Essential Florence

Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, has ferried the western world from the Middle Ages to modernity. The historical center of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains over 70 museums, dozens of churches, and a bountiful number of buildings, squares, and parks that preserve the works of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo, Botticelli, and all the major Italian artists. Florence's irresistible charm will bewitch you! Use our itineraries to discover the best of Florence – we'll make sure that your first visit includes the most important masterpieces and experiences!

Day 1- First approach: the Cathedral and the basilicas

Welcome to Florence! As soon as you have arrived, we suggest you immerse yourself in the historical center: visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, one of the symbols of Florence. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy, with its impressive 153 meters/500 feet in length, and the sparkling splendor of the colored facade. Don't just stop for the classic photo! Brunelleschi's Dome, which you should definitely visit. The frescoes were painted by Vasari, who depicted a spectacular Last Judgement, which with its 3,600 square meters (over 4,300 square yards!) is the largest fresco in the world, just as the structure is the largest brick dome ever built! Reservations are free but mandatory, and you'll also enjoy a magnificent view! If you want to add another spectacular panorama to visit, A Little Peek on Florence Tour Tickets assures you will see everything. Another view not to be missed is from Giotto's freestanding Bell Tower (considered the most beautiful in Italy). We're sure you'll enjoy a visit to the Baptistery, the "eight-sided wonder of Florence," with its gold mosaic dome and magnificent bronze doors. To complete your cathedral complex experience, visit the Museum Opera del Duomo, full of ancient relics and works of art (such as the Bandini Pietá by Michelangelo).

After the visit, take Via Roma towards Piazza della Repubblica: you'll find two famous cafes (Gilli, awarded to be one of the "Top 10 in Italy", and Paszkowski), perfect for a well-deserved and refreshing break. The area is dedicated to quality shopping, with some of the most important Italian designers being near Palazzo Strozzi. Wander through the lively streets and window-shop, then take Via Tornabuoni, which ends at the Ferragamo building on the corner of the Arno river. Look out from the Santa Trinitá bridge, and you'll see the Ponte Vecchio in front of you!

Shopping in this part of the center is irresistible. You'll find leather, ceramics, gold, fashionable clothing, oil, and Chianti wine. But what and where to buy? You might find a shopping tour helpful for avoiding unpleasant surprises!

It's impossible to recommend a single store - but if you take Via Porta Rossa from Via Tornabuoni, passing through the Piazza della Signoria and Via dei Gondi and Borgo dei Greci, you'll find all you need. It's a walk of about 15 minutes through historical streets with many old residences (such as the Palazzo Davanzati, at number 13 of Via Porta Rossa), where you will find many specialty shops. You'll arrive at Piazza Santa Croce, dominated by the Basilica. The marble facade encloses one of the most beautiful sacred edifices ever built, the largest Franciscan church in the world, a must visit. Known as the "Temple of the Italian Glories," Santa Croce is the burial place of great Italians such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Rossini. The chapels were painted with authentic masterpieces, as were the cloisters and the Pazzi Chapel. We recommend you dedicate a little more than an hour to the entire complex for a visit you won't regret.

If you prefer to be guided during your first meeting with Florence, a great alternative is the quick and economical Walk & Talk Florence: Guided Walking Tour. On this morning walk (starting at 10:00am), your guide will help you discover the city's architectural and historical evolution in just two hours. Not only will you see many of Florence's celebrated sights you might miss on your own – you'll also get a taste of the delicious Tuscan cuisine and wine.

For a delicious treat in the late afternoon, we recommend you join us at 5:00pm for the Wine, Oil and Cheese Tasting: the sommelier will offer tastings of fine wines paired with the best flavors from the countryside, all in one of the best wine bars of Florence.

The perfect ending to your day is a traditional Florentine meal – for example with bistecca alla fiorentina (a rare and tender steak), game, "poor" soups (such as the Pappa al Pomodoro and Ribollita, a soup of bread and vegetables), along with cheese and red wine. If you've just visited Santa Croce and are on the Piazza in front of it, turn left toward the Arno river, and walk until you reach the Corso dei Tintori. We recommend the restaurant Fagioli (at number 47r) for a traditional home environment.

Not tired yet? Take bus 12 or 13 up to Piazzale Michelangelo, the most beautiful terrace in town. If you arrive at the Piazzale by day, climb all the way (150 meters/490 feet) to the beautiful church of San Miniato al Monte: the view is even more impressive!

Day 2 - Top museums: Uffizi Gallery and Academia Gallery

After your first taste of Florence, you'll be ready to dive into the artistic heart of Renaissance Florence by visiting the Uffizi Gallery, the most important Italian art museum. Once in Piazza della Signoria, admire the stone facade of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi on the right with its statues. Continue a few meters, and you'll come to a long and narrow square, surrounded by a regular colonnade. You are in the midst of the building that is home to the world's largest collection of works from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the Uffizi.

The visit to the museum requires at least 2 ½ hours because of the importance of the exhibits. Admissions are timed to allow for a steady flow of visitors, implying a continuous line. It's essential to book your Uffizi tickets in advance, so you don't waste your precious day waiting in line! You can choose your preferred time for your visit, and enrich it with the audio guide, which accompanies you through the more than 60 rooms (plus temporary exhibitions). The value of a visit to the Uffizi is inestimable, as it holds masterpieces by Giotto, Botticelli (Allegory of Spring and the Birth of Venus among others), Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael ... the list is endless! Want to make sure you don't miss any of the masterpieces? Take this guided tour!

In addition to the Uffizi, there is of course Michelangelo's David, another symbol of the city. The original statue stands in the Accademia Gallery, another museum that figures on your list of must-sees during your first visit to Florence. Visits to the Accademia are in high demand and the waiting lines continue. Book your admission to the Accademia, and you can skip that line as well! For the best deal, we suggest you choose our convenient Combo Ticket Uffizi & Accademia and visit the two museums in the same day, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. The Accademia requires less time - one hour is sufficient, but you can venture more deeply into its secrets with a guided tour.

The ideal completion of your day is a walk from the Uffizi to the Accademia! Leaving the Piazza della Signoria, visit the picturesque Mercato della Paglia. Within walking distance, this market is also known as the "market of the Pig," as it is decorated with a bronze wild boar. The legend says that if you put a coin in the mouth of the animal and it falls into the hole, you'll come back to Florence! Turn back to Via dei Calzaiuoli: after 30 meters you'll see Orsanmichele on your left: a former barn, this consecrated church regularly hosts classical music concerts. Walk around the block to see the magnificent Palazzo dell'Arte della Lana, one of the most ancient towers of Florence. Continue towards the Duomo. Time to cool off with an excellent gelato? Take the short street next to the bell tower, appropriately named Via del Campanile, follow it to the next corner, and you'll find GROM. GROM offers flavor-packed gelato like they used to make it "once upon a time," with only the freshest organic ingredients. Delicious! Turn around to take another look at the beautiful Cathedral, pass it, and take Via Ricasoli (there is a jewelry shop on the corner). After another short walk (less than 500 meters) you'll arrive at the Accademia, where the David is waiting for you!

After so much art, it's time for dinner. For an experience out of the ordinary, we suggest this Gourmet's Tour: Join us for a mouthwatering stroll through the Florence city center, where we'll take gourmet pit stops in traditional Florentine bars, shops, and eateries. And of course, we'll round your experience off with a taste of vin santo, cantuccini almond biscuits– and the inevitable, heavenly gelato! For a special evening, treat yourself with one of our Wine and Food experience. Looking for top culinary experience? Chef Picchi of Il Cibreo (Via de 'Macci 122) is waiting for you. Otherwise we also recommend the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Via Ghibellina, one of the top prize-winning (and expensive...) restaurants with the best wine cellar in Italy.

Day 3 - The greatness of the Medici and the popular Florence

Early morning is the perfect time to admire the center of Florence, before it is overrun with tourists: join the Florentines in the Italian morning rite of freshly baked pastry with a creamy cappuccino! If you have not yet visited the Uffizi or the Accademia, you still have one last day! Otherwise, enjoy learning more about the Medici family and the magnitude of the impact the works they commissioned had on culture and society.

The tour starts from the Church of San Lorenzo, subject to extensions over the centuries in which Brunelleschi and Michelangelo took part. The beautifully decorated church has works of great value including two pulpits by Donatello. Do not miss a visit to the Medici Chapels, burial place of the Medici family, built in the rear of the complex. The Medici Chapels are considered Michelangelo's final gift to Florence, with his masterfully sculpted allegories of Night, Day, Dawn, and Dusk decorating the tombs of the princes. We recommend you book your admission in advance as it is one of the busiest museums. The tour takes less than an hour and includes Michelangelo's New Sacristy and the Chapel of the Princes, richly decorated with works of the master and other artists. Consider using the audio guide, which will show you the magnificence of the complex.

After your visit of the Chapels, take advantage of being in the market, the ideal place for finding small memories and gifts. For a quick lunch, enjoy one of the freshly baked focaccie ripiene (a kind of stuffed bread) from the close to 100 year-old bakery Canapa (Via dell'Ariento 21/r), on the left behind the stalls. To sample popular Florence, enter the nearby Central Market hall, recognizable by its red iron structure. Inside you'll find an explosion of colors, flavors, and folklore. Here is your chance for a tasty and economical food experience, such as at Da Nerbone, in business since 1872. Da Nerbone offers delights for fearless gourmets, such as excellent tripe, or the panino sandwich with lampredotto - a traditional Florentine peasant dish made from the fourth and final stomach of the cow. (Try it – it's delicious!). All of these are best enjoyed with a glass of wine, seated at the marble tables by the counter, where you'll be entertained by the colorful bustle of the people of Florence.

For the afternoon we suggest you cross the Arno to the Oltrarno district to visit the complex of the Pitti Palace and its gardens. The Palace was the first stately home of the Medici, then of the Lorena family, and also the residence of the King of Italy during Florence's time as the capital of Italy. Here is a half hour itinerary through some picturesque streets of the center to Palazzo Pitti (if you want to move more quickly, try the fun Segway).

From the church of San Lorenzo, go to the Piazza del Duomo. Continue towards the back of the cathedral, into Via del Proconsolo. After about 300 meters you will reach the impressive building that houses the Museum of the Bargello, full of beautiful statues like the David by Donatello (worth a visit, but at the very least a peek through the door onto the internal staircase!). Continue turning right into Via della Condotta, to the corner with Via Calimera, then straight ahead for 400 meters to the Ponte Vecchio. Nowadays, gold glitters in the jewelry shop windows on the bridge, but once it was the home of the butchers! Follow the course of the Vasari Corridor along Via Guicciardini to Piazza Pitti and the Palace.

Palazzo Pitti offers various itineraries. The main one is the Palatine Gallery with the Royal Apartments, which are still exactly as they were at the end of 19th century. The art gallery exhibits works by Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian, and Raphael's most famous paintings - book your admission tickets in advance! If you have not visited the Boboli Gardens, we urge you to do it now! Don't miss the most beautiful garden of Florence, on the hillside behind the palace, with statues, fountains, and stunning views. Your ticket also gives you access to the Costume Gallery, the Silver Museum, and the Carriage Museum. If you love green, continue on to the Bardini Garden, situated about 300 meters from the Boboli: the Baroque staircase that ends with a small belvedere will offer you another breathtaking panorama of the city!

Time for your final dinner in Florence! From Piazza Pitti, take Via dei Velluti, then turn right into Via Toscanella. Continue until you reach Piazza della Passera (a short walk of all together 200 m). Here, you'll find some osterie with wooden tables: they are the best! If you love pizza, try Gustapizza (two minutes from Piazza Pitti in the Via Sdrucciolo de 'Pitti) – serving one of the best pizzas in Florence!