Backpacking Florence on a Budget

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and every year thousands of travelers come here to feast on world-class art and architecture. Fortunately for us backpackers the city is not as expensive as one would expect, which makes backpacking Florence on a budget not only possible but also quite easy when you know where to look.

Read on to find out how you can see Michelangelo’s famous David for free, stuff your face with an Italian pizza for €5.00 and buy an entire bottle of local Chianti for less than €7.00.

What You’ll Find in This Travel Guide

How Much to Budget for Florence

When you know where to eat, where to stay and how to avoid tourist traps, which you will after reading this guide, you shouldn’t have to spend more than €50.00 – 80.00 a day. We stayed in Florence for 3 days and only spend €200.00 for the both of us, which is very low compared to what we spend in Venice or Rome.

However, I do want to mention that we got very lucky and stayed there on the first Sunday of the month which allowed us to see all the popular museums for free (see below). But even if we had to pay for them, our daily spendings would still be less than €50.00 per person.

How Long to Stay in Florence

A minimum stay of 3 – 4 days is recommended to enjoy Florence’s history, art, and architecture without feeling rushed. If you want to take some day trips from Florence add on a few extra days.

Eating Mussels with Gnocchi in Florence

Cheap Places to Eat in Florence

Though there is a fair amount of fancy restaurants in Florence, it’s not difficult to find a cheap place to eat that serves good and authentic Italian meals. All you have to do is walk away from the Duomo and follow the locals.

Here are our favorite cheap places to eat in Florence:

Da Nerbone | Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze (stand no. 292 on the ground floor)
This market stand at Florence’s Mercato Centrale is popular among locals and tourists alike, especially during lunchtime. Da Nerbone is famous for its panino bollito con salsa verde (boiled beef sandwich with a green herb sauce) and the panino lampredotto (tripe sandwich), both of which cost less than €4.00.

Trattoria da Giorgio | Via Palazzuolo, 100R, 50123 Firenze
A great local restaurant where you can have a two-course meal with a side, house wine and water for only €15.00.

Gusta Pizza | Via Maggio, 46, 50125 Firenze
Great local spot to get a whole pizza for €5.00 – 7.00. We recommend you buy a bottle of Chianti at the store, order a pizza to go and find a spot to sit around Piazza Santo Spirito for a nice, cheap Italian style meal. ;)

All’Antico Vinaio | Via dei Neri, 74/R, 50100 Firenze
This popular local spot offers some of the best and biggest paninis in town for only €5.00. Our favorite panini was the porchetta with truffle sauce. P.S. They also have a self serving wine bar at the entrance for €2.00.

Trattoria Anita | Via del Parlascio, 2, 50122 Firenze
This hard to find local gem offers authentic and typical Tuscan meals for a great price. A three-course meal will only set you back €11.00. We recommend the steak or the ravioli with sausage sauce. As for wine, you can order a 1L bottle of the house wine for €8.00.

For more places to eat in Florence check out this post from our friend Dave. He has has lived in Florence for over a year and has some nice insider tips for your :D

Chianti found in the supermarket in Florence

Eating Out Tips:

1.) Instead of buying a small glass of wine at the restaurant, head to the store to buy an entire bottle of Chianti, or any other wine, for less than €7.00.

2.) Avoid the 10-15% sit down charge by taking your meal to go. We recommend grabbing a pizza to go and a bottle of Chianti from the store for the perfect Italian “take-out picnic”.

3.) Be aware of food that is priced by weight, especially the Florentine T-bone steak. It might look cheap at first, but the weight adds up.

4.) When at a restaurant, ask for tap water and be aware of the waiter offering you additional items. Usually those are not included in your meal and will cost you extra.

5.) The bakeries in supermarkets are also a great spot to get some good cheap meals, especially paninis and foccacia.

Traditional Florentine Dishes and Drinks:

Bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak), Trippa alla fiorentina (tripe with tomato sauce), Lampredotto (typical tripe street food), Crostini Neri (liver pate), Cantuccini (almond biscuit), Schiacciata Fiorentina (sweet cake), Chianti (local wine).

Cheap Places to Stay in Florence

Florence has a great number of budget accommodations within walking distance of the city center. The average price for a bed in a dorm is €20.00 and €65.00 for a private room. Expect prices to be higher on weekends and during the high season (May – September).

Please Note: Florence charges a local city tax of €1.50 – 5.00 per person per night. The city tax is usually not included in your accommodation and needs to be paid extra.

Beautiful sunset over Florence

1.) Hostels & Budget Hotels

Avoid accommodations that are directly in the city center as their prices will be a lot higher. Instead, look for hostels behind the main train station, Santa Maria Novella or outside of the city center.

Hostel 7 Santi: Hostel 7 Santi is one of the cheapest hostel you will find in Florence and it’s only 10 minutes by bus from the city center. Dorms and private rooms are available without A/C. Breakfast is not included in the price, however they do offer a nice breakfast and dinner buffet for a small fee. Dorm beds starts at €12.00. Read reviews.

Hostel Archi Rossi: Located just five minutes from the train station, Arch Rossi offers clean and comfortable rooms with ensuite showers, as well as free breakfast, free wifi, and a free walking tour. Guests also get to enjoy the open air terrace and the garden onsite. Dorm beds start at €21.00. Read reviews.

2.) Camping

Camping Michelangelo: Camping Michelangelo is a decent campsite with very basic (but not very clean) facilities and only a 15 minutes walk away from the city center. The best thing about the campsite is the awesome view that you get over the city and the pizzeria on site. Beds in a 3-bed dorm tent start at €10.00. Read reviews.

3.) Airbnb

There are a handful or Airbnb rentals available in the city center. Depending how early you book you can expect to pay around €20.00 – 50.00 for a private room and €50.00+ for an entire apartment. Prices do increase drastically in high season.

Click here to receive a €40.00 off Airbnb coupn code on your first stay. It is also a great way to support us and the work we do, as we too will receive €40.00 off on our next stay.

Piazza del Duomo in Florence

Top Things to Do in Florence

1. Piazza del Duomo

Piazza Del Duomo, is the heart of Florence and houses the following historical, religious and architectural beauties:

Duomo del Firenze: Duomo del Firenze is the symbol of the city and one of the largest cathedrals in the world. It is especially famous for its self-supporting dome designed by Brunelleschi. Entrance is free, however if you want to climb to the dome for a great view over the city, or visit the crypt below the cathedral, you must pay an additional fee (free with the “Il Grande Museo del Duomo”  ticket).

Baptistery of St. John: The Baptistery of St. John is the oldest building in the city. It is famous for its beautiful golden mosaics on the ceiling and its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures.

Giotto’s Campanile (the Bell Tower): Climb over 400 narrow steps to get a bird’s eye view over the square and the city.

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum): Museo dell’Opera del Duomo houses the original artworks and statues from the Duomo, the original doors of the Baptistery, Michelangelo’s Pieta, and several sculptures by Donatello.

Insider Tip: Purchase the “Il Grande Museo del Duomo” ticket for €15.00 to get access to all the monuments in the square within 48 hours of visiting the first one. For more details visit: www.museumflorence.com

Beautiful golden mosaic ceiling at the Baptistery of St. John in Florence
A small sample of the beautiful golden mosaic ceiling at the Baptistery of St. John

2. Visit a Museum or Two:

There is way too much art, and history within Florence to not visit a museum! Here’s a few of the most popular museums:

Uffizi Gallery: This world famous fine arts museum has an enormous collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures. Popular works include: The Birth of Venus, Primavera by Sandro Boticelli and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.

Galleria dell’Accademia: The Galleria dell’Accademia house many works of Michelangelo including the original David. Insider tip: If your only motive is to see the David or the Rape of Sabine Statue, you can see their replicas at Piazza della Signoria for free.

Palazzo Vecchio Museum:  Travel through time and visit the Roman Ruins, the Medieval Fortress and the Renaissance Chambers at Palazzo Vecchio Museum. The highlights are: Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), the tower, and the roman ruins.

Honorable Mention: Galileo Museum, Strozzi Palace.

Here are a few of our Insider Tips for visiting Museum:

1.) On the first Sunday of each month, all state museums are free including the Uffizi Gallery, and the The Accademia. Just be prepared for long lines.

2.) Avoid long lines at the popular museums by visiting during lunchtime (12-2pm) or 1-2 hours before closing time.

3.) Entry fees to museums are not cheap in Florence, and they add up very quickly. If you plan on visiting multiple museums, look into purchasing a Firenze Card. The card costs €72.00, is valid for 72 hours and gives you priority access to 72 museums (including the Galleria dell’Accademia, Duomo Monuments and the Uffizi Gallery). As always, do the math and see if the card is worth it.

3. Explore the Many Squares

Beside the popular Piazza del Duomo, Florence has many other popular squares that are waiting to be explored. Here are some must visit squares while in Florence.

Piazzale Michelangelo: Piazzale Michelangelo is where you can get a great panoramic view over Florence. For the best view, come here during sunset or sunrise.

Piazza della Signoria: If you want to see some beautiful sculptures without paying the hefty museum prices, Piazza Della Signoria is the place to be. Here you will find the fountain of Neptune, the replica of the famous David and the open-air gallery, Loggia dei Lanzi. The gallery houses several sculptures, with the most notable being a statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head.

Piazza Santa Croce: This square is one of the most important squares in Florence as it houses the Santa Croce Cathedral. The Cathedral is given the nickname “Temple of Italian Glories” because many famous Italians such as Galileo, Michelangelo, and Bartolini are buried here.

4. Pitti Palace and the Gardens

The Pitti Palace and it’s gardens (Boboli and Bardini) are often overlooked by tourists, which makes it a great place to escape the millions of tourists that roam and overcrowd the streets of Florence. The Renaissance palace, with it’s beautiful sculpture filled gardens, houses some of Florence’s most important museums including the Royal Apartments and Palatine Gallery. Be sure to visit the Bardini Gardens for a nice and peaceful view over the city.

5. Ponte Vecchio

This iconic bridge is the oldest bridge over the Arno River. It is also the most popular bridge in Florence because it’s unique design and the tiny jewelry shops along the bridge.

6. Free Walking tour

A free walking tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city and learn about it’s history. Florence Free Tour offers two daily tours, the Renaissance Tour at 11am and the Medici Tour at 2pm.

Sculpture at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Popular Events & Festivals in Florence

Gioco di Calcio Storico

An unusual football game where four teams from different parts of the city dress up in medieval costumes and brutally compete against each other. Some would say this is more like a gladiator game than a soccer game. The Gioco di Calcio Storico is held in the last week of June.

Scoppio del Carro

An old wagon packed with fireworks is dragged through the streets of Florence until it reaches the Duomo where it is lit up by a dove shaped rocket. The Scoppio del Carro is held on Easter Sunday.

Artisanal Chocolate Fair

For nine days in mid-February, all the master chocolatiers from different parts of Italy gather at Piazza Santa Maria Novella to give people a taste of chocolate beyond the typical chocolate bar.

How to Get Around in Florence

1. Walking

The best way to get around Florence is by walking as most attractions are within walking distance of each other. So admire the city on foot and skip the buses, especially if you are staying in the city center.

2. Public Transportation

The city of Florence is so compact that you will rarely use public transportation. In fact, throughout our three day stay we only used the bus twice, on arrival and on departure. However if you do wish to use it, here is some basic information about Florence’s public transportation system.

The “Le City Line de Firenze” has 4 routes (C1, C2, C3, D) that cover the areas in and around the historical city. If you want to go outside the center, you have to take either the ATAF or the LI-nea buses. There is no real hub to catch buses except near the main train station, Santa Maria Novella and Piazza San Marco. In those place you can find several bus lines going to different areas.

A single ride ticket, if bought in advance, costs €1.20 and is valid for 90 minutes. There is also a 4-ride ticket (€4.70), a 24-hour pass (€5.00), or a 3-day pass (€12.00).

You can purchase tickets at any tabacchi (tobacconists), newsstands, or in the main trains station. Tickets can also be purchased from the bus driver however those will cost more. Don’t forget to validate your ticket once on the bus or risk paying a fine!

Florence Skyline at Sunset

General Travel Tips for Florence

1.) Skip the Public Bathrooms

Just like in Venice, there is a fee to use the public restrooms, so to avoid paying for the bathroom each time you need to use it, just use the bathrooms in the museum and restaurants before you leave.

Insider Tip: You can use the bathroom inside Palazzo Vecchio without purchasing a museum ticket.

2. Time your Attraction Visits Wisely

Florence is extremely packed with tourists, which means entrance lines to attractions can be ridiculously long. Time your visits wisely and don’t listen to the people who tell you to go early in the morning. The secret is out and that’s what most people are doing nowadays. Go during lunchtime or 1-2 hours before the closing time instead.

Insider Tip: Avoid staying on long lines and reserve a time slot for the Duomo, the Duomo Museum and the Bell Tower ahead of time. Reservation is free or charge but binding when done here.

3. Visit During Low Season

The best time to visit Florence on a budget is in Spring, as accommodation prices are considerably lower and all the attractions are free of huge tourist crowds.

4. Prices Are Higher Near the Duomo

The closer you are to the Duomo, the more expensive things will be, even in chain supermarkets. Go a few streets further to do your shopping and meal hunting.

Michelangelo's David in Florence

Day Trips from Florence

Florence is a great base to explore the rest of the Tuscany region. Below are a few popular day trips to take from Florence:

  • Siena: This medieval city, with it’s rich history, art and breathtaking architecture, is considered Florence’s arch rival.
  • Pisa: Home to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre pendente di Pisa).
  • Fiesole: A beautiful town located on the scenic hills above Florence.
  • Lucca: Well known for its many churches and well-preserved defense walls that enclose the city center.

Get Insured Before Backpacking Florence

No matter how long or short your trip, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.

Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.

Other Travel Guides

If you are more of a book person and would rather carry a physical guide with you while backpacking Florence, we recommend Lonely Planet Florence. Remember though, don’t follow it step by step, use it as a guide instead.

If you enjoyed our backpacking Venice on a budget guide, please share it on social media and consider coming back to plan your other trips with our detailed backpacking guides.

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The Author

Ben

Ben is a professional web designer and the man behind the scenes of Road Affair. He has been traveling around the world with his partner in crime, Jazzy, since 2012.

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Comments

    1. Yea Florence can definitely be expensive but once you know where to look it’s actually not that bad. We can’t wait to go back either :D

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