In our A Total Trip series, writers document what they spent on a recent getaway. In this edition, writer Conall Molloy, shows us what he spent on a culturally-rich weekend in Florence.
My fiancée and I are fortunate to work remotely and this September, having spent several months working from Barcelona, we craved a change of pace.
We were ready to expand our minds and immerse ourselves in a different culture. We wanted to walk through Renaissance history, admire some art, and – if at all possible – drink excellent wine. We wanted Florence.
In the end, we stayed for six weeks. Despite our long trip, we could have spent another six weeks taking in the city's abundance of museums, galleries and cultural sights. Rather than calculating the costs of a six-week stay, I've broken down the expenses from our favorite weekend.
We stayed in an Airbnb for the entire trip. It cost €41.14 each per night. That included a city tax of €5.50 each for the first seven nights. Our cottage was in Oltrarno, the opposite side of the river Arno from Florence's historical center. The neighborhood was up-and-coming and plenty of young Florentines frequented its bars that were open late.
The airport is small but well-connected, with a regular tram line that takes you to the heart of things. We took a taxi for €30 because of our bags and the slightly longer journey to Oltrarno.
Total three nights accommodation: €153.42
Breakfast: We ate breakfast at the Airbnb before we strolled to the historic center. A bowl of gluten-free cornflakes (€3.60 for a box) and a carton of milk (€1) sustained us until lunch. However, we did have a quick espresso (€1 each) from Bar D’Angolo on our way to do some sightseeing.
Sightseeing: Our first stop was the Gucci Garden (€7 each) on Piazza Della Signoria. The two of us have a keen, albeit aspirational, interest in high fashion and we wanted to learn more about the city's best-known luxury brand. We spent a wonderful 90 minutes exploring the collection, which included Met Gala gowns, a hall of classic handbags, and influential outfits from fashion history. The boutique also sold exclusive Gucci items found only in Florence.
After the museum, we explored the Piazza and wandered beneath the wide, open arches of Loggia Dei Lanzi. You don't have to spend any money to admire the history of Florence – it was everywhere we looked: statues from the Roman Empire; or a replica of Michaelangelo’s David in its original location. You can admire the beauty of the Renaissance period without spending a cent.
Lunch: We shared a substantial charcuterie board with two other diners at Tuscan Taste in Oltrarno. All the food was locally sourced and our server even told us the origins of each piece of meat and cheese as well as the best order to eat it in.
However, we were here for the wine. Staff handed us a pre-loaded card with €50 in credit and let us loose on their comprehensive selection. A special machine even dispensed each glass, which allowed us to control the exact amount we drank. This meant we could try various bottles without going over budget.
My share of the lunch cost €16.70 for the wine and €13.50 for the meat and cheese, a total of €30.20.
Dinner: For dinner, we made our way to Osteria Del Tegolaio, a small convivial restaurant in the vibrant Santo Spirito district, one of the best neighborhoods in Florence. We shared a caprese salad, a carbonara, a potato ravioli with ragú and a bottle of white wine, along with some laughs with the waitstaff, for €38.75 each.
Drinks: In the mood for a nightcap, we stumbled across Rasputin, a secret cocktail bar accessible via a hard-to-spot bell next to a nondescript doorway.
With sleeve garters and styled mustaches, staff took the bar's 1920s theme seriously. It had some strict rules, too. Do not approach the bar or other tables and do not photograph anything other than the drinks. The signature cocktails were delicious, but at €21 a drink, we decided to call it a night after one.
Total spend on Friday: €102.55
Breakfast: With a busy day planned, we stuck to cornflakes and an espresso (€1) for breakfast before crossing the Arno.
Sightseeing: To see as much culture as we could, we purchased a Passepartout 5-Day Ticket (€39 each), which gave us access to the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace museums for five days. For three fantastic hours, we moved through the Uffizi's phenomenal collection. We saw Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Caravaggio’s Medusa. The sheer number of remarkable works on display gave me a newfound appreciation for the qualities that define a masterpiece.
Back over the river, we strolled along Via de' Tornabuoni, home to Florence's luxury shops. Much like during our time in the Uffizi, we admired pieces in the boutiques and acknowledged that they were far beyond our price range and kept walking.
Lunch: We ate at Sgrano Street Food. My fiancée is coeliac, so finding places we both can eat is often a challenge. Florence made it easy, though. They took food intolerances incredibly seriously. Sgrano served traditional focaccia sandwiches, beers, wines and salads – all without gluten. We both had gargantuan fresh mozzarella and mortadella ham sandwiches with pistachio cream (we saved half each for later). With a bottle of Coca-Cola and a large bottle of water, it cost €14.50 each.
Drinks: On our way home, we stopped at Pitti Express, a small café-bar in Oltrarno. The barman entertained his customers with gruff charm – knowing winks and exaggerated eye-rolls. He kept us very happy indeed, with a €3 glass of chianti and a €5 limoncello spritz each.
Dinner: Our dinner reservation for that night was Hostaria il Desco, a family-run restaurant near the city’s historical center. I had a fantastic homemade pappardelle pasta with a wild boar ragú, while my fiancée had spaghetti with red-wine-soaked pancetta, tomatoes and pecorino shavings. For dessert, we opted for a cheesecake and tiramisú. With the bottle of white wine we split, my share came to €28.50.
Drinks: We ended our night at Bar D’Angolo again. At sunset, it became a trendy spot for the cool and the well-dressed. Sipping our Aperol spritzes (€5 each), we watched people spill out of the tiny bar to chat the night away lounging atop parked mopeds and leaning against the wall.
Total spend on Saturday: €96 (including our Passepartout Ticket)
Sightseeing: We planned to use our museum ticket again on Sunday and started with the Boboli Gardens. The sprawling complex had stunning views of the rolling Tuscan Hills, dramatic statues and carefully maintained fruit trees. Previously, we'd seen queues outside the gates as we walked by and whilst there were crowds here, inside it felt as if we had the park to ourselves.
We wandered through the gardens to the Pitti Palace, the imposing historical home of Florence's former leaders such as the Medici family, Napoleon, and the Hapsburgs. Now several museums, three were open during our visit: the Palatine Gallery, an impressive assemblage of the Medici’s art collection, displayed in highly decorated rooms; the Gallery of Modern Art, home to Florentine works from the 18th to the early 20th centuries; and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
After a quick lunch (we ate our leftover Sgrano from yesterday, which tasted just as good), we walked to the Bardini Gardens, a lesser-visited but still exceptional park further down the Arno. Entry wasn’t included with our Passepartout ticket, so we paid €11 each to get in. The view of Florence and the gorgeous terrace bar at the top of the hill were well worth the admission price. We bought an Aperol spritz and a large water bottle for €11.75 each.
Dinner: Whisper it... having grown slightly tired of pizza and pasta, we ate dinner at the Chinese fusion restaurant, Pine & Apple instead. Amongst plush upholstered seating and intimate mood lighting, we enjoyed spare ribs on a bed of homemade spicy breadcrumbs, a raspberry sweet-and-sour prawn dish, and a complimentary glass of prosecco. We also shared a bottle of wine. My half of the meal cost €32.50.
Sightseeing: To finish the weekend, we walked uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. With spectacular views over the river, as the sun dipped behind the Ponte Vecchio, we saw a couple get engaged to the resounding cheers. An €8 Aperol Spritz from a bar in the square capped off our evening, and we headed home.
Total Spend on Sunday: €63.25
The final tally
Overall spend: on the ground (€261.80) + accommodation for three nights (€153.42) = €415.22 (US $438.86)