Spending any length of time in a big city can become costly. We recently spent a month in Florence and being on a tight budget we needed to find affordable things to do and eat. We were pleasantly surprised to discover many activities that cost next to nothing. Here are a few of our favourites.
Known to North Americans as happy hour, aperitivo is what Italians do after work and before dinner. Seeing as they eat their last meal of the day close to 9 pm, aperitivo is usually enough of a meal to tide them over until dinner. Snacks can vary and you may be offered anything from a bowl of chips or nuts to a full buffet. For one of the most affordable aperitivo in Florence, head to the Caffetteria delle Oblate at Via dell’Oriuolo, 24, go in through the library and follow the signs. The restaurant has an indoor area and a large outdoor area.
They serve a full buffet and you can enjoy the spread with the purchase of one drink. The view of the Cupola del Brunelleschi is wonderful and if you are there around sunset you may be lucky enough to see the starling murmurations.
Another great place for aperitivo is Art Bar at Via del Moro 4r. What they lack in snack originality they make up in drink creativity. If you want something with pizzazz, order the Mai Tai or Fruit Cocktail. Both are loaded with fruit so you won’t go hungry. Order drinks two at a time, things get a bit slow when they are busy.
Fiaschetteria Fantappiè at via sei Serragli 47 is a great local spot. This small wine shop offers wines by the bottle, glass and some wines on tap. Bring an empty bottle and get it filled for a few euros or hang out with the locals and enjoy a glass, or bottle at one of the two tables inside or on the patio out front. A bowl of chips is what you’ll get during aperitivo but they also have some food for purchase.
For an affordable luxury head to Procacci for their little truffle sandwiches (2€ each), paired with a glass of wine or macchiato it’s a nice treat. No table service means you can sit at any available seat without incurring inflated prices.
Find a deal at the market
No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find it at one of Florence’s many markets. The biggest has to be the market at Parco delle Cascine along the Arno. Stall after stall of deals, if you’re willing and patient enough to jump in and sort through a lot of less than appealing product. Some of the deals we found, an Eddie Bauer Heritage 100% wool cable knit men’s sweater for €5, 3 pairs of cashmere, made in Italy socks for €5 and the deals aren’t only on clothing. We had one of the best porchetta sandwiches at one of the food trucks at the entrance, for €3.50 you get a good mound of meat with all sorts of toppings to choose from including sundried tomatoes, fried onions, mushrooms, salsa verde and more.
The Mercato di San Lorenzo is an indoor/outdoor market better known as Mercato Centrale, inside you can find all sorts of regional foods on the first floor and second floor is dedicated to a food court. Outside you can haggle for leather goods, souvenirs and luggage among other things.
Another great market is the one that is held on the 2nd Sunday of the month in front of Santo Spirito church. This oltrarno neighbourhood also holds a daily market from 8am to 2pm Monday to Saturday where vendors sell fruit & vegetables, household items, clothing, etc…but during the monthly market, the piazza and nearby streets are bustling and there are antiques, food and handmade goods and much more on offer.
Walk off the pasta pounds
Walk off all the extra calories by making your way up to Piazzale Michelangelo and enjoy the amazing view of the city. Pack a lunch of local meats and cheese and stay for the sunset. Or go the distance, up to San Miniato al Monte, walk through the cemetery behind the church and marvel at the beautiful headstones and crypts. There is also a small store selling products made by the monks. Make sure to check their website ahead of time as they often have free events.
La dolce far niente
Embrace the Italian la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). The Italians know how to do nothing at all without seeming lazy. Whiling away hours on a patio drinking wine or walking the streets at a snail’s pace, stopping every now and then to start a conversation with a passerby or a store clerk. Learn to slow down and enjoy every minute of the day.