A Solo Traveller's Guide to Florence

Florence Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, Maelick, Flikr
Florence Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, Maelick, Flikr
Photo of Nikki Crowell
22 February 2017

Solo travel, some might argue, is the best kind of travel. You can call the shots, go where you want, don’t have to compromise on where to eat or stay, and can basically do whatever you want to, at your own pace. Whether your focus is on food, art, architecture, or a little bit of everything, you definitely have more freedom flying solo.

Florence is a popular destination for tourists and travellers, both young and old. It’s an art, food, and history hub attracting people from all over the world to experience Tuscany’s finest gem. It’s quite easy to travel through Florence alone and feel safe, meet new people, and get to know the culture in a way that makes you feel like you’ve connected to the place, all on foot.

As with any new destination, try to learn a few key phrases in the local language before you go. Effort goes a long way and so does a smile. No matter what kind of trip this is for you, Florentines (and Italians in general) appreciate good style, so try to dress up a little. That means leave the yoga pants at home, and save the flip flop sandals for the beach. This is Italy we’re talking about.

Since you are travelling alone, the best place to meet new people would obviously be at a hostel. There are numerous hostels around the city to choose from, all very central, where you can stay with other like minded travellers. If laying low and living like a local is more your style, Air BnB is a great option as well. You can explore a neighborhood that you may not have thought of before thanks to the location of your apartment, and Florence has plenty of options listed on their site.

While dining in Italy, it is common to eat with groups of friends and family, but since Florence is full of travellers and independent expats, it’s not seen as strange to eat at a restaurant alone, or do anything alone for that matter. If you’re looking for something quick to eat, check out the local sandwich shops where you can get a great quality sandwich and a drink for less than €10. Smaller places off the beaten tourist path are great for solo dining as well, since you have your table all to yourself (you will never be hurried out of a restaurant in Italy), you can explore a place with less tourist traffic, and probably better food. Check out our list for the must-try foods in Florence to see if you want to take on the challenge of trying them all.

Linguine con Pesto | © Courtesy of Eatalian Cafe

If you’re looking to meet people, hang out in the squares, around the Duomo, or at any of the pubs or bars for a drink or to watch a match. A famous place in Florence for a night out for English speakers is at an American bar and restaurant called Red Garter, where students, backpackers, and travellers alike all gather for a night out dancing, singing karaoke, or having dinner at the restaurant while watching the game earlier in the evening. They always have different events organized such as Taco Tuesday, student parties, beer pong nights, trivia nights, live music, DJ sets and so much more. If you want something a bit quieter, with the possibility of conversation, the Irish pub, The Lion’s Fountain, is a laid-back English speaking pub attracting a different, more relaxed crowd. The ceiling is covered in t-shirts from universities all over America and the UK, and the walls are covered in years of scribbles and doodles, giving it a college campus pub feel. They also have an indoor food truck in the back. For daytime, bookstores, like this one, and coffee shops are great locations for people to relax and socialise. Arnold Coffee, reminiscent of Starbucks, attracts fellow English speaking tourists and has two central locations.

Spritz | © Joseph Richard Francis

As for safety, it’s always best to be alert and aware of your surroundings when in an unfamiliar place. That being said, Florence is a small, walkable city and many people in the city centre get around on foot alone, even at night, without being bothered. The biggest risk are pickpockets in crowded areas like the train station, outdoor markets, or on public transport, so always be aware of your belongings. Don’t make yourself a target by being too open with strangers, allowing yourself to be distracted by outdoor merchants (a perfect moment for thieves to strike), flashing around your fancy gadgets, or drunkenly inspecting your fold out paper map after a long night out. As long as you exercise good judgment, you won’t need to worry or feel unsafe.

Aside from meeting people and the Florence night life, there are also other advantages to travelling alone when looking to get into museums or other attractions. You can go at your own pace through the Uffizi, climb to the top of the famous cathedral if you want (known as the Duomo), try every gelateria (ice cream shop) you see, or even try to conquer all the top things to do and see in Florence in your trip. If you’re really ambitious and only have a short amount of time, but are determined to see it all, follow our basic 48 hour guide to make sure you hit the highlights before you leave.

©Anita Gelato Instagram

The best part about travelling alone in Florence is that you can walk everywhere, and really take your time getting lost in the alleys and side streets to get to know the city. Sit and read a good book over lunch, take as many photos as you want, sit and contemplate as you watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo with a bottle of wine, or even practise your drawing skills with a sketchbook, or use that journal you brought along. You can feel the calm creativity buzzing in the air in this Renaissance city, so it truly is the perfect place to do some self-reflection. Use this as an opportunity to live life unplugged and disconnected for a little while to match the pace of the modern-medieval city. You may even leave feeling refreshed and inspired for your next trip or project, and find yourself dreaming of Tuscany months after you’ve left.

Florence Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, Maelick, Flikr

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