Planning Your Trip to Florence
Florence's relatively compact size lets you see some of its most prominent landmarks like the unique Duomo and the picturesque Ponte Vecchio in a day. With two or three days, you'll be able to visit more of the city's iconic churches and Michelangelo's David. Having more time also means you can cross the river into the Oltrarno District, which provides a somewhat less touristy experience of Florence.
If your visit extends to four or five days, take it as an opportunity to make some side trips around beautiful Tuscany. You could even venture to other regions and visit Italian must-sees like the breathtaking Cinque Terre.
You'll also want to take some time to enjoy the city's shopping scene, as you'll find several luxury Italian brands such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Massimo Ravinale. It's almost tradition to buy leather goods while in the city, with custom-made leather shoes being a visitor favorite. If leather is not your style, other local products make unique souvenirs, like perfumes and mosaics.
Florence in 24 Hours
A day is not enough to capture Florence, but if this is all you have, you should get up early to pack in as much as possible.
Start your day at Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Il Duomo. Even in a country with countless churches, Florence's Il Duomo stands out with the intricate details of its green, orange, and white facade. You can go into the church and then go up to its Campanile, or bell tower, for an incredible panoramic view of the city.
Once you've got your first look at Florence's beauty, it is time to head to Piazza della Signoria, one of the city's most famous squares, and visit the Uffizi Gallery. With works like Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Da Vinci's Baptism of Christ, the museum's collection could make any art and culture lover's heart pound. You probably won't be able to see the entire gallery in all its splendor, but visitor maps conveniently guide you to the works you are the most interested in. As you won't have time to spare, we recommend buying tickets well in advance and making an online reservation for your time of entry.
As soon as you leave the gallery, you'll see the Palazzo Vecchio, the former palace of Cosimo de Medici, and Florence's current Town Hall. Walk along the beautiful streets to Ponte Vecchio. The city's iconic bridge has been decorated with stores since Medieval times and is the perfect place for some souvenir shopping.
See here for more ideas on how to visit Florence in 24 hours.
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Florence in 2-3 Days
With a bit more time in the city, you'll be able to see more of its incredible landmarks. Art lovers should dedicate the day to visiting the city's masterpieces. In Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, you won't only find beautiful architecture, but pieces by Italian artists like Masaccio and Ghirlandaio. If you want something more modern, the Museo Novecento features modern and contemporary art—one of the country's often overlooked legacies.
But the work that no visitor with enough time can miss is Michelangelo's David, which is housed at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Considered one of the most magnificent artworks in the history of humanity, it is well worth making a line for. If you can't get enough of Michelangelo, you can pay him respects at the Basilica di Santa Croce, where his tomb is located.
The other perk of taking it slow in Florence is that you will be able to do what most rushed tourists don't: cross the Arno River. On the other side of Ponte Vecchio is the Oltrarno District, which is a much more authentic side of the city that still houses incredible landmarks like the 15th-century Pitti Palace. If you make it here, you must go to Piazzale Michelangelo, which boasts the best view of Florence.
Florence in 4-5 Days
With more than three days, you can take a break from the typical touristy activities and enjoy Florence off-the-beaten-path by paddling under Ponte Vecchio or visiting a handmade mask studio. Culinary tours are very popular, as Tuscany is renowned for its delectable dishes and ingredients, such as olive oil, lardo di colonnata, and Cicchetti. This is a great way to see parts of the city that would usually fly under the tourist radar, and appreciate Italian cuisine at a deeper level.
You should also consider heading out of the city for day trips around Tuscany. You can visit Pisa and take a classic picture with its tower, enjoy bike-riding through the vineyards of Chianti, or visit the medieval city of Montepulciano. If you're up for a more extended excursion, head to the astonishing Cinque Terre. Considered one of the country's most beautiful destinations, these five towns are famous for their colorful buildings, which seem to hang from the side of the mountains along the northwestern shores of Italy. Find out how to get from Florence to Cinque Terre.
For more inspiration on what to do in and around Florence, look at this 5-day itinerary.