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The Duomo

This post originally formed part of this one I wrote about solo female travel, but I decided it really deserved a place of its own.

Back in 2014, I decided to make a solo trip to Florence. I was a bit worried about filling my time (needn’t have been!) and was looking online for suggested schedules or itineraries to keep me busy when I came across the Firenze Card. The basic deal was that for the cost of the card, you could have access to pretty much all the museums in Florence, plus priority entry for some of the top sights. I was intrigued.

At the time I went, the cost was 72€ and it was valid for 72 museums, for 72 hours. That was back in 2014, but when I checked just now, the price remains the same. Bargain.

The best part is that the card allows you to skip the enormous queues at the Uffitzi and the Academy- seriously, you can be waiting hours outside. It’s almost worth it for that alone. But seeing as I was travelling by myself, I made it my mission to visit as many places as possible covered by the card. I had a little under 72 hours, so time was tight, but thanks to the accompanying app, I was able to locate attractions that I otherwise would have passed by, and I tried to see everything worth seeing, even if only for a few minutes. It was an impossible task. I inevitably ended up spending hours inside places that I had only intended to visit “for 15 minutes” because they were so amazing, and which I wouldn’t have given any time to at all if it hadn’t been for their inclusion in the scheme. Seriously, buy the card. In my time in Florence, thanks to my Firenze Card, I enjoyed:

  • The Palazzo Vecchio (10€ admission charge)
  • Santa Maria Novella (5€)
  • Capelle Medicee (6€)
  • Palazzo Medici Riccardi (7€)
  • Santa Croce (6€)
  • The Uffitzi (15€ including advance fee of 4€)
  • Museo San Marco (4€)
  • The Accademia (15€ including advance booking fee)
  • The Museo degli Innocenti (3€)
  • 1 bus ride (2€, the card also covers some public transport)
  • Duomo combined ticket (10€).

The sights I saw would have cost 83€ had I paid for them all alone, and had I had a little more time on my city break, I know I would have got even more out of it. Somewhere that stood out especially for me was San Marco’s convent, which has frescoes painted by Fra Angelico on the walls – if I hadn’t had the card, there’s no way I would have ended up there, and I loved it.

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I took this from a window in the Uffitzi.

So what was my favourite sight in Florence? Somewhere that wasn’t included on the card, actually – but as it’s a place of worship, it’s free to enter anyway: I loved Dante’s Church, which I stumbled upon by accident after seeing a little wooden sign nailed to a wall. It’s a tiny, 11th century chapel, and it’s still in use. It features in The Da Vinci Code, if you’re a fan of Dan Brown. People go there to leave letters to Beatrice, Dante’s muse, to ask for her help with their love lives, and the letters are dropped off in baskets inside. Beatrice’s grave is also to be found here, tucked away in a dark corner, and on my visit, I remember seeing a few people duck in just to say a quiet prayer of have a few minutes’ respite from the crowds outside. After all the Florentine grandiosity, this quiet, humble, ancient place impressed me in a totally different way.

The Firenze card was just perfect for my trip, but I can see that it might not be worth the price tag if you’re only in Florence for one or two days, or if you only plan on visiting a handful of places. In order to fit everything in I barely had a break – I was out for hours each day and speeding from one place to the next. Maybe running around isn’t what you enjoy doing on holiday – but I’m still raving about how great Florence was 3 years later, largely thanks to the card.