Florence-Know Before You Go!

Florence is a magical place. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times and want to share some basic information with others who may be visiting for the first time so you can know before you go!


Make sure you check before you go anywhere. Some museums (not all) are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays. Small stores especially in non-tourist areas are also closed. Markets like San Ambrosia are closed Sundays but San Lorenzo was open and busy on a Sunday. We enjoyed the market of artisans on the Piazza by the train station, Piazza Sante Maria Novella. Thom chatted with an artisan who made Thom a fine leather bracelet to fit on the spot. Travel from there to San Lorenzo market, also open on Sunday, where you can shop at the many stalls all around the market itself and then go in and eat at Mercato Centrale which has a huge variety of diverse cuisine to choose from and tv’s to watch the local football aka soccer games. Do a little research before you set out to Florence and you won’t be disappointed!


Mailing postcards to our grandkids during each country’s stay is a must for us. It’s easier in some countries than others. Here in Italy, it’s a process. First, finding postcards in the tourist area is easy! I paid 50 cents for really nice ones. We like to mail postcards from everywhere we go to not only our family but to ourselves. There are some really artistic postcards out there that are a lovely souvenir when you get home. We framed ours and hung them on the wall. Then, go to the local bar/convenience store where they sell things like cigarettes, lottery tickets, and stamps. Each stamp to mail postcards to US cost me $2euros. Postcards written and stamped, now where to mail? I stopped a postman that was delivering mail on our street, and he spoke some English but couldn’t mail my postcards. He said they would sit in his office for a while (??) and it would be faster for me to find a red mailbox on the street and use that to mail them. So, off I went to a tourist section to find one. Nope-none to be found. While I was at a hotel trying and failing to get a reservation at their fabulous rooftop bar, I walked through the lobby like I was staying there and handed them to the concierge and asked “mail?” and he nodded. Score! Later as we walked the streets of Florence looking for street art, I did start seeing the red mailboxes hung on buildings. Now I know!

GETTING AROUND FLORENCE-Building numbers in red AND blue

I was having a hard time finding an artisan jeweler even though I had the address. After wandering for a while, we noticed as we walked down the street that each doorway had either a blue number on their doorway and/or a red number. These numbers are not sequential with each other; however, the red numbers are sequential, and the blue numbers are sequential. When I finally found the jewelry store, the artisan explained that businesses are given red numbers and residences and hotels are given blue numbers. Then, I looked at the address she has listed on her social media, and it clearly states “28R” aka “28 Red” after the street name. Ahhh! Now I can find my way around Florence and so can you! And, FYI, there are condom machines hung on buildings to keep the Florentines safe. I saw more of these than the red mailboxes.


There is no Uber in Florence. Taxi apps did not work for us despite repeated attempts. Bike rentals are possible but there aren’t bike paths. With the cobblestone streets and frantic drivers, I would not recommend bike riding. You could take a carriage ride in the tourist area, but I only saw one of these, so this service is fairly limited and probably very expensive. The public transportation to take in Florence is trams or buses or a limited subway. Buses run on schedule and get you where you need to go. Unfortunately, you can’t just tap on and off with your phone like you can in the UK. Italy has not quite caught up yet with current technology. You have to buy a paper ticket at a Tabac aka convenience store/bar. One ticket is $1.50 euros and are valid for 70 minutes from the time you validate them on the bus except in Florence where it is valid for 90 minutes. Who knows why??

Use an app to find a bus stop and times and routes. The Moovit app works well in Italy or Rome2rio app is good too. Some bus stops have an electronic reader board with bus numbers and estimated time of arrivals. Who knows-when you go to the bus stop, you may even find a new pair of shoes-the locals like to share items there that they no longer need. Our local bus stop had paper bus schedules taped on and could be outdated. I would recommend using an app. To validate your ticket, there will be a machine near the front of the bus as you enter. Stick your ticket in with the “please stamp here” end going in first. This will stamp your ticket with a date and time. Take your ticket out and keep it.

There are transportation strikes. Everywhere and any time. Leaving Florence, we saw notices of strikes taped at the bus stops. Just go with the flow and have a backup plan like walking, which is the easiest and fastest way to get around Florence. Enjoy this magical place!

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