10 Things to Know for First Time Travelers to Florence

10 Things to Know for First Time Travelers to Florence

When my groups come together for my Florence experiences there is nothing more exciting than a client who is a Florence "first timer"! I know what a beautiful experience they are about to have and it truly gives me joy. Before we meet for our week, I like to try and answer questions or manage expectations for those who have never been to Florence before.

1.The first consideration is that Florence is a walking city. You will get your steps in and more! Many streets are cobbled or have larger stone pavements. Sidewalks are narrow. Wear very comfortable shoes, i.e., tennis shoes. There are so many cute ones now! Flip flops get slick with rain and the streets are dirty. I recommend close toed shoes. Your feet will thank you!
2.The food is different and it's DELICIOUS! Be open minded. Try the regional specialties! If you only eat well done meat please don't order the florentine steak well done. They find it offensive and it is a waste of good meat. Try the "tagliata" or another cut that isn't so rare if rare meat is not your thing. I once overheard a young woman asking for Ranch dressing....PLEASE! Ketchup is almost a bridge too far but Ranch??!!!! No. And while I am on that rant - don't order alternative milk lattes and cappuccinos. Unless you have an intolerance or allergy, enjoy the rich creaminess of a whole milk coffee beverage! I truly mean this as helpful advice. We Americans tend to impose our habits on other cultures when traveling. You will learn a lot from observing how Italians do things - also - No Cappuccino after breakfast! This is a rule my own husband breaks but consider yourself forewarned! Italian breakfast can be many things but it is not egg centric like our breakfasts in American hotels. Enjoy the change and try the pastries! You're in the land of delicious carbs!
3. Public bathrooms are few and far between. I do have to say that because they charge a small fee to use them they are usually tidy and clean. If you are out and about and need facilities, go into a bar and then purchase a bottle of water. Otherwise, always go when you can to avoid this circumstance!
4. Tipping. Italians do not tip much especially in restaurants. I leave 10% if the service was really good. For guides and services, an extra tip is much appreciated as they must split their wages with their agencies. 10% - 15% is normal and considered generous.
5. Florentines do not walk around in exercise clothes. Please dress for the day. Appropriate shorts, dresses or jeans are perfect. Many churches will not allow bare shoulders so if you are wearing something strapless please bring a scarf or a light wrap in order to enter the church. Short shorts and skimpy clothing will draw attention that you may not really enjoy. Florence is an elegant city. Please dress accordingly.
6. There are various taxi apps but there is no real Uber at the moment. I think the taxi lobby keeps them out of town. One app I use is called itTaxi. I have had very good experiences with taxis in Florence unless there is a strike which seems to be happening with more frequency lately. Taxis at both the airport and the train station are plentiful.
7. Cash. Withdraw it when you see ATMs which means at banks only. Do not use random money machines along touristy streets. The surcharges are big and conversion may be worse. When paying for shopping with a credit card (many places do not like Amex) opt for Euro if the prompt asks you if you prefer the amount converted. You will get a better exchange later.
8. Take a photo of your passport to have on your phone and leave your passport in the hotel safe. If you want to shop tax free, stores will accept a photo of your passport in order to process the form. If your passport gets stolen it is a big pain to get that fixed.
9. Florence is divided by the river Arno - get away from the crowds and enjoy the other side of the river. It is quieter and more authentic. There are great artisans and small boutiques, bars and restaurants.
10. Show your appreciation and enthusiasm for people and experiences you enjoy. Italians are kind, welcoming people. They are flattered when they please you. Try and few words in Italian - Per Favore (please) and Grazie (thank you) go a long way!
Enjoy your journey!
You're going to fall in love with Florence!

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