The birthplace of Renaissance and the epicentre of architectural masterpieces, the capital of Tuscany is packed full of history, fashion, art and cuisine. To see Florence in a day is truly not doing the city justice. So when time is of the essence, it’s imperative to break down each hour meticulously.
On our most recent visit, we jam packed a mix of sightseeing and tasting delicacies into 24 hours. Over the course of a day, we racked up 30,000 steps. In this Florence itinerary, we’ve narrowed it down to 15,000 steps. There will be time to wander the medieval backstreets and there’s even mention of an extra gelato stop. So strap on your shoes and bring your credit card – it’s time to visit Florence.
FLORENCE IN A DAY: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO EXPLORING THE CITY IN 24 HOURS
6:00am (or earlier) - Photoshoot at Piazza del Duomo
If you want to beat the crowds (and trust us, you want to beat the crowds), then you must set your alarm clock. Rise out of bed early and make your way to the historical centre of Florence.
The Piazza del Duomo of Florence encompasses a precinct where you’ll find the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the vast Gothic church with its impressive facade and Renaissance dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistery of St. John. It’s the front of the cathedral that you’ll want to shoot and it ain’t easy fitting the entire structure into the shot! Be mindful that you’ll be dodging delivery trucks and the street sweepers but your patience will be rewarded if you persist!
Note: We stayed on the outskirts of town and caught two buses into town. Public transport begins around 4-5 AM so make sure to double check the schedules so you can get to where you need to be.
7:30am - Breakfast at S.forno
(20 minutes walk ~ 2,000 steps)
Continue exploring Florence before the crowds wake and make your way to breakfast via Ponte Vecchio. The walk will give you a chance to do some window shopping and identify where you might like to return later on in the day. Cross over to the other side of the river. Look for the fairy lights and small pot plants in the window of S.Forno Bakery along Via Santa Monaca. If you pass a photo booth in the wall on the corner, you’re at the right intersection.
It’s a small boutique shop with the bakery out the back. Fair warning – only drip coffee is for sale at €1 per cup on a self-serve basis. Pan e raminero (we can vouch for these!) and tortes ready to be sliced sit in the cabinet for you to munch on as you perch on the rustic furniture. The back shelf is stocked with jams, preserves, homemade pasta and smoked salts if you wish to take some delicious Tuscan delicacies home.
9:00am - Go inside Santa Maria del Fiore, Climb Giotto’s Bell Tower & Cupola del Brunelleschi
(20 minutes walk ~ 2,000 steps)
When you return to Piazza del Duomo, you’ll notice the difference in the area as the ‘early birds’ begin to descend on the streets around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
To make the most of your 24 hours in Florence, you must book your all-in-one ticket online with Il Grande Museo del Duomo. This ticket grants you entry into: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry of St John (San Giovanni), Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Crypt of Santa Repara and the Museum of Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore. Each monument may be visited only once with this ticket. If you wish to climb Brunelleschi’s Dome, you must reserve a time slot (for free), online in advance. Spaces are limited to climb the Dome. Even though there are touts offering tickets to visitors who come searching for the entrance, your preferred time slot may not be available.
Santa Maria del Fiore is the third largest church in the world. The cathedral was built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Repara and has undergone several renovations over the years, most notably during the Renaissance period. During the 19th century, the impressive facade replaced the bare walls of the cathedral after the original detail was removed (the originals can be viewed in the museum behind the cathedral). The large dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, was erected in the 15th century. The vaulted dome, designed as a self-supporting structure with no scaffolding, was astonishingly innovative for its time and continues to be a mesmerizing masterpiece today.
Standing almost 85 metres tall, Giotto’s Bell Tower is one of the finest examples of 14th century Gothic architecture in Florence. Visitors are welcome to climb the 414 steps to the terrace that affords a panoramic view of the city. Bonus points (and steps) for you if you choose to climb both the Giotto’s Bell Tower and Brunelleschi’s Dome! If you want a break between climbs, we recommend climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower early in the morning or on your way to lunch. There’s no better way to work up an appetite!
The Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore houses many of the original facades and sculptures that previously adorned the cathedral. The museum also displays models of the cathedral and the history of its construction. The Baptistry of San Giovanni is octagonal in plan and one of the largest domes in the world decorated with mosaics.
TIP: Visitors to Giotto’s Bell Tower and Brunelleschi’s Dome are required to climb 414 steps and 463 steps respectively. No elevators are available. The corridors can become quite narrow in sections. The climb is not recommended for people suffering heart problems, vertigo and claustrophobia.
11:30 AM - Coffee stop at Ditta Artigianale
(9 minutes walk ~ 900 steps)
Surprisingly, finding specialty coffee roasters in Italy was harder than we thought. Luckily, we discovered one excellent spot at Ditta Artigianale. The central location of the cafe on Via dei Neri makes it convenient when you need that caffeine fix.
Upon asking for recommendations of other specialty coffee cafes in Florence, the staff were unfortunately at a loss. One point to note: if you’re thinking of second breakfast at this point, Ditta Artigianale’s brunch menu features avo on toast, pancakes and eggs with sides which are more than likely able to fill the void.
Address | Via dei Neri, 32/R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Opening Hours | Monday – Thursday 8:00am – 10:00pm. Friday 8:00am – 12:00am. Saturday 9:30am – 12:00am. Sunday 9:30am – 10:00pm.
Website | http://www.dittaartigianale.it/en/catalogo.aspx
12:00 PM - Wander the streets and local markets
(12 minutes walk ~ 1,200 steps)
To get a sense of daily life in Florence, we suggest visiting a local market and choosing some Tuscan delicacies to sample. The Sant’Ambrogio Market is where you’ll find Florentines coming to buy their fresh produce, meat, cheese and other Italian treats. There is an indoor market where you’ll find cheese, cured meats and bread. Outside, you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables and some cheaper or fake leather goods.
Many walking tours come by this market with vendors sometimes offering passers-by free samples. We chose to make our own paninis, visiting three different vendors for our bread, pancetta ham and parmesan cheese for a little pre-lunch snack.
Walking to the market from Piazza del Duomo will also give you an opportunity to go beyond the normal touristic locations. As you wind through the back streets, you’ll gain some insight into life in Florence. Cross bustling squares with small cafes, shuffle by Italian nonnas laden with shopping bags and admire shiny red vespas parked in neat rows on the cobbled lanes.
1:00pm - Culture Trip to The Accademia Gallery
(15 minutes walk ~ 1,500 steps)
The Galleria dell’Accademia is home to arguably the most famous statue in the world, Michelangelo’s David. Founded in 1764 by Pietro Leopoldo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the art museum houses other sculptures by Michelangelo and paintings by Florentine artists from as far back as the 13th century. You’ll need approximately an hour to explore the museum and it is highly recommended to book your tickets in advance.
Address | Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Opening Hours | Tuesday – Sunday 08:15am – 6:50pm. Closed Mondays, 1 January & 25 December
Website | http://www.galleriaaccademiafirenze.beniculturali.it/
Admission | €8
2:30pm - Lunch at All'Antico Vinaio
(16 minutes walk ~ 1,600 steps)
Gourmet sandwiches for €5. Self pour wine for €2. Need we say more?! When we first arrived for lunch at All’Antico Vinaio, we were a little confused. Expecting to find one restaurant which we had marked on Google Maps, we found three establishments on the same street all with the same name and lines down the street. Turns out that the owners couldn’t keep up with the original shop’s popularity and opened another two to cater to demand!
Join one of the queues and be prepared for an epic gourmet sandwich. Everything moves quickly and before you’ve had a chance to read the menu, you’ll be at the front of the line. Don’t stress – the sandwich makers are pros and will quickly ascertain what flavours you like and what you will eat for lunch. Once you’ve got your sandwich, pour a cup of wine, sit down at the back of the restaurant and enjoy!
FUN FACT: 20,000+ people can’t be wrong. The restaurant is the most reviewed restaurant annually on TripAdvisor. Read some of the reviews here.
4:00pm - Time for Retail Therapy
(7 minutes to Ponte Vecchio ~ 700 steps)
Gentlemen, stand clear. Do not get in the way of a shopaholic with your a credit card in Florence. The Florentine tradition of working leather is antique and the options of jackets, bags, wallets, shoes and belts is overwhelming and seemingly unending. There are many boutiques and stores around the Piazza del Duomo but we recommend pursuing retailers away from the centre too.
Many of the high end chains can be found along Via Por Santa Maria. Head in the direction of Ponte Vecchio where you’ll be bedazzled by the jewellers’ wares. Most shops accept credit cards and you can always purchase another suitcase should you shop in excess.
A few of our recommendations include:
- Pratesi Firenze – a leather goods company founded in 1948 by a Florentine, the artisan skills of leather manufacturing has been handed down from father to son for three generations.
- Patrizia Pepe – a fashion brand founded in Florence in 1993, Patrizia Pepe creates clothing and accessories that value sensuality, silhouette, versatility and distinction. Shop here for a unique piece that exudes Italian style.
- Borgo San Jacopo – if you’ve come from Piazza del Duomo and walked along Ponte Vechhio, take a swift right as you come off the bridge. Here, you’ll find boutique stores stocking Italian designs.
TIP: For a less crowded, wide-angled view of Ponte Vecchio, take your photo from Ponte Santa Trinita.
6:00pm - Eat gelato
(9 minutes walk ~ 900 steps)
If you’re going to eat gelato in Florence, make sure to visit Vivaldi. The gelateria mixes traditional flavours with more experimental blends such as rice and amareno. Try the house blend which consists of raspberry, nutella and coconut – bellissimo!
If you’re looking for further food recommendations, check out this ultimate food guide to Florence.
Address | Via dei Renai, 15/R, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Opening Hours | Monday 11:00am – 8:00pm. Tuesday – Thursday 11:00am – 11:00pm. Friday – Saturday 11:00am – 1:00am. Sunday 11:00am – 11:00pm.
7:00pm - Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo
(11 minutes walk ~ 1,100 steps)
Okay, time to work off all those sweet calories. It’s time to go and watch sunset. For one of the best free things to do in Florence, head uphill towards Piazzale Michelangelo for the best seat in the house. The lookout offers panoramic views of the renaissance city awash with warmth as the sun sets over the red roofs. Come prepared with a bottle of wine with your partner in crime and sit on the steps for a pre-dinner drink.
Address | Piazzale Michelangelo, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Opening Hours | 24 hours
8:00pm - PIZZA!
(25 minute walk ~ 2,500 steps)
Mamma mia! You must be famished! Thankfully, there’s Gusta Pizza. It’s another line out the door but the short wait is well worth it. A small regular menu plus nightly specials has the woodfire Napoli pizza oven operating at max capacity during opening hours. Pizzas arrive piping hot which means you’re guaranteed to leave Florence with a cheesy grin.
You can choose to dine in if you’re lucky to grab a table. Otherwise, take your takeaway box towards Piazza Santo Spirito where you can enjoy your dinner on the steps of the Basilica di Santo Spirito.
9:00pm - Time for aperitivo
(1 minute walk ~ 100 steps)
Located a short distance from Gusta Pizza, Piazza Santo Spirito is a large square which attracts a more local crowd. It’s a festive atmosphere in the old piazza as people come to enjoy their dinner mixed with regional wines. On a balmy summer evening, try to nab a seat outside at one of the restaurants or bars. If there’s space, check out Cabiria Lounge Bar and sit down with a classic Aperol Spritz.
10:00pm - One more scoop
(6 minute walk ~ 600 steps)
Located on the banks of the Arno River, Gelateria La Carraia is a late night gelateria where you can get one more scoop of ice cream before hopping into bed.
Address | Piazza Nazario Sauro, 25/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
Opening Hours | Daily 11:00am – 12:00am
Website | http://www.lacarraiagroup.eu/
11:00pm - Ready for bed
Time to put those feet up for a well earned rest!
HOW TO GET AROUND FLORENCE
Public transport is widely used in Florence. City buses are operated by ATAF. It is best to purchase your bus tickets before boarding the bus as it is cheaper and sometimes the driver will not have any remaining. Travelling by bus works on an honour system with commuters required to validate their ticket when they board. A single use ticket is valid for 90 minutes and costs €1.50. A 4-ride ticket (up to 90 minutes per ride) costs €4.70.