Italy is best on foot, Walking Florence, Florence, Italy (Photo )

Getting around Florence by foot—the best method

Florence is a walker's city.

Of all the famous cities of Europe that tourists rush to see, Florence is the smallest by a significant margin.

In fact, many travelers, used to sprawling cities like Rome and Paris, get off the train and automatically hop on a city bus expecting to get "downtown"...only to find themselves riding through the suburbs within a few minutes because the train station already was downtown.

The first painting in the history of art to use true perspective (Masaccio's Trinity) is literally across the street from the train station, in the church of Santa Maria Novella. The Duomo (cathedral) is only a ten-minute stroll from the rail station; The Uffizi Galleries are ten more minutes beyond that.

Heck, you can walk clear across town—from the train station, on the northwest edge of the center, to the famous church of Santa Croce, at the eastern edge of the historic center—in about half an hour. (Maybe 45 minutes if you stroll.)

Yes, Florence is that tiny. Which is why walking is the only sensible way to get around (though the "Getting around by Bus" page does list the useful public buses for getting to the handful of popular sights lying outside the historic center).

Waht's more, most of the streets in the centro storico (historic center) are set aside for pedestrians only.

In fact, the are only a handful of streets in the very center open to car traffic at all, and really only one street corner in the whole heart of town where you're likely to have to wait at a light (the busy corner where Via Cavour hits Piazza Duomo).

That's how small—and walkable—Florence is.

That said, the hard, uneven cobblestones are rough on your feet, your shoe soles, and your ankles, and after a day or two your legs will be sore and your body walking-weary. All the more reason to make sure you pack good walking shoes.

Consider a guided walk

Walking tours are also by far the best way to explore the city—whether geographic or themed, these remarkably cheap tours give you incredible insight into the deep, rich history and colorful characters of Florence (they're often led by colorful characters, too). Highly, highly recommended. » more

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Florence is truly a walker's city—and a professional guide makes that walk even better (Photo courtesy of Context Travel)

Guided walks and docent-led tours of Florence