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Florence – Guide to Historic Firenze

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM FLORENCE

The capital of Tuscany, Florence is the home to Michelangelo’s iconic “David,” the birthplace of Renaissance art, and an all around beautiful city. We visited Florence after attending my cousin’s wedding in Tuscany in the summer of 2022. Most of the recommendations I received for Florence were from the bride herself who spent a semester studying abroad in Italy during college. With everything from the markets to the cathedrals, from the best gelato to the best panini, we’ve got you covered!

Need to Know:

Currency: Euro

Language: Italian

Airports:

Florence – FLR

Bologna – BLQ

Pisa – PSA

Electrical Outlets: 230V supply voltage and 50Hz, plug type C

Planning Your Trip

Accommodation: There are tons of hotel, Airbnb, and B&B options that allow you to walk to most destinations in the city. I was traveling with four other people, so we opted for an Airbnb so we could all stay together but have our own space. This Airbnb worked out great for our group and was close to the train station as well as the duomo.

Getting Around: To get to Florence, you can fly, drive, or take the train. We stayed right by the main train station “Santa Maria Novella” which makes it convenient for traveling or day trips. We actually drove to Florence since we were coming from Chianti (where a car is much more desired). I would not recommend trying to drive around Florence. The streets are narrow and flooded with pedestrians – plus it’s very hard to find parking. We parked our car at Garage Nazionale and left it there the whole 3 days. For getting around Florence, we just walked everywhere! If that’s a little too much walking for you, you can also grab Lime (or similar type) Scooters or bikes that you will see laying all over the city.

Food: We had some amazing food in Florence. Here are a few classic dishes that you have to try:

  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak)
  • Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo (Pasta with Porcini and Truffle Mushrooms)
  • Panini (Pressed grilled sandwich)

And same as most of Italy – the pizza, pasta, and gelato are all fabulous.

Restaurants

*Local Tip: Authentic gelato should be flush with the container. Avoid those that are piled high.

gelato florence
Pino's sandwiches
tagliatelle

Things to See and Do in Florence

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore: You absolutely can’t miss seeing this iconic cathedral in Florence. This massive structure towers over the city with multiple beautiful sections to explore. The line to go inside the cathedral is usually quite long and I believe it is a paid entrance – but we didn’t go inside this way. Read the next point to see how we go in! 

 Climb the Duomo: I hope you didn’t skip leg day because you’ll need your strength to climb all 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo. Climbing the cupola gives you incredible views of the city as well as a unique perspective on the inside of the cathedral. On the climb up, you actually get to walk around the ledge of the upper dome from the inside, looking down over the whole cathedral. On the exit of the climb, you also get to see the inside of the cathedral. Compared to some of the other cathedrals we saw in Italy, the inside was just ok. The doors and the exterior of the cathedral were more stunning, in my opinion. We booked this ticket for 15 Euro per person which is a timed entrance for the Duomo climb and also gives you access to the museum, baptistery, Santa Reparata, and the Bell Tower. 

 Opera Del Duomo Museum: I really enjoyed this museum to give more context on the cathedral. The museum is very nicely done and you can go through it in about an hour. Entrance to the museum is included in most bundle tickets so it is definitely worth stopping in. 

climb the duomo
Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral Duomo Climb
Accademia Gallery (The David): A must-see when in Florence, don’t miss Michelangelo’s “David” in the Accademia Gallery. The “David” is definitely the highlight, but there is more to this museum including a large collection of paintings and sculptures. It took us about an hour to make our way through the museum. I highly recommend buying a timed entry ticket online ahead of time because the non-timed entry line is always massive. Print out your ticket receipt and bring it to the ticket office across the street from the entrance. There, they will trade in your receipt for your actual tickets, then you can get in the line to enter.

Mercato Centrale: Check out the bustling Mercato Centrale to pick up an grocery items or a quick bite! On the first level, you’ll find butchers, pasta shops, little restaurants, produce and more. One the second level you’ll find a big open hall with a bunch of restaurant vendors and a couple bars. Surrounding the mercato the streets are lined with vendors of all sorts from fabrics to leathers, from souvenirs to books. 

Piazza della Signoria: This is the most politically important square in Florence because it houses the city council and any important figures. This square is also visually stunning. Real marble statues stand in the square for all to marvel. You will also find the only replica of the statue of David (and it’s smaller than the original).

Uffizi Gallery: This was, in my opinion, the best museum in Florence. The museum features incredible artwork, most notably, ‘Birth of Venus’ and ‘Spring’ by Sandro Botticelli, ‘The Annunciation’ by Leonardo da Vinci, ‘Madonna Del Cardellino’ by Raphael, and more. We spent about 3 hours in this museum and brought our “Rick Steves” guide book to explain more about the works of art. I recommend buying the PassePartout 5 Day combo ticket. This gives you access to the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, and the Palazzo Pitti.  Your Uffizi Gallery entrance will be timed so you have to get your receipts traded in for tickets at the ticket office before entering the gallery for your timed entry.

Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti: We visited the palace and gardens right after the Uffizi Gallery – and it was a lot. I highly recommend splitting the visit into two days, Uffizi on the first day, Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti on the second. The Palazzo Pitti has multiple small museums within the palace that you can explore. After a long morning at the Uffizi, it all started to look the same and I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. Strolling through the gardens was lovely, but I recommending making a plan! The gardens are huge so if you just start strolling, you’ll be walking forever and not see the main sights. Grab a map ahead of time and plan out your route. 

 

Mercato Centrale
Uffizi Gallery
Palazzo Pitti
Piazzale Michelangelo: Plan a visit to this beautiful plaza with incredible views of Florence. It is a decent hike uphill to get to the top, or there is a road where you can take a taxi to the top. Bring a pizza or buy some drinks at the stands located on top of the hill to relax and enjoy the view.

Ponte Vecchio: This bridge crosses the Arno river and is lined with jewelry shops. The bridge is always crowded with tourists and shoppers alike. Take in the great views of the river from this bridge. 

Piazza della Repubblica: Swing by one of the main squares in Florence to see The Column of Abundance and peruse the surrounding shops and restaurants. You’ll find a lot of upscale shopping in this area. It’s very lively square, especially at night, and a beautiful spot for people watching.

Santa Croce: About 800 meters away from the main Duomo, check out the Santa Croce Basilica. It is also known as the ‘Temple of the Italian Glories’ because it is the burial place of multiple notable italians such as Michelangelo and Galileo. We just admired the basilica from the outside and relaxed on the steps out front. 

Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio: The oldest market in Florence, the Sant’Ambrogio is a covered market full of traditional italian products. You can grab a bite to eat or find some delicious local goods. It’s not a necessity, but if you’re looking for some true local people watching and food, this is it!

 

Florence River
Ponte Vecchio
grom gelato florence

Florence Highlights

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Wine Window Outside the restaurant Babae you'll find one of the oldest working wine windows in Italy! The concept of the wine window was created as a way for wealthy families to sell their wine directly to the public and dodge the taxes from distribution. This was also a popular way of selling and receiving wine during the bubonic plague. You can still go up to this window, ring the bell, and get a glass of wine handed to you right on the street!
2
Sunset at Piazza Michealangelo Climb up to Piazza Michelangelo to see an incredible view of the sun setting over the whole city of Florence. Get there early to grab your spot on the edge of the square and grab a drink from a vendor. This is an absolutely stunning experience.
3
See Michelangelo's 'David' One of the icons of Florence, you can't miss seeing this massive and intricate sculpture. Make sure you get your tickets to the Accademia Gallery so that you can experience 'David' in real life.
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Climb the Duomo I know I wrote about this above - but this was truly a highlight! Make sure you snag your tickets to climb to the top of this incredible structure.
wine window florence
Piazza Michelangelo
Accademia Michelangelo's David

If you’re looking for another great Italian city to check out – take a look at my Rome guide!

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