Florence, or Firenze, is the capital of Tuscany, a very beautiful region in Italy that’s known worldwide as the birthplace of the Renaissance. The bustling capital – one of the loveliest and most visited destinations in Europe – is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you’ll definitely come across an overwhelming number of architectural marvels, historical landmarks, and cultural gems.
Furthermore, Florence is also considered an art-lover’s playground so just imagine the priceless collection of artworks you’ll find when you visit the city’s museums, churches, and galleries. Aside from that, it is also popular for its fabulous food and wine culture. So be prepared to sample great-tasting food and wine at the most unassuming places as you explore its many well-preserved cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways.
There are so many wonderful sights and activities on offer in Florence so it is impossible to spend just a few days there and claim you’ve experienced everything there is. However, you can still spend 2 or 3 days in Florence, cover the highlights, and have an amazing time.
To help you choose which sights to see and activities to try, here is a suggested 3-day itinerary that covers Florence and a couple of towns in Tuscany. The aim of this itinerary is to get you to the top attractions at the right time so you can maximise your stay.
Day 1 – Piazza del Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Baptistery, Giotto’s Campanile, Opera Museum, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, and Galileo Museum
Begin your first day in Florence by visiting its most iconic attraction, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, or Il Duomo di Firenze. Easily recognizable through its Gothic architectural style and massive octagonal dome, the Duomo is home to beautiful frescoes and sculptures. Climb up some 400 steps to reach its dome or cupola to admire George’s Vasari’s ceiling frescoes and take in magnificent views of the city.
The next attraction you’ll have to see is the Baptistery. The Baptistery is where Dante Alighieri was baptised and you can even stand on the exact same spot where the famous poet was baptised. And do check out Giotto’s Campanile, still on Piazza del Duomo, which you can also climb for lovely views of Florence. Don’t forget to look up when standing immediately in front of the bell tower; is absolutely beautiful when viewed from the ground.
You must remember, though, that the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the Baptistery, and Giotto’s bell tower, are all very popular attractions in Florence so it would be best if you get a skip-the-line pass and avoid the long lines. A single pass will give you access to the three attractions.
Also worth visiting is the Opera Museum, or the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is located behind the cathedral. The Opera Museum houses some of the most important sculptures in the world.
Take a break from your sightseeing by grabbing lunch at any of the restaurants or pizzerias near Piazza del Duomo. You can order your pizza to go, find a bench to sit on, and enjoy your pizza while watching people come and go.
Next, proceed to Piazza della Signoria, the city’s main square. An interesting feature of Piazza della Signoria is the Fountain of Neptune. Constructed using marble and stone, the fountain was completed in 1565. It is one of the most picturesque spots in Florence so don’t forget to have your picture taken at Piazza della Signoria with the Fountain of Neptune in the background.
Within the open square is Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. Constructed at the beginning of the 14th century , the fortress-like building used to be called the Palazzo del Popolo. The building also houses a museum that’s worth a look. In front of Palazzo Vecchio is a “David” replica.
After Palazzo Vecchio, your next stop is the Uffizi Gallery, considered one of the most important museums in the world due to its magnificent collection of Renaissance and European art. Take a guided tour around the building for a better appreciation of the artworks there. Don’t miss out on Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”
The next tourist attraction you have to see on your first day in Florence is Ponte Vecchio, the “Old Bridge.” Built in 1345, the bridge is one of the most important landmarks in Florence. It is connected to the Uffizi Gallery by a really passageway called the Vasari Corridor. The bridge offers spectacular views of the Arno so you’ll be in for a treat.
Crossing the Ponte Vecchio will take you to another famous spot in Florence, the Pitti Palace. Four museums are housed within the massive palace – Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Royal and Imperial Apartments, the Palatine Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
Behind the palace is the world-famous Boboli Gardens, a sprawling garden that’s easily one of the most impressive gardens of the world. The relaxing, well-manicured green space is also an open-air museum where you’ll find Roman and Renaissance statues and sculptures.
If you still have time after Boboli Gardens, you can drop by Galileo Museum, which is just very close to Uffizi Gallery. The museum houses the scientific instruments that the “Father of Modern Science” to make his discoveries, particularly in physics and astronomy.
The Heart of Florence Walking Tour is the perfect tour to take if you want to see the most important monuments within Florence’s historic centre. The small-group walking tour will take you around the city to see sights such as the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Baptistery, and Giotto’s Bell Tower. The tour is inclusive of the services of an English speaking guide. Complement your walking tour around Florence with a Skip the Line – Uffizi Gallery Visit. With your ticket, you are guaranteed admission and priority access to the gallery, and provided with an audio guide.
Day 2 – Accademia Gallery, Piazza Santa Croce, Basilica di Santa Croce, Mercato Centrale, Piazzale Michelangelo, and Tuscan Cuisine
On the morning of your 2nd day in Florence, head to the Accademia Gallery or Galleria dell’Accademia. The gallery is second only to Uffizi Gallery in terms of visitor numbers and each year receives an increasing number of tourists who want to see Michelangelo’s “David.” Other can’t-miss artworks in the gallery include the masterpieces of Giambologna, Pacino di Buonagida, and Jacopo di Cione. Also watch out for ‘Prisoners,” also by Michelangelo.
From Accademia Gallery, make your way towards Piazza Santa Croce to see the Basilica di Santa Croce, the final resting place of Michelangelo, Rossini, Galileo, and Machiavelli. The church is less than a kilometre southeast of the Duomo.
For lunch, we suggest you go to Mercato Centrale, a must-visit among food-loving tourists. The market houses a large number of food stalls so you’ll be spoilt for choice. For dessert, go ahead and indulge in a scoop or two of Florence’s best gelatos. There are many gelaterias in and around Mercato Centrale. The gelato are always made on site and come in a wide range of flavours.
The last attraction you’ll visit for the day is the Piazzale Michelangelo. Set on a hill in Oltramo District, Piazzale Michelangelo offers incredibly beautiful views of Florence at sunset. The hike up can be a bit of a challenge so it is better to take a car or the bus if you’re a bit tired after a day of sightseeing. You’ll also find a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s “David” at the hilltop attraction.
Tuscany is a region known for its glorious cuisine and there’d be no better way to end your second day in its charming capital, than with a scrumptious Tuscan meal. Try having a lampredotto, a perfectly seasoned beef tripe sandwich. You can also toss in a serving of tagliatelle funghi porcini e tartufo, a simple pasta dish made from tagliatelle, truffles, and mushrooms.
Or, you can have an even better experience by learning how to prepare an authentic multi-course Tuscan meal using age-old cooking techniques and traditions and enjoy it with refreshingly delicious Tuscan wine.
Enjoy priority access to one of the world’s greatest museums with the Accademia Gallery Morning Guided Tour. A professional guide will introduce you to Michelangelo’s masterpieces housed within the gallery. Earphones will also be provided during the tour. Make one of your evenings in Florence extra memorable by joining a Small Group Tuscan Cooking Class with Dinner. Spend 4.5 hours learning how to prepare an authentic 4-course Italian meal under the guidance of a multilingual chef. The package is inclusive of cooking lessons, recipes, dinner, and drinks.
Day 3 – Side Trip to Tuscany – Chianti, Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa
Florence makes for a great starting point to the rest of Tuscany, an awe-inspiring region that is home to a wealth attractions. The region takes pride in its scenic landscapes, historical sites, architectural treasures, medieval towns, world-class wineries, and lush vineyards neatly hidden amongst rolling hills. And since no trip to Italy is ever complete without a side trip to this great region, on your 3rd day in the Tuscan capital, you will travel to the countryside to cover the highlights of Tuscany.
A great thing about exploring Tuscany is that you can easily travel between all cities by train. So from Florence, you can go to Siena, Pisa, or San Gimignano easily. However, if you plan on making making your experience as hassle-free and comfortable, do yourself a favour by booking a tour.
Start your adventure by cruising through through the Chianti vineyards to visit the city of Siena, a city that’s just as beautiful and historically significant as Florence. Siena’s historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will enjoy walking through its charming medieval streets and public squares. The first attraction you will have to visit while in Siena is Piazza del Campo. Famous worldwide due to its architectural integrity and design, the square is the venue for the 600-year-old Palio di Siena, the biannual medieval-style horse race that’s one of Tuscany’s most anticipated events.
From Siena, you can proceed to San Gimignano, a fortified hill town popular for its medieval walls and tower-houses. The structures, dating back to the 13th century, remain standing to this day, earning San Gimignano a spot in the esteemed list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The last Tuscan city you will visit is Pisa, a destination that’s probably included in everyone’s travel bucket list. It is famous for the Leaning Tower but there’s more to the city than the famous architectural wonder. There’s the Piazza dei Miracoli, the Pisa Duomo, the Baptistry, and Camposanto. You can also visit a few museums like the Palazzo Reale and the Museo Nazionale di San Mateo.
Discover the beauty of Tuscany in one day with the Highlights of Tuscany: Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti, and Pisa Tour. Departing from Florence, discover the idyllic Tuscan countryside and visit several cities to see their top sights and attractions. The day tour is inclusive of transportation, admission to the Siena Cathedral, and the services of a tour escort and a local guide in Siena, in addition to lunch with wine tastings at a family-run vineyard.