Are you planning a solo trip to Florence but are not sure where to start?
This is where I can help. As an experienced solo traveller and a visitor to Florence many times over, I have the first-hand knowledge that you need to plan your perfect solo vacation.
Dive into my guide to solo travel in Florence, Italy. This includes the best places to visit, how to get around, where to stay and essential safety tips.
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Solo Travel in Italy
Taking solo travel out of the equation, there are excellent reasons why Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It is outrageously romantic, features majestic landscapes and has a historical and artistic legacy that is hard to beat.
And that’s before we get started on the food and wine, including mouth-watering gelato and the best coffee in the world.
But why is Italy such a good destination for solo travellers?
It has a mature travel infrastructure, including an extensive railway and bus network. There will always be a bus or train to get you to where you want to be.
As there is a well-beaten tourist path you need not fear being the only foreigner in a town (unless that’s what you want). English is widely spoken in the main tourist hubs and Italians are generally forgiving – and appreciative – of you having a stab at their language.
Thanks to the wide penetration of Italian culture, from works of art to pizza, Italy will feel familiar even as a first-time visitor
Last but not least, Italy is considered to be a relatively safe travel destination.
Florence is sublime but it’s not perfect
Florence is all about art and history.
This is the birthplace of the Renaissance and it is home to arguably the finest works of art in the world. An afternoon spent with Michelangelo’s sculptures and Raphael’s Madonnas will ignite a flame inside you.
The story of the mighty Medici who once strode across the city’s cobbled pavements is entwined with that of Florence itself. Wherever you go, the sense of history is almost tangible.
An architecturally beautiful city, Florence’s landmarks are famous across the globe.
Now for the but.
This is one busy city. Pre Covid pandemic, there were over 15 million overnight stays in Florence.
Trust me; you quickly become weary of swerving around massive groups of disinterested teenagers on school trips, and of bumping elbows with others paying their respects to David.
And this popularity hits your holiday budget. This is one of the most expensive cities in Tuscany, especially when it comes to booking a bed for the night.
According to a few locals I chatted to, the city itself is pretty inward-looking and over-reliant on tourism. Tourists far outnumber visitors which is never a great balance.
But despite all this, it is still a phenomenal city.
Things to Do if you are Travelling to Florence Alone
Whether you are in Florence for a day or a week you are unlikely to see everything. I have visited this city on half a dozen occasions and there are still things that I haven’t seen.
If you are looking for a step-by-step/day-by-day itinerary, take a look at my 3-day Florence itinerary. In my view, three days in Florence is ideal if you are a first-time visitor.
There are some Florence attractions that you may want to prioritise over others. I’ve broken these down into my A list and B list.
Just use this as a loose framework on which to hang your travel plans. We all have different interests and tastes.
Essential Florence Highlights
Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia) – Home to Michelangelo’s buff biblical shepherd as well as his unfinished Prisoners or Slaves.
The Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) – Florence’s Renaissance Ground Zero featuring Brunelleschi’s gravity-defying red dome and a 270-foot campanile (Giotto’s Tower).
St. John’s Baptistery – Admire the copy of Ghiberti’s famous golden “Gates of Paradise” on the eastern side of this 12th Century building.
Piazza Signoria – Florence’s political and social heart since the days of the Medici. Here you’ll find Palazzo Vecchio, the monumental Fountain of Neptune and Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence’s free open-air sculpture gallery.
Uffizi Galleries (Le Gallerie degli Uffizi) – Housing the greatest collection of Renaissance art in Florence, if not the world. Unmissable.
Ponte Vecchio and the River Arno – This is the oldest of Florence’s bridges and an icon of the city.
Piazzale Michelangelo – Climb to the upper reaches of the Oltrarno for one of the best panoramic views of Florence.
Other places to visit in Florence as a solo traveller
Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) – One of Europe’s finest palaces, the former home of Cosimo I de’ Medici is the place to see exquisite Raphael Madonnas and Titian portraits.
Boboli Gardens – The elegantly landscaped gardens of the Pitti Palace stretch over 11 acres and feature Renaissance sculptures, a grotto and tinkling fountains.
Duomo Museum (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) – For a show-stopping recreation of the original façade of Florence cathedral, Ghiberti’s North and East Doors of the Baptistery and exquisite sculptures from Donatello and Michelangelo.
San Marco – A former monastery that has the finest collection of frescoes by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455).
Bargello Museum (Musei del Bargello) – Displays some of the greatest sculptures in Florence, including those by Michelangelo, Donatello and Giambologna.
Santa Croce – Contains the tombs of the great and good of Florence, including Michelangelo, Dante, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini. It is also famous for its fresco cycle by Giotto, one of the first Renaissance painters.
Church of Santa Maria del Carmine – The Brancacci Chapel in this Oltarno church is decorated with sublime frescoes by Masaccio, the first great painter of the Italian Renaissance.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella – For outstanding artwork and peaceful cloisters
How to Get to Florence
Peretola Airport (FLR) is the closest airport to Florence, six miles from the city centre.
A regular bus service runs between the airport to the city centre, a journey time of ten minutes or so. Fixed-rate taxis are also available.
The bad news is that Peretola is not served by many airlines and fares tend to be on the high side. For this reason, many people fly into Pisa’s Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA) or even Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and Milan Malpensa (MXP).
From all of these airports, you can connect to the Italian rail system, which will bring you to Florence’s main Santa Maria Novella station.
Florence has excellent rail connections to other major Italian cities, including Rome, Naples, Bologna, Milan, Venice and Turin. Services are operated by Trenitalia and Italo.
You can interrogate both of these operators’ timetables here.
Getting Around Florence
Your own two feet are the best way to get around Florence. This is a very walkable city.
Many of Florence’s main attractions lie on the north bank of the River Arno. Pretty much anything you will want to see is within a 20-minute walk from the cathedral, Santa Maria Novella train station or the Ponte Vecchio.
Florence has an extensive bus network, run by Autolinee Toscane. Buy your ticket at a kiosk, Tabacchi or from a machine and validate it when you board the bus (don’t risk a fine). Digital bus tickets may be purchased by sending a text message with “Firenze” as text to 488.01.05 or by using the Tabnet APP.
The only time that you might want to jump on a bus is if you are visiting Fiesole or cannot face the uphill climb to Piazzale Michelangelo.
To reach Piazzale Michelangelo, hop on bus #12 or #13. Another way of getting to Piazzale Michelangelo is on an e-bike tour of Florence, which attracts great reviews.
Where to Stay in Florence as a Solo Traveller
Choosing the right hotel can make or break a solo trip to Florence.
Your hotel or apartment needs to be comfortable, welcoming and, above all, safe. And as accommodation costs are likely to account for a hefty chunk of your travel budget, you want to make sure you are getting the best value possible.
To help you make the right choice, I have put together this comprehensive guide on where to stay in Florence, but here’s the bottom line. Note that when it comes to Florence accommodation, budget is a relative term.
This boutique hotel located near Santa Maria Novella station offers rooms with antique furnishings. It’s reportedly quiet, considering its location, and provides first-class service.
If you’ve ever dreamt of having a Room with a View – my favourite of the many movies about Italy – then book a room at this swanky 5-star hotel on the north side of the Arno River. Home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, the most expensive of Hotel Lungarno’s elegant rooms overlook the river.
Located close to the Uffizi Galleries, this is an excellent choice if you are a solo traveller in Florence who is looking for a mid-range hotel. This small 3-star property offers air-conditioned rooms, including a single room for solo travellers.
This modern 4-star hotel that is just a few steps from the Church of San Lorenzo has keenly priced single rooms and reviews are very good.
Run by an English-Italian family this 3-star guest house offers air-conditioned rooms in the heart of Florence. Upgrade to a room with a balcony for a sensational view of Brunelleschi’s dome.
This 3-star bed and breakfast on the doorstep of Mercato Central has attracted rave reviews. It offers a range of rooms, including a spacious single room.
>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS IN FLORENCE
Solo Dining in Florence
Eating out alone in restaurants is one of the toughest challenges a solo traveller faces. Whilst solo dining no longer brings me out in a cold sweat, it is not something that I relish.
But thanks to Florence’s wide choice of dining options, solo dining need not be an ordeal.
For a casual lunchtime snack grab the best sandwich in town at All/Antico Vinaio. There are shops at Via dei Neri and on Via Ricasoli.
Alternatively, head to Mercato Centrale. Hand over your euros for the lunch of your choice and take a seat at one of the shared tables, perfect for someone who is travelling alone.
For a leisurely sit-down meal, here are a few restaurants that I tried and enjoyed.
- Francesco Vini (Borgo dei Greci) – Their risotto with pecorino, truffle and pear was worth the cost of the airfare to Florence. My best meal in Florence and the staff were very welcoming to me as a solo diner.
- Osteria Vecchio Vicolo (Via Lambertesca) – Super friendly service in a cosy space and one of the best glasses of wine of my life (it was a Brunello if you’re interested).
If you are fed up with dining by yourself, why not join a food and wine tour in Florence? Click here for more information.
Safety Tips for Your Solo Trip to Florence
Personal safety when travelling is a priority for those going it alone, especially if you are a woman.
I have visited Florence as a solo traveller on multiple occasions. Even walking its streets after dark on weekdays, I felt safe.
The main risk is from nimble-fingered pickpockets. The risk of bag-snatching in the city centre and on public transport is high.
As with any big city, a little bit of common sense goes a long way. Remain vigilant and keep your belongings close to you. If you have a safe at your accommodation, use it to store valuables.
Organised activities are a great way to meet other travellers in Florence
Many solo travellers fear the dark cloud of loneliness, and joining an organised activity can be an excellent way to meet people when you are travelling.
Here are a few activities that look like huge fun.
Pasta and Dessert Cooking Class with Dinner
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at making pasta, this is your chance. Drinks and dinner companions are included.
>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Chianti wineries tour from Florence
If wine is more of your thing – and who would blame you – take a look at this affordable experience. There are visits to two vineyards and tasting up to five wines in each.
>>> CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
Final Tips for Solo Travel in Florence
- Visitors to Florence make a beeline for the Duomo, Uffizi Galleries and the Accademia. To avoid standing in long queues – or, worse still, not getting in at all – buy your tickets in advance.
- Many of Florence’s main attractions are closed on Mondays (a notable exception is the Duomo). Some places have reduced opening hours on Sundays.
- The opening hours of some of Florence’s churches, museums and galleries verge on the Byzantine. Check these carefully before visiting, at the attraction itself or at the Tourist Information Office (there’s a handy one at Piazza del Duomo). The attractions’ websites do not always reflect reality.
- Dress modestly when visiting Florence’s churches. Always respect worshippers and never use flash.
- Toilets are scarce in Florence and public loos typically charge up to €1 per pee. Make good use of toilets in bars, restaurants and in any museum that you are visiting.
Recommended Florence Guidebooks
A good guidebook can be worth its weight in gold. Here are the two that I use when visiting Florence.
I have this volume downloaded to my mobile devices for portable information on the go. Packed with useful information, including walking tours.
Whilst it may be lacking in some of the more practical information, the Blue Guide is top of its class for detailed historical and architectural information. Indispensable for Florence’s cultural attractions.