Florence is not an easy city for travellers with disabilities and getting around can be a problem for wheelchair users – many streets are cobbled and narrow pavements in the historic centre are not wide enough for a wheelchair.
An increasing number of museums, including the Uffizi and Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, include tactile models of major artworks for visitors with impaired vision. The excellent Museo del Bargello runs organised museum tours for the visually impaired; reserve by telephone in advance.
If you have an obvious disability and/or appropriate ID, many museums and galleries offer free admission for yourself and a companion.
Getting There & Around
Car If you are driving, EU disabled parking permits are recognised in Italy, giving you the same parking rights that local drivers with disabilities have.
Train If travelling by train, ring the national helpline 199 303060 to arrange assistance (6.45am to 9.30pm daily); mainline trains should all have two reserved wheelchair places. Visit Rete Ferroviaria Italiana’s information page for people with disabilities and reduced mobility (www.rfi.it/rfi-en/For-persons-with-disability) for full details of services offered and barrier-free stations.
Public Transport Trams and platforms are accessible for people with a physical or visual impairment. Most ATAF buses are wheelchair-accessible (with low-floor platforms by one door and a designated wheelchair area inside), but heavy traffic and narrow pavements can make accessing the bus's door ramp another matter altogether.
Taxi Florence taxi companies have vehicles equipped to carry passengers in wheelchairs; always reserve in advance, making it clear you need a taxi for a sedia a rotelle (wheelchair).
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Tourism without Barriers (www.turismosenzabarriere.it) Has a searchable database of accessible accommodation (a handful of hotels and bags more guesthouses) and tourist attractions in Florence, with filters according to your access need.
Village for All (www.villageforall.net/en) Performs on-site audits of tourist facilities in Italy. Recommendations for Florence are limited to just two accessible hotels for the moment, but fingers crossed the list will be updated.
Download Lonely Planet’s free accessible travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Accessible Travel Agencies
Accessible Tourism The cooperative Florence Planet provides the most useful and comprehensive access information on places of interest and public transport in Florence and Siena – look under the Destinations tab. It has accredited a handful of hotels in the region and specialises in tours for people with physical and visual impairments. It also offers adapted transport and rental of mobility aids.
Rome & Italy A mainstream travel agency with a well-developed accessible tourism arm that offers customised tours, accessible accommodation, and equipment and vehicle hire. It claims to have personally tested and approved all accommodation and therefore guarantees its accessibility. Its Wheely Trekky service, which uses a specially designed sedan/rickshaw with sherpas, allows wheelchair users to access many otherwise inaccessible archaeological sites.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) This US-based accessible travel agency offers tailor-made tours to assist mobility-impaired travellers in Europe. Check out its website for a detailed access guide to Florence.
Dangers & Annoyances
Florence is a small city and generally a safe place where street-smart rules apply.
- Avoid wandering around town alone, late at night, particularly in the Santa Maria Novella area. Stick to main roads; avoid narrow back alleys.
- Watch for pickpockets around San Lorenzo market, Piazza del Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and other tourist-busy areas. Keep alert on crowded buses to Piazzale del Michelangelo, Fiesole and the airports.
- Think twice before arriving by car in Florence; parking is a nightmare.
- Don't buy tickets on the street or from any vendor advertising 'skip the line' tickets; use official museum channels to buy tickets.
- Don't be intimidated by illegal street sellers flogging knock-off selfie sticks, smartphone power banks and chargers, ponchos and umbrellas (the second it rains), bottles of water and the like. They are generally harmless and a polite no is usually sufficient to ward them off.
- Dreaming of a Real McCoy leather jacket made in Italy? Do not buy one at the Mercato Nuovo or San Lorenzo markets.
Firenze Card (www.firenzecard.it; €85) Valid for 72 hours and covers admission to 70-plus museums, villas and gardens in Florence, as well as unlimited use of public transport and free wi-fi across the city. To add on unlimited public transport, pay an additional €7 for a Firenzecard+ add-on. The card's biggest advantage is reducing queueing time in high season – museums have a separate queue for card-holders. The downside of the Firenze Card is it only allows one admission per museum, plus you need to visit an awful lot of museums to justify the cost. Buy the card online (and collect upon arrival in Florence or download the Firenze Card App and store it digitally) or in Florence at tourist offices or ticketing desks of the Uffizi (Gate 2), Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio, Museo del Bargello, Cappella Brancacci, Museo di Santa Maria Novella, Museo Novecento and Giardini Bardini. If you're an EU citizen, your card also covers family members aged under 18 travelling with you.
Friends of the Uffizi Card If you prefer to split your Uffizi forays into a couple of visits and/or you're not from the EU and are travelling with kids, the annual Friends of the Uffizi Card (adult/reduced/family of four €70/40/100) is a good deal. Valid for a calendar year (expiring 31 December), it covers admission to 22 Florence museums (including Galleria dell'Accademia, Museo del Bargello and Palazzo Pitti) and allows return visits (have your passport on you as proof of ID to show at each museum with your card). Buy online or from the Amici degli Uffizi Welcome Desk next to Gate 2 at the Uffizi.
Emergency & Important Numbers
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Although largely informal in their every-day dealings, Florentines do observe some (unspoken) rules of etiquette.
- Greetings Shake hands, make eye contact and say buongiorno (good morning/afternoon), buonasera (good evening) or piacere (pleased to meet you).
- Polite language Say mi scusi to attract attention or to say ‘I’m sorry’, grazie (mille) to say ‘thank you (very much)’, per favore to say ‘please’, prego to say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘please, after you’, and permesso if you need to push past someone in a crowd.
- Cafes Don’t hang around at an espresso bar. Rather, drink your coffee and go. It’s called espresso for a reason.
- Churches Never intrude on a Mass or service; don't picnic on the church steps.
- Selfie sticks Oofficially banned in the Uffizi, Galleria dell'Accademia and other museums, but do the decent thing: don't stick them in front of other people's faces or those trying to view world-class art works in relative peace.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Internet access is widespread. Hotels, pensione and B&Bs in the city offer free wi-fi, as do some restaurants, cafes and bars.
In older buildings – namely thick stone-walled, 15th-century palazzo – the internet connection might not be the greatest in some top-floor rooms or corners tucked well away from the router.
Firenze Card cardholders get automatic free access to the city's Firenze wi-fi network for 72 hours; otherwise, it's limited to an hour a day on major squares such as Piazza della Signoria, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Repubblica.
Homosexuality is legal in Italy and quietly accepted in Florence, home to a couple of gay and lesbian bars and clubs, and plenty more gay-friendly addresses.
Resources include the following:
- Azione Gay e Lesbica Firenze Active Florence-based organisation for gays and lesbians.
- GayFriendlyItaly.com (www.gayfriendlyitaly.com) English-language site produced by Gay.it, featuring events and information on homophobia issues and the law.
- Gay.it (www.gay.it) Website featuring LGBT+ news, feature articles and gossip.
- Pride (www.prideonline.it) National monthly magazine of art, music, politics and gay culture.
ATMs (Bancomats) are widely available across the city and are the easiest way to get cash. Credit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
- Cafes Leave a coin (as little as €0.10) if you drank your coffee at the counter, or 10% if you sat at a table.
- Hotels Bellhops usually expect €1 to €2 per bag; it's not necessary to tip the concierge, cleaners or front-desk staff.
- Restaurants Many locals don't tip waiters, but most visitors leave 10% to 15% if there's no service charge.
- Taxis Round fare up to the nearest euro.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. We’ve provided summer (high-season) and winter (low-season) opening hours, but be aware that hours might differ in the shoulder seasons.
Banks 8.30am to 1.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 12.30pm to 2.30pm and 7.30pm to 10pm
Cafes 7.30am to 8pm
Bars and pubs 10am to 1am
Shops 9am to 1pm and 3.30pm to 7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm Sunday
Le Poste (www.poste.it), Italy's postal system, is reasonably reliable. Francobolli (stamps) are sold at post offices and authorised tobacconists (look for the big white 'T' sign).
Most Florentines take their annual holiday in August, with the busiest period occurring around 15 August, known locally as Ferragosto. This means that many businesses and shops close for at least a part of that month. Settimana Santa (Easter Week) is another busy holiday period.
In addition to the following national public holidays, Florence has a public holiday on 24 June to celebrate the Festa di San Giovanni (the feast of its patron saint, John).
New Year's Day (Capodanno or Anno Nuovo) 1 January
Epiphany (Epifania or Befana) 6 January
Easter Sunday (Domenica di Pasqua) March/April
Easter Monday (Pasquetta or Lunedì dell'Angelo) March/April
Liberation Day (Giorno della Liberazione) 25 April – marks the Allied Victory in Italy, and the end of the German presence in 1945
Labour Day (Festa del Lavoro) 1 May
Republic Day (Festa della Repubblica) 2 June
Feast of the Assumption (Assunzione or Ferragosto) 15 August
All Saints' Day (Ognissanti) 1 November
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Immaculata Concezione) 8 December
Christmas Day (Natale) 25 December
Boxing Day (Festa di Santo Stefano) 26 December
- Smoking Banned in all enclosed public spaces. Many restaurants, cafes and bars have a pavement terrace outside (heated during winter) where patrons can smoke.
Taxes & Refunds
A Value Added Tax (VAT) of around 22%, known as Imposta di Valore Aggiunto (IVA), is slapped on most goods and services in Italy; a discounted rate of 10% applies in restaurants, bars and hotels. It’s sometimes possible for non-EU residents to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods.
Local telephone numbers consist of the Florence area code – 055 – and a four- to nine-digit number. The area code is an integral part of the telephone number and must always be dialled, even when calling within the city.
Mobile-phone numbers begin with a three-digit prefix such as 330.
Toll-free (free-phone) numbers are known as numeri verdi and usually start with 800.
Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian mobile phones. Other phones must be set to roaming – be wary of roaming charges.
Public toilets are nonexistent, hence the perpetual queue at the public toilets inside central department store La Rinascente on Piazza della Repubblica.
- When the urge strikes, nip into the nearest cafe, order an espresso at the bar and consider the cost of €1 the price for using their facilities.
- Can't turn on the tap to wash your hands? Press the pedal beneath the sink at floor level with your foot to get the water flowing.
Tourist Office Florence's main tourist office, handily located across from the Santa Maria Novella train station, sells the Firenze Card, has accommodation lists and helps with bookings for organised tours.
Travel with Children
Children are welcomed anywhere, anytime in Florence. Families frequently go out with young children in the evenings. However, it’s not the easiest city to visit with very young children: green spaces and playgrounds are scarce, crowded cobbled streets make pushchairs (strollers) a challenge, and visiting museums requires meticulous advance planning.
Museums & Monuments
For bigger kids (six years and older), museums and monuments in Florence offer a fantastic range of things to see and do.
- Palazzo Vecchio Scale new Florentine heights with an energy-burning hike up the palace's Torre d'Arnolfo.
- Duomo Climb up Giotto's campanile (bell tower) and into Brunelleschi's awe-inspiring dome.
- Museo di Storia Naturale – Zoologia La Specola Older children will enjoy the squeamish collection of human anatomy wax models at Florence's 18th-century natural history museum.
- Museo Galileo Post-Uffizi, appease disgruntled kids with a visit to Florence's state-of-the-art science museum – it's right next door.
- Museo Stibbert Knights in shining armour and other dashing, antique collectables.
Parks & Playgrounds
Once you know where to find the parks and playgrounds, the city suddenly becomes more manageable for those with tots in tow.
Playgrounds The best for those for under six years are near the duomo on Piazza Massimo d'Azeglio and across the river on Lungarno Santa Rosa and Piazza Torquato Tasso.
Piazza della Repubblica The vintage carousel on this car-free, cafe-framed square in the historic centre never stops turning and is enchanting for all ages.
Gairdino di Boboli Fantastic statues, hidden paths, secret alleys, shell-decorated grottoes and bags of open green space to run around in.
Parco della Cascine Open-air swimming pool and toddler-friendly playgrounds; a grassy footpath snakes along the banks of the Arno to the park from the city centre.
Tours & Workshops
Florence, being the arty city it is, encourages children to discover its astonishing artistic heritage with engaging themed tours and workshops for children aged from four years upwards.
Museums Some imaginative and compelling family tours and hands-on art ateliers are organised by Firenze Musei at Palazzo Vecchio, Museo Novecento and Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. Palazzo Strozzi organises monthly family weekend activities, and out of town in Fiesole, the Museo Primo Conti hosts occasional art workshops for children.
Private tours For a private tour with children, contact professional licensed guide Molly Mcllwrath (www.letterartemente.com), who leads family tours and organises creative art workshops for kids, which parents can also participate in. Her hands-on workshops range from calligraphy and frescoes to the art of mosaics, bookmaking and sketching. Many of Molly's city tours wind up in a local artisan workshop in the Oltrarno.
Group tours Small-group family tours are run by Context Travel (www.contexttravel.com), including a two-hour 'Exploring Symbols & Legends of Florence' tour, a 2½-hour crash tour of the Uffizi and a two-hour 'Daily Life in the Renaissance for Kids' tour taking in Palazzo Davanzati and the wonderful Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele.
Is there any easier way to win a child's heart than with a sweet and creamy gelato or slice of pizza? Consider a pizza, pasta or other type of Italian cookery course for your child – almost every cooking school runs classes for kids.
- Curious Appetite Variety of foodie tours, including gelato-making workshops.
- MaMa Florence Pizza, pasta and cake ateliers for kids in an Oltrarno cooking school.
- Freya's Florence Tours Pizza-making classes and scavenger hunts are among the family-friendly repertoire of licensed Australian tour guide Freya, a savvy mum herself.
- Florence Town Gelato classes or pizza-making with a professional pizzaiolo for all the family.
Need to Know
- Babysitting Pricier hotels can organise babysitters.
- Museums Most sights offer audio guides, great for children over eight years.
- Discovering the city Teems of locally published books in English help children discover Florence – museum bookshops in Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi have huge selections.
- Getting around Streets are crowded and cobbled with narrow pavements – ditch the pushchair (stroller) for a backpack carrier.
Kids with EU passports aged under 18 receive free entry into many museums. Otherwise, children aged under 18 years generally pay half the adult admission fee; children aged under five are usually free.
Online resources such as Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com), Transitions Abroad (www.transitionsabroad.com) and European Voluntary Service (www.europeanvoluntaryservice.org) throw up the occasional volunteering opportunity in Florence.
Otherwise, it's worth scouring local English-language newspaper the Florentine (www.theflorentine.net), which lists the odd volunteering projects that are available.