Do you want to visit Florence like a local? Then check our 10 things to do to live the city like a true Florentine.
Florence is one of the most beautiful and visited cities in Italy.
Internet is now flooded with guides presenting the classic tourist itineraries and most traditional restaurants. All very similar, with limited originality and authentic experiences.
For this reason we have compiled a list of activities and places to see to feel like real Florentines.
Do you want to find out what are the 10 things to do in Florence to enjoy the city like a real local?
You just have to read our suggestions for an aperitivo "with a view", the perfect day trip in the hills, the best street food and the places to escape from the bustling city center.
10. Relax at the beach on the river
The small beach on the Arno river, in front of San Niccolò tower.
An oasis of sand on the banks of the Arno river.
The small urban beach on the Arno may be slightly off the tourist routes, but is very popular in spring and summer by young Florentines at the aperitivo time.
Cocktail bars, quality fast food and deck chairs (€ 5 for the day) are just a stone's throw from the city centre. The "spiaggia" it's a perfect meeting place to socialise and to take a break from museums and crowds.
Florentines meet at the beach to enjoy entertainment, especially live music, aperitifs, DJ sets, cultural activities and much more.
This entire area was recently upgraded creating an excellent new landmark for the south-bank of the river.
If you don't know what to do in Florence on a beautiful summer day, spend a few hours in this beach, perhaps around sunset time for aperitivo, drinks and music.
9. Sample the original gelato flavour
Gelato is a real tradition in Florence - here you can find some of the best gelato shops in Italy.
Do you know that the first ever gelato was made in Florence?
We are talking about the Buontalenti flavour, the original and quintessential gelato flavour in town (also known as "Florentine cream"), named after the famous architect who created it.
This creamy delight is made only of egg yolks, milk and sugar and it's a must-try.
In the 1500s, during an event organised by Cosimo I de' Medici, the architect Bernardo Buontalenti mixed milk, eggs, ice and citrus aromas, creating the first cold cream in the world. And the Medici loved it!
Florentines are crazy about it, as you can figure out from the many gelato shops in town, attracting plenty of locals all year long. There is even an association called Gelatieri Artigiani Fiorentini, promoting gelato with "0 km" ingredients.
Just try it.... do it for your taste buds!
8. Aperitivo on the Oblate terrace
The view from the terrace of the cafe of the Oblate.
The Oblate Cafeteria is a meeting place for many students and young Florentines.
An incredible view from the terrace, relaxed atmosphere, aperitivo with buffet for € 8 from Tuesday to Saturday, free wi-fi, excellent coffee and lots of outdoor space.
The café is built within the Oblate Library, housed in a beautiful fourteenth-century building.
Florence bustling city centre is just around the corner.
The café is on the top floor and from its large terrace you can enjoy Brunelleschi's Dome in all its majesty, sipping a cocktail or reading a book borrowed from the public library.
This hidden gem is not yet on tourist maps and is frequented almost exclusively by Florentines: the perfect place for an informal snack, perhaps taking a look at our list of things to do in Florence.
7. Watch a peculiar football match
The beginning of the match of Historic Football in Florence.
The Calcio Storico ("historic football"), also called Calcio Fiorentino, is a centuries-old tradition deeply rooted in the life of Florence.
The Calcio Storico is at the crossroads of rugby, soccer and Greco-Roman wrestling. Bare-knuckle fighting is paired with different ball games to create an intense and entertaining sport.
The golden years of this sport are in the Middle Ages, as it was the Medici's favourite sport.
The matches are played in the wonderful Piazza di Santa Croce, where every June the four districts of Florence fight for glory in a sandpit arena, dressed up with period costumes.
The locals follow this sport with passion and pride, loudly supporting their district, especially for the semis and the final match of the tournament.
The four districts are divided by colour: blue for Santa Croce, red for Santa Maria Novella, white for Santo Spirito and green per San Giovanni.
For adrenaline seekers and sport lovers, this is a must do if you are in Florence in June time. Book your tickets for one of the final matches and pick a side to support: entertainment is guaranteed for a sport beloved by locals.
For more info, check our article about the tradition of Calcio Storico in Florence.
6. Have lunch at the Mercato Centrale
A tomato soup with black truffle from the Mercato Centrale.
The Mercato Centrale ("central market") is the ideal place to try typical Florentine dishes and to meet friends.
Wine, pasta, panini and timeless Tuscan classics, such as steak, ribollita or pappa al pomodoro (a thick tomato soup), are paired with exotic cuisines offering sushi and Chinese ravioli.
A stone's throw from Santa Maria Novella, the Central Market takes the first floor of the historic covered market of San Lorenzo.
On the ground floor, you will find butchers, pastry shops, bakeries and other classic stalls selling Tuscan products (including oil, pasta, cheese, cantucci biscuits).
The upper floor is dedicated to the restaurants and bars of the Mercato Centrale, with shared tables in the center where visitors can take their food.
There is something for everyone, literally.
Open every day, the lively atmosphere and fair prices make the Mercato an excellent choice for lunch near the city center.
Another interesting food market is that of Sant’Ambrogio, active since 1873. This market offers a very authentic experience with restaurants, clothing stalls and traditional foods - but it's closed on Sunday.
5. Enjoy nightlife in Piazza Santo Spirito
The square in front of Santo Spirito church (Photo credits: Lucarelli - Opera propria by uploader, CC BY-SA 3.0).
The beautiful Piazza Santo Spirito is a classic meeting place and nightlife hotspot for Florentines.
Santo Spirito features plenty of restaurants and bars: there's space for music, food, drinks and entertainment until late night.
Picking a good place to eat out in the area is easy: traditional and elegant restaurants are next to more informal cocktail bars. Prices are much lower than in the touristic areas and the atmosphere is really authentic.
This is the bohemian area of the city - once meeting point of intellectual and artist. Far from the classic tourist itineraries, the square is located in the Oltrarno ("on the left bank of the Arno") and it's also famous for the market and the beautiful Basilica.
During the week, the square comes alive thanks to the local market selling both food (honey, tomato sauce, jams) and vintage objects. Every second Sunday of the month there's a nice antiques market (with handicrafts, books, prints and clothing).
Another cool area of Florence is San Frediano, just round the corner from Santo Spirito. The eclectic San Frediano is popular among locals and deserves a visit for its boutiques, bars and authentic atmosphere.
4. Get up to Piazzale Michelangelo
The spectacular view from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Piazzale Michelangelo is known as the "roof of Florence" and it's the best place to enjoy the romantic panorama of the city.
The best way to reach Piazzale Michelangelo is to walk uphill from Porta San Niccolò. The climb is quite steep but still not too hard to complete. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the viewpoint.
From the belvedere, you can admire Florence in all its beauty: the bridges over the Arno, Giotto's bell tower, the powerful Duomo and you can also spot the Fiesole hill in the distance.
On the way up, our "local" tip is to cross the magnificent Giardino delle Rose ("Rose Garden"), also featuring a Japanese garden.
If you prefer to avoid the climb, you can take bus # 13 to get to the top.
Once at the top of the square, take a look at the replica of the David by Michelangelo and then walk to the outstanding Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. The view from there is even higher and clearer: the admission to the Basilica is free.
The Basilica is surrounded by a monumental cemetery, burial place of the writer Carlo Collodi - aka Carlo Lorenzini, author of "Pinocchio".
3. Eat the real street food
A juicy lampredotto sandwich in Florence.
In Florence it's easy to get superb street food: eating like a local it's not hard at all.
The lampredotto is the king of street food in Florence.
The name alone makes the local hungry!
Florentines are masters of cooking with entrails and the lampredotto is a dish made with abomasum, one of the four sections of the bovine stomach. A classic example of poor cuisine who became a gastronomic staple. The succulent lampredotto is cooked for hours with tomato, celery, onion and parsley and it's then served in a delicious sandwich soaked in the cooking broth.
Don't think about it too much, just bite and enjoy the taste explosion!
For a top-notch flatbread, you must try the "schiacciata" from a local bakery: ask for it to be filled with pecorino cheese from Pienza, Finocchiona salami and artichokes.
Also, don't miss the coccoli: these tasty balls of fried dough are served with cured meat and creamy cheese for a memorable lunch time.
Finally, tripe-lovers you are in paradise: find the stalls in the city center and order a panino with florentine tripe ("trippa alla fiorentina"), cooked with tomato sauce - you'll love it.
2. Shopping and terrace at Rinascente
Piazza della Repubblica from the top, with the small Rinascente terrace on the left side.
La Rinascente is one of the most important shopping center in Florence.
These department stores are housed in the fourteenth-century Palazzo Trianon, right in the heart of Florence in Piazza della Repubblica.
On the fifth floor, the Rinascente boasts an open roof terrace with a café-restaurant offering incredible views of the square below.
There are not many outdoor tables but you can enjoy the square, the Duomo and Giotto's bell tower from an absolutely unique position, sipping a coffee or dining outside.
The costs are a little higher than average but between shopping and the terrace, La Rinascente is definitely a great place to spend an afternoon.
1. Explore the charming Fiesole
The incredible panoramic view from the Fiesole hill.
Fiesole is a charming village in the suburbs of Florence.
Perched on a hill north of Florence, Fiesole dominates the city from above: it has always been considered an exclusive place for its rich history, natural beauty and the style of its villas.
Exploring Fiesole comes as a perfect day trip for anyone visiting Florence.
We recommend not missing the Etruscan-Roman archaeological area (with a very well preserved amphitheater), the Bandini Museum, the Cathedral of San Romolo and, last but not least, the outstanding view from the Convent of San Francesco.
You can also go for a walk in the woods around the hill, reaching Monte Ceceri, where it is said that Leonardo da Vinci tried to fly its own flying machine... and ended up injury his assistant in the stunt.
Very popular with Florentines, Fiesole is slightly off the main touristic routes, and therefore it is definitely worth a visit if you want to explore Florence like a local. This area was also mentioned in the movie and the novel “A room with a view”, one of the most famous movies set in Italy.
If you wonder where to eat, fear not... there are plenty of bars and restaurants where to sample the delicious Tuscan food.
You can reach Fiesole in about 25-30 minutes by bus #7, from the Santa Maria Novella train station.