Florence – Tour guides love to talk about their city because they’re passionate about their hometowns, but ask a tour guide what tourists are doing wrong, and you’ll find they’re passionate about that, too.
Because if there is one thing a tour guide doesn’t want to see, it’s a tourist having a cookie-cutter experience in a city as vibrant and diverse as Florence.
“Florence is not just David. We have much more than that!” Francesca Papi of Fantastic Florence said.
Papi says tourists often come in with an idea of what they want to see (the David, the Duomo and the Uffizi), but what they don’t realize is Florence has hundreds of other galleries and churches that are just as important and beautiful, without the lines.
In fact, there are more than 70 churches, 72 museums and 56 squares in Florence, most of which get overshadowed by big names, but are no less worthy of a visit.
With tourism in Florence on the rise (one guide quotes the increase at as much as 12 percent), these big-name tourist attractions will only get more crowded. Research conducted by Condé Nast Johansens has Florence at the top of luxury traveler’s to-visit list. When asked what city travelers are planning to visit within the next 24 months, 23 percent said Florence, which puts the city in second place, tied with Paris and just under New York (28 percent).
Florence guides have noticed an increase in American travelers this season, mostly likely due to the currently strong exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro. One guide added that the number of solo travelers in the city is also up.
“There is so much to see, even if it’s a small city. It is easy to walk everywhere and it generally feels safer and less chaotic than places like Rome,” Elisabetta Marchi of Tuscany Trotter said.
The beauty of the city is also an undeniable draw, especially to Americans, whose doors are apparently very boring.
“They really love everything, from the food and the art to the architecture and the way of living,” Papi said. “Also the doors, Americans love the doors.”
With all these people coming in, it’s more important than ever for tourists to get out of the crowded areas in order to experience Florence like a local.
“Try to experience whatever is local. Trust your guide because we really know our city and if we give a tip it’s because we know what is the best,” Papi said. “Keep in mind that you’re travelers and not just tourists.”
A popular issue on tour guides’ minds is the lack of respect for their beautiful city. Even though Florence may look like a magical place, created especially for the crowds of tourists, it’s important for tourists to remember that not everyone here is on holiday.
“A lot of times tourists don’t understand that Florence is a place were people live. They think it’s just like a park, or entertainment place, and they’re dressed like on the beach,” said Laura Donato of Florence Tourist Point. “Try to respect the city. It’s a real city where people live.”
Other top tips for the city include making sure your shoulders and knees are covered if your planning to visit a church. Also, if your wanting to see the David, the worst day to go is Tuesday and the best times to book are the first and last time slots of the day. And don’t try to pack too much into your schedule, part of experiencing Florence like a local is leaving time to “inhale” the city, as Marchi put it.