Italy is one of the most magnificent places on the planet for the sensation chasing traveler. Below is a list of top places to visit recommended by seasoned budget travelers.
Firenze is one of the most popular tourist cities by in Italy and for good reason. It’s a city that oozes romance and history from every cobblestone. Nestled in the heart of Tuscany, the picturesque River Arno meanders through this city that was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982.It’s cultural heritage, tourism business and importance in the Italian fashion scene have helped Firenze to continually rank amongst the wealthiest cities in Italy. No surprise then that it can be incredibly expensive if you don’t know where to go.
On the bright side, in cities this beautiful it’s easy to find sights of interest just about everywhere and a walk down any ordinary street will give you sights that would qualify as a tourist attraction elsewhere even if they aren’t listed in the Italian guidebooks. While in Florence put on your rose-tinted glasses and view the city through a romantic’s eyes. Or if not try some of the following attractions which are free to the budget traveller.
The brick-red dome of the cathedral towers over the medieval skyline of the city and should be top on the list of places to see. The Duomo and Baptistery in the center of the city and would be hard to miss anyhow as it seems every road in Florence leads you there eventually. The work was begun on the building in 1296 but not completely until 1436 when it was finally topped with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The pink and green marble work is amazing and the interior, as one would expect, is chalk full of artworks by the most prestigious names of the Renassaince. Entry to the Duomo is free but make sure you are dressed respectably. Shorts, short skirts or bare shoulders can get you denied entrance.
Piazza della Signoria and the breathtaking Palazzo Vecchio, the former palace of the Medicis. Even if you don’t have time or the money to go into the museum of the Palazzo Vecchio, take a peek inside where you would buy a ticket. The murals on the entrance walls are stunning in and of themselves!
The Ponte Vecchio bridge across the Arno river used to be lined with butchers shops and tanners until the 1500’s when the Medici family built their new residence on the other side of the Arno. Offended by the smell, the Medicis kicked out the lower class merchants and installed the goldsmiths and diamond merchants that are there today! By day, the bridge is packed with tourists gawking at the shop windows that are literally dripping with gold. It might be hard to jostle a space for window shopping during high tourist season but it worth it for the extravagant displays. If crowds aren’t your thing, go early in the morning before the shops are open and the tourists are still sleeping of their chianti fuelled hangovers for fantastic views from the bridge to the Tuscan countryside.
The Uffizi Gallery is the Florentine answer to the Louvre, and like the Louvre, probably too much to try and take in on one day. While it is definitely worth a visit for the immense collection of Renassaince art, the queues can be long unless you have pre-booked your tickets. If you want a taste of the culture without the price or spending the time indoors, wander through the narrow courtyard that backs onto the Arno and peek through the windows.
Via Roma which runs from Piazza del Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio is where you find most of the big designers, Italian and otherwise. Tourist destination or not, Firenze is still an Italian city and they take their fashion here very seriously.
Piazza della Republica is known for the leather goods market here but it’s also a good and cheap place for buying souvenirs such as beautiful Florentine paper goods. The prices aren’t as good at the market at San Lorenzo but it’s a lot more convenient as it’s in the centre of the city.
The San Lorenzo street market runs from Piazza del Duomo north. It’s so long that it makes you feel that by the time you come to the end you’ll emerge in Milan. Vendors sell everything from handbags and various leather goods to pottery, clothes, lace, and any sort of tack souvenirs, etc. The price on womens clothing here is very good and they have some beautiful things. If you plan to shop, do it here.
A great store for bargains is a little imports store on the corner of Via Nazionale and Via Faenza. It is run by a Chinese family and there are some of the best deals I have seen in any country here! It is very small and the stock changes very very frequently but they tend to have really beautiful handbags and luggage here. It is practically across the street from the train station so check it out if you have time.
Italy Ski Holiday
Besides thriving cities, ancient ruins, and great food, Italy is also a prime destination for ski holidays. Go an enjoy the slopes in the South Tyrol and Aosta Valley at a plethora of beautiful ski lodges and resorts. Turin was even the host of the 2006 winter Olympics.
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