Florence is a must-see bucket list city for any art lover, but its delights reach far beyond the museums and galleries. According to some, the city itself is a piece of art. Have you heard of Stendhal syndrome, that supposed illness that causes sufferers to grow faint at the sight of great beauty? It also goes by the name “Florence syndrome,” as it was first coined after 19th century visitors to Florence were overcome.
Florence is a must-see city for any art lover, but its delights reach far beyond the museums and galleries. According to some, the city itself is a piece of art. Have you heard of Stendhal syndrome, that supposed illness that causes sufferers to grow faint at the sight of great beauty? It also goes by the name “Florence syndrome,” as it was first coined after 19th century visitors to Florence were overcome.
These days, you’re just as likely to see unbalanced tourists stumbling through the city on a pub crawl as you are visitors taken aback by the sheer volume of art Florence holds, but whichever side draws you more Florence is one of the big three stops in a tour of Italy.
There’s some basic visitor information for Florence on this page, and there is also quite a bit more information in other articles on the site.
Where to Stay in Florence
Florence is one of those cities that’s busy year-round between foreign tourists and Italian visitors, so it’s crammed with accommodation options – but it’s still a good idea to do a little research about where in the city you want to stay and what you’ll get for your money.
Luckily, the historic center of Florence is easily walkable – so as long as you stay in the center you’ll be able to get to all the main sights on foot.
What to Do in Florence
Even with a few solid days in Florence, it pays to organize your time wisely. This is a busy Italian city, full of Italians as well as tourists, and the main tourist sights are some of the biggest in the entire country. Lines can be prohibitively long, and many of the indoor sights are small enough that you could be looking at the backs of people’s heads as much as you are looking at art. These articles will help you figure out what to see and do in Florence, as well as how to avoid the long lines.
And as I said at the outset, although the emphasis in Florence is typically on the art in the city, there are non-artsy things to see and do in Florence. Two of the non-art things Florence is most famous for – and that I think are well worth some of your time in the city – involve eating and shopping.
While Milan and Rome may be more well-known for their high-end shopping opportunities, Florence is home to a couple of outdoor leather markets that are fun to explore even if you aren’t in the market to buy anything. The entire region is known for its leather work, so you’ll find purses, belts, jackets, shoes and just about anything else you can imagine leather being made into (leather garbage pail, anyone?) in the city’s shops and the outdoor markets. In the markets, prices are more flexible, so don’t be afraid to haggle a bit. For the regular shops, sale periods are scheduled and happen a few times a year – thankfully, one of them is right in the middle of the peak summer season, so you might see the word “Saldi” in many a store window. That just means “Sale,” so have fun.
And although you’ll find gelato shops all over Italy, many consider gelato in Florence to be the best in the country. You may or may not agree with that sentiment, but I still encourage you to sample liberally while you’re in the city. After all, you can’t weigh in on a “best gelato in Italy” conversation unless you’ve eaten gelato in Florence.
While I doubt that Florence would make anyone feel faint these days, there is no question that this city can overwhelm even the most prepared traveler with the sheer number of “must-see” sights. Will you be able to fit it all in? Probably not. In fact, if you do, and you’re only in the city for a few days, I want to know your secret. No, the vast majority of you will either have to be content with what you have time to see, or plan a return trip. I recommend the latter.