Visiting Italy isn’t cheap, so finding ways to save money without sacrificing on your experience are always welcome. Thankfully, in many cities – including Florence – some of the top attractions are also free, so you don’t have to worry about compromising anything. Here’s a selection of some of the free stuff to do in Florence.
- Visit the Duomo – It’s one of the iconic symbols of Florence, but there’s no entry fee to get into the Duomo. The inside is a little austere (especially compared to its multi-colored facade), but that’s because much of the artwork was removed in the clean-up after the 1966 flood. You’ll find the art in the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, but that costs a few euro to get in. Simply to wander around the interior of this massive cathedral, marveling that it remained unfinished for years as they waited for someone to come along to figure out how to build the dome they wanted, is totally free. And if you’ve read “Brunelleschi’s Dome” about the construction of that dome before your arrival, the Duomo will have even more significance for you.
- Soak in the View from the Piazzale Michelangelo – The view of Florence that you see on every postcard stand throughout the city, overlooking its bright red roofs and the Duomo prominently featured, is a view you can have for free. This isn’t some photographer’s trick of hiring a helicopter, it simply requires a walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a parking lot, which by itself isn’t anything to look at, but it affords one of the best views of Florence anywhere – and completely for free. If you’re too tired to hoof it uphill, then it’ll cost you a couple euro for a bus ticket.
- Gawk at the Statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi – Florence is a city of art, and there’s so much art that not all of it is locked away inside expensive museums. On one side of the Piazza della Signoria in central Florence, around the corner from the famous Uffizi Gallery, is the Loggia dei Lanzi. This portico-covered platform is something of an outdoor museum, with several copies of noteworthy statues on permanent display. Kitty-corner to the loggia, you’ll also find one of the copies of Michelangelo’s David near the entry of the Palazzo Vecchio, where the original once stood.
- Count the Davids – And speaking of the David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s quasi-mascot is everywhere. You’ll need to pay a few euro to see the real thing in the Accademia, but besides the one in the Piazza della Signoria there’s also one in the middle of the Piazzale Michelangelo and a few other places in the city. Going “David spotting” in Florence is fun for kids, but you’ll find yourself getting caught up in the game, too.
- Browse the Leather Markets – Florence is famous for its outdoor leather markets at San Lorenzo and the covered Straw Market, and of course just looking at the goods doesn’t cost you anything. Remember to keep your valuables secure, though, as outdoor markets like this are popular with pickpockets – and if you’re thinking of doing any shopping, be prepared to haggle a bit for the bigger ticket items.
- Peek into Churches – The Duomo isn’t the only church in Florence with no entry fee. Some churches do charge a few euro to get in, but not all of them – and it’s always worth checking. You may not find a famous piece of art in every church, but you’ll certainly find art and history. Plus, ducking inside a church gets you out of the hot summer sun (or cold winter chill) for a little while.