The choice is clear...buy this book or regret not buying it.
I had been to Florence many, many years ago. Everything is still where it was, but times have changed. We indeed live in a different world, a different time, different circumstances, and a different economy. No more Italian lira. It's the power of the euro now. Things simply cost more. Business is business, scams are scams, good deals are good deals, and bad deals are bad deals.
Security is heavy and tight in many of the museums. These are, after all, icons of civilization and a religious society and history. Bags will be checked, metal detectors are in use, you will empty your pockets, and you will be scanned. In spite of a highly visible police force, thieves, gangs, and gypsies still stalk the tourists and still try their hand or tricks to part you and your money.
This book by Rick Steve prepares you for all the best and all the worst that Florence and Tuscany has to offer. You can not do Florence in just a day or two, but if you have no choice then you have to prepare long in advance.
I can not stress enough the importance of checking his web site for updates, most importantly the Florence area attractions. Otherwise, without this book and advice on his website, BE PREPARED TO STAND IN LINE AT THE UFFIZI FOR UP TO 7 HOURS! ACCADEMIA FOR UP TO 4 HOURS! Or you can buy this book, take his and my advice, and buy your tickets well in advance. No waiting in line, just show up at your scheduled time. It is that easy. You can order from several different sources online or wait until you get to Florence and call in your order and save additional service fees and shipping fees. As an example; while entering the Accademia, two young ladies studying in Spain from UCLA were behind us. All of us already had our tickets and were simply waiting for our assigned entry time. They had already been to the Uffizi earlier that day and also preordered tickets. They related talking to some other college students who had been in line for 5 hours trying to get in, were no where near the entry, and ran the risk of not getting in by the time they stopped allowing entry. For both the Uffizi and Accademia, those that have reservations have a separate line and entry point. So get your tickets in advance! Enough said.
The value of this book comes in many forms. This is a great tour guide through each and every museum with suggested routes and paths to take, highlights the features in each room along with some historical perspective, and guides you along effortlessly. This is what others pay big bucks for...tour guides. This book essentially does this very well. We found one of the best values in the "undiscovered" gems of Florence that Rick pointed out (some of the real bargains). You can stand in line for hours to enter the Duomo, you can stand in another line for hours to climb up to the dome of the Duomo, or you can walk over to the Bell Tower where there is no line. There is also no elevator, just 414 steps but equally impressive and incredible views of the Duomo and the Florentine landscape. You can admire the doors of the Baptistery if you can get close enough. Or you can go to the Duomo Museum behind the Duomo and see the originals. This museum is a real gem. No lines, reasonable admission, self paced tour. Oh, and you can take plenty of pictures. This was never an issue in any museum in the past but now NO FOTO is everywhere. They want to protect the precious works of art but I feel the main motivation is to buy the overpriced books and pictures in the museum shops. In the Duomo Museum, you will also find Michelangelo's second Pieta, works by Donatello, actual models of the dome as well as drawings, many original elements from the Duomo, and countless other Florentine and Renaissance works to rival the Uffizi and Accademia. Again, with no lines and take all the pictures you want. You will also enjoy the religious relics like St. John the Baptist's finger, a tooth from the same, St. Peter's chains, the jawbone of other saints (or are they?) as the author points out. Another great bargain and no standing in line is the Bargello in Palazzo Vecchio. See even more Michelangelo, Donatello, and four more variations of David. Great self paced tour at your leisure with art students sprawled out all over the place sketching the statures and perhaps the patrons.
Walk and enjoy Florence day and night. Even with all the preparation and advice taken from the book and web site, two gypsy girls did the "trip and fall" routine where one braces herself against the other and against an unsuspecting person. This person happened to be my wife whom had a hand run completely down inside her panties in attempts to find and snatch (no pun intended) a money belt. I was the one wearing the money belt so I missed out on a cheap thrill.
Rick is right on with this book. He is right on with the fact that Florence indeed HAS THE BEST GELATO (tried several and was never disappointed). We were unable to book any hotels recommended due to peak tourist season and the popularity of this book. The only contradiction I can mention is to avoid the recommended Ristorante il Cavallino on Palazzo Vecchio. We found this to be a sorry excuse for Tuscan cuisine, overpriced for the fare, and rude behavior from more than one waiter. This view was also shared by other diners. You end up getting stuck paying for the pathetic service (servizio) as this is included in your bill already.