Any city that can lay claim to a title like "Cradle of the Renaissance" is going to be worth spending a little time in. The good news is that Florence can reward you handsomely for the time you invest in it. You might not arrive in Florence caring at all about art, but you'll be hard-pressed to leave without at least appreciating what the city has to offer.
What to Do
If you like art - even a teeny tiny bit - you'll love Florence. You'll be able to see a roomful of Botticellis at the Uffizi, Michelangelo's masterpiece the David at the Accademia, and Donatello's earlier David (the one that inspired a young Michelangelo) at the Bargello. Be warned that these museums are notorious for their long lines during the tourist high season, so either book your ticket in advance (online or by phone) or plan to get up at the crack of dawn to get in line. Otherwise you could be faced with a several-hour wait - which is a pretty lousy way to spend your holiday. Travel smart and you won't end up traveling frustrated.
The good news for people who either aren't big art fans or who just can't be bothered to stand in those lines is that the city of Florence has plenty more distractions. From its outdoor leather markets to its world class gelato to its colorful cathedral to its picturesque river to its vast public squares, Florence has it all. It might feel a little chaotic and lack some of that charm you were expecting to find (it is Tuscany, after all), but remember that even though Florence is a tourist Mecca it's also still a real Italian city where people live and work. If you can stick mainly to the pedestrian areas, you won't be too shocked at the cars and scooters zipping by.
Peretola Airport is close to Florence, and is far less commonly used than the giant airports in Rome and Milan. This can make it a great alternative, although it's likely to be a bit more expensive to fly in and out of. To get around this, you might look into flying into London or Paris first and then catching a flight on a low-cost airline into Florence. You can also compare airfare to Florence with airfare to other Italian cities as well and see what makes the most sense. If you don't fly directly into Florence, it is easily accessible by train or bus from just about anywhere else in Italy. You might want to look into getting an Italy Railpass as well if you plan to travel mostly by train throughout Italy.
Where to Stay
Florence is a big enough city that there are plenty of places to choose from, in all budget ranges. From hostels to hotels, Florence has it all - check around and you might even find a great deal on a budget hotel right in the center of things.
If you happen to be visiting Florence after a place like Venice or the Cinque Terre, it can be a shock to the system. But once you settle into the rhythm of Florence you'll begin to feel the appeal of this city that Michelangelo once called home.
For more information on Florence and the rest of Italy, don't forget to check out our Italy Travel Guide.