Between Rome, Venice, Milan, and the Amalfi Coast, it’s hard to know where to begin in Italy.
But Florence should be on every travelers’ list for a trip to Italy.
Nestled in central Italy in the heart of Tuscany, Florence was ground zero for the Renaissance. Today, it offers all the art, culture, and gorgeous architecture you want out of a trip to Italy – plus the food and wine you need.
No matter your passion as a traveler, Florence is all but guaranteed to have you covered. It’s a great home base to stay for a few days before heading out to explore the countryside of Tuscany, Cinque Terre, or a small picturesque Italian village.
Here’s your guide to taking on Florence in four days.
Get Your Art On
There’s so much art to see in Florence. But the two key museums I would prioritize are the Gallerie Degli Uffizi and the Galleria dell’ Accademia.
The Uffizi gallery is the one you will most likely spend the most time exploring. If you are a Medici family nerd like me, you will be in awe of the corridor of sculptures from the Medici family home in the 1400s.
The museum is almost always packed, so make sure to buy your tickets as far in advance as possible. I had the opportunity to see my favorite piece of artwork here: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
The Uffizi is close to the heart of the city, while the Accademia is roughly a 15-minute walk heading outside of the city center. In general, Accademia houses fewer notable works of art than the Uffizi with one exception: Michelangelo’s David sculpture, which towers over the museum.
Where to Stay and What to Eat
I arrived in Florence via the Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station from Rome. This is the main train station for Florence.
If you’re heading straight for Florence, most of the major European airlines fly to the Florence (FLR) airport nonstop from their respective hubs. Just grab a 15-minute taxi ride into the city, or else hop on the train.
Thrifty Tip #1: If you want to save a few Euro and burn some pasta and wine calories, walk from the train station into the Florence city center, about a 15-20 minute walk.
Florence is where I learned the hard way that traveling with a carry on is the only way to go. Cab drivers went on strike (and there are no Ubers in Florence), so I had to walk nearly a mile with my huge luggage on cobblestone streets. Lesson learned!
But in general, you’ll find Florence is a highly walkable city if you position yourself in the heart of the city center. My stay at the Palazzo Roselli Cecconi was perfectly situated for all my sightseeing. Every spot on my list was a 15-minute (or less) walk.
There are so many amazing places to eat and drink all around Florence. Just avoid restaurants around the Duomo and off of the main streets, and you’ll be set. Even if the reviews online are decent, I found the food was not very authentic. Wander and be prepared to get lost in the search for a great meal.
One must-visit spot in Florence for food is All’ Antico Vinaio. Their sandwiches are legendary and the line stretches around the block. It’s a great spot to grab food on the fly during a busy sightseeing day and the sandwiches are only 5 euro!
Check out either Mercado Centrale or Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio for groceries if you have a place to cook where you are staying. Centrale is definitely the busier of the two, but both have a great mix of tourists and locals.
The Duomo: A Must See
Some tourist magnets live up to the hype, and other’s don’t. Put the Duomo in the in the “lives up to it” column.
My visit to Florence’s Duomo and Brunelleschi’s dome was the highlight of my visit to Florence! It’s rightfully gained a spot on almost every traveler’s to-do list. So make sure you buy tickets far in advance of your visit.
You arrive 30 minutes prior to your climb to the top – and this climb isn’t for everyone. The passageways are quite narrow and there are 400plus steps to conquer. Once you are at the top though, the views of Florence were spectacular. Halfway to your destination, you can take a break and admire the beautiful artwork on the ceiling of the dome from the inside.
After your climb, stick around to tour the cathedral and the main place of worship. Make sure you check the hours of operation. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is also included in your ticket and worth a stop as it houses many of the original statues from the Duomo.
Other Florence Hotspots
Piazzale Michelangelo has amazing views and it is a great gathering spot for sunset. Grab a bottle of wine, roam the copies of Michelangelo’s sculptures, and soak in pure Florence.
Try a cooking class through FlorenceTown or find another option on Airbnb Experiences. You get the authentic Italian food and wine while meeting others, sharing your passion for food, culture, and good wine.
Palazzo Vecchio is a town hall from the 1200s, a significant building to Florence’s history. There is a museum, bell tower, secret passages and artwork to explore!
Tours of Tuscany
You can’t leave Florence without a visit to the countryside of Tuscany and the Chianti region. There are a few options for wine tours: You can do a private tour (pricey), a small group tour if you are traveling with a group, or you can also find some smaller group tours or a larger group tour which are more cost-effective.
I was solo on my trip, so I opted to join a larger group tour. I highly recommend the tours by Walkabout Florence. It was a phenomenal day, traveling to three wineries, including a three-course lunch at one while ending lunch on a gorgeous patio overlooking the vineyard. There are many wineries to explore, so do your research.
A Day Trip or Two
If you like to maximize your trips abroad (like me!) and see more, you will want to explore outside Florence and check out some of the small villages across the countryside. Two small villages should be high on your priority list.
Siena is a small village slightly over an hour outside of Florence. It has a beautiful cathedral to visit called the Duomo di Siena. The entire village is centered around a large piazzo that is great for food, people watching and enjoying some gelato.
But I love the medieval-looking village of San Gimignano, which is less than an hour from Florence. Make sure to hike around the village a bit and climb up on the hillside for the phenomenal views. Climb the San Gimignano Bell Tower for even more vistas! The historic center of the city has many food and drink options. Fattoria II Piano is a great winery option for your stop here.
Unless you are dead set on getting that Instagram picture with the leaning tower of Pisa, avoid it and spend your time elsewhere in the Tuscany and Florence countryside. Besides the tower, there is absolutely nothing to do in Pisa aside from getting sucked into a tourist trap.
Cinque Terre: A Can’t Miss
You may think Cinque Terre requires several days to visit in order to be worth the stop. You’re not exactly wrong, but Cinque Terre is always worth however much time you can spend, whether that’s two weeks or just a day.
Make sure you get here.
I went to Cinque Terre on a day trip in November. Lucky me, the weather was almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a sun shining bright as we hiked the nine-mile trek across the five cities in this region. Conquer it either on your own or with a tour guide or group tour that will help you navigate the trains and hike between the five cities. Stop for lunch and enjoy some wine and the amazing ocean views. Unreal.
Florence is a definite bucket list city. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling solo, with a significant other, or with a group of friends; Florence is guaranteed to leave you inspired and determined to visit Italy again in the future.
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