Florence 101


, famously dubbed the “city of stone” by writer Mary McCarthy, regards itself as a living museum. And considering it has counted among its residents the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, Dante, Donatello, Brunelleschi and the entire Medici clan, it certainly has the cultural cachet—and monumental works of art—to substantiate the claim.

Courtesy of Marcus Obal

When To Go

Spring and fall, with clear skies and mild temperatures, are heavenly times to visit. I also recently spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s here, and the sunny, crisp days were perfect for sightseeing, particularly since the usual crowds were nowhere to be seen. Like most Italian cities, Florence is to be avoided during the summer. All the hotels are air-conditioned, but walking around–the best way to explore Florence–can bring to mind Dante’s Inferno if you visit in July or August.

Courtesy Continentale

Getting Around

More than in any other Italian city, driving in Florence is not for the faint of heart. Not only are you dealing with a maddening cluster of mostly narrow one-way streets, but there are also pedestrian zones in which cars are allowed only during specific times of the day and night. The grand exception to this rule is taxis, which are allowed to venture almost anywhere. If you plan to bring a car (as many visitors whose itinerary also includes Tuscany do), be sure to get very specific directions on how to drive to your first hotel and have the staff there put your vehicle in a garage (about $40 a night) for the remainder of your stay. And forget your GPS: not even the most advanced system can figure out the city’s ever-changing parking rules and construction detours.

Courtesy of the Four Seasons

Getting There

There are no non-stop flights from the United States to Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport. You can connect through many European cities, including Frankfurt, Paris and London.

Indagare Tip: The Florence airport is closest, but has a short runway, so flights are often cancelled during inclement weather. For this reason, many people prefer the more reliable approach of flying into Pisa, which is about an hour’s drive away.

The excellent Eurostar train service from Rome gets you to Florence in ninety minutes (just make sure you don’t end up on a local train, which can take up to four hours). Tickets and seat assignments can be booked in advance ( You can drive to Florence, but beware that parking in the city is nonexistent, and you really don’t need a car to get around.

Published onFebruary 10, 2014

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