With some serious planning, you can see Florence’s most famous sights in just a few days, as all the must-sees are within walking distance to each other.
Start your day by visiting the famous Accademia Gallery Museum where Michelangelo’s David is. Be sure to reserve your tickets in advance by calling +39 055 294883 or by visiting http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/en/musei/?m=accademia. Although we found it easier to call their number directly than to book the tickets online. You will be given a reservation number and a time for admission. The day of your visit you will have to proceed to the reservation desk 10 minutes before your reservation time where you will pay for your tickets.
Upon exiting the Accademia Gallery Museum, you can visit The Basilica di Santa Croce (closed on Sundays and religious holidays for visitors) where some of the world’s most celebrated Italians are buried, including Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. This is a beautiful cathedral and a must-see while you are in Florence. Once you have visited the cathedral, you can stop by one of the many cafés and restaurants on the Piazza Santa Croce.
In the afternoon, you can visit the famous Uffizi Gallery where works like The Birth of Venus by Botticelli can be found. Since a trip to the Uffizi Gallery can be overwhelming on your own, you can book an organized tour where you will be taken through the highlights of the museum in 2 to 3 hours. A company called ArtViva offers fabulous ones and you do not have to worry about buying tickets in advance or what to see. If you prefer to go on your own, follow the same steps as for Accademia Gallery and call the number provided above.
Finish up your day by visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo, offering one of the most spectacular views of Florence. The easiest way to access the Piazzale Michelangelo is by taxi depending on where you are in the city as it can be a bit of a hike uphill but it is well worth the visit. Once you have taken a few pictures of the city, you can descend down to the neighborhood of San Niccolò which is situated on the southern side of the River Arno. Walk down Via San Niccolò to enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants located in the neighborhood.
On day two, explore this majestic city by taking a walking tour. There are several companies that offer great walking tours of the city but our favorite is also by ArtViva. ArtViva’s tour lasts 3-4 hours and gives you an in depth look at the history and most important sights of the city, including the Ponte Vecchio and finishing up at The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as The Duomo, which is the city’s main church and most iconic sight.
Upon finishing up the tour and depending on how much time and energy you have, you can visit The Palazzo Vecchio, The Palazzo Pitti, and the Boboli Gardens (located behind Pitti Palace). With that said, based on what you enjoy the most, you can choose to visit The Palazzo Vecchio if you are more into history or The Palazzo Pitti if you are more into art.
What to eat while you are in Florence
Italy’s Tuscany region is famous for the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Florentine-StyleSteak from cows of the region (Chianina). Those who love meat will enjoy this steak but it is important to note that this type of meat is very different than the typical U.S. cut of steak and can be a little tougher. Other dishes that are typical from the Tuscany region include the ribollita soup, which is a soup made out of vegetables; the crostini or bruschette; and the pappa al pomodoro, which is a dish made out of bread and tomato sauce.
Important things to note during your visit in Florence
- The Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery are both closed on Mondays.
- The Duomo is only open from 1:30pm – 4:45pm on Sundays and religious holidays, and times vary on Thursdays.
- Florence is a “walking city”, which means that access to certain parts of the city by car is restricted unless you have a special permit. This is important to note if you are planning on renting a car to go to Chianti or to any of the neighboring cities. Also note that it can be a challenge to rent an automatic car. We had made a reservation through a U.S. based company to rent an automatic car, which was not available at the time we showed up to the car rental place. Luckily one of the people in our party knew how to drive a manual. Another challenge we faced while renting a vehicle while in Florence was that they did not have GPS available (especially if you go during the high tourist season…September), so print out directions beforehand or get a phone plan through a local provider in order to have access to Google Maps.
- Beware of knock offs and not necessarily made in Italy leather items in the Mercato di San Lorenzo…where vendors are known to remove the “Made in China” labels to replace them with “Made in Italy” labels.
- You can not hail a taxi in Florence. If you need to get a taxi to go somewhere, ask a nearby restaurant or hotel to call you one.
- If you are in Florence for a long period of time and want to take a day trip to one of the neighboring towns, the Chianti region or Siena are both great options. You can also drive or hire a driver to take you to Montalcino (a 2 drive) or Pienza, located in the region of Val d’Orcia. Val d’Orcia has one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy.