A guide to Florence – Italian Renaissance on a budget

I must admit, I am not a big fan of arts, paintings and museums. And so I was not drawn into what tourists really flock into Florence for, like Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti. The only thing that drew me to Florence was Piazza Duomo and the Florence Cathedral. And so we stayed here for just a day.

We took the return bus from Montepulciano to Chiusi. And from there we took a train to Florence.

First impression – Chaotic place. People were walking hurriedly. Buses and cars were flying. Just having returned from the countryside, we were probably being judgmental 😛

We checked into Hotel Bijou right next to the train station. I couldn’t find any homestays in this busy city and we reluctantly decided to book a room at a hotel. At least it was cheap (for European standards) and very near to the city center.

We left to explore Florence.


Had an amazing breakfast of tortino di riso (rice cake), cornetto alla crema (cornetto filled with custard), cannoli and sfogliatella (stacked leaves pastry) and coffee at Alinari Café right across the main street. Italian breakfasts are coffee + a pastry to go. People have them at the counters and therefore you have to pay extra if you want to sit down at a table.

City of arts indeed! He has written Grazie (Thank you) near the coin box :)
City of arts indeed! He has written Grazie (Thank you) near the coin box 🙂

Piazza Del Duomo, Florence Cathedral

We walked to Piazza del Duomo to see the Florence Cathedral. It was a beautiful structure.

Florence cathedral

We climbed the Campanile (Giotto bell) tower beside it for amazing city views. There were about 400 steps and the stairway was very narrow and 2 – way. We had to stop in between often, to let people from the other side, walk without causing a congestion. That’s how tiny it was. Finally reached the top. Though it was covered fully with wire mesh, we managed to get a few decent photographs.

florence view from campanile

Mercato centrale aka San Lorenzo market

We then explored the amazing Mercato centrale. It was a closed top, colorful market bustling with locals trying to buy and sell meats, pasta, condiments, dried mushrooms, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.

mercato centrale

risotto packets
Ready to cook!

Florence is famous for its cow stomach burgers and we decided to try it at the famous Nerbone stall inside the market. We ordered 2 dishes – Trippa (which is the 2nd stomach looking like a honeycomb) in a tomato gravy and Lampredetto (4th stomach served as a Panini or burger).

nerbone cow stomach

Cow stomachs
Cow stomachs

The trippa was very slimy and the lampredetto was meaty yet slimy. We couldn’t have more than 3 or 4 spoons/bites of each.

Trippa - Cow stomach in gravy
Trippa – Cow stomach in gravy

We were still hungry and so we went to FN Pasta Fresca La Primeria (still inside Mercato central) where they have a choice of pasta types and sauces that you can mix.

mercato centrale (2)

gnocchi pesto
The gnocchi pesto was heavenly – little pillows of potato in a divine sauce.

Accademia Galleria – Michelangelo’s David

We then walked to the Accademia Galleria which has the famous statue – Michelangelo’s David.

Accademia Galleria – Michelangelo’s David

David is depicted before his battle with Goliath. He looks tense and ready for combat.

The statue has an unusually large head and right hand. Apparently this is due to the fact that the statue was originally intended to be placed on the cathedral roofline, and so the important parts of the sculpture may have been accentuated in order to be visible from below.

Rough expenses –

1 bus ticket to Chiusi – 3.4 €

1 train ticket to Florence – 14 €

Stay per night at Hotel Bijou for a double room – 55 €

Entry to Campanile (Giotto bell) tower – 15 € per ticket

Entry to Accademia Galleria (Michelangelo’s David) – 12.5 € per ticket

At Florence, the people were not half as nice as in Montepulciano and Val D’Orcia. They probably don’t have the time for that. For e.g., everywhere in the non-busy areas of Italy, people stop their cars if they think you may need to cross the road (even if you don’t signal them to slow down). But here, the roads are so jammed that people don’t stop even if you ask them to. Florence was rightly worth just a single day.

From busy Florence to calm Puglia – Alberobello up next :).

Here’s a general guide to visiting Italy on a budget (flights, visa etc.) + the other places I visited in Italy – Visiting Italy on a budget




    1. Sheetal, after these single place posts, I plan to write a general post on traveling to Italy. I will include all the necessary details in that 🙂

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