First time in Tuscany
If you are traveling to Tuscany or Italy for the first time, here are some tips to help you plan your stay:
Tuscany’s climate varies according to the areas. Pisa benefits from a more temperate climate due to its nearness to the sea, while in Florence summers are very hot and humid and winters are very cold. Summer can be unrelenting in Tuscany. This has been especially true of the past few years, whose summers have been very humid as well as sweltering. I highly recommend avoiding the middle hours of the day for sightseeing, and with children, it’s wiser to have a break mid-way into your tour to enjoy a beverage and a snack, or plan a 2 hour visit instead of a 3 hour one. You will find outdoor drinking fountains everywhere.
MUSEUMS & RESERVATIONS
Tuscany is a very busy destination and the number of visitors can sometimes be disconcerting or discouraging. Over the years I’ve learned not to mind, but I also know how to avoid the crowds by opting for less traveled streets. For the most famous museums such as the Accademia and the Uffizi in Florence, it is mandatory to book your entrance well in advance (15 days at least) to avoid losing precious time in hours of queuing. In most museums, receiver devices with headphones are mandatory for groups consisting of more than 6 people. These are quite efficient and will allow you to stray a bit away from me without missing any of my commentary. These devices are also absolutely essential for large groups during walking tours of Florence – one of the benefits being avoiding noise pollution (the guide doesn’t have to raise their voice) and respecting those who are not part of the tour group.
Beware of unofficial museum websites! Ask me for links to the official sites to avoid scams!
CIRCULATING BY CAR
All historic centers in Italy have a ZTL (limited traffic zones) marked with green and red lights. Fines cannot be annulled. Be careful before entering those areas. You will need authorization to access these areas, if, for example, you need to get to your accommodation or to a parking facility. Also be careful with the rates of the parking facilities within the ZTL, offered by hotels and B&Bs. Parking in the historic center of Florence will not cost less than 30 euros per day. Florence, Pisa and Lucca are small cities compared to Paris or New York, and there are many parking facilities outside the ZTL, from where you can take a bus or tram to reach the historic center much more easily. However, if you wish to park inside the historic center, the parking facility will communicate your license plate to the traffic police and you will not be in violation.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out that GPSs are not very reliable in historical centers, especially in Florence. It is better to ask your hotel for clear directions. Waze is a very good GPS that will show you the ZTL and temporary works.
CREDIT CARDS & RECEIPTS
Every business must accept credit cards, be wary of anyone who asks you for cash, except for a coffee or expenses under 5 or 10 euros. Even in non-hotel accommodations, the owner is required to issue a receipt. Always ask for a receipt, help us fight the underground economy.