A Solo Traveller's Guide to Florence, Italy

Solo travellers to Florence can soak up culture and history throughout the beautiful Italian city
Solo travellers to Florence can soak up culture and history throughout the beautiful Italian city | © Westend61 GmbH / Getty Images

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Florence was the spark that lit the flame of the Italian Renaissance 500 years ago, blessing the world with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Today, it remains Tuscany’s must-see city, with more art per capita than anywhere else in the world. Come here solo and you’ll be surrounded by museums and glorious architecture – not to mention a whole variety of wines to help you laze the afternoons away, and a busy scene by night.

A Florence solo trip overview

Admire the stunning views over Florence from the top of the bell tower

Florence is routinely visited by more than 50 million tourists a year, making it incredibly welcoming for both seasoned and inexperienced solo travellers. You’ll be warmly greeted by the sight of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore as you make your way into town, its orange dome ballooning into the sky as you approach from the airport or the surrounding Tuscan wine region. From this moment on, the birthplace of the Renaissance will give you enough art museums and architecture to fill up several days.

It’s not all high culture, though. Florence is also a thriving student town, with hip bars and places to eat, as well as an upbeat nightlife scene. It’s safe and you’re almost certain to befriend a few like-minded travellers during your stay.

Where to stay in Florence as a solo traveller

Opt for sleek and stylish accommodation in Florence

The city is picture-perfect and diminutive, so you’ll quickly find a hotel with an Instagram-worthy view. Stay on the banks of the River Arno, or head into the historic centre for scenes of Renaissance rooftops at sunset. Accommodation ranges from affordable chain hotels to luxury properties full of marble and antique furniture. Not sure where you want to book yet? Culture Trip has tons of ideas to inspire you; see our guides on where to stay in Florence, the best luxury hotels in Florence and the best boutique hotels in Florence.

What to do in Florence

Marvel at all the Renaissance art

Art lovers should make a beeline for the Uffizi Gallery, where you can see works by Caravaggio and many others

If you come to Florence and don’t stop by the Uffizi, you’re doing it all wrong. Home to world-famous works by the Renaissance masters, this art gallery just north of the Arno has been called the best in the world. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Caravaggio’s Medusa and Raphael’s Portrait of Pope Leo X With Two Cardinals merit special inspection. A 10-minute walk north is the Accademia Gallery – here you’ll meet Michaelangelo’s David, the most renowned statue in the world.

Stroll from the Duomo and Piazzale Michelangelo

Head up to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset for a beautiful view over the city

There are countless Renaissance artworks in Florence – but the buildings they’re housed in are also masterpieces. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is unmissable – quite literally, since its billowing dome dominates the skyline no matter where you are in the city centre. Walk southeast for 25 minutes – crossing the medieval stone bridge Ponte Vecchio along the way – and you’ll end up in Piazzale Michelangelo. Here, a monument dedicated to the eponymous artist stands on a hill that overlooks the whole of Florence. It’s not the altitude that’s taken your breath away – it’s that view.

A guided walking tour of Florence is part of the itinerary when you book Culture Trip’s 10-day Highlights of Northern Italy tour.

Go credit-card-crazy in Florence’s many boutiques

Treat yourself to a Florence shopping spree, starting at Gucci Garden

Italy has long been associated with fabulous fashion-shopping opportunities, and Florence won’t let you down. The streets of Via Roma and Via dei Calzaiuoli are the alpha and omega, packed with stores stocking high-end brands. Pop into Luisaviaroma; the wares are expensive but the stylish colours and artistic installations make the shop an attraction in itself. Head to Via dei Serragli and you’ll find leather goods in Quoio, and hats and shoes at Reinhard Plank.

Eating and drinking in Florence

Foodies shouldn’t miss a stop at Mercato Centrale in Florence

If you’re a foodie, head straight to the ​​Mercato Centrale in the heart of the city. The ground floor is home to a milling fruit market; above, you’ll find wine bars, restaurants and tasting rooms. Try the fresh pizza and roast fish. You can even get a serving of sushi.

Take a culinary meander through Tuscany, sampling the region’s crisp, delicious wine here and there as you drive through landscapes which unravel to distant horizons. Look out for olive-oil presses and butchers shops, which make great pitstops for gourmands. All in all, you can have a trip that’s as good for your palate as it is for your eyes.

Stay safe, stay happy

Florence is a safe city for solo travellers. The biggest annoyance comes from pickpockets, who operate in crowded areas and on public transport, so keep any bags in sight at all times. Leaving valuables back at your hotel is another sensible precaution.

Getting around

The city of Florence is best discovered on foot

Florence is a small city that’s easily walkable: you can stroll across it in 40 minutes. As a result, there’s no metro or subway system. Buses do operate though, and there are two tramway train lines; the most vital one for solo travellers is T2, which gets you from the centre to the airport, or vice versa, in just 15 minutes.

Taxis are rather expensive and can’t be flagged down on the street. Instead, you can find one at one of the designated taxi stands citywide or book one by phone.

Cultural need-to-knows

Florence is a cosmopolitan place that welcomes every kind of solo traveller, including LGBTQ people. English is widely spoken, especially in the historical centre, as well as in shops and restaurants. That said, learning some handy Italian phrases before you travel definitely wouldn’t hurt.

Get the most out of Florence and the surrounding region by joining Culture Trip’s Highlights of Northern Italy adventure. Over 10 days, you’ll sip Tuscan wines, explore Florence, cycle around Rome and trek the Cinque Terre coastline – together in a small group of kindred spirits.

This is an updated article originally written by Nikki Crowell.

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