No backpacking trip to Italy is complete without a visit to Florence. Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and cradle of the modern Italian language, the city continues to be a vibrant reminder of a preeminent past when its art, style, and architecture was matched by no other place in Europe.
Though Florence may not be considered a haven for the backpacker, those travelers who intend to hit the town spending as little money as possible can do so quite easily. While on a shoestring, you can follow some of these money-saving ideas and it will be more than possible to experience all the beauty this Tuscan gem has to offer without leaving you penniless.
Where hostels abound
Florence hostels are plentiful. A good thing to do is find the cheapest accommodation you can before arriving. Lining up a place to stay is always helpful to avoid the last minute option of paying more for the only bed in town available. Beds will generally run from €20-25 per night, but if you book in advance you can find some accommodation with beds as cheap as €15.
Food and drink
Your best bet when it comes to eating on the cheap is to shop at local markets. There’s a central market at San Lorenzo where you can buy fresh produce, meats and cheeses, and freshly baked bread. Once you’ve picked up supplies, you can have a picnic in the park, or a slap-up feast back at your hostel – for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant.
If you’re not looking to picnic, another option is eating lunch at a wine bar and grabbing a quick sandwich and a glass of wine for a reasonable price. If you want to sit down, try one of the many restaurants around the Duomo area, a perfect place for a mini-splurge on food.
And as always in Italy, never underestimate the power of a gelato or a slice of pizza, both cheap alternatives on an empty stomach.
And since Tuscany is world-famous for its wine, any market with a selection of different wines will show you that cheap bottle you’re looking for. For a truly Tuscan choice, go for a bottle of Chianti, a red wine made from the grapes of Tuscany’s Chianti region.
Seeing the town
The good news for the backpacker is that the best way to get around Florence is by foot; it’s a remarkably easy way to get acquainted with the city, and roaming its cobblestone streets without a map can be just as rewarding as a paid tour.
Though you might not have the cash to visit all of Florence’s museums, there are a couple worth setting aside to see – like the Uffizi which houses the most famous of Italian and Florentine art and the Galleria dell’Accademia which houses a fantastic collection as well as being home to that holy grail of Italian art: Michelangelo’s David.
Since queues are notoriously long in the afternoon, an early morning excursion will help save time and energy (as good as money!) and ultimately help give you a more relaxed experience while in a heavily touristed place like Florence.
Another simple way to appreciate Florence is to make your way down along the Arno River which cuts the city roughly in half. An easy walk to the Ponte Vecchio can turn out to be a wonderful way to pass the time and enjoy the city without rushing – or spending a penny!
Nightlife the cheap way
The nightlife in Florence can be wrapped up in true budget backpacking fashion. All it takes is a slight climb up to Piazzale Michelangelo before sunset with just a couple of cheap bottles of wine in hand and you’ll be able to not only make your own party out in the open, but do so while enjoying the best panoramic views of Florence.
After watching the sun go down from Piazzale Michelangelo, you can always wander down to the city level where heaps of people, both locals and visitors, have taken to the streets for more drink and conversation.
As a backpacker, it’s not too complicated to enjoy yourself in Florence without much money. If you go prepared with the intention of keeping your itinerary and menu simple, the city truly shows itself to be a place for anyone.