The Best Experiences in Florence

The early morning light illuminates Florence's Ponte Vecchio
The early morning light illuminates Florence's Ponte Vecchio | ©Masahiro Noguchi / Getty
Photo of Sabrina Crawford
28 November 2019

Sip a glass of Chianti under the Tuscan sun, soak in wild beauty at a natural hot spring, or learn to make pizza like a pro with Culture Trip’s picks of the best experiences in Florence.

Explore the skies in a hot air balloon ride high above the scenic Tuscan countryside, or taste the country’s national cuisine in a fun-filled pasta-making class; no matter what you do in Florence, you’ll soon learn that the city offers some of the best experiences in all of Italy. The buzz of the city centre, the rolling vineyards and the lush landscapes will make you realise why Tuscany has attracted and inspired painters, poets and world travellers for centuries.

Sports, wellness and adventure days in Florence

Tuscany natural spring tour

Natural Feature
Map View
Thermal springs San Filippo, Tuskany, Italy
The thermal springs of San Filippo offer a uniquely therapeutic experience | ©vvvita / Alamy

If you’re looking to experience the splendour of Italy’s natural beauty and want to pamper yourself royally at the same time, spend the day at the thermal baths of Bagni San Filippo. Utterly unlike any thermal bath you’ll have seen before, the otherworldly white stalactites, towering waterfalls and hot thermal pools here are like something straight out of a fantasy film. The spring is nestled in the woods, in the heart of the picturesque Val d’Orcia; to make the journey there as stress-free as your soak, opt for this luxurious private tour, which includes transport, lunch and a thermal spa treatment.

Hot air balloon ride

Natural Feature
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Italy Tuscany Florence Landscape around Gambassi Terme
A hot air balloon soars high above the Tuscan countryside | ©RealyEasyStar/ Alessandro Ciolini / Alamy

If you’ve always fancied yourself an explorer, and have a good head for heights, why not consider heading up, up and away in a hot air balloon ride? During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll watch as the operators inflate and prepare your balloon, then rise into the skies on an hour-long scenic ride above the Tuscan hills. This tour departs from a countryside location outside of Florence, so you’ll need to pre-arrange other transportation to get there and back, but it’s worth the journey to soar high over the green, lush landscape.

Cooking classes in Florence

Homemade pasta-making class

Family style, Italian
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Young woman chef prepares homemade pasta
A chef rolls out traditional Italian pasta | ©PeteerS / Alamy

There are an estimated 350 different kinds of pasta, each with its own unique history, local region and dedicated purpose. Spend a fun-filled, flour-covered day learning about the art of pasta the best way – by making it yourself with the guidance of a local chef. In this class, you’ll discover the time-honoured secrets of Italian pasta-making and tips for creating the perfect sauces. Class includes preparing three types of pasta and sauces – plus dessert – and enjoying the fruits of your labour with carefully chosen wine pairings at the end.

Pizza and gelato class

Family style, Italian
Map View
A guest adds cheese to a fresh, handmade pizza base | ©GetYourGuide

No one knows pizza like the Italians. Popular legend tracks its modern creation to the city of Naples in 1889, when a local chef invented the margherita to honour the visiting queen. Regardless of its origins, pizza has been seen as Italy’s national dish for over a century, and this experience in Florence gives you the chance to perfect it for yourself. In this hands-on class, you’ll dive in with a local chef to learn tried and true techniques of pizza-making, including how to get the crust just right and how to make great sauce. You’ll also be able to indulge your sweet tooth, as the class finishes off with gelato-making. After tucking into your creations, you’ll also leave with a certificate of attendance to prove to your pals that you’re now a semi-pro.

Games and art workshops in Florence


Art Gallery
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Cropped hands of female owner mixing liquid in test tube from pipette at perfume workshop
Liquids are carefully mixed to create a unique, signature perfume | ©Maskot / Alamy

Let your sense of smell be your guide as you follow the lead of local herbalist and master perfumer, Dr Fernanda Russo to create your own handmade signature scent. In this immersive workshop, held in the historic Antica Spezieria Erboristeria San Simone, you’ll learn the art, science and tradition behind crafting perfume. There’s no better place for such a lesson, as you’ll soon discover; Florence has a long, illustrious history as the home of master alchemists, apothecaries, herbalists and perfumers. At the end of the workshop, you’ll leave with a little bottle of your signature scent and a lot more knowledge about Florence’s lingering expertise in the world of scent.

Learn to sculpt or paint

Art Gallery
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Painting students get in touch with their artistic side | ©Viator

If you have the spirit of an artist, or have always harboured a secret desire to pick up a brush and create your own masterpieces, then this is your chance. What better way to spend an afternoon in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance than learning to paint or sculpt, inspired by the beauty, history and artistic traditions of this era in Florentine history. Inside this cosy central studio, you’ll connect with your inner artist. Pick your medium in advance, then spend a few hours learning to paint or sculpt from a local master. This small group class is open to all levels and includes instruction and all materials.

Learn to make Tuscan ceramics

Art Gallery
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Master potter Matteo Mirenda demonstrates how to hand-raise the clay into a vase | ©Viator

Join master pottery maker Matteo Mirenda for an unforgettable hands-on lesson in the heart of Tuscany. Son of a multigenerational family of master pottery artisans, Matteo will lead you step by step through the process to create your very own ceramic masterpiece, based on centuries of local craftsmanship and tradition. This unique private class is held inside the family’s shop in Montelupo Fiorentino, heartland of handmade, hand-painted Tuscan ceramics. This experience gives you the chance to work with a master, learn about Montelupo’s unique history, and get a glimpse of life inside a family-run artisan shop. The class includes a hands-on workshop, materials and factory tour. Matteo will even ship your handmade masterwork directly to you, so there’s need to stuff it in your suitcase and risk a breakage on your way home.

Here’s what else you can do around Florence…

Pienza and Montepulciano: Artisan cheese and local wines

Cheesemonger, Italian
Map View
View to the town Montepulciano in Tuscany, Italy
This pretty town is home to some of Tuscany's most delicious wines and cheeses | ©Wolfgang Zwanzger / Alamy

There truly few things better in life then savouring an excellent glass of wine on holiday in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, except for pairing that wine with the finest local cheeses. Curated by well-known local sommelier, food writer and bespoke culinary guide, Coral Sisk, this day trip will introduce you to two of Florence’s most famous (and most delicious) exports. The day includes a guided tour and lunch at an artisan cheese farm (where you’ll get to enjoy a wine and cheese tasting), an introduction to the history of pecorino (sheep’s cheese), a winery visit, cellar tour and tasting in the hilltop town of Montepulciano, a guided tour of the nearby UNESCO heritage town of Pienza, and private transport to and from Florence.

Cinque Terre trek

Historical Landmark
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Italy, Liguria, La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Manarola, Town at dusk with electric lights
Manarola, one of the beautiful towns of Cinque Terre, lights up at night | ©Thierry Hennet / Getty Images

Beyond Florence to the north lies the spectacular cluster of five tiny and brightly painted historic villages, once linked only by local footpath along the stunning, rugged coast. A jewel of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre sits nestled within a protected national reserve. For the adventurous, the best way to see this area is by trekking the famed path from village to village. This full-day adventure includes transportation to and from Florence and a guided trek where you’ll visit all five towns, and admission to the national park area. Weather permitting, there’s even a boat ride that provides a welcome chance to rest your feet, snap pictures and take in the stunning coastal panorama. Pack for a full day of hiking and ensure you wear good boots, comfortable clothes, and bring a swimsuit. The trail can be a bit bumpy and steep in some patches, but you’ll be well rewarded with breathtaking views.

These recommendations were updated on November 28, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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