Travel hacks for museum ticket reservations in Florence and the best places for a quick bite
Florence is Italy’s cultural capital. The spoils of centuries of cashed-up Florentine royalty hoarding and wooing the country’s best artists, architects and sculptors are laid bare for the serious art historian or mildly curious modern traveller with an eye on the Lonely Planet’s top 10 must-sees.
But getting into Florence’s museums can be tough. The city attracts more than 10 million visitors a year and you know they’ll all be making a beeline for the Uffizi sometime during their stay. So how do you avoid the crowds and make sure you don’t miss out?
There are a number of ways to grab tickets for Florence’s museums.
Being prepared is the antithesis of the Italian way of life, we know. You can’t really imagine them reserving a restaurant in Florence, let alone a museum ticket. They’re far more likely to just saunter in a minute before closing without a care in the world. It’d probably work too, but if it doesn’t, they can always come back. Those of us who aren’t lucky enough to live in the city, can’t, so it pays to plan ahead.
The official state Florentine museums’ website lets you buy your tickets anywhere from a day to years in advance for the city’s top museums. That’s the Accademia Gallery (aka Michelangelo’s David), the Medici Chapels, Bargello Museum, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Galleria Palatina, Modern Art Gallery, Boboli Garden, San Marco, the Archaeological Museum, the Uffizi and the Palazzo Davanzati.
The Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery are the ones you don’t want to leave to chance, unless you’re visiting between November and March and don’t mind arriving before 8am or after 4pm. As for the other museums on the list, you can usually grab a ticket on the day without standing in line.
If you do want to reserve a ticket, get it from the official website. There are plenty of other ticketing websites that are privately owned, but you risk paying more and/or buying tickets that aren’t valid. Some hotels can also arrange tickets, usually for a small commission.
Some of the tickets are multi-pass. For example, the Uffizi tickets includes entry to the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Garden, so read the description before you buy. The tickets include priority entrance, but you have to show up within 15 minutes of your allocated time. The most popular sites and times (usually between 10am and 1pm) sell out first.
When planning your itinerary, be sure to check how long it takes to get from one attraction to another and try not to overload. Florence’s museums are best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
You can’t buy tickets on the first Sunday of every month. Entry is free but- It. Gets. Crowded.
Phone it in
You can book tickets over the phone in Italy or overseas in English. You’re probably thinking, who calls anyone anymore? But the upside of calling is that you don’t have to pay upfront. You just present the confirmation number you’re given to the museum and pay there. So if anyone bails on a last minute close up with David, you don’t lose any cash.
The number is +39-055-294-883 and it’s open Mon–Fri 8:30–18:30, Sat 8:30–12:30, closed Sun.
Last minute tricks
If you’ve arrived in Florence and decided to wing it, then there are a few tricks you can try before joining the massive queues. First pick up a phone and try the call centre. Otherwise head to either Orsanmichele Church (daily 9am-4pm except Sunday, along Via de' Calzaiuoli) or the My Accademia Libreria bookstore (Tuesday–Sunday 8:15am-5:30pm, Via Ricasoli 105 R), both of which sell tickets. You can also try the Uffizi's official ticket office inside door #2. Since all of Florence’s are closed on Monday, the hardest day to get a last-minute ticket is actually Tuesday.
Otherwise there is one other solution: the Firenze card.
The Firenze card
The three-day sightseeing pass costs a hefty €85, but it’s worth it if you can’t get into Florence’s museums any other way. It includes entry into all of the city’s main attractions including the Uffizi and the Accademia with the added privilege of not having to book ahead (except for the Duomo dome climb). All you have to do is show up, flash your card and you go right to the front of the queue.
Unless you don’t mind skipping meals and wearing down the soles of your shoes, there’s very little chance you’ll get your money’s worth. You are paying for the convenience of not having to reserve ahead and the card includes plenty of minor sites that you might not have been otherwise inclined to visit.
Bear in mind that the 72-hours kick in from the moment you visit your first museum and a lot of museums are closed on Sundays and Mondays. You can only visit each attraction once.
You can buy a Firenze card from any of the museums or at a tourist information centre.
Where to eat in and around Florence’s museums
Just writing about Florence’s museums is hungry work, so remember to pencil in a quick bite while you’re on your whirlwind tour. For inspiration, check out our guide on budget eats in the capital, as well as The Guardian’s top 10 eats near Florence’s attractions and Eat Sip Trip’s shortlist of excellent gelato in Florence's historical center.
Here are some of our favourite spots for great meals without any detours.
Near the Uffizi:
Mangia Pizza: Crusty thin-crust pizzas with plenty of gourmet seasonal and locally sourced toppings. A great cheap eats, but there’s not a lot of seating. Via Lambertesca, 24/26/R. 12pm-7pm every day.
Buca dell'Orafo: A traditional Tuscan trattoria serving porcini mushrooms in summer, artichokes in autumn, pasta with peas in summer and amazing Bistecca Fiorentina all year round. Via dei Girolami, 28. Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday.
Vini e Vecchi Sapori: The hand written menu is short, traditional and changes daily, but you can always expect homemade pastas and sauces as well as zuccotto, a sweet trifle. Via dei Magazzini, 3r. Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday.
Ora D'aria: Tuscan tradition transformed through innovation and elegance by a Michelin-starred chef. Think steak tartare with truffles and artisan beer or pappa al pomodoro with basil gelato. Via dei Georgofili, 11R. Lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday, Monday dinner.
Near the Bargello National Museum and Palazzo Vecchio
Gucci Cafe by Bottura: Haute cuisine meets haute couture at this fashionable label’s flagship restaurant. The menu is a true melting pot with everything from cacio e pepe to high-end hot dogs and Peruvian tostadas. Piazza della Signoria. Lunch and dinner, every day.
Il Cernacchino: A true taste of homestyle Florentine cooking. Most people rave about the panini, particularly the porchetta one, but the simple primi, soups and tripe are good too. Via della Condotta, 38R. 9:30am-7:30pm, Monday to Saturday.
Near Piazza della Repubblica
I Due Frattellini: This 100-year-old sandwich shop uses only locally sourced ingredients. The salsa verde is so good, they slather it on everything. Via dei Cimatori, 38/r, 10am-8pm every day.
Looking for more food in Florence advice? Be sure to check out our food blog and check out our food tours in Florence for when you need a break from the crowded museums! Our tours are small and expert-led, come eat with us!