If you love art and culture, then Florence really should be on your Italy travel itinerary, even if only for one day.
When Nathan and I were planning our trip to Italy this past summer, I knew I wanted to spend some time in Tuscany. I really wish I could have spent longer.
Florence, Italy was a hotbed for art and architecture during the Renaissance- meaning that today you can walk the same streets once wandered by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Filippo Brunelleschi, and Galileo Galilei, just to name a few.
We ended up in Florence for about day and a half and really maximized our time. Here are some do’s, don’ts and my suggested itinerary for a short stay in Florence.
DO Wear A Good Pair Of Walking Shoes
Florence is a very walkable city. We rarely used the bus system. In fact, I think Florence is one of those cities that is generally best enjoyed on foot, especially around the crowded areas such as the Duomo.
That being said, if you have to use the transit system, it is incredibly simple. Buses are clearly marked and they basically run in a large circle around the city.
But, regardless of whether or not you are coming into Florence for the day, or staying overnight as we did, I highly recommend riding the train into the city and then just racking up the miles. Since we stayed overnight, we used a bus to get us to our hotel…and then we just hit the pavement.
For all of the walking, you’ll want to make sure you wear a good pair of walking shoes. I hit the road with my Vionic sandals, but whatever you wear, just make sure you are comfy.
For some recommendations, check out this post featuring 12 Comfortable and Stylish Shoes for Travel from SherSheBlogs.
DON’T Purchase The Florence Pass
City passes can be a great way to save time and money and, generally, I am a big advocate for them.
However, Florence’s city pass is one I can only recommend under certain circumstances.
The Florence City pass is known as the Firenze Card.
It’s only good for 72 hours and includes admission and skip the line entrance to numerous museums and attractions around the city, as well as public transportation.
But, note what I said above about Florence being walkable.
You may not need the public transportation option and for €85 (Approximately $97 USD) we found we really had to run ourselves ragged to get our money’s worth.
If you are going to be in Florence for the full 72 hours and have all of that time available to hit several stops, then the Firenze Card may be worth it.
I loved being able to avoid lines and arrive at our leisure to the galleries and museums. However, with some pre-planning, you can simply make a reservation and you can still skip the lines.
For a trip to Florence that is 2 days or less, price your desired attractions separately and go from there.
It’s also helpful to know that the museums in Florence can be open at erratic or odd hours, so you may not have access to every destination listed during your stay. Additionally, you cannot pre-reserve the cupola climb ( the top of the Bruneschelli’s Dome) in advance with the Firenze card. Odds are, it will be sold out by the time you arrive in Florence for a short stay, so to ensure a visit to the top you would need to pre-reserve separately.
This is the breakdown of all the attractions that Mr. L and I visited with the Firenze Card and what each attraction costs separately:
Accademia Gallery – €12,00 PP ( Minors under 18 are free)
Uffizi Gallery – €18,50 PP ( Minors under 18 are free)
Palazzo Medici Riccardi – €7,00 PP ( Minors under 18 are free)
Museo Del Duomo ( The Florence Cathedral + Baptistry, Campanile etc.) – €18,00 PP
Basilica San Lorenzo-€ 6,00 PP ( Minors under 11 are free)
Museo di Storia Naturale, Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens) –€ 3,00 PP ( Children 6 and under are free)
Museo Galileo ( Galileo Museum) – €10,00 PP (€6,00 for children and youth ages 6-18)
Museo di San Marco – €4,00 PP
GRAND TOTAL: €78,50 PP
If you count the few times we took a bus, we probably broke even. But, the reality is that many of these places we entered just because we had the Firenze Card and was trying to use it.
For example, the Galileo Museum had some nifty artifacts and was a nice stop… but, truth be told, we were so exhausted by the time we reached it that we struggled to enjoy it.
My take –The Firenze Card is likely only worth it if you can hit at least ten stops on the card. For a short time in Florence, save your money and follow my outline below.
DO see Michelangelo’s Statue of David
Arguably one of the most famous and well-known sculptures of all time, Michelangelo’s representation of David is truly a sight to behold.
The 17 ft. marble statute towers over guests at the end of a long hall at the Accademia Gallery. The art museum has some nice exhibits and is worth a tour, but David is the headliner.
Pre-purchase your tickets in advance online so that you can skip the line. Trust me…you want to skip the line.
The Accademia Gallery
Via Ricasoli, 58/60
50122 Florence, Italy
Ph. +39 055 0987100
Full price: € 8,00 + €4,00 Reservation Fee = €12,00
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am-6:50 pm ( Yes, they’re closed Monday)
DON’T Stress If You Can’t Climb Up The Dome
Bruneschelli’s Dome is the crowning jewel atop the church of Santa Maria del Fiore aka the Florence Cathedral aka the Duomo.
If you plan ahead and purchase a reservation to climb to the top, I am sure the view is well worth it. However, if you don’t…I wouldn’t stress.
Secondary to this is don’t waste to your time in line for the Cathedral or Bell Tower.
The line to get into the Florence Cathedral forms early in the day and if you are not there right away, you can stand to wait a long time.
It’s my personal opinion that the line is not worth the visit as the interior of the Duomo is relatively underwhelming as opposed to its exterior.
So, if you find yourself stuck without a reservation to climb to the top of the dome or facing a long line outside the church, don’t get sucked into purchasing a ticket from one of the tour operators who will be lurking outside and instead check out my next tip.
DO Climb Up The Campanile
I still suggest taking a climb up the Campanile.
Completed in 1359, the official name is Giotto’s Campanile, named after the original architect who designed it.
This line is significantly shorter than the line to the dome, and you actually can climb to about the same height as you would at the dome.
The climb is 414 steps and there is no elevator. But, towering at 278 feet, the Campanile gives you the benefit of picturesque views of Florence and Bruneschelli’s Dome.
Il Grande Museo Del Duomo
One ticket provides entry to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry of St. John, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum.
WORK OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE IN FLORENCE
Via della Canonica, 1
50122 – Florence
Telephone: +39 055 2302885
Full price: €18,00 PP (€3,00 Children ages 6-11)
DO Visit The Uffizi Gallery
So…full disclosure…the Uffizi Gallery can be a pain to navigate. Rick Steves even admits this in his Audio Europe app guide which we followed through the Uffizi.
However, it’s still worth a visit.
The Uffizi houses some well-known works, but our top pick is The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.
If you opt to not do the Firenze card and don’t pre-purchase a ticket online ( which you can do here), head over to the Boboli Gardens to buy your tickets. You can purchase a combined ticket for the Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace and Uffizi.
Even if your plan is to just go to the Uffizi, popping over to Boboli and incurring the extra cost for the combined ticket can save you hours in the line at Uffizi.
When wandering the halls, make sure you pause at the corner on the second floor, to get an amazing view of the Ponte Vecchio.
The Uffizi Gallery
Piazzale degli Uffizi 6
Phone +39 055 294883
Full price: €20,00 PP (Combined Ticket €38,00 PP)
DON’T Buy Leather From A Street Vendor
Florence is known for its leather. Fine leather-making has a centuries-old legacy in Florence and I swear you can smell it in the streets.
As with anywhere, though, be discerning when you purchase your souvenirs.
It may cost more to buy directly from the leather-maker, but you can have guaranteed quality and a life-long souvenir.
I purchased a $300 leather jacket in Florence on my first trip there fifteen years ago and it still looks brand new.
Do a little research before you buy the cheap piece off the kiosk on the street.
I highly recommend reading this Complete Guide To Shopping For Leather in Florence from Italy Travel magazine before you hit the shops.
DO People Watch At The Piazza Della Signoria
It’s a meeting place for locals and tourists alike and is a great place to sit with a bottle of vino and take in the sights and sounds of this Renaissance city.
Our 2-Day Suggested Itinerary
Arrive by 10 a.m. at the Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station
Take a bus or walk to your hotel or AirBnb ( check out some recommendations below). Use Yelp reviews to find some quick street food or sandwich for an early lunch.
By 12:00 noon – head to the Accademia Gallery. (Make sure you pre-reserve a ticket in advance online)
3:00 p.m. – Stroll towards the Duomo and take in the Ambience
3:30 p.m. – Stroll from the Duomo towards the San Lorenzo Basilica and take a peek inside.
7:00 p.m. – Have dinner at Antica Trattoria Da Tito.
The Renaissance Walk will end at the Ponte Vecchio. At this point, your little tootsies may be too tired to walk, so it’s up to you if you want to walk to the restaurant or take public transit.
You will need to call the restaurant in Italy to make a reservation. It is a quick process and highly recommended.
This was one of the best meals in Florence. Try the Florentine steak only if you like rare meat. We recommend the prime rib.
After dinner, stop for some gelato on your way to your hotel and get some rest.
8:00 a.m.– Rise up early and grab a quick espresso and breakfast, ideally at your hotel or BnB.
8:45 a.m. – Make your way to the Florence Cathedral (Piazza Del Duomo) and use your pre-reserved ticket to explore the Baptistry and head to the top of Giotto’s Campanile.
The cafeteria in the Uffizi is relatively decent. Stop for a quick bite, so you are not rushed and hangry in the Uffizi.
3:00 p.m. – Finish up your time in the Uffizi.
At this point, you will have some flexibility to hit another quick museum ( depending on your budget or the time of day), or head to dinner, your hotel or the train station to the next destination.
Best Restaurants in Florence, Italy
I mention our favorite, the Antica Trattoria Da Tito, above.
For additional recommendations check out my Florence Yelp Collection.
Have you been to Florence? Share your must-see things to do in the comments!