Located in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is one of Italy’s most incredible cities. Its lovely yellow buildings, medieval architecture, and Renaissance history draw tens of thousands of visitors each year.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to visit Florence when it’s least crowded, but sometimes a summer holiday in Italy is just too much to resist. If you’re heading to Florence during its busiest time of year (June through August), here are a few tips to help you make the most of your trip.
While the most important things to prepare for your summer getaway to Florence are flights and accommodations, you’ll also want to plan out another aspect. The city’s most popular attractions can get overcrowded even in the off-months, so during the summer, it’s essential that you purchase your tickets in advance.
Do a bit of research to decide which museums and landmarks you’d like to see most, and be sure to book your passes online. Just remember to check museum hours as well, as some are closed on certain days of the week or have special opening hours.
GET UP EARLY
Photographers know this trick better than anyone, and the old adage “the early bird gets the worm” is especially relevant in Florence’s summer heat. Set your alarm for just before sunrise to get a jump on seeing the city. Temperatures in Florence tend to rise throughout the day, so the earlier you rise, the better! By setting out to see the medieval streets as early as possible, you will not only avoid sweating your way through midday explorations, but you’ll also be able to see the city devoid of its typical tourist crowds.
AVOID THE HEAT
Tuscany is lovely, but it can be brutal during the hottest months of the year. To avoid the smothering heat, do things at odd times of the day.
Get up early and walk along the Arno River. Take in the view from Piazzale Michelangelo late at night. Go shopping in the evening around dinnertime, just before shops close for the day. And hit the museums during the afternoon to soak up that sweet, sweet air conditioning.
STAY OUT OF THE CITY CENTER
The area around the Duomo can get especially congested when there are a lot of visitors, so it’s best to avoid Piazza del Duomo at “high times.” Explore the city’s most famous piazza in the early morning or late at night — when most tourists will still be asleep or will have headed indoors for the night. The Duomo is stunning at any time, so it’s best to avoid the thick crowds lining the outsides of the Cathedral and clogging up the cafés during the bulk of the day, if at all possible.
Rumor has it that gelato (Italian ice cream) originated in Florence, but regardless of whether that’s fact or fiction, the cold treat is now a staple of the city. There are gelato shops on every street and in every piazza — from small mom-and-pop vendors to established chains. With so many shops (and flavors) to choose from, do as the Florentines do and have a cone for every meal of the day! Just remember that the best ways to determine a shop’s quality are by the color of the pistachio gelato (bright-green is bad, a more natural color is preferrable) and how the gelato is stored (if you can’t see it over the counter, it’s probably better). To beat the heat, indulge your sweet tooth as often as necessary.
HEAD ABOVE THE CITY
Florence’s side streets and piazzas are lovely — it’s true — but the city has plenty of gorgeous viewpoints that also happen to be above ground level. For good views and a nice breeze, venture to one of the highest points of the city. Trek up to Piazzale Michelangelo, climb the stairs to the top of the Campanile or the Duomo, or find a rooftop bar and camp out with a cold drink. They won’t disappoint!
TAKE IT EASY
Heat naturally makes everyone slow down. So, don’t try to pack too much into each of your days in Florence. Err on the safe side and stick to only two or three activities a day. The high number of visitors will also create longer wait times at landmarks and museums around the city, so it’s best to be flexible with your daily itinerary.
Go easy on yourself as well. If you need a break, take one! There are plenty of shady spots to lounge in across the city, so take advantage of them and spend some time relaxing.
Florence is lovely any time of year, and summer brings sunshine, beautiful blooms, longer days, so use these tips to your advantage and enjoy your trip to Florence.