Wander or Bust: Florence, Italy
Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.
They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure.~ The internet is full of travel advice, but none from women just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.
Here's Kylie McConville's Wander Or Bust guide to Florence.
My Name: Kylie McConville
What I Do: Managing editor, Elite Daily at Bustle Digital Group
Where I Live: New York City, NY
Where I Went: Florence, Italy (and Rome for 3 days and then Scopello, Sicily for 3 days).
How Long I Stayed: 4 days, 3 nights
My Spending Style: Occasionally indulgent. I don't throw money around, but I will definitely splurge on more than a few expensive things on a vacation.
Where I Got My Recommendations: I booked all the Airbnbs just by looking through the site, keeping in mind walking and subway distance to places. I also used TripAdvisor and asked friends and family who'd been to Italy.
Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = €1.17 EUR
What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = €58.50 EUR
Preferred Payment Method: I started a Digit savings account a year before my trip. A few days before leaving, I transferred all of that money ($1,200) to my checking account and used that to take out Euros. That covered all my day-to-day spending (food, drink, travel, and souvenirs) and then I also used my card for anything bigger.
Phone Bill: $10 per day for international service (Verizon). I kept my phone on airplane mode anytime I wasn’t in my Airbnb or a restaurant with WiFi.
Mode of Transport: Airplane and train
I took a direct flight from JFK to Rome (I set up a tracker on Google so I knew when flights were cheapest), then took the subway to get to the Airbnb. Getting around, we traveled by subway and walked everywhere. For part two of our trip, we took a train from Rome to Florence. In order to fly to Sicily, we took a train back from Florence to Rome, and then a flight to Sicily.
Price: Overall, airfare was ~$700, subways were ~$14, and the two train rides were ~$40 total — but this number includes travel for 10 days.
Extra Costs: In Florence, I booked two tour drivers for two separate days. We were in Italy for my cousin’s wedding and decided to do a bit of sightseeing before traveling to Sicily to watch her get married. Because my mom is Italian and her family is from there, I wanted to take her to her family’s village. Bardi is about two hours outside of Florence, so I booked a driver to take us there for the day. (Under $100 per person.) Then we had a second day of traveling around Tuscany, so I booked another driver (under $150 per person) to take us from Florence to Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Pienza.
Transport Total: ~$950
Accommodation: Airbnb for two of the three different cities (this one in Rome and this one in Florence) and then this B&B in Sicily. We also had one night’s stay in a hotel right outside of the airport in Rome to catch an early flight to Sicily.
Location: In Florence: Via Ricasoli, 4, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
For Florence only, I spent $175 for four days and four nights.
Rome: $105 for three nights
Hotel: $59 per night (per person — there were five of us, so we split two rooms)
Extra Costs: None associated with the Airbnbs. Everything was charged up front at the time we booked.
Would I Recommend It To Someone Else:
I’d recommend the two Airbnbs and the B&B in Sicily in a heartbeat! The hotel we stayed at for a night was out of necessity; I wouldn't recommend it otherwise.
Accommodation Total: $175 for my time in Florence (but $694 for three destinations and a hotel overnight).
Breakfast-Lunch Cost: $20-30/day
Dinner Cost: $45/day
Average Total Cost: $70/day
Tip Situation: We tipped at every location, 18-20 percent. The staff was always so friendly, so accommodating, and so patient — why wouldn't we?
In Rome, Florence, and Sicily we had traditional pastries for breakfast, and then our biggest meal of the day, which was lunch (with lots of wine), around 3-4. We’d eat dinner around 9-10, and that was typically just a bunch of shareable dishes, plus lots more wine.
Favorite Restaurant: Le Due Spade
I loved every single meal but my favorite, by far, was the testaroli I had in Bardi at this local spot. Testaroli is indigenous to the area, and it was a special visit. It’s where my mom’s family is from, and there’s even a little market it town with her maiden name on it. The meal was absolutely out of this world, and ever since I’ve been home, I’ve made it several times, though I won’t ever be able to create the magic of that first bite.
None of the wait staff spoke English (which was the best), the entire menu was in Italian, and it was really cloudy and overcast as we made our way to the village, but once we got there it was the most picture-perfect and clear day. And the fact that there was so much personal, familial history for us there didn’t hurt, either.
Location: Via Giordani n. 9, BARDI, (PR) 0525/71623
Price: There were six of us at lunch (we treated our driver, too), and I want to say the total was about 120 euro.
Food Total: I'd say $250 for my four days in Florence (but probably like $500 for the 10 days overall).
In Rome and Florence, we went to a lot of restaurants. Because I was traveling with family, I didn’t spend tons of time at bars at night.
What People Wear Out:
It was really casual in all of the restaurants and bars. It was still pretty hot that time of year (in the 70s and 80s), so lots of flowy dresses, jeans, and tops.
Average Cost Of A Pint: $2
I didn't drink any beer on my trip, as I prefer wine — and a good bottle can be as cheap as $6.
Extra Cost To Know About: Nope!
Last Call: Depends on where you were, but most places closed down between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m.
Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: I’d say $60.
Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: All’antico Vinaio
This cute (and delicious) sandwich spot had a beautiful restaurant next door where the wine flowed like the river Arno.
I’d go back to Bardi in a heartbeat, and I’d also go back to this restaurant, Shooters, outside of Rome’s city center, too.
Going Out Total: $150
Because I was traveling with family, I didn't go out that much. Plus, after sightseeing all day we were usually exhausted. I'd say probably around ~$150 total for just going out.
What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It: The Uffizi.
I don't care if you're an art lover or hater — there was so much beauty here that it was impossible not to fall in love. I'd go again (and again, and again) and never get bored.
What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Not Worth It:
We had dinner one night across the street from our Airbnb because we were exhausted and it was about 11:30 p.m. It was very much a tourist-trap (and we'd avoided going there all throughout our trip), but for the convenience, we just popped in to eat. Not my fave.
What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome:
We went to the Piazzale Michaelangelo one morning and had the most incredible views of Florence. It was early enough that no one was there yet, and tons of local artists were just setting up to paint. I was able to buy two tiny watercolors from the only woman artist there — now every time I look at it, I smile.
Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost:
Going to Bardi. It ended up being the perfect day — we stopped in Lucca on the way back and got to see the walled city. It was amazing. I would’ve spent so much more money to have that experience.
Hidden Gem I Found:
It's not a hidden gem, but Le Due Spade in Bardi and also El Castillo de Bardi — they were so beautiful.
The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention:
Excursions/Extras Total: $290
General Shopping: $80
I bought a lot of local pottery and paintings, both for myself and for my friends. At one of the wineries we stopped at, I paid to have local wine shipped back to the states (And I'd do it again and again and again).
Souvenirs/Shopping Total: I probably spent $120 shopping while there. I got a bunch of things for myself and souvenirs for my family and best friends.
Best Florence Hack:
Be OK with being uncomfortable, and do lots of things that make you feel uncomfortable (but safe, obviously). Pick something off of the menu that you have no clue how to pronounce; test out the local language on someone without asking them if they speak English. That, and do your own research and if you can.
Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone:
Talk to people! Even if it’s a stranger and you’re just asking for directions, ask! People are friendly.
Total Trip Cost: $1,699 for four days in Florence (but if you do the overall math for 10 days in Italy, I probably spent closer to $4K total).
Worth It? 1,000 percent yes! You don't even have to ask twice.