Florence is one of the main symbols of Italian art and culture and it is principally related to the Renaissance period and to the artists that lived and worked during that time. The worldwide fame of Florence is not only due to its monuments and works of art, but it’s also related to the many Italian historical events that took place here and to its delicious food too!
To visit Florence without having to rush, you would need at least 4 days, but you can see a lot even in 2 days if you make an accurate selection of all the attractions and iconic spots of the city. Let’s see what you cannot miss and some tips to make the best out of your visit without wasting your precious time!
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When is the best time to visit Florence
Spring is definitely the best season. You’ll find warm and sunny days and quite low prices too. Spring is still considered low season (until May) so that hotels have lower rates available. As for the crowds of tourists, you’d better be resigned: Florence is crowded 365 days a year!
How to get to Florence from other Italian cities
Florence is very well connected to the main Italian cities with high-speed trains: it takes 1h30 to get there from Rome, 3 hours from Naples, 40 minutes from Bologna and 1h40 from Milan.
Where to stay in Florence
It’s best to choose a hotel in the city center so that you’ll be able to walk around and you’ll also have the chance to enjoy the local nightlife. All the main attractions are within walking distance so that you should be abler to walk your way around the city and quickly reach all the monuments and places that are on your list! A few addresses:
- Tourist House Battistero
This 15th-century structure now serves as a beautiful hotel located near the Ponte Vecchio and the famous Scudieri café. The rooms give you a wonderful view of the city’s iconic buildings.
Check out the latest prices and more details on Booking.com
- C-Hotels Ambasciatori
This 4-star hotel is located near many local popular attractions. It’s a very modern and chic hotel in the midst of all the history surrounding it.
Check out the latest prices and more details on Booking.com
How to spend 2 days in Florence – a first-timers itinerary
2 days in Florence – Day One
1. Florence Cathedral
As soon as you get to Florence, head to Duomo Square (Piazza del Duomo): it’s the heart of the old town and it’s also included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
You’ll be impressed by the beautiful facade of the Cathedral, a real masterpiece that looks like a painting or a sculpture and not just a “simple” marble building. Santa Maria del Fiore was built by the famous architect Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296. Its gothic style and the elaborate black and white decorations of its external walls give it an extremely fascinating look.
Once inside, climb the stairs of the dome to enjoy an amazing view and take some pictures of the square and the city from above. The Brunelleschi Dome was added to the cathedral in 1436 and it soon became one of the symbols of Florence and the most striking point of its skyline.
Opening hours: from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Cost: there is just an all-inclusive ticket including the cathedral, dome, crypt, baptistery, Giotto tower and the museum of the Opera del Duomo. It costs 18 euros. If you just want to visit the cathedral without climbing the dome’s stairs, you can enter for free.
2. Giotto Tower
Once outside, be prepared to climb another steep staircase: just a few meters from the Cathedral you’ll see the famous Giotto Tower, which is 85m high. It was designed by Giotto in 1334, but he died before the end of the construction works so that it was actually completed by Pisano and Talenti. Opening hours: from 8 a.m. to 7.20 p.m. Cost: all-inclusive ticket.
3. Baptistery of San Giovanni
There’s still something to visit in Piazza del Duomo: the Baptistery of San Giovanni. Before entering, take a moment to admire its massive bronze doors decorated with bas-reliefs by Ghiberti and Pisano: they are closely studied by every Italian art student!
The baptistery is built in Romanic style and it reminds of a Paleo-Christian building: it was actually built on the ruins of an ancient pagan worship site dedicated to Mars. The most striking part of the baptistery is its ceiling: it is decorated with mosaics by Cimabue.
Opening hours: from 8.15 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Cost: all-inclusive ticket.
Tip: The queues to enter the Duomo and to climb the Cupola are long and you might have to wait for hours to enter. A great way to skip the lines is by taking a guided tour or if you are using the Firenze Card (The Firenze Card works like a three-day fast pass to your favorite attractions. This is a great option for visitors trying to pack as much sightseeing into a Florence vacation as it lets them skip the long queue lines at most of the most popular sites. It is a great buy if you are staying in Firenze for 3 days).
Here are some recommended tours of the Duomo:
Now you can spend some time wandering through the picturesque streets of the Old Town and immerse yourself in their Renaissance atmosphere. Every famous building or monument that you expect to see in Florence is within walking distance so that you can see the most iconic spots just strolling and having a break from other visits! Have lunch nearby with some typical food like schiacciata!
4. Piazza della Signoria
By now, you’ve probably bumped into Piazza della Signoria, where many important historical episodes took place. For example, Friar Girolamo Savonarola was accused of heresy and burned here in 1498. Take some time to closely watch the famous David (this is a copy) by Michelangelo just in front of Palazzo Vecchio. This square hosts many statues like Ercole and Caco, the Neptune by Ammannati and the equestrian statue of the Duke Cosimo Medici.
On one side of the square, you’ll see the Loggia dei Lanzi: a covered porch dating back to the XIV century and initially conceived to host assemblies and ceremonies. It was once called Loggia della Signoria, but it changed its name during the rule of Cosimo Medici that used it as an accommodation for his mercenary troops called Lanzichenecchi. Today, you’ll see many statues under this porch and the most famous one is the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini.
Spend some time visiting Palazzo Vecchio: it is one of the most iconic and popular buildings in Florence and you’ve probably already seen it somewhere. It’s always been the headquarter of the local political power and it now hosts the municipal offices of the City of Florence. A large part of the building is now a museum dedicated to the history of the city and full of precious works of art.
Opening hours: from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cost: about 12 euro.
5. Santa Croce Church
Enjoy a pleasant walk to reach Santa Croce Church. This beautiful church hosts the tombs of many illustrious personalities like Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei. There’s also a memorial dedicated to Dante Alighieri, who was buried in Ravenna following his exile. Don’t miss the frescos by Giotto.
Opening hours: from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Sunday from 2 to 5.30 p.m. Cost: 8 euro.
6. Ponte Vecchio
Late afternoon is the perfect time of the day to enjoy a walk by the Arno River. Cross the Ponte delle Grazie and stroll along the riverfront. Then cross Ponte Vecchio to come back to the city center side of the river. Ponte Vecchio is famous for its jewelry and for being partially covered by the Corridoio Vasariano.
It was a corridor connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti and allowing the noblemen to stay inside their palaces without having to face the overcrowded and chaotic streets. Ponte Vecchio and the streets nearby were once the butchers’ district.
2 days in Florence – Day Two
1. Uffizi Museum
You cannot leave Florence without a visit to the Uffizi Museum! It might seem difficult to get inside because you’ll probably see a long line in front of its doors at any time of the day and 365/7. To skip it, just book your visit in advance and choose to be one of the first to enter early in the morning!
Opening hours: from 8.15 a.m. to 6.50 p.m. (closed on Monday). Cost: 20 euro from March to October – 12 euro from November to February.
Tip: The queues for the Uffizi are long. To save time you can either buy a timed entrance ticket beforehand or book a guided tour.
Here are some great options:
2. Galleria dell ’Accademia
Another museum that attracts many tourists from all around the world is Galleria dell ’Accademia. Lines are long and exhausting, but a good idea to visit both museums at once without wasting too much time is taking a guided tour. This way, you’ll be able to visit both sites in about 4 hours with a dedicated guide that will tell you the stories behind the main works of art.
If you are planning to visit both the Uffizi and the Accademia you might be interested in these:
The Galleria dell’ Accademia hosts many works by Michelangelo, whose most important masterpiece is the statue of David. Another important work you’ll find here is the Madonna del Mare by Botticelli.
Opening hours: from 8.15 a.m. to 6.50 p.m. Cost: 12 euro.
Tip: There are usually long queues for the Accademia. To save time you can either buy a timed entrance ticket beforehand or book a guided tour.
Here are some suggestions:
3. Santa Maria Novella Church
If you are not too tired, have a short walk and reach Santa Maria Novella Church. This gothic church reminds of the colored marble decorations of the Cathedral and it hosts some works of art by Masaccio and Giotto.
Opening hours: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Cost: 5 euro.
4. Central Market
Head to the Central Market nearby for lunch. It’s an indoor market with 2 floors: on the ground floor you can find the stalls and on the first floor you can eat all the local specialties. Choose some meat: lampredotto or chianina are the most typical choices for both locals and tourists.
Opening hours: from 8 a.m. to midnight.
5. Boboli Garden
Another unmissable stop of your itinerary in Florence is the Boboli Garden. It is Palazzo Pitti’s park and it dates back to the XV century. It was designed by the famous landscape gardener Niccolò Tribolo and it is one of the best places to spend a spring afternoon in Florence. It’s full of terraces, shady paths, plants, fountains and anything you would expect from an Italian-style Renaissance garden.
Opening hours: from 8.15 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. Cost: 7 euro.
6. Piazzale Michelangelo
The most romantic way to end your itinerary in Florence is watching the sunset from the panoramic Michelangelo Square (Piazzale Michelangelo). This nice belvedere was built in 1869 during the renovation works of the city walls. It owes its name to the famous artist that should have had a dedicated museum right here: actually, the project was never completed and the neoclassical building that was meant to be a museum is now a popular restaurant!
Nevertheless, Michelangelo’s presence can still be strongly perceived thanks to a huge copy of his David standing in the middle of the square. To reach the belvedere from the Boboli Garden you should catch bus number C3 and get off at the stop named Torrigiani Chiesa Luterana. From there, you can walk uphill until you reach the panoramic terrace.
Practical tips for your 2-day Florence itinerary
- Museums are free on certain dates: have a look at the list at https://www.imuseidifirenze.it/musei-gratis-firenze/
- You should avoid June, July, and August when planning your visit to Florence: this trip requires long walks and in summer you’ll probably find very hot weather (up to 38°C);
- You can buy the Firenze Card to speed up the lines: it is a prepaid card including the main attractions and it is valid for 72 hours – the cost of the card is usually worth it if you are staying in Florence for 3 days. Alternatively, book skip the line tickets or a guided tour.
- More information at http://www.firenzecard.it/index.php?lang=en
You might want to check out my post: How to skip the lines in Florence.
What to eat in Florence
- Fiorentina steak: a rare grilled steak made of Chianina meat (local cow breed)
- Ribollita: bread and vegetable soup
- Lampredotto: the stomach of the cow
- Tomato soup: bread, tomato, and basil soup
- Schiacciata: flatbread, similar to focaccia
- Cantucci: these almond biscuits are widespread throughout Toscana. They are very crunchy and a bit dry, so they’re usually served together with some Vin Santo, which is a sweet wine.
Restaurants in Florence
- Try the most famous Tuscan recipes at Rossi Firenze in Piazza Davanzati 3;
- The most typical meal in Florence includes a Fiorentina steak: taste it in a couple of restaurants to choose your favorite version! A few addresses? Bisteccheria Santa Croce in Largo Bargellini 2 or La Bistecca Osteria Fiorentina in Piazza Repubblica 12;
Cafés, bars, and street food in Florence:
- The most popular street food is schiacciata: taste it at Schiacciamatta in Borgo La Croce 68;
- Enjoy an aperitivo in the main square of the city: Panini Toscani in Piazza del Duomo 34;
- If you feel like having a sandwich for lunch so that you don’t waste too much time sitting in a restaurant, go to Panini e Vini di Nante in Piazza del Duomo 50 and choose the lampredotto one;
Souvenir ideas from Florence
- The countryside around Florence is called Chianti and it is one of the most important wine-growing areas in Italy. Choose a winery and bring home a bottle of original Tuscan wine. La Piazza del Vino in via della Torretta 18 also offers tastings and suggestions;
- Buy some cantucci at one of the best bakeries in town: Forno Pintucci in via delle Caldaie 2;
- Tuscany is also famous for leather-working. In the past, Florence hosted many tanneries on the Arno River banks and many laboratories are still active today. They turned into real modern businesses working for luxury brands. A few addresses? Bottega Fiorentina in Borgo dei Greci 5 or Cellerini in via del Sole 9;
- A typical night out starts before dinner with an aperitivo: choose a café, a winery or a cocktail bar and taste a glass of local wine for an authentic local experience;
- Dinner is the most important part of a night out in Italy: in Florence, you should definitely taste the Fiorentina steak in a local steak house;
- In Florence, you’ll find a wide choice of pubs and clubs, but the best way to spend your late evening is simply walking in the old town ad admire the monuments in the light of the street lamps that create a unique atmosphere;
Do you feel like having an original and unconventional experience?
- Enjoy a real Renaissance dinner at Palazzo Borghese: you’ll feel like being part of a past era with ancient music, costumes, dances, and food! More information at https://www.palazzoborghese.it/en/renaissance-dinner/
- Florence is the setting of the famous book “Hell” by Dan Brown: have fun discovering all the places you read about with this guided tour https://www.florence-museum.com/inferno-guided-tour-dan-brown.php
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