What To Do In Florence, Italy

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The stunning city of Florence resplendent with dramatic statues, stunning architecture, and picturesque images in every direction has to be Europe’s most beautiful city. If you’re wondering what to do in Florence, you’re in the right place.

There can be no greater testament and acknowledgment of a city’s status than other cities being compared to it. For example, the equally historic city of Lecce in the south of Italy is known as the ‘Florence of the south.’

While this is a post on what to do in Florence, it is so spending it could be the shortest post in history. Just go and walk the streets and experience it for yourself.

What To Do In Florence

The simple answer to ‘What to do in Florence’ is simple – go and explore it yourself. 

Boasting attractions such as the magnificent Duomo, the Piazza Della Signoria, and Ponte Vecchio any walking tour is guaranteed to result in fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime sights.

duomo in florence
image courtesy of Paul from The Two That Do

However, to make the most of your time in Florence, here are the unmissable attractions.

Where Is Florence

Florence is located in the centre of Italy 275 km north of Rome and 300 km south of Milan.

Fellow popular Tuscan tourist cities of Pisa and Siena are 85 km west and 72 km south, respectively.

How to Get To Florence

For those thousands of holidaymakers that visit Tuscany each year, Florence is easily accessible via local train services. 

From Siena, a train journey will take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, and tickets cost in the region of €10.00. 

Pisa on Italy’s west coast may be further away than Siena, but a train journey will take just an hour.

From further afield, a train from Rome takes just one and a half hours.

Whichever train journey you require, just don’t forget to validate your ticket before your travel. Machines can be found in ticket halls and on platforms.

Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station is located in the northwest of the city. From there, the Piazza Della Signoria is just under a mile and a 15-minute walk.

Driving To Florence

The E35 motorway running from Bologna in the north to Rome in the south runs down the centre of Italy. From Pisa, in the west, the SS67 is the road to take and from Siena the SR2.

For those wishing to combine a visit to Florence with a trip to the equally iconic and photogenic Cinque Terre region, the car journey will take just two and a half hours along the E80 and A11.

As you should expect from a historic city such as Florence cars are far from welcome in the centre. Indeed there is a Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL), so drivers are strongly recommended to utilise one of the many car parks within a 20-minute walk of Florence’s centre.

Drivers can expect to pay anything between €1.00 and €3.00 per hour, so a day trip should cost no more than €20.00.

Best Time To Visit Florence

The summer months of July and August are the busiest months of the year for tourists. However, the warm temperatures combined with long queues and crowded streets do make a visit to Florence far less pleasurable.

People should, therefore, strongly consider a visit to Florence during the colder shoulder season months of April and September. During these months, there are fewer crowds, and spring brings blooming flowers and colourful blossoms across the city. 

There is more rainfall at this time, so do ensure you bring appropriate clothing and an umbrella.

Florence Weather

Florence enjoys a Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. 

The hottest month of July also boasts on average, 13 hours of sunshine per day and is the driest month of the year. To help you plan your visit, here are the average temperatures and rainfall figures per month.

What To Do In Florence

Florence is the ideal city to explore on foot, its numerous main attractions all within easy walking distance of each other.

I provide further details on these so you can design your itinerary based on your preferences and the amount of available time you have to spend in this fabulous city.

Florence Duomo

Even among Florence’s many treasures, the Florence Duomo or Santa Maria del Fiore completed in 1436 stands out as the most breathtaking. 

The detail of the striking green, pink, and white marble facade has to be seen to be believed. No matter how many times you pass this area during your time in Florence, you will inevitably take a moment to stop and take in all of its grandeur.

The imposing Dome that dominates the skyline can be seen from several viewpoints across the city.

florence duomo basilica
image courtesy of Paul from The Two That Do

Florence Duomo – Opening Hours

Open between 10.00 and 16.30 Monday to Saturday entrance is free to the Cathedral itself. 

However, visitors can expect a lengthy queue to gain access, particularly during the busy summer months. At this time, it is common for queues to be longer than a couple of hours.

As an active Cathedral, there is a strict dress code that must be respected at all times.

Visitors must wear clothing to cover the chest and shoulders, and shorts, dresses, or skirts must reach below the knee.

Access will be denied to anyone not complying with these requirements.

Florence Duomo Climb

It is possible to climb the 463 steps to the top of the Dome. Involving narrow corridors and steep staircases may not be an activity for everyone. Warnings are provided to those with a heart condition or anyone suffering from vertigo or claustrophobia.

While Cathedral access is free to climb the Duomo, a ticket must be purchased covering the rest of the Cathedral complex. As well as the climb a ticket will provide you access to other attractions such as the Crypt and Museum.

This complex ticket costs €18.00 and can be bought from the ticket office in Piazza San Giovanni in front of the Cathedral.

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio or ‘Old Bridge’ crossing the River Arno linking the Pitti Palace in the south to Piazza Repubblica and Piazza Duomo in the north is one of the world’s most famous bridges.

There has been a bridge on this site since 966, although the current version with its three arches was constructed in 1345 following a flood. 

ponte vecchio bridge in florence
image courtesy of Paul from the Two That Do

Famed for not just being a bridge, Ponte Vecchio has been lined with shops since its 14th-century construction. In its early years, these were predominantly butchers as they were moved away from the city centre in the drive for increased cleanliness.

However, after a declaration in 1593 from Ferdinand I, these butchers made way for goldsmiths and jewellers, and it is these traders that remain today.

Ponte Vecchio is also known for the Vasari Corridor, the raised walkway built for the Medici Family to reach the Uffizi from Pitti Palace without contact from the population over which they ruled.

A view of the Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno from further along the river is one of Florence’s most iconic vistas.

piazza della signoria
image courtesy of Paul from The Two That Do

Piazza Della Signoria

The historic centre of Florence for over 500 years, the Piazza Della Signoria must be the most beautiful square anywhere in the world. 

This L-shaped square home to striking Palazzo Vecchio with dominant bell tower, the striking Loggia Dei Lanza, and grand statues such as Perseus with the Head of Medusa and, of course, the Statue of David can easily take up all of your time in Florence.

I’ve visited this Piazza on three separate occasions, and each time I find something new to marvel over.

Palazzo Vecchio

The ‘Old Palace’ is Florence’s town hall is one of Italy’s most impressive buildings.

In front of its entrance stands a replica of the world’s most famous statue, Michelangelo’s statue of David. The original stands in the Accademia Gallery north of the Piazza della Signoria.

the uffizi gallery
image courtesy of Paul from The Two That Do

Loggia Dei Lanza

Adjoining the Uffizi Gallery is the 14th-century open-air sculpture gallery of Loggia Dei Lanza. Comprising three open arches wide and one arch deep, this is now home to several incredible bronze and marble statues. Look out in particular for the striking Perseus and the decapitated head of Medusa.

Uffizi Gallery

Attracting on average 10,000 people a day, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the world’s most well-known and most visited museums. 

Located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria it houses a collection of priceless masterpieces, predominantly from the Renaissance Period. Artists include Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Unsurprisingly visitors are recommended to arrive early as again lengthy queues can be expected, especially during the summer months.

As well as possibly the world’s greatest, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest. Opened during the sixteenth century, it was opened to the public in 1765.

Uffizi Gallery Tickets

Between 1st March and 31st October, ticket prices are €20.00 for adults and €10.00 for children. For the rest of the year, costs are reduced to €12.00 and €6.00 respectively.

Tickets can be bought in advance online, but this method will incur an additional charge of €4.00.

Entrance is free on the first Sunday of each month between October and March.

The Uffizi Gallery is open between 08.15 and 18.50 Tuesdays to Sundays and is closed on 1st January, 1st May and Christmas Day.

Pitti Palace

The Pitti Palace located south of the River Arno, a 10-minute walk from Piazza della Republica across Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s largest Palace and monument.

Bought by the Medici family in 1549, the Palace was built for the Pitti family in 1457 and like the Florence Duomo designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Today the Pitti Palace is home to several of Florence’s most prestigious museums. The Palantine Gallery on the 1st-floor houses 16th & 17th-century paintings while the Gallery of Modern Art can be found on the top floor.

Pitti Palace Tickets

It is now possible to gain access to all museums in the Pitti Palace with one ticket. 

For visits between 1st March and 31st October, ticket prices are €16.00 for adults and €8.00 for children. Outside of this period ticket prices are reduced to €10.00 and €5.00 respectively.

The museums are open Tuesday to Sunday each week between the hours of 08.15 and 18.50.

Boboli Gardens

To the rear of the Pitti Palace can be found the verdant Boboli Gardens. A stunning location all year round due to the ever-changing colours these gardens date back to the 15th century.

Not just beautiful gardens but boasting numerous sculptures, an amphitheater, and several fountains these are more of an open-air museum.

Boboli Gardens Tickets

A separate ticket is required to access Boboli Gardens, although the Gardens prices differ for winter compared to the rest of the year.

Between 1st March and 31st October, adult prices are €10.00 and children €5.00. For the rest of the year, these are reduced to €6.00 and €3.00.

The gardens are open every day of the year except Christmas Day, New Years Day, and the first and last Monday of each month. Opening time is 08.30 throughout the year, but closing times do differ with the seasons. At the height of summer 19.30 and in winter 16.30.

For those visiting off-season, entry to the gardens is free on the first Sunday of the month between October and March.

Sante Croce Basilica

In the southeast of Florence outside of the city walls, the Basilica of Santa Croce is the burial place for many of Florence and Italy’s most prominent names. Here are buried Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and famous scientist Galileo Galilee. 

There is also a memorial to Dante, buried in Ravenna, as he was exiled from Florence in 1302.

Dating back to 1294, the impressive marble façade was added in 1863. The Piazza Santa Croce in front of the Basilica is home to the annual football game played in medieval costume.

San Lorenzo Market

Away from the museums, galleries, and stunning architecture of central Florence, the San Lorenzo market is as much Florence as any of these attractions.

Situated in the northwest of the city a kilometre from Piazza della Signori the Central Market is the indoor section home to food and associated products. Housed in a gorgeous building constructed in 1870, the two-level market comprises food stalls on the ground floor and a gourmet food court to the 1st floor—ideal for a refreshment stop during your tour of Florence.

The surrounding streets are lined with stalls selling many leather products for which this region is famous, as well as clothing and numerous souvenirs to take home.

Cooking Class

people making gnocchi
image courtesy of Paul from The Two That Do

Fancy doing something different on your visit to Florence?

If so, why not try a cooking class in a country known for so many iconic dishes? We’d already enjoyed Pasta Making in Modena, so why not try something similar in Florence?

We enjoyed a three-hour class held in a private home just metres from the Pitti Palace. Our afternoon learning to make potato gnocchi with a multinational group of people from all over Europe was a perfect way to get out of the summer sun and learn new skills.

Our host was not just a chef but an artist who has held exhibitions across the world. It was also fabulous to gain an insight into a Florence home.

For a price of just €35.00 a person with homemade pasta and a glass of red wine thrown in there can’t be much better value for money.

What To Do In Florence

The stunning city of Florence resplendent with dramatic statues, stunning architecture, and picturesque images in every direction has to be Europe’s most beautiful city. 

There can be no greater testament and acknowledgment of a city’s status than other cities being compared to it. For example, the equally historic city of Lecce in the south of Italy is known as the ‘Florence of the south.’

While this is a post on what to do in Florence, it is so spending it could be the shortest post in history. Just go and walk the streets and experience it for yourself.

Meet the Guest Author: Paul

This post was written by Paul from The Two That Do! Be sure to also follow him on all social media to keep up to date with his many travels.

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