Walks of Italy Headquarters is frequently asked the following question: How do you spend one day in Florence? We always reply “Spend more time in Florence” to our first question. In fact, we recommend spending at LEAST three days in Florence in order to truly soak up the Renaissance charm. We also know that not everyone has the time. Florence is also the most easily accessible and walkable city in Italy. If you want to make your day count, this is it. We consulted our colleagues and friends in Florence to create a guide on how to get the most out of a single day in Florence. It won’t all be there, but it will make for a memorable day.
Planning your Itinerary
Make a plan.
Although this may seem obvious, we cannot stress it enough. You should make the most of your time in Florence if you know that you have only one day. You can only do this by creating a bomb-proof plan to get in and out of Florence, as well as which attractions you want to see. Before you travel, there are three things you should do:
- When does arrive in the town? And when is the last train leaving? You should write down the train times if you are going for less than 24 hours.
- If you’re staying for more than 24 hours, where is your accommodation? You should be able to walk off the train and drop your bags at your hotel. It’s not a problem for most accommodations in Italy, but it is worth checking beforehand. Our guide will help you choose the best neighborhood in Florence.
- Museum hours. Most museums close on Mondays in Italy, particularly during the off-season. You can also save time by booking your tickets in advance, through either the museum website or through tour operators, to avoid long lines and waiting.
This is how we spend a day in Florence with our friends.
One Must-See Church + Picnic Lunch + 1 Must See Museum (or 2 small museums), 1 Sundown Activity + Florentine Fest = pure bliss
This formula has some flexibility depending on the spots you choose. More details are below. But if you use our formula and add your destinations, you will have a great day. You can add another museum to your morning if you don’t care about churches. If museums aren’t your thing, you can also sub in another church. You shouldn’t have more than one museum or church per half-day, no matter what you do.
Things to Do in Florence
The Must-See Church
While Santa Maria del Fiore with its enormous dome are the most prominent, Florence also has a multitude of stunning churches that have historical, artistic, and religious significance. While Florence’s most iconic church is a must-see, there are many other wonderful options.
These are the top churches in Florence and their reasons to be there:
Santa Maria del Fiore
It is the most well-known cathedral in Italy thanks to its dome, which was the largest dome in the world between 1431 and 1888. It is still the largest brick-and-mortar dome in the world, and architects still try to figure out how Filippo Brunelleschi managed it. It is a popular attraction in Florence, but the queue can be quite long in high season. The “Gates of Paradise” bronze doors, located on the Baptistery are another main sight within the cathedral complex. These doors are impressive but they are replicas. The actual doors were moved into the Duomo Museum to conserve their authenticity. You should visit Florence if you have only one day to spare.
Santa Maria Novella: The Cloisters and Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
The church is located near the train station and has a bustling piazza that is always crowded with street vendors and people. It’s filled with art and treasures, including a masterpiece using mathematical perspective, i.e. the exact portrayal of three dimensions, which was discovered during the Renaissance. Giotto and Lippi’s masterworks are here, as well as a collection of stunning frescoes from Domenico Ghirlandaio, which are some of the finest in Italy. You should visit the beautiful cloisters, which are part of an entire monastic complex.
Santa Croce Basilica
Many of Florence’s most prominent stars, such as Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli, are buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce. Dante has a monument, but he was exiled to Florence when he died, so his body is actually buried at Ravenna. A set of frescoes created by Giotto is the artistic highlight. However, there is also a statue that honors Giovanni Battista Niccolini, the playwright who is believed to have inspired Statue of Liberty. Keep an eye out for water damage. The church was inundated by a 1966 flood and there is still evidence of the extent of the water’s reach.
The Basilica di San Lorenzo and Medici Chapels
The Basilica of San Lorenzo is home to works by some of the most prominent Renaissance artists. It was designed by Brunelleschi and decorated by Donatello. The figure of Night in the New Sacristy that Brunelleschi sculpted is considered to be one of his finest. Although a separate ticket is required to enter the Medici Chapels, the tombs are well worth it.
Santa Trinita Church
This little gem is not as well-known as the others on the list but it does feature some stunning frescoes from Lorenzo Monaco and Ghirlandaio. It also features the Bartholini Salimbeni crest, which has an interesting story. Poppies are on the crest as their wealth was partly based on their ability to drug their rivals with opium-laced wines. Really.
Chiesa di Orsanmichele
The church was built in an old grain market in Florence in the 13th Century. It is one of the most unusual churches in Florence. It is known for its elaborate gothic tabernacle and the numerous statues that represent the major guilds of Florence, which are placed in alcoves around the exterior. These statues are not just any statues. Many of them were made by Renaissance masters such as Ghiberti, Donatello, and Verrocchio. The statues outside today are replicas. If you’d like to see the original, head upstairs to the small museum at the church.
Even though it is delicious, sitting down at a Florence restaurant will take up much of your precious time. For a quick and delicious lunch, visit the San Lorenzo Market. Actually, the San Lorenzo Market consists of two markets. The outdoor market sells souvenirs, clothing, and leather products, making it one of most popular areas to shop in Florence. And the indoor market, known as the Mercato Centrale, is home to butchers, fishmongers, and fruit and vegetable sellers. You can now enjoy delicious lunches at the upstairs market after it was remodeled in 2014. You can also stop by one of the famous lampredotto truck. Lampredotto, a tripe sandwich is Florence’s most famous street food. Although they aren’t for everyone, these delicious, sauce-drenched sandwiches make up one of our favourite foods in Florence.
There are many stunning museums in Florence that you could spend hours exploring. But if you have only one day to explore (or you have already spent time in churches), you will have to pick one or two of the smaller ones. The Uffizi and the Accademia are the major museums. Also, you should visit the Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace. These are also some of the most beautiful gardens in Florence. This information will help you choose which museum to visit.
This museum is the best place to spend a day in Florence, as it houses the most important collection of Renaissance paintings by artists like Botticelli, Raphael, and Da Vinci. The Uffizi is huge, with 101 rooms full of art and works throughout the halls. This can cause serious art fatigue for even the most dedicated art lovers. We love its extensive collection of art, including Michelangelo and Botticelli as well as Cimabue and Uccello. However, it is important to have a plan before you go. You can make a plan for certain works and certain rooms so that you don’t feel overwhelmed by the museum’s sheer size once you enter.
The magnificent David, Michelangelo’s masterpiece and most well-known statue in the world, is located at Florence’s Accademia. Unfinished statues of Michelangelo are less well-known, but they offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind and work habits of a tortured genius. These are not the only important works at the museum. You will find many other halls with paintings by Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. Although the collection is smaller than the Uffizi, it contains more works that casual art lovers would recognize. It’s also easier to manage. This is a wonderful attraction in Florence for a relaxing morning or afternoon.
The Medici family used this magnificent palace as their seat of power during the Italian Renaissance. They commissioned art and architecture that changed the course of European history. It is as impressive from the inside and out – particularly the Salone dei Cinquecento – but you don’t have to spend half your day there unless you are interested in the history of the Medici families.
You should also remember that there is a tower climb. This is an alternative to Santa Maria del Fiore’s Dome Climb, which is more popular and has more stairs. You should also take a stroll around the huge Piazza della Signoria, and stop by the Loggia dei Lanzi open-air statue gallery.
Although the Pitti Palace isn’t as well-known among foreigners as the Palazzo Vecchio due to its hidden location in Oltrarno it is certainly the most impressive on the inside. Another Medici Palace (Where they lived following the Palazzo Vecchio). The Pitti actually houses 5 museums within one of Florence’s most iconic buildings. It is home to a Renaissance museum, a museum of silver, a gallery for modern art, and a museum of porcelain. Also, it houses Italy’s only museum devoted to the history and fashion of clothing. We recommend the Renaissance museum of art, which is housed in the former royal quarters. The rooms are just as amazing as the paintings. The fashion museum and the silver museum are both great attractions. This is a wonderful half-day trip for larger groups, as it offers something for everyone.
The Boboli Gardens are part of the palace and are one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. They are a must-see for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts alike. You can spend an entire afternoon at the Pitti Palace by visiting one of the indoor museums before going to the gardens.
A Florence Sunset
In the summer, dusk is a crucial time in an Italian city’s life. As the heat of the day starts to subside, locals return to their streets to do their daily passeggiate. Then, thoughts turn to the delicious food to be enjoyed at dinner.
There are two great ways to enjoy the evening in Florence. The first is to go to your closest wine bar. Here you can have an aperitivo, or pre-dinner drink. Usually, small plates are served. Even though Florentines love wine, there are many other options. You can also enjoy an Aperol Spitz or Campari with soda, and if you prefer bitter liqueurs.
The Oltrarno is a great option if you are feeling more energetic. After crossing the historic Ponte Vecchio, it’s a 20-30 minute climb up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo. This is where you will find the stunning Basilica di San Miniato. To get inside, make sure you arrive before the church closes. You can then enjoy the sunset from the best viewpoint of Florence. This is the perfect way to end an exciting day of exploring.
It is a must to eat at least one meal in Florence, which showcases the best foods of the Tuscan Countryside. There will always be something to please your palate, including thick-cut Florentine steaks or wild boar ragu served over homemade pici (a Tuscan type of pasta), and cucina pota favorites like panzanella and ribollito. It should be possible to sit down for dinner at 7:00 pm and then take the train to 10:00 pm without any problems. Even better if you plan to stay the night. Take your time as restaurants close at night. Avoid the places near the cathedral and go to the more obscure spots around Santo Spirito, Oltrarno. Borgo San Jacopo also offers some fine, but more expensive, options.
Tips and tricks
Get up early
Another simple tip that will allow you to enjoy the main tourist attractions of Florence without crowds is this. The lines to enter museums and churches in Florence can sometimes be longer than those at Disney World. You can beat them by being the first to arrive at the museum or church.
To wait for the 8:30 am opening, you can go to the Duomo’s Cupola at 8:20 am. There are good chances that you will be able climb to the top depending on the season and day. Be careful! There are 463 steps before you reach the top.
Book tickets in advance
There are two options: You can either book tickets online ahead of time for specific museums at Uffizi.org or purchase a museum pass. You can choose from the Firenze or Amici degli Uffizi passes. These are expensive if you only plan to spend one day in Florence. However, they will allow you to skip lines and get into nearly all the museums in the city. These cards are best for those who only want to visit a few museums. Long lines at major museums are the biggest problem on a day trip to Florence. These lines are usually worse in summer, but they can also be annoying at other times of the year.
Take a tour
A tour is a great option if you have only one day in Florence. These tours are designed to maximize your time in Florence and allow you to skip most lines. However, you won’t be able to skip the line for the Florence Bell Tower. That line is just as reliable as death and taxes. A Florence tour ensures you don’t get lost. However, it is up for debate whether this is a good or bad thing. One thing is certain: tours remove much of the planning and stress associated with a day trip, allowing you to enjoy the culture, art, and architecture. A tour is the most efficient and effective way to spend a day in a city.