The Accademia : Sorry, a bit of a trap.
Ok. So this may even be the main site for tourists when they are in Florence. The Accademia (or Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze) is of course the home of Michelangelo's David, located in a rotunda, called the Tribuna, built especially for its display.
Admitedly, this iconic statue is an incredible sight to behold. It was sculpted by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504 and stands 5.17 metres (17 ft.). The great marble portraiture of the Old Testament king is unique in the fact that many 'Davids' are usually portrayed with the slain head of Goliath at his feet; however, Michelangelo seems to capture the moment just when David is about to strike his foe. The intenstity in his eyes is matched by the power etched into the portruding veins of his mammoth hands.
The rest of the Accademia, although small, contains a collection of priceless Renaissance works, yet these seem to be almost completely overlooked by most visitors (I myself was the victim of my own curiosity and hurried over to see the King, ignoring most of what the rest of the collection has to display). To tell you the truth, it is the most impressive piece in the collection and your entry fee really goes to pay for a glimpse of this world recognised statue.
Unique Suggestions: Reserve ahead of time by ringing up the museum. Once there, go to the main entrance and you will see where you need to collect your advance tickets.
If you haven't booked, arrive very early, preferably on a Sunday morning. I was lucky to have arrived very early and waited a mere 15 minutes (and that was in August).
Don't feel cheated by the visit. Linger around the David, walk around the statue and try and view him from each perspective. After, get out quickly and make time for something much more enriching, such as the Convento di San Marco, just a block west.
Opening times from Tuesday to Sunday: 8:15-18:50 (often one day is extended into the evening hours, especially during the summer - check ahead of time).
Closed: Mondays, Christmas, New Year's, 1 May
Entry (adult): € 6,50
Reduced entry: € 3,25
Be careful, with special exhibitions the cost of a ticket can rise to €10.00
Tel: 055 294883 (don't worry, they speak English)
Cost of pre-booking : € 4,00
Via Ricasoli 58-60, 50122 Florence
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is a fantastic homebase for those who only want to spend a day in Florence and still take in as much as possible. The internet is a wealth of information about this Piazza, so I won't go too into detail.
Take a stroll around the Piazza in the morning, before the heat sets in (if traveling in the summer like I did). If you can, look at a schedule ahead of time. It just so happened that the day we went to Florence was some sort of holiday, and I'm still sketchy on the details. However, we had front-row spots to watch a parade of authentically garbed Renaissance paraders. It was great!
Later in the same afternoon, there was an Italian wedding in the Piazza, and we all snapped gorgeous pictures of the Bride and the party. However, even without this, the experience of the Piazza is not one to miss. Later in the day it floods with tourists and the street merchants seem to pop out of every crevice.
Unique Suggestions: Don't bother taking too many photos! Even with digital cameras, it's still easier to buy postcards of the big attractions. You can even write on the back while waiting for dinner so that nothing is forgotten!
Fun Alternatives: Don't miss Piazza della Signoria... just beware of tourists. As the heat rises and the crowds grow, tempers might flare. Plan to go in the morning or evening for gorgeous lighting in your pictures and to avoid crowds of high school tourists.
- School Holidays
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
For every restaurant
In every restaurant you enter,check that they have ther prices exposed.Don't order withouth knowing how much it costs,and it's your right to know it,so if they are not exposed(and you could call police for this),ask inside how much does the single dish cost. Pay attention expecially with the wine.The cost of bottles is a big range,so it can be cheap but also very expensive if you don't know which kind of wine you are buying
Beware of restauration works
Some of the smaller monuments are undergoing some major restauration works, but they still charge you a full price ticket, even though you cannot see most of the place.
The Medici chapel for instance, is almost all covered up, and the entrance fee is very expensive.
Unique Suggestions: Always find out if there are on going restauration works in the monuments before you purchase the ticket.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Not all leather is created equal
There is a lot of 'cheap' leather in Florence. Most of the shops have demonstrations of adding gold edging etc etc but please be aware of the leather that you are buying. Some of the cheap stuff is actually hide pulped and pressed into leather sheets - these sheets are used to make coats, bags & other items. The sheets can rip easily, unlike real leather, though this is not so easy to do when looking at something you like.
My advice is to shop around and avoid the 'leather factory' places. If the price is too good to be true then it probably is - try to buy from reputable shops even if it is a bit more expensive! Having said this, Mum purchased a cheap and chearful leather wallet for Dad in 2003 from a stall and it's still in one piece!
Piazza della RipOff - Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica is a central point of Florence. However, be aware that the cafes located there have some of the highest prices in Italy id you intend to sit down and be served in classic surly Florentine style. The other day I noted some of the prices for table service:
1. Cappuccino: 4.50 Euros (£ 3 or $5) - remember its only about 3 sips!
2. Hot Tea: 5.50 Euros (£ 3.75 or $ 6.60) at least they give you a little teapot - check to see if it is more than 1/2 full!
3. Soft Drink: from 7 - 9 Euros depending on size.
4. Water (1/2 litre) 4 Euros (£ 2.80 or $ 6.20)
5. Cocktail: 8 Euros (£ 5.50 or $ 9.75) - sometimes more!!!
This is not meant to knock Florence but the cafes in Piazza della Repubblica and Signoria are tourist traps with a captial T!
Unique Suggestions: Make sure your company, girlfriend, boyfriend are picking up the tab!
Don't order food, it is notoriously BAD.
Don't put up with crappy service, you are paying TOP Euro for the pleasure.
Stay as long as you want, don't EVER feel rushed, a 3.50 Euro espresso buys you a great vantage point for the afternoon.
Great place to park elderly relatives or travel companions who are sick of shopping and siteseeing.
Fun Alternatives: Lots of other little cafes on side streets, check out menu first - also see what their wares look like first, sometimes those pastries have been sitting there since the renaissance.
San Lorenzo Leather Merchants
If you're not in the market for a leather jacket, don't even start talking to a salesman at one of the many leather carts/stalls. Before you know it you'll be wearing a jacket you had admired and then will be whisked away to the "factory" which will be a store up the street. There they will have you try on all sorts of jackets and offer you the best price. There you will no doubt see other tourists who have also been "kidnapped" in a similar fashion.
Unique Suggestions: This isn't necessarily a bad experience. The prices can drop considerably the longer you hold out and if you can make the salesman think he's wearing you down. I can't speak for the quality however and it may be that the jackets are not even made in Florence. In my experience the salesman was nice and if I were a woman I would have found him charming and very attractive. He was never very aggressive to the point that I thought I was being held against my will. It was actually a fun experience. And no, I didn't buy anything.
Fun Alternatives: It is a bit fun. I would definitely go to the San Lorenzo market for all that it offers. But if you want known quality leather jackets, go to the stores around Piazza Santa Croce and especially the Scuola di Cuoio.
Leather Stores in Florence
Florence is full of leather shops touting jackets, coats and pants made supposedly locally. (Actually most of the shops have sister-stores in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but that is another story).
There is nothing wrong with the shops, the merchandise is generally better made and far less expensive then what people find in their home country. Especially, USA, Japan, Canada, UK, Ireland etc... However, read below:
Unique Suggestions: 1. If a guide takes you to a shop - they take a cut - up to 20% of whatever you spend -so you can always go back 'alone' and renegotiate on the special price they gave you.
2. If they say, I'll take 20% off, that generally means they want to be paid in cash - the 20% represents the VAT taxt they are saving by your cash purchase.
3. If you spend over 150 Euros and you are NOT a European Union resident and leaving the country you can get the tax back - so check to see that the store has the blue taxfree sign int he window.
4. If they raise the price because you are paying with a credit card, do like the song ans just walk away Rene. See if they come after you.
Fun Alternatives: This is not to suggest that the people who own and operate these shops are not decent. It is that so many people are into getting their commissions on top of commissions that it drives the price up. As I said the quality and selection is fantastic and the people who work in the shops are generally very friendly and entertaining and multilingual.
I have heard from the Japanese guides, that the commission gets paid back to the Tour Company and not to the guide.
Lovely but shortlived
There are number of Chinese people, all over the old core of the town, offering hand-made products like trinkets, souveniers and birds made out of palm leaf. I stopped for a while by this girl observing her extremely skilled hands in making another bird (or perhaps it was butterfly). She need about 10 minutes to make one of this bird and sell it for five euros. I both one of this (because she told me she is a student) and placed it to hang in my car. When I came to Verona, week after, the bird was like dry twig and ugly so I had to thow it away.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative might be; buy yourself a big ice-cream, spending five euros on it, and watch the girl while working. Of course, ice-cream is shortlived too, but at least you'll feel much better.
San Lorenzo Market
This huge street market surrounds Il Centro Mercato and the prices for some of the items are outrageous. Shoes for 150 euro and what not, especially the leather goods.
Unique Suggestions: There will be more than one vendor selling the same thing. If you have time play them against one another. I bargained my cape down from 60 euros to 35 and then when I opened my purse I explained that I had only 30 euros and as it was the end of the day I would not be back tomorrow. As expected I got a cape for 30 euros.
- Women's Travel
Something I want you to know (and many visitors of Florence have the same opinion), is that Galleria della Accademia and especially Galleria degli Uffizi but not the case of Museo Casa di Dante (pic) have long queues. It's bad to waste a lot of time just for a few euros, no to mention if you have to wait in the sun or under the rain and in cold weather.
Book in advance, it lets you go there at a given time; you can even choose it when booking. The reservations are made by phone, and if you don't have a good command of italian (although I suppose there are many languages to choose from, I don't know), ask your hotel to book for you. The museums charge 3 euros (Sep. '07), but it is wortwhile, believe me!
In the duomo area there are lots of sellers,expecially black men.They sell "not original"things,like Dolce&Gabbana jeans,or Prada shoes and bags,even if the objects are made really well(and they cost much less then the original).Pay attention to police,'couse here it's illegal to buy this kind of objects(even if we buy them anyway;-)).And anyway,don't buy at the price that sellers ask you..you have to contract,absolutely.
- School Holidays
- Family Travel
People selling hand made goods
There are dozens of people in the Piazzas selling their hand made goods. Make sure you have a price in mind that you want to pay. Have that exact amount in one pocket. That way, when you are haggeling over the price, you take out all the money from that pocket, and say that is all you have. WALK AWAY if they say NO. They will chase you. You will get your price. Make sure you are not offering too low, but you will find out if you are.
do take away don't eat at place
The price tag for food either isn't clear or has 2 prices. 1 for take away (cheaper) and the other one for eating in restaurant. my experience, I saw 1 piece of pizza cost 3,2 for take away and 4 euro for eating in place. I ate it in restaurant in the end I have to pay 5 euro, they said because I ate it in restaurant.
Unique Suggestions: if you speak a bit Italian, is the best. Ask every details of the price otherwise you will have to pay unnecessary money. A lot of thief out there :-)
- Budget Travel
if you see the heaping piles of brightly colored gelato, with extra garnish, and they serve really big serivngs of gelato, it ain't the real deal! and not as good as the real deal either. authentic gelato has more natural colors, and there shouldn't be hills of gelato protruding out of the tubs either. usually a small is 1.30 euro, around there. . .
Unique Suggestions: the one touristy place i like is i think it's called la festa di gelato, but we just called it neon gelato 'cause the place has way too many neon lights going on.
another good place is vivoli, very famous, near santa croce.
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