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Florence has the incredible job of looking after the world's best collection of Renaissance art, and as such most of the museums (and even some churches) will request an entrance fee, often to pay for the works undergoing restoration, such as in the case of the Basilica of Santa Croce. However, there are quite a few places where you can go in for free.
If you are on a budget, it is a good idea before you go to make a list of all the museums, churches and galleries you want to visit and check the prices of tickets on their websites. It is very handy to know that there are special periods when entry to the State Museums. This informaiton is absolutely free (although if you reserved tickets, you still pay the 4 euro reservation fee).
Some free times to visit State Museums:
There is free entrance to the state museums on the first sunday of every month. Look out for the "Notte dei Musei" Museum Night when they are also open from 8pm-2am free of charge - there is no need to make reservations.
Also keep in mind that children under 18 years of age are eligible for FREE entry to State Museums, but be sure to bring your passport or other equivalent ID when picking up your tickets!
Some of the best frescoes that Florence has to offer are in churches that are open to to public for free. These include Orsanmichele, the Duomo, the Basilica of San Miniato, Santo Spirito, Santissima Annunziata, Santa Trinita, Ognissanti, Santa Maria del Carmine and Santa Felicita.
Then of course, you can view some of the world's most important original sculptures just by walking in to Piazza della Signoria and looking at the Loggia dei Lanzi's collection of sculptures such as Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women and Cellini's Perseus.
Gardens and Views
Or forego the art, and walk up through the Rose Garden to Piazzale Michelangelo and on to San Miniato al Monte to take in the view of this magnificent Renaissance city.
Florence By Foot
Florence is a city best explored on foot and in doing so you can take in and experience the city the best way possible, appreciating the incredible architecture with every step.
Eating and Drinking on a budget
The further away from the major tourist sights you choose to eat and drink then the greater the chance of discovering more affordable restaurants and bars. There are lots of places where you get a panino and a glass of wine for just a few euros. The central market offers some really good authentic cheap eateries (on the ground floor) and even in the new dining area upstairs, you can find a reasonably priced meal. In ordinary bars, you will pay less if you stand at the bar instead of sitting down at a table.