Ah, Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance and the heart of Tuscany. A city full of history, fantastic wine, great food, world-famous fashion, and a relaxed yet exciting energy all its own. Although small, there is plenty to see and do and, if you’re only passing through, luckily, you can see the highlights in a compact two days. Below are two options for routes based on your non-negotiables in Florence, which we’ve organized based on efficiency, vicinity of attractions, walking and visiting time.
Public transportation in Florence is great, however you won’t need it much, as the historical center is completely walkable. Because there is so much to do, you might have to prioritize your Florence bucket list items, and buy entry tickets in advance to beat the lines. In any case, don’t forget your camera, comfortable (yet fashionable, of course) shoes, and your appetite.
Wake up early and carpe diem – after all, you’re in Italy! Have breakfast Italian-style at one of the historic bars in Piazza della Signoria, such as Rivoire. After a cappuccino and pastry, head to the Uffizi Gallery, where you can find the famous Botticelli painting The Birth of Venus and countless other works of Renaissance art. The Ufizzi will surely fill your morning, so take your time and enjoy. Alternatively, you can climb the tower at Palazzo Vecchio for a magnificent view of the city, or visit the historical museum inside to learn about Florentine history and the Medici family. In front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica of the famous David (among other awe-inspiring statues), but the original’s home is in Galleria dell’Accademia, which is also worth a visit. After that, do a spot of shopping for famous Italian designers.
Avoid the tourist hype and head to a local favorite just behind Palazzo Vecchio, La Prosciutteria, for an authentic, tasty and filling sandwich. Be sure to grab a glass of their house wine and enjoy it al fresco (alcohol is permitted in the streets in a plastic cup). Have a sweet tooth? When you’re finished, head to Piazza Santa Croce for some of the best gelato in the neighborhood at Gelateria dei Neri. You’ll know you’ve found the piazza when you come across a gorgeous white church with steps and a huge statue of Dante Alighieri. Go inside and marvel at the beautiful church interior, and be sure to see the garden as well.
After a long day of exploring the sights and taking it all in, sit down and enjoy an Italian dinner at a restaurant of your choice – Florence has many! Afterwards, take a stroll and pick a pub or bar of your fancy, to get a taste of the relaxed yet stylish nightlife, with a good drink or some live music, depending on the day of the week.
Start your day with breakfast at one of the historic bars in Piazza della Repubblica, like Caffè Gilli or Caffè Paszkowski – both equally fancy with delicious food. After that, head to Piazza del Duomo and get your tickets for one of Florence’s most famous landmarks – the Museum of Florence Dome. Although visiting the museum under the church and climbing to the top of the Duomo are famous tourist activities, with only two days to see it all, it’s recommended to skip those. Enjoy the church and the baptistry out front, included in the price of your ticket, and then head to the outdoor leather market at Mercato Porcellino. After you pass through, head to the river and walk over Ponte Vecchio to enter the Oltrarno quarter.
Once over Ponte Vecchio, it’s time to start thinking of lunch. There are some great places in Piazza Santo Spirito – such as the tiny Piazza della Passera – as well as lots of options in the square across from the impressive Palazzo Pitti. Wherever you choose to go, don’t miss the Santo Spirito Basilica, which is free to enter if it’s open. After exploring, you must have gelato at Gelateria Santa Trinita, one of the best in the city. Sit on the bridge to enjoy the view of Ponte Vecchio, then take a stroll or do some window shopping on the same side of the river until you work up an appetite for dinner.
Great photo opportunities at Ponte Vecchio | © Brendan Campbell / Flickr
Depending on how hungry you are, there are two options, both equally great. If you’re looking for a full dinner, head to the neighborhood of San Niccolò for an authentic restaurant. If you’re simply peckish, head to Golden View Open Bar for an aperitivo – or apericena as the Florentines call it – where you can pay a little more for a cocktail, but enjoy a substantial appetizer buffet included in the price of you drink. This spot also boasts one of the best bartenders in the city, a great view of Ponte Vecchio on the river, and good quality food. Depending on the time of year you visit, after dinner you can head to the nearest bridge and enjoy the Tuscan sunset.
After sundown, head up to Piazzale Michelangelo, just a short hike above the San Niccolò neighborhood, to enjoy an absolutely stunning view of Florence. The city’s night skyline and the river lined with lights is one of the most romantic and breathtaking sights you will see. Seize this opportunity for some great photos, and spend some time reflecting on your whirlwind trip and the surreal and exciting nature of Florence, Italy.