I know, I know, everyone always says you only need two days for Florence. That’s all well and good – you can do a lot in Florence in two days, but you really can’t do everything. And, more importantly, you can’t eat everything. I’ve put together this 4-day itinerary for you to really get to know Florence. Let’s get into some need to know details before the itinerary:
Transportation to Florence from the airports
My thought on this is always take a taxi, and in Florence, you don’t really have much choice. If you’re flying into the Florence Airport (FLR), it should take about 20-30 minutes to get to city center and there is a standard fare set at 22 euro, plus 2.70 supplement (this supplement will fluctuate on nights, weekends and holidays). You may also be charged 1 euro per bag – this is a standard luggage fee. Do not let someone scam you into paying more – agree on that set fare before getting into the taxi, as this is one of the most common scams worldwide, and we have even fell victim to it many times.
If you are flying to Pisa, Rome, Milan or another major airport that is not Florence, you can take the train. This is a really great way to get around Italy, and if you plan to take many trips on the train, you might want to consider a rail pass. If it’s just the one, you will be good to get a ticket when you get there. You are going to Santa Maria Novella (SMN), which is right in the center of Florence. Be sure to look up how to get to the train station from your airport before your flight!
You will want to arrive early-to-midday on Day 1. As with most cities in Italy (or even in Europe), Florence closes down on Mondays, so it’s best to have Monday be a travel day, as not much will be open. I will include the days that each location is closed in the itinerary. Another key thing you will want to get is the FirenzeCard. This is the most important card you will ever own while you are in Florence. I personally do not think you need to get the FirenzeCard+ unless you plan to use public transportation, and as Florence is such a walkable city, there really isn’t a reason to use public transportation. The FirenzeCard will give you prepaid admissions and priority access for most museums in Florence, without needing to make reservations (climbing the Dome excluded, you will need to make a reservation for this). You can purchase the card online and pick it up your first day in Florence, and then it will be activated upon your first use at a museum for 72 hours. The priority access means that there is a separate, much shorter line, for those who have purchased this card, and we found at most museums, we could just walk right in.
Day 1: Arrive and get to know the city
Depending on what time you arrive, you'll want to settle in and get to know the city a bit and pick up your FirenzeCard. I suggest doing this by walking around, getting your bearings, and seeing big landmarks from the outside. This day will require a lot of walking! The suggested walking tour and main points to see are:
Piazza della Repubblica
Ponte Santa Trinita/Ponte Vecchio
Dinner at Ristorante Natalino
I think it's nice to know a little bit about what I'm seeing, so I've written up a little history about each of the places below.
Piazza della Repubblica
Start your walking tour at the heart of the city - Piazza della Repubblica. This piazza has been the center of the city since Roman times, acting as the Roman Forum for the city. There are three famous cafes here - Caffe Gille, Caffe Giubbe Rose, and Caffe Paskowski, any of which would be great options for a cafe or snack; Caffe Giubbe Rose is particularly well known, as it is where many Italian scholars over the years have met or written. Depending on the time of year, you might also see the carousel, or la giostra.
Probably one of the most famous buildings in Florence, the Duomo is definitely something to see many times throughout your stay. This is simply a walk-by - we're not going to climb the Cupola just yet! But, we will take this time to pick up your FirenzeCard and schedule your time for the Cupola! Sidenote here: please read the section on climbing to the top of the Cupola before making your reservation - it is not for everyone, although I strongly recommend you do it! I will admit that we did not have to make these reservations, so I cannot guide you to exactly the correct spot, but the address is Piazza San Giovanni, 7. If you can stand to be there this early, I recommend making your reservations for 8:30am (the first available).
The Duomo is one of the coolest places in Florence! A few fun facts for you as you do your walk-by:
The building itself was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294, but when he died in 1310, no one knew how to finish the dome.
Brunelleschi was hired to construct the dome. He had never before built anything an kept his method a secret to most, until he was actually building the dome.
The dome is one of the first instances of herringbone patterns of brick, which is believed to be one of the main reasons it can support such weight. Generally, though, it is still debated as to how Brunelleschi achieved this engineering feat.
I highly suggest watching this documentary about the Duomo - it is very well done and explains all of this and a lot more in great detail!
Basilica di San Lorenzo and San Lorenzo Market
If Day 1 is not a Monday, go explore the San Lorenzo Market! This is the largest market in Florence, and if you are looking to buy leather goods, a great place to do that. Girl in Florence has great tips for places to buy genuine leather, both in San Lorenzo and around Florence. The market is situated around Basilica di San Lorenzo - one of the largest churches in Florence, and is well known for housing the burial chapels of most of the Medici family. The Medici was the unofficial royal family of Florence throughout the Renaissance, and has a huge influence on the city still today.
Ponte Santa Trinita
Yes, I said the right bridge here. Sure, you can walk across the Ponte Vecchio, but then you wouldn't be able to get the great pictures of the Ponte Vecchio! The Ponte Vecchio, literally meaning "Old Bridge," is the only bridge in Florence that still has shops on it. This was customary of bridges back in the day, and you can also see this on the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Also, on the other side of this bridge is one of my favorite gelato shops, Emporio Gelateria, and that's worth crossing a bridge for.
One of my favorite things about Florence (and many European cities) is aperitivo! My absolute favorite while I was living in Florence was at Moyo (cocktails and non-Italian foods), or at Natalino (wine and Italian foods). Here is another great list of aperitivo in Florence! This is actually something you can do every night while you're in Florence! The idea is that you pay for a glass of wine or a cocktail and the bite-sized appetizers are included. As a study abroad student, I may have taken advantage of this and made it my dinner, but I can safely say that as a responsible adult, I would do this the right way now! It's a great way to try some great wine and food for a small price. Before dinner!
Dinner at Ristorante Natalino
By far my favorite restaurant in Florence. You can make reservations ahead of time, and depending on the season you are going, you probably want to do this! I highly recommend getting the pear and gorgonzola tortellini (this will read as Fiocchini di Pere e pecorino e Gorgonzola on the menu)! Address: Borgo degli Albizi, 17r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Day 2: Getting into the meaty stuff - the Duomo and Museums!
8:00 am - Climb to the Cupola (Duomo)
Ok - I'm just going to prepare you for this. Climbing up to the top of the Cupola is 463 steps up, and the stairwell is very narrow. So make your reservation for 8:30am so that it will be nice and cool and traffic will be flowing one-way. But it is so worth it! The views are amazing, and you get to see the cool herringbone work that you watched about in the documentary! Arrive at 8:00 so you can be as close to the front of the line as possible. Remember that this activates your 72-hours with the FirenzeCard, so we're about to hit up all the museums.
10:00 am - Cripta di Santa Reparata (Duomo); CLOSED ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH
You can access this through the main part of the cathedral; in this museum, you get a better understanding of the history of the cathedral and see some of the remains that the current cathedral was built on.
11:00 am - Museo Dell'Opera (Duomo); CLOSED ON THE FIRST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH
Museo Dell'Opera del Duomo is right across the street from the Duomo and has a great collection of art. Best of all, the tour ends with a fantastic view of the Cupola!
12:00 pm - Santa Croce
This church houses great minds like Galileo, Michaelangelo and Machiavelli, just to name a few. It's definitely worth a walk around! It's worth noting that this church is very strict on dress code; you will need to have your shoulders and knees covered. I generally carry around a large, but light scarf, just in case! Address: Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
1:00 - Lunch
I recommend eating lunch at Trattoria Anita (Via del Parlascio, 2R), just a few blocks away from Santa Croce
2:30 - The Uffizi Gallery; CLOSED ON MONDAYS, OPEN LATE ON TUESDAYS
This is a huge gallery, so I would give the whole afternoon for it. In fact, prioritize what you want to see and be willing to skip some rooms; there is just too much to see in one visit! Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
8:30 - Dinner
Just leading you through a list of my favorite restaurants here. I promise these are tried and true, many times, and mostly free from tourists, which is the best part, the only downside of that being they may not have English versions of their menus. Tonight's feature is Icche C'e C'e. If you're into fish, get the Bronzino, if not, this is where I fell in love with "little gnocchi," so give that a try! Address: Via dei Magalotti, 11, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
DAY 3: More Museums, but you'll love them
8:15 am - Museo di San Marco; CLOSED MONDAY
San Marco is still a Fransiscan Convent, and at one point, Fra Angelico lived and studied there. You will find many famous frescoes here. You can find more details on it here. Address: Piazza San Marco, 3, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy
10:00 am - Galleria Dell'Accademia; CLOSED MONDAY
Home of Michaelangelo's real David, amongst other great pieces of art. Address: Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
12:00 pm - Palazzo Medici Riccardi
This is where the famous Medici brothers lived when in center-city Florence. The Cappella dei Magi is the most impressive room in this palace, where they made some bold moves, including depicting themselves as the Three Kings in a mural of the Birth of Christ. Read more about it here. Address: Via Camillo Cavour, 3, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy
1:30 - Lunch
My favorite places for panino are Antico Noe and Natalino, which are in the same Piazza. The sandwich shop of Natalino is right across the street from it's formal restaurant already mentioned, but it is amazing! Antico Noe address: Volta di S. Piero, 6/8/r, 50122 Firenze, Italy
3:00 pm - Museo del Bargello
This is quite possibly my favorite museum in all of Florence. Donatello's David is here, and I just love the juxtaposition of his sculpture when compared to Michelangelo's David, which is why I think you need to see them on the same day. Address: Via del Proconsolo, 4, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Evening - Aperitivo and Dinner
I urge you to have dinner at La Giostra one night while you are in Florence. Aside from celebrity couples having been spotted here, the restaurant is perfectly romantic and has great food. And they give you prosecco when you walk in! Address: Borgo Pinti, 10,18 Rosso, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy
Day 4: Exploring Oltrarno
Morning - Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Another art gallery, as well as beautiful gardens you can walk around. If it interests you, stay as long as you want, if not, walk around the neighborhood! Address: Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
This is the best pizza I have ever had, ever. I know I can be hyperbolic, but since I was 19, I have compared every slice of pizza I've eaten to this pizza. I can't stress enough how good it is. If you're a blonde woman (which I am not), they might make you a heart-shaped pizza. Address: Via Maggio, 46/r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Afternoon: San Miniato al Monte
This church sits up high above the city, offering you some of the best views out there. I recommend going in the late afternoon so you can hear the monks singing their Gregorian Chants. This happens at 5:30 pm during the warm months and 4:30 pm. You can check the website for more specific times.
Stay tuned for future posts about nightlife and secret bakeries. There's just so much great stuff in Florence!
Options for keeping up with your maps or doing your own research while you're out and about
My personal favorite, and what we just used in Southeast Asia on our honeymoon, is the Skyroam Solis (you can use my coupon code: THELAVORATOLENS). Honestly, I can't say enough great things about this, but long story short, for $10/day, you get a 4G LTE global WiFi hotspot that up to 5 devices can connect to. Amazing!
The other tried and true option is downloading Google Maps for the area you are in. We've done this many times, and then you just turn off your data and WiFi, and it should still keep up with you through, what I'm concerned, is pure magic.