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Florence is undoubtedly one of the jewels in Italy’s crown and has some of the most beautiful architecture, museums and places to visit in the country. As a result it’s a hugely popular destination for tourists from all over the world, with more than 15 million visitors each year, who want to see the city that birthed the Renaissance for themselves!
When you’re visiting Florence, as an Expat or a tourist, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune and in fact, with a bit of forward planning and shrewdness, you can see a lot of the city’s cultural treasures for free!
Something that a lot of people don’t realize is that many of the city’s museums offer free entry on certain days of the month while others are always free. To find out more about how you can enjoy Florence for free, read on.
The following are my favorite things to do in Florence that are free:
Explore the Piazza del Duomo.
The Piazza del Duomo is the location of the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Museum of Opera; and is the ideal place to start exploring the city for free. The piazza itself is a bustling hub of the stalls and thoroughfare and is surrounded by lovely cafes, bars and boutique stores in the nearby streets; however, the iconic Cathedral still dominates the skyline.
While you are in the Piazza del Duomo you can enter the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore for free; inside of which you’ll see the incredible statues, intricate marble worked columns and the beautifully painted roof, as well experience the hushed calm of the building’s impressively decorated interior.
Watch The Sunset From The Piazzale Michelangelo.
Located on the southern bank of the Arno River, the Piazza Michelangelo is a short 25 minute walk from the Piazza del Duomo and offers one of the best panoramic views of the city below. If you don’t want to walk up the hill to the Piazza then you can easily catch a taxi from anywhere in the city or, to save a few Euros, you can take a bus.
The stunning views at sunset can be enjoyed for free but if you think you might need a little rest once you get there then why not bring a picnic blanket and have a snack and a glass of wine on the steps of the imitation David statue as the sun goes down over the city. Watching the sun set from this vantage point is a perfect, and romantic, way to end a day exploring the city.
San Miniato Al Monte.
Located next to the Piazzale Michelangelo, the San Miniato Al Monte is an ancient basilica that was built in the 11th Century and is famous for its stunning frescoes and the old crypt beneath the building. The basilica is often known as one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Entry is free and you’ll be able to appreciate the amazing marble columns of the basilica as well as the stunning artwork above the altar.
Piazza Della Signoria.
This is probably Florence’s best known piazza and has been the heart of political life in the city since the 1500s, with the impressive Palazzo Vecchio perched on the edge of the square. The piazza is one of the city’s main squares and is like an outdoor museum, with amazing sculptures on display including Michelangelo’s statue of David! You can also see the awe inspiring Medici lions and Hercules, both of which are more than 500 years old. Of course all this is totally free and while you see the world renowned artwork for yourself you’ll also be able to soak up the atmosphere of the busy piazza.
Discover The San Lorenzo Market.
The San Lorenzo market is the city’s longest running market and is packed with stalls selling locally sourced food, hand made leatherware, clothes and souvenirs. The market itself is actually split into two markets, including the indoor Mercato Centrale and the outdoor San Lorenzo market.
It’s free to visit and wander through the fascinating stalls; it’s so colorful and interesting that you can just window shop without buying anything! If you do get hungry though, there’s plenty of stalls where you can buy a cheap lunch in the indoor Mercato Centrale. Visiting the San Lorenzo Market will give you an authentic view into the life of Florence and will let you explore the winding little streets and boutique stores that surround the market.
The Ponte Vecchio.
One of Europe’s most famous bridges, the Ponte Vecchio is an architectural wonder which has many shops within its covered walkway; including art dealers, souvenir stores and jewelers. You can also see the two nearby bridges from the Ponte Vecchio, the Ponte alle Grazie and the Ponte Santa Trinita.
Built in the 1300s, the Ponte Vecchio is an amazing piece of history that has stood since before the birth of Italy itself! In times gone by, the bridge’s shops were mainly butchers, leather tanners and other tradesmen as it was a central thoroughfare of the city.
After exploring the inside passage of the bridge you can take a stroll down the banks of the River Arno and immerse yourself in the vistas of central Florence; and then looking back down the river, the Ponte Vecchio makes a great photo for your albums.
The Piazza Santa Croce.
Located in central Florence, the Piazza Santa Croce is near the Piazza della Signoria and the impressive National Central Library of Florence. The piazza is named after the Basilica of Santa Croce which is one of the main Franciscan churches in Tuscany, as well as being a Catholic basilica. It’s an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is extremely picturesque, both inside and out.
In the square you should also keep your eye out for the statue of Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy. While you’re in the piazza you can also check out the market stalls and, if you fancy a refreshment, you can drop into one of the cafes for a coffee and a pastry.
Visit The Museums Of Florence.
Throughout most of the year the museums of Florence charge an entrance fee however on the first Sunday of each month they open their doors for free! This allows you to learn all about the city’s culture, history and artistic heritage without spending a single Euro.
The museums and galleries which offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month include:
- Uffizi Gallery.
- The Pitti Palace.
- The Bargello National Museum.
- The Medici Chapels.
- The Museum of San Marco.
- The Museum of Casa Martelli.
- The Museum of Palazzo Davanzati.
- The Church and Museum of Orsanmichele.
- The Hall of Pergino.
Each of these museums and galleries have unique world class exhibitions; so to make the most of the first Sunday of each month do a little research in advance so you can visit the ones which interest you in a single day.
Free Walking Tour Of Florence.
If you would like to learn more about the city of Florence then why not join a free walking tour? There are two tours which operate each day; a Renaissance Tour which departs at 11am from the Santa Maria Novella Church and the Medici Tour, which departs at 2pm from the same place.
On the tour you’ll be shown around by a local guide who is knowledgeable about the history and culture of the city. The tours are free to join and are operated on a tip-only basis; so although it is free you may feel that you want to leave a tip at the end of the tour.
The Renaissance tour visits landmarks from that era including the Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria and much more besides. The Medici tour shows you around buildings that are linked to this great Florentine dynasty, including the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the Ponte Vecchio and the Palazzo Vecchio among others.
Each tour lasts between 1 ½ and 2 hours and is a wonderful way to explore the city while learning about the culture and history of Florence. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes because you will be covering a few miles during the tour!
The Etruscan Tomb Of La Montagnola.
This incredible burial site dates back to around 600 BC and is located in Sesto Fiorentino, around 15 km from the city center. It was only discovered in 1959 and is made up of a series of covered passageways called ‘dromos’ and a large central chamber called the ‘tholos’.
As one of the best preserved tombs from the Etruscan civilization it has huge historical significance and is believed to have been created for the burial Etruscan elites. Entry to the tomb complex is free and if you’re interested in the ancient history of Italy then it’s absolutely unmissable!
Visit The Splendid Parks Of Florence.
The city of Florence has more than 200 parks and public gardens that you can visit and explore for free on any day of the week. One of the most popular is the Cascine Park which is the city’s largest and hosts sporting facilities, swimming pools and even tennis courts! Each Tuesday there’s also a market in the park, which is fun to look around.
Another great park to explore is the Piazza Tasso in the Oltrarno district of the city; which has a football pitch, plenty of benches and picnic tables. The park also boasts a bar in the enclosed city wall of the park where you grab a refreshment if you need one.
However, whichever of the parks that you visit in Florence you’ll find a beautifully tranquil space away from the hustle and bustle of the city; so if you have an afternoon free then visiting any of the parks is the perfect way to unwind and relax.
Experience The Best Of Florence For Free!
Florence is an amazing city that has so much to do for free, meaning that you can easily enjoy some of the great sites, museums and galleries without spending a dime! Some of the city’s best locations are free for you to visit and enjoy and even if you spend a little money grabbing some lunch or a coffee en route you can still seriously keep the cost of your visit right down.