A two days tour that leads you to the main attractions and museums in Florence
Means of transport
When it comes to Florence, the premise is always the same: even though you have a long time to devote to the city, it will never be enough to see everything! It might seem daunting, but I rather find that it is an invitation to visit the city again and again, always looking for new ideas and new surprises, not to mention the fact that the city changes in every season and always has new things to offer. In addition, when you have already visited a city, coming back is like coming home, and every time you find a new way to view it.
But if this is the first time you’re visiting Florence and you have only two days to devote to the “Cradle of the Renaissance” what should you see? Here is a tour that leads you to the main attractions and museums in Florence. Enjoy!
Most travellers arrive at the main train station of Santa Maria Novella, which is a great place to start your tour. Please note this one little tip for those arriving by train: Florence has a few train stations including Rifredi and Campo di Marte which are peripheral – you’ll want to arrive at Santa Maria Novella because it’s very central. Start out by crossing the street and heading to Piazza Santa Maria Novella, then walk to the Duomo following Via dei Cerretani.
Piazza del Duomo in Florence can be considered the heart of the city. It’s pretty unavoidable to pass through if you’re downtown, and it has a high concentration of beauty. You’ll want to start off your two days with this location since it remains a point of reference for your stay. Piazza del Duomo is a complex that includes five places you can visit: the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), the Baptistery, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Church of Santa Reparata and the Museo dell'Opera. There is a single ticket to visit all the monuments of Piazza Duomo and it costs only 15 euro. For details and opening hours see the official website.
It can be pretty tiring to cover all the ground and monuments in this piazza (read our experience with the 463 steps of the Duomo!) so after this you’ll need something to eat. The options are truly endless, but if you want to try something really traditional you can choose a “vinaino” (wine bar) or a stall selling lampredotto and tripe. The less economical but still traditional alternative is to lunch in one of the historical cafés of Florence.
The next stop in the historical centre of Florence is Via dei Calzaiuoli, where there are numerous shops and a very beautiful church that is worth a visit, the Church of Orsanmichele (free admission). After all these "tough" visits we suggest something lighter. Head over to the Loggia del Porcellino, sometimes called the “New Market” (though it’s been here for over a century), with many stalls and souvenir stands. Locate the Porcellino (a bronze-boar fountain): it is said to bring good luck if you insert a coin in its mouth and it falls into the grate at the foot of the fountain.
You are just a few steps from Piazza della Signoria, the civic centre of the city. It is dominated by Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of government that was built between 1290-1300. Today it is home to the Florence City Council and much of it is visitable as a museum. You can also climb the Tower of Arnolfo (the tallest tower in the city of Florence at 94 meters) and stroll along the walkway of the “ronda” or rounds, where soldiers kept watch over the city. Palazzo Vecchio is not the only point of interest of Piazza della Signoria: here you can admire real works of art in the open air in the Loggia dei Lanzi.
It’s dinner time: in Florence you'll be spoiled! If I were you I would stay in this area in order to stop at the Ponte Vecchio at night: a wonder that will live long in your mind!
Yesterday we finished our tour in Piazza della Signoria, and this morning I suggest you start here, to be precise from the Uffizi Gallery right next to it. Your time may be limited but I believe that it would be a shame to come to Florence and not see the Uffizi, which contains some of the most important works of Italian Renaissance painting.
After the visit to the Uffizi Gallery you might head in two directions: either return towards the Duomo area, continuing on to visit the colourful market of San Lorenzo, with its stalls and leather goods (and also take the opportunity to see the brand new first floor of the San Lorenzo Market and visit the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which was designed by Brunelleschi) or go across the river via Ponte Vecchio to explore the part of the town known as the Oltrarno. If you decide for the first option, plan to also visit the Church of Santa Croce today, maybe stopping in at the Oblate Public Library: from its café, there is one of the best views on the dome.
Otherwise, if you choose the second option, follow this itinerary through the Oltrarno. This side of the river hosts some precious treasures: Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Garden, the fascinating Piazzale Michelangelo… just choose what you prefer since you’d have to run to see everything!