I know, I know. It seems blasphemous to promote a 3-day itinerary for Rome while giving 5 days to my Florence itinerary. I can’t help it though. Florence is my favorite city in the world. I have a sentimental attachment to it, and no matter how often I go, it draws me back. And, I want everyone to love it as much as I do. One of the beautiful things about Florence is that you can visit it on a shorter itinerary, and it is easily combined with Tuscany for two different experiences within a week’s trip. Florence’s position as the birth of the Renaissance, which isn’t limited to art, ensures that there really is something for everyone here, too.
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Getting to Florence
The Florence (FLR) airport is fairly small. The benefit of flying into Florence directly is that you can be in the city center in less than 15 minutes, either by taxi or by tram.
Often times, you might find better connections by flying into Pisa (PSA) or Bologna (BLQ). Bologna is a 35 minute fast train from Florence, once you transfer to the main train station, Bologna Centrale. There is a quick train between the Bologna airport and the train station. Pisa is 1 hour from Florence by train or bus. Similar to Bologna, there is a train between the airport and Pisa Centrale.
Arriving in Florence by Train
Regardless of which train you arrive on, you will arrive in Florence at the main train station, Santa Maria Novella. This is true for trains comes from Rome, Milan, Venice, and any of the smaller towns within Italy. There are some smaller suburban stops outside of Florence, so just remember that you’re looking for Firenze SMN before disembarking. From the train station, you can easily walk or catch a cab to most hotels in the city center. (Uber does not operate in Florence.)
Florence is a very walkable city and that’s part of what makes it so great. It’s easy to get around and it’s absolutely stunning at any time of year.
One Week Florence Itinerary – Day by Day
Day One in Florence
☑ Take a free walking tour of Florence. These two tours will introduce you to both sides of the city and give you an introduction to the history of Florence. I don’t think you need to do both, especially not in a single day, but they are both exceptional. I have taken both of these tours multiple times. The guides are always engaging and I learn something new each time.
☑ If it’s a nice afternoon, head to the Piazzale Michelangelo or San Miniato for sunset and the best views of Florence. The climb is a good way to get your body on track for beating jet lag. Make sure you have a reservation for a tasty dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the Oltrarno.
Day Two in Florence
☑ While I know most people want to sleep in to try and beat jet lag, the best thing you can do is get up and get acclimated! To do this, book a tour of the Accademia or the tour of Uffizi Museum to learn more Florence’s most famous artists. If you aren’t sure if you’re an art person, I recommend the Accademia. It’s hard not to be awed by Michelangelo’s David. If guided museum tours aren’t your thing (though I strongly recommend trying these), make a reservation for an early time slot to avoid the crowds.
☑ Grab a quick and tasty panini at one of Florence’s panini places. Skip the Instafamous panini stand and head to ‘Ino near the Uffizi Museum and Sandwichic near the Accademia. Both use quality ingredients and are a great value.
☑ To round out your Renaissance education, don’t overlook the scientific discoveries of this time period – even by same of the most famous Renaissance artists. You can see Leonardo’s marvels of engineering through recreations of his sketchbook at the DaVinci Museum. I also love the trip through time at the Galileo Museum, though it might be a little more dry if you don’t have the same interest in his discoveries. Either way, it’s important to know that the Renaissance was about more than art in Florence!
Day Three in Florence
☑ We can’t overlook the churches of Florence! Start your morning at Santa Croce or the Duomo when they first open to avoid the lines. Personally, I prefer Santa Croce because the interior is just stunning, especially in the early morning light. (If you time your Florence trip to coincide with the Santa Croce Christmas market, that’s a nice bonus!)
That said, you can’t come to Florence and not appreciate the Duomo. If you want to marvel at Brunelleschi Dome, consider making a reservation to climb the dome OR the bell tower. If you are interested in the engineering of the dome, a climb through the dome lets you experience the unique two-dome design. (This can be challenging if you are claustrophobic. Climbing the bell tower will give you a better view of the exterior of the dome and the beautiful red roofs of Florence.
☑ After climbing the Duomo, you could head to the Mercato Centrale (near the Duomo) for lunch. (I love the fresh pasta place on the first floor for a most economical lunch. If you opt for Santa Croce, walk a little further a field to the Mercato Sant’Ambrogio for a very local vibe and a lot of delicious options.
☑ To maximize your culinary experience in Florence and try seasonal specialities that you might not get to in a restaurant, I recommend booking a food tour of Florence. If you aren’t going to be able to make it to Tuscany – or you just want to learn more about Italian wines, I recommend booking a wine tasting in Florence. If you want to keep moving, I love this sunset walking tour of Florence that includes a wine tasting!
Days Four in Florence
With the “big” sites off your Florence itinerary, you have a lot of flexibility to tailor your trip to your own interests for your next few days in Florence. Here are just a few things to do in Florence that I love and recommend adding to your itinerary.
☑ Take a market tour & cooking class in Florence! (This is a great way to learn more about local products. It’s also a very family-friendly activity.)
☑ Did you know much of what you see in the Duomo are replicas of the originals? Visit the Duomo Museum to see the original pieces. This is an underrated gem in Florence
☑ Can’t get enough sculpture? Take a tour of the Bargello Museum to get your Renaissance sculpture fix.
☑ Visit the beautiful Florence Synagogue to learn more about the history of this beautiful building. It also provides a brief history of the Jewish people in Florence and Italy. Buy the audioguide and be aware that there are no cameras allowed. You’ll need to store it in a provided locker.
☑ Learn more about Florence’s ruling family, the Medici’s, by visiting the Medici Chapel and Museum
☑ Take a guided tour of the Palazzo Vecchio. My favorite exhibit in the Palazzo Vecchio is the map room.
☑ If the weather is nice, head to the Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace. I like visiting the gardens in the morning before too many people arrive and it gets too warm. The views of the countryside are stunning.
☑ If you just want to enjoy a garden stroll, visit the Bardini Gardens. The wisteria is beautiful in the spring.
☑ See a grain market that was converted to a church. Inside Orsanmichele there is an altarpiece that was designed specifically for this space (“in situ”) and it’s absolutely gorgeous. There is also a small museum upstairs that is worth visiting, if it’s open.
☑ Can’t get enough of the cuisine? Me either. Consider booking another food and wine tour in Florence to sharpen your cooking skills or learn more about Florentine and Tuscan foods.
Day Five in Florence
If your trip to Florence isn’t going to include a few nights in Tuscany, here are a few ways to enjoy the beauty of the countryside without ever leaving Florence. (I’m not a huge believer in day trips from Florence.)
☑ Ride the bus to Fiesole to see the Roman ruins and for some incredible views of Florence. If Roman ruins aren’t your thing, I love having dinner at Ristorante La Reggia Degli Etruschi. You need reservations.
☑ Drive a vintage Fiat500 in the Tuscan hills at sunset. (You must be comfortable with a manual transmission for this tour.) Vintage Fiats have a double clutch system that can be a little tricky to navigate at first. Pack your patience for this tour (speaking from experience, lol). The views are worth it.
Florence Travel Tips
☑ Stay in the city center, especially if this is your first trip to Florence. Florence is my favorite place to stroll after dark. It’s very safe and especially beautiful. There are hotels at every price point in every corner of the city. You can find one that works for you. Staying at the big chain hotels outside the city center is not the same experience.
☑ Make reservations for dinner. Good restaurants in Florence are popular. Don’t be disappointed. If you are more than two, it will be very hard for restaurants to accommodate walk-ins. Don’t be afraid to call and make a reservation or reach out to your concierge for assistance in making reservations. A good concierge can be invaluable around holidays.
☑ Utilize reservations, skip-the-line tours, or the Florence city pass whenever possible. You could spend your entire trip to Florence waiting in line. Thankfully, there are so many options to prevent doing so, you just need to plan ahead.
☑ Don’t buy into the idea that you can see Cinque Terre in a day from Florence. (It needs its own time to be enjoyed.) The same is true with Tuscany day trips that promise visits to multiple hill towns. The Tuscany countryside is meant to be savored and slow. You’ll miss so much on a bus tour of Tuscany from Florence. Plus, Florence hotels are expensive (comparatively). Get your money’s worth by enjoying Florence while you’re there and spending a few nights in Tuscany as its own itinerary.
☑ Check out my Florence packing list for women – it’s perfect for travel from fall through spring!