There's no doubt about it: Florence is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. Appealing to history buffs, foodies, and shopaholics alike, it's a city that has something for everyone. But as tourism in Florence grows, it's vital to visit the city with sustainable tourism in mind.
And while sustainable tourism is certainly related to eco-friendly travel, it isn't just about protecting the environment. It's also about respecting the local communities, including the economy and culture of the destinations we visit on holiday.
In honour of #EnjoyRespectFirenze, we've put together a list of our top tips for sustainable travel in Florence, Italy. We can all work together to make sure that Florence is just as mesmerising for many future generations to come.
Tips for Sustainable Travel in Florence
1. Visit in low season
If it's possible, taking your holiday to Florence in the low season or in a shoulder season (spring or autumn) is a fantastic way to participate in sustainable tourism. While the summer months often see a huge increase in tourists to Florence, visiting in low season not only helps minimise the effect of overcrowding in the city, it also provides great benefits to us as tourists. There are often much better deals on hotels in low season, not to mention the fact that we'll have more of Florence to ourselves!
Another cornerstone of sustainable travel is slow travel, meaning you take your time in a destination. If it's possible, stay a few days (at least!) in the city of Florence. There is so much to see and do in the city and the surrounding area; it's definitely so much more than just a day trip!
2. Place an emphasis on local culture
Experiencing a destination's local culture is one of the best parts of travelling. It's an amazing feeling to leave a place feeling that you really got to know it and that you actually learned something! There are many ways to immerse yourself in the local culture in Florence, including taking a local tour, visiting an artisan's workshop, and only buying locally-produced souvenirs (those fake handbags sold on the street? No, they're not local, and they're illegal, too).
And we mustn't forget one of the best way to experience a local culture... eating, of course! Italian cuisine is famous the world over, and for very good reason. Florence is no exception, and it is known for its local produce and meat. Try anything made with cannellini beans, a staple of the region, and, as soup is quite popular in Tuscany, a nice bowl of _p__appa al pomodoro_ can be served hot or cold, depending on the day. If it's pasta you're after, tagliatelle al tartufo is a must-try; Tuscany has both black and white truffles, so it's a great opportunity to try this delicacy in a local region.
3. Remember that Florence is somebody's home
With cobblestoned streets, stunning architecture, and such a romantic atmosphere, it's sometimes easy to forget that Florence is indeed home to hundreds of thousands of people. While we're stopping to take photos of the Duomo, residents are going about their daily lives.
It's imperative, then, that we take care to respect the local inhabitants of Florence. Just as you wouldn't want tourists acting rudely in your hometown, nor do the citizens of Florence! There are many ways we can implement this, including:
- never taking a photo of someone without their permission
- dressing appropriately, especially in and around religious sites (that means no bathing suits in the streets)
- keeping noise to a minimum, especially in the evening
- never talking on a phone inside a religious building
- abiding by the "no photos" signs you see in shops and/or other buildings
4. Leave no trace
While this tip might seem like common sense, it's easy to forget our common sense on holiday! Florence has remained such a gorgeous city for so many years because its residents have always taken care to keep it clean. As responsible tourists, we can do the same. Always dispose of your rubbish properly, recycle when possible, never participate in graffiti (including carving your initials anywhere), and never climb on monuments (or in fountains). Similarly, as tempting as it may be to set up a picnic on those beautiful church steps, there are public parks and benches for that.
5. Think green
There are many small choices we can make every day that can lead to huge impacts across the world. While these are actions we should try to take while at home or abroad, thinking and acting with the environment in mind can really help with sustainable tourism in Florence. Some examples of "thinking green" while on holiday in Florence include:
- Carrying a reusable water bottle. Millions of plastic water bottles make their way into our landfills, eventually polluting our land and our oceans. If every tourist carried a reusable water bottle, it would make a big difference! Tap water is safe to drink in Florence, and there are plenty of public water fountains where we can fill up.
- Avoiding disposable plastic items. Bring a cloth tote bag from home for shopping, refuse plastic cutlery in favour of travel utensils brought from home, and purchase reusable toiletry bottles to fill with your products at home before you travel.
- Asking that your sheets and towels aren't laundered every day. While at your hotel in Florence, going a few days without fresh sheets or towels can make a huge impact on the amount of water and energy used. We don't change our sheets or our towels every day at home, so why should we when we travel?
Florence has been an inspiration for centuries, and without it we may not have had some of the most influential and important artistic and cultural aspects of Western society today; think of the Italian Renaissance, for example. Together, as responsible tourists, we can help to preserve Florence's beauty and influence. In a city so grand, it can sometimes be the little things that matter most; our seemingly small actions of protecting and respecting Florence can make a huge impact.