Florence: Free Things to Do

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Florence has been described as an art lover’s dream. Many of the top things you can do in Florence are art-related. These attractions will draw people even if they don’t love art. While I’m happy to pay for the privilege to see those jaw-droppingly beautiful paintings and sculptures in Florence’s museums, there are other things I like to do in Florence.

Also, I love to rest my wallet between museum visits and some of the free activities in Florence.

It may be a surprise that the list for Florence has fewer attractions than for Rome or for Milan. However, I believe there is enough information to allow budget-minded travelers to make the most out of their Florence visit without spending a lot.

Here are some things that are always free. There is no admission fee to enter. Some offer free hours on specific days or to visitors only. You’ll get an extra scoop of gelato for the money you save.

Florence offers many free activities:

San Miniato al Monte || creative commons photo by gaspa

  • Duomo is a popular attraction in Florence. This multicolored cathedral is free to visit. The dome can be climbed but the interior is not accessible for a fee.
  • Loggia dei Lanzi This elevated terrace is located on the Piazza della Signoria and decorated with several sculptures. They are mostly replicas of originals which are on display in Florence’s museums. This is high-end public art.
  • Piazza Della Signoria This is my favorite spot for people-watching in Florence. On one side, the Palazzo Vecchio is proudly displayed (with a copy of the “David”), while the Loggia dei Lanzi open-air sculpture gallery is located on the other side. A large, circular paving piece almost concealed in the pavement marks the spot where the fanatical monk Savonarola died at the stake in 1498. The marker is dark red, which is fitting.
  • Piazza del Duomo The area in front of Duomo is nearly always crowded as people try to find the ideal spot to take photos of the cathedral’s façade. Most photographers find it difficult to photograph in this cramped area. Another thing that attracts people is the set of doors on Baptistery, which were nicknamed the “Gates of Paradise”, by a young Michelangelo. Today’s doors are reproductions of the originals, but they’re stunning replicas.
  • Fontana del Porcellino – This bronze boar statue is located at the Mercato Nuovo and has a uniquely polished snout. Rubbishing it is believed to bring you good luck.
  • Mercato Centrale – This indoor market is a feast of the senses. The market is bustling with shoppers filling up their pantry at the food stalls and happy customers enjoying freshly prepared dishes from the vendors upstairs. If I was you, I would plan to arrive hungry and be willing to pay a few euros for a delicious lunch.
  • Santa Maria Novella Farmacia – Not far from the church of the same name, Santa Maria Novella is the oldest continually-operating pharmacy in the world. The museum houses antique tools from the trade and the shop sells soaps and perfumes, some still made using the original recipe.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo. If you have ever wondered where those stunning photos of Florence from the skyline are taken, it is almost certain that the Piazzale Michelangelo. Although the square isn’t much to be proud of (it’s a parking area with a David replica at the center), the views are well worth the effort.
  • San Miniato al Monte Continue walking up the hill towards the San Miniato al Monte Church. This gem is a hidden treasure with 13th-century mosaics. To pay respects to Carlo Lorenzini (the creator of “Pinocchio”), visit the church’s cemetery.
  • Le Cascine Park– Want to get away from the crowds of people? On a sunny day, you can visit Florence’s largest park to relax with the Florentines. You can also stop by Mercato Centrale to pick up supplies. You might also find a large outdoor food market at Le Cascine on Tuesdays. This is great for picnic supplies, but not ideal if your goal is to get some peace and quiet.
  • Ponte Vecchio The Ponte Vecchio bridge is one of the most loved in Florence. It’s lined with jewelry and historic gold. It was the only bridge that survived the Nazis’ destruction.
  • Piazza della Repubblica This square is located in the former ancient Roman forum of Florence. It’s lined with charming shops and cafes, while the center is home to an antique carousel.

Guided Tours of Florence

There are many free things to do in Florence

If attractions are only free for a single day each month, the lines can get very long. This is the time I would opt for a skip-the line tour.

  • Uffizi Gallery First Sunday of each month. Visitors under 18 are welcome every day
  • Accademia Gallery – First Sunday of each month; visitors below 18 years old every day
  • Bargello First Sunday of each month; visitors below 18 years old every day
  • Medici Chapels First Sunday of each month; visitors below 18 years old every day
  • Pitti Pala – Visitors under 18 years old every day

Alexandra, my friend, also noted that many of Florence’s city museums offer free entry on the first Sunday in each month. However, they don’t do this as often, so it’s worth checking ahead. These places include Palazzo Vecchio and Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria Novella Church, Museo del Novecento and Museo Stefano Bardini.

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