There is lots of fine art in Florence – in museums, in churches, in other buildings, outside. And there are lots of people that want to take pictures of this art.
Many places will permit you to take photos but without a flash. And that is with good reason – over time the constant flashes will damage the paintings. It would be the same as keeping the lights on it – over time, damage occurs. And we want these wonderful pieces of art to remain as is so future generations can enjoy them. And even if flash is allowed, if you don’t need to use it, then try to get along without it – think of it as prolonging the life of the artwork.
However, a number of places do not permit photography or videos of any kind – not cameras, not cell phone cameras, nothing, nada, zero. Please adhere to these restrictions. Many of the more well attended tourist attractions have guards that look for cameras – and they do not hesitate to call you out. I personally watched several people in our group have these guards come right up to them and get in their faces about taking photos.
Most places have a sign at the entrance that lets you know if photography is allowed, permitted without flash, or prohibited. If in doubt, ask.
Some of the places that do not permit photography at all:
Santa Maria Novella Church (okay in the cloisters)
Chapel of the Magi in the Medici Palace (the rest of the palace is allowed without flash)
San Lorenzo Church
Orsanmichele Church (although it was okay in the upstairs)
San Marco Museum (cloisters are okay)
Palazzo Pitti (outside in the courtyard and the gardens are okay)
Photography is allowed without a flash in:
Laurentian Library reading room and vestibule
Santa Croce Church and Museum
Photography with flash allowed:
most places outside
climbing up the dome of the Cathedral
Be mindful of other people in your photos – not everyone likes their picture taken. And try to take your photo quickly so you do not disturb others. Most places do not allow tripods, so you may not want to even bring one with you.
If you can’t take photos in the place you are in, just relax and enjoy the reason you came – to see the beautiful artwork and architecture in Florence!
I had planned ahead for specific photos, but I also planned ahead for a number of other things on my trip to Florence. Researching in advance and coming prepared with books, maps, and audio guides goes a long way to making your visit to Florence less hectic.
Eating in restaurants - throughout most of Italy not just Florence - is very different (excluding tourist traps) than in the U.S.
Just because you aren't lavished with attention doesn't mean they don't care. Italians tend to be laid back about almost everything (except calcio maybe!). You may wait 5 or even 10 minutes (if it's very busy) for your waiter to arrive. Use this time to pick out an antipasto & wine!
Also, they typically don't check back to see how your food is. They will usually be nearby or pass by though, so if there is an issue just politely flag them down/call them over. Please don't call Waiter! (in any language!) or (heaven forbid) snap your fingers to do so. Usually eye contact and a nod will do, although a friendly "per favore" will do the trick too.
They won't rush you, as dining in Italy is an experience, and it is not unusual to take 2 or 3 hours to dine. When you're ready for the check, you'll need to ask for it. Be sure to ask if the "servizio" is included. While we found that in Florence it usually was (not the same thing as the coperto), in Venice it often wasn't.
Most places are very helpful, just bring a phrasebook with you to be sure you're understood (especially if you have food allergies or sensitivities). Don't be rude and assume they speak your language - at least attempt to speak Italian. Even if you aren't very good at it or only know a little, that little bit will go a long way. Cin Cin!
Everywhere you go in Florence (and Italy) you will see very cute little cars!!
And not only are they cute, they are sensible too - particularly in a city like Florence that has narrow streets and limited parking - the smaller the car the easier your day to day motoring is.
Now, just make sure you don't do too much shopping though....
Avoid the two-hour peak-season midday wait by making a telephone reservation. It's easy, slick, and costs only €3 (in addition to the €9.50 admission fee). Dial 055-294-883 during office hours (Mon-Fri 8:30-18:30, Sat 8:30-12:30, closed Sun) at least a day before your visit and ideally at least a few days in advance for a better selection. With the help of an English-speaking operator, you'll get an entry slot (15-min window) and a six-digit confirmation number. Off-season, it can be possible to get a same-day reservation. Using the same phone number, you can reserve in advance for the Accademia, Bargello, Medici Chapels, and Pitti Palace; of these, the Accademia has the worst lines.
When traveling in a country where english is not the main language I try to make an effort to speak the local language. Italian is a beautiful language and it isn't very hard to pick up the basics. I got a phrase book and a CD, which I put on my i-Pod, to help me learn some phrases. And while I was shy about trying to speak the language at first, by the end of my 2 weeks there I was ordering meals and ice-cream (gelato) all in Italian!
So here are some helpful phrases to get you started!
Hello/Goodbye (informal): Ciao
Good Morning: Buongiorno
Good Afternoon/Evening: Buonasera
Good Night: Buonanotte
Please: per favore
Thank you: grazie
That's fine: Va bene
How Are You?: Come sta?
Where is...?: Dov'e...?
I didn't understand: non ho capito
Do you speak English?: Parla Inglese?
You have to check out Mercato Centrale for many reasons. Aside from the excellent types of fresh foods, I found the coffee there to be a steal! In San Francisco, for about $2 Euro, you'll be able to purchase a cup of coffee. In most places in the busy touristy parts of Firenze, a cup of coffee can be as much as $2-3 Euro as well.
However, here at Bar anna e Piero, whilst standing at the cafe bar I was able to purchase a cappucino and espresso for a miniscule $1.40 Euro!!! If you can hold on to your caffeine rush, begin your morning coffee drinks here. It was the best coffee price I found in Firenze and was the best tasting coffee in terms of "awakeness factor" and taste.
This is 100% local customs tip.
It is located in a small lovely square that doesn't even exist on the city plan!
Have a coffee or a glass of wine there. Not hip, but very charming and laid-back rustic-chic cafe.
Although extremely old in many cases, Florentine churches are still regularly used by local people. Exposed shoulders and shorts/ mini-skirts may not be acceptable. In some, women may be asked to cover their heads (although I didn't come across this), so carry a headscarf just in case.
It is expected that you will be quiet in churches (there are often people praying) and many do not allow the use of flash photography (some do not allow photography at all, such as S. Spirito).
I only knew about the locks on Ponte vecchio from Virtual tourist. I had read about the lovers attaching the locks and throwing the key into the arno river to forever seal their love. So when I was there I specifically looked for them and I overheard an English speaking tour guide tell her group that it was not an Italian tradition at all but rather an American one. I don't know if that is true or not but I thought it was pretty funny.
One of the most common habits in Italy and in Florence too is having brakfast at the bar. Cappuccino (remember Italians never order cappuccino after a meal) and croissant. Here is a list of my favourite bars (in terms of quality of breakfast):
Pasticceria Gualtieri Via Senese 18 r (Porta Romana) 0039 055 221771 Closed on sundays afternoon and Mondays
Giacosa Roberto Cavalli Via della Spada 10r (S. Maria Novella) 0039 055 2776328
Pasticceria Curtatone. Borgo Ognissanti, 167r. 0039 055 210772 (Ognissanti square)
Pasticceria Piccioli B.go Ognissanti 118 r 0039 055 295086 (Ognissanti square)
I think only in Florence you can taste a lampredotto sandwich. Lampredotto is the final part of the cow's stomach and has a dark brown colour. I know it sounds not very attractive, but is really one of the most interesting thing to experience in Florence. I started eating lampredotto just a few years ago ( before I thought it was simply disgusting) and I can assure you it's delicious. If you prefer you can ask for a Sbucciato wich is the lampredotto withouth the white skin (which is the fatty part ). The bread is dipped in the broth and the sandwich is served with a hot red chili sauce or a a green parsley sauce.
Just before you get to the Ponte Vecchio you can see these padlocks with two names written on them. Lovers up to their tricks to keep their love safe and secure. No idea who started this trend but I think it may be of fairly recent origin.
On the bridge itself, there is a sign on the railing around the statue of Cellini warning that any padlocks will be removed. And that wouldn't be a good omen for your eternal love.
The dam that crosses the river between San Frediano and the far side of Ponte Vespucci is the Pescaia di Santa Rosa, one of several spillways designed to guarantee a supply of water to mills (which have since been removed) during periods of drought
There you can often see people getting suntan during summer, even if it's a very hot place and it doesn't smell that good. It's located beneath the Santa Rosa Tower, a remnant of the ancient city walls.
Cappucini is a part of the breakfast.. If you order it after 12 O'clock you are a tourist ;-)
Esspresso is STRONG, macciato has a bit of milk, lungho is with a bit more water...
It is good to know a bit about it, spend some time on wikipedia or any other source of information in the matter...
I saw two gypsy women in Firenze begging. I had taken this woman's photo - she was munching on a dry bun and the birds were pecking at the crumbs - so I gave her some of the crumbs from my purse. She started the whining and demanding so I just walked away.
After Roma, when I nearly started lashing out as 15 umbrella sellers importuned me from all sides and a red headed begger from the south asked for a cigarette - I found Firenze quite peaceful.
It wasn't until Sunday - the big day for the market - that I saw any African bag sellers. They set up on sheets in front of the Duomo. I don't know where they are the rest of the time.