For nights when you’re too beat to cook or slap together a sandwich, you can always pick up a pizza or check out one of our favorite panini shops.Don’t fly into Florence
There aren’t any direct flights into Florence from US airports, and you’re likely to pay substantially more for an itinerary to and from Florence (to the tune of several hundred dollars).
Instead, fly into Rome or Milan (Emirates has some great deals on occasion) and spend a couple of hours — and €40 or less — on the train into town. Flying into Florence tends to be more expensive than flying into Milan or Rome, even from major hubs in Europe like Barcelona and London.Watch what you drink
Keep a close tab on what you drink, and we don’t just mean alcohol. Beverages in general, especially in the center of Florence, can rack up a substantial tab. Spring for the occasional espresso, cappuccino (just never in the afternoon!) or glass of Italian red, but the rest of the time, carry around your own refillable water bottle — there are fountains around town and tap water is safe to drink.
Don’t buy anything in shops near the Duomo or the Uffizi, not even the supermarket, if you can avoid it. Unless, of course, you enjoy inflated prices.
Instead, wander down side streets in search of small neighborhood shops to find the best artisan edibles and unique souvenirs to take home. Note that if you’re pressed for time at a museum, the official gift shop may be your best bet for a positive quality-to-price ratio.Think tickets through
Whatever your priorities for time and money in Florence, think them through before buying tickets on the fly. Churches and museums are around every corner, and the majority of them charge a fee. Most folks want to see at a minimum both the Uffizi and the Accademia Art galleries, as well as the Duomo. Buying in advance online saves you waiting in line but costs extra. Combo tickets offer a 10% discount in many cases.
And for anyone who thinks they want to see absolutely everything, there’s the Firenze Card, a 72-hour skip-the-line pass to see 72 of the city’s monuments and museums for €85. If you decide this one is for you, go ahead and add the Firenze Card+ for another €7 to include all transit in Florence as you rush around crossing sites off your list. It just might be worth it, especially in high season, when ticket prices go up and lines are long.