Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Budget travel tips for Florence

In Italian they call “braccino corto” a person who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. A cheapskate. I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend “il giusto” – the right amount – rather than too much.

It is possible to travel in Italy, and in Florence, on a budget and still enjoy yourself. I realized today, looking over some old posts on arttrav, that over the years I’ve dropped various budget travel tips but never compiled them into a handy list that some happy traveler will surely find via google! So here it is. Five really obvious tips to save money in Florence without living like a student.

1) Stay in a short term apartment rental, especially for stays of longer than three nights. Apartments have more space to spread out and also have the advantage of a kitchen (see point #2). (For example, here are some Florence Apartments from Only apartments.) You also can feel more at home which means you can pretend, if only for a little bit, that you’re living in Italy!

This kamut pasta with garden tomatoes and basil cost about 3 euros for 4 people!

2) Buy and cook your own food at least half the time. I’m not saying you have to cook your own meals during your whole holiday – for many people (especially women), a holiday means not having to touch a frying pan. But while in Italy you can enjoy some of the best food if you buy it yourself at a supermarket or better yet at a local farmers’ market, AND you’ll save money this way. For example, a colleague and I shared a rental apartment in Venice when we went for a conference; we spent 30 euros at the local coop when we arrived and we ate sandwiches for lunch and dinner at home for 3 days. I can happily say that I did not contribute a lira to the Venetian economy.

I made a map last year, updated today, of supermarkets and food shopping in Florence to help visitors find the right place to stock up in this way.

3) Museum entries add up, but there are things you can do in Florence for free or cheap, as I’ve written on Tuscany Arts (complete with google map). This includes the smaller churches and some funky museums, as well as certain special events or times. For example. on Thursday nights in the summer the Uffizi and Academia were open free; Thursday nights the Palazzo Strozzi are always free. While free day at the Vatican is always packed (it’s once a month), these openings in Florence are virtually unknown. No reservation required.

A few times a year, state museums are open free, including European Heritage Day (late September), Culture Week (Settimana della Cultura), Amico Museo and FAI days (each Spring).

4) If you’re really hooked on museums and planning to visit more than 4 state museums, or if you’re staying a while, consider getting a museum pass from the Amici degli Uffizi (see point #3 in this post about the Amici degli Uffizi museum pass). It lasts a calendar year and costs 60 euros per adult, 100 euros per family with 2 kids. However, this pass does not get you in to city-run museums or the large churches (SMN, Santa Croce) which are independently run. We are waiting for the city of Florence to provide a city-wide card that includes both; this was predicted for early this Fall but hasn’t happened yet.

Sigg Bottle – image from Amazon.com

5) Don’t buy bottled water in bars downtown, which will run you a euro or more. The tap water in Florence isn’t delicious but it IS safe to drink in a pinch. There are drinking water fountains around the city, though not as many as in Rome. Look behind the Neptune fountain, for example, at the side of Palazzo Vecchio – there’s one! In residential areas we’re now enjoying high quality filtered water for free at the new “fontanelli” (bring your own bottle) which Mayor Renzi has just announced will soon be present also downtown, including at the Uffizi! That’s GREAT news for tourists, and for our planet. As I have been saying over and over again, be a sustainable tourist in Florence, bring your own Nalgene or Sigg bottle and fill it up from other sources (including 2 liter bottles purchased at a supermarket, if you have too).

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • http://www.juliesusanne.blogspot.com Julie Susanne

    I have been wanting to visit Florence for years….this really motivates me to make it happen! Thanks so much for the great tips. I am thinking about a painting trip- can you tell me about resources of art stores/suppliers?

  • http://www.arttrav.com arttrav

    Oh Julie Susanne, this is such great news. It is so encouraging to receive
    comments like yours. You know, i’ve been thinking of writing an article that
    lists all the art supplies stores, maybe with a google map too. Can you keep
    track of arttrav for a bit and I’ll try to write it for you this week? I”ll
    try to remember to email you when it comes out but that might slip my
    mind… Thanks again for your comment and keep in touch! Alexandra

  • Kelly Rogers

    It’s so good to read an article that has made by the person who visited the place. Thanks for all your tips. I’m sure these will help us, whether we visit Florence or other cities.