Florence City Guide

As the heart of Tuscany, Florence will transport you to the Renaissance. Admire the work of Michelangelo, marvel at the magnificent duomo and drink some chianti wine while watching the sunset from Piazza Michelangelo. 

Galleria d’Accademia

The David

When you’re in Florence, if you only plan on visiting one museum, make it the Galleria. It’s small, only takes 1-2 hours to visit and is home to one of the world’s most famous masterpieces: The David statue. It is worth it to purchase in advance, rather than spend 2-3 hours waiting in a long line!

Uffizi Gallery

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Outside Uffizi Gallery

If you happen to have time for a second museum, the Uffizi Gallery is a dream to visit. The most famous painting inside the museum is the Annunciation by Da Vinci, but for any fan of Renaissance art, I highly recommend spending a few hours exploring the museum. The only day I had in Florence, the museum was already sold out of tickets, so I highly recommend purchasing ahead of time if this is a priority for you!

Panini Toscani 

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My dream panini! (Spicy salami & cheese from Pisa with roasted red peppers on olive focaccia)

After visiting the museums, you’ll probably be hungry for lunch. Outside the Duomo you can find the cutest panini place called Panini Toscani. There is always a line but it moves quickly and is worth the wait. Once inside, the people behind the counter offer you samples of meats and cheeses, and explain where they are from so you can build the perfect panini based on your favorites! Keep in mind there is limited outdoor seating, so you may want to get it to go. It was one of my favorite meals in Italy.

  • Cost: €8-10 (for a panini)
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Ponte Vecchio

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Ponte Vecchio is currently home to jewelry & art shops. Back in the day, the shops were held by local merchants & butchers. This is the only bridge to have survived the bombings during WWII so it’s the oldest bridge in the city. Worth a stroll across!

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes

Duomo

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The Duomo, or more formally known as Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral was once a huge architectural feat when it was first finished in 1436 because of it’s unsupported dome. Today, it is a marvelous piece of the Renaissance that will transport you back in time. It is free to visit the inside of the Cathedral. If you wish to climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome, you will have to purchase a ticket. These tickets can be sold out days in advance, so I recommend purchasing them ahead of time. Keep in mind it is 463 steps to the top (no elevator). I would not recommended for those who are claustrophobic or afraid of heights either. The ticket that allows you to climb to the top will get you into the Bell Tower, Crypt & Bapistry!

  • Cost: Free / €18 (Brunelleschi’s Dome / combo ticket)
  • Reserve spots online here: Duomo Tickets
  • Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours

Bell Tower

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View of Duomo from the Bell Tower

Like I mentioned above, with your ticket to climb the Duomo, you can also climb the Bell Tower which is right next to the cathedral. I found this easier to do with my fear of heights, so for those who don’t think they can make it to the top of the Duomo, you can admire similar views from here! Again, there is no elevator so it’s 414 steps to the top.

  • Cost: €18 (combo ticket with Dome)
  • Reserve spots online here: Duomo Tickets
  • Estimated time needed: 1 hour

Gelato

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After climbing all those stairs, you’ll need an afternoon snack. About 10 minutes walking from the center, you can find Vivoli gelateria. On a quiet road, it’s a bit more off the beaten path–and definitely authentic gelato. My guide (who is from Rome) recommended it to me as her favorite place here. My only regret was that I got a small when I should have gotten a large!

  • Cost: €3-6
  • Estimated time needed: 15 minutes

Santa Croce Basilica

Santa Croce

If you’re looking for something a little less mainstream than the Duomo, I recommend stepping inside Santa Croce. Da Vinci, Galileo and Michelangelo have all been buried inside the Basilica, to name a few of the famous people you’ll come across! It only costs 8 euros to go in, and although I typically always recommend purchasing tickets in advance, this may be one place in the city you can get away with not buying one ahead of time! For more information on tickets, click here. If you don’t have time to go inside, it is worth taking a stroll past this incredible basilica at the least.

Leather Markets

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I know that museums & churches can be tiring, so if shopping is more your style, you can’t miss the leather markets! Although there can be a lot of fake leather here, one way to truly know if it’s real is by looking for “Pelle Vera” (which means real leather in Italian). Don’t be fooled by any tests done with a lighter. Whether or not you’re seeking out real leather, the market can be a great place to find stylish purses, belts & wallets! While you’re there, be sure to rub to the nose of il Porcellino (the piglet) statue. This will ensure you’ll make it back to Florence again!

  • Cost: Free to walk around
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Day Trip to Tuscany

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Florence is the capital of Tuscany, so if you have had enough time in the city, it’s worth getting out for the day to enjoy a nice wine tasting in the countryside! You can choose to do a guided tour through a local company or even venture on your own (renting a moped anyone?). The first time I was in Florence we used Ciao Florence for their half day trip, Chianti Colors & Flavors, which included transportation, a tour and tasting. The last time I was in Florence, I visited Torciano Winery where we sampled wine and had a nice lunch – that package costs 35 euros but requires your own transportation to the vineyard.

Piazzale Michelangelo 

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Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset

Finally, by far my favorite thing to do in this city, is visit Piazzale Michelangelo. Although this area is stunning any time of day, I particularly love witnessing the sunset over the city from here. Be sure to bring a bottle or two of your favorite vino to enjoy while admiring the view. It’s quite a hike to the top if you’re willing to make the trek, but there are also public busses that can get you there as well. Beware that it is usually extremely crowded at sunset, so to grab a good spot you should arrive early. If crowds aren’t you’re thing, plan to go sometime during the day when it’s not as busy! The view is just as good, I promise.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 1 hours

Accommodation

View from Starhotels Michelangelo

When we first visited Florence, we stayed at Porta Faenza Hotel with our Moms. It was walking distance to everything so the perfect location to explore the city. On my work trip back, I stayed in Starhotels Michelangelo. This was slightly further from the city center, but nicer accommodations – however I always prefer to be closer to downtown!

Florence Travel Tips

  • Transportation
    • Florence is very walkable
    • If you’re not up for a lot of walking, the bus system is also a great way to get around
  • Tipping
    • Tipping is not as prominent in Italy as it is in the US because servers are paid a livable wage
    • Some spare coins or 5-10% is a nice gesture if you enjoyed the meal or service
  • Weather
    • Florence is one of those cities you can visit year round but shoulder season is ideal to avoid their super hot summers
      • Winter: 35-55 F
      • Summer: 58-88 F
  • General
    • Aperitivo – the pre-dinner drink & snack
      • Many restaurants & bars will offer aperitivo deals where you can enjoy a buffet of small appetizers with the purchase of a drink
    • Beware of pickpockets when in crowded areas
    • Wear comfortable shoes since the cobblestone causes a lot of uneven terrain
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I’ve been to a few different regions in Italy now, and Florence still holds the #1 place in my heart. All of the above can easily be accomplished in 2-3 days, if that’s all you can spare, but I always recommend more. Every side street, cafe and church feels as though you’ve been transported back in time. I often forget I’m in a city when strolling the back streets of Florence. Although both of my trips to this city have been short, thanks to il Porcellino, I know I’ll be back again!

Ciao bella! Amanda

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Last edited: April 2020


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