One day Florence is too short to get to know this magnificent city but it’s enough to make you fall in love with it. You will be able to visit some of the city’s top attractions and at least one museum. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance in Italy and is abundant with masterpieces from the period. It can be pretty touristy in the summer, but if you love history and art Florence should be on your Tuscan itinerary.
- 1 Can I explore Florence in a day?
- 2 #EnjoyRespectFirenze
- 3 Things to do and see in one day in Florence
- 3.1 Visit a museum
- 3.2 Have a walk around and discover Florence
- 3.2.1 Ponte Vecchio
- 3.2.2 Vasari’s Corridor
- 3.2.3 Piazza della Signoria
- 3.2.4 Il Duomo, Campanille and Battistero
- 3.2.5 Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
- 3.2.6 Piazza di San Marco, San Marco and Galleria dell’ Accademia
- 3.2.7 Piazza di Santa Croce, Santa Croce, Dante Statue and Pazzi Chapel
- 3.2.8 Bargello and Casa di Dante
- 3.2.9 Piazza di Santa Trinita
- 3.2.10 Ponte Santa Trinita
- 3.2.11 Piazza di Santo Spirito
- 3.2.12 Road Signs Art in Florence
Can I explore Florence in a day?
If you are travelling or road tripping in Tuscany (or Italy), then one day in Florence will be perfect to see the most important landmarks. However, I strongly recommend staying longer, like 4-5 days. Florence is a great destination for a city trip as well, as it has its own international airport.
Being one of the major touristic destinations in Italy, Florence is on the verge of being destroyed by mass tourism. With the cruise ships bringing millions of tourists in La Spezia and Livorno in the summer months, that head in buses to Florence to consume its beauty as fast-food, Florence is struggling with the tourist influx, just like Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona.
One of the initiatives to “save” Florence from the tourists is to educate them. The campaign #EnjoyRespectFirenze aims at establishing norms of behavior at public spaces in the city. There are simple things like: do not litter public areas, or do not sit and consume food and drink on the steps of monuments and churches, don’t immerse yourself in fountains and don’t climb on monuments.#EnjoyRespectFirenze is the campaign for responsible tourism in Florence! Respect the cultural and historical heritage of Florence, so that everybody can enjoy it!Click To Tweet
I know, these would sound quite ridiculous for someone with common sense and proper upbringing and it’s sad that the average tourist of the 21st century needs to be told not to do those things. However, I believe that every and each initiative counts and that educating people is the foundation for any progress. So, when visiting Florence, no matter whether for a few hours or for a few days, please, respect the city so that not only you, but its citizens and the generations after you can still enjoy it.
Moreover, this is not only valid for Florence but for every single place you visit – just treat it with respect and do not contribute to its destruction.
The full text of the new 10 commandments for visiting Florence can be found on the official tourist website of Florence.
Things to do and see in one day in Florence
Visit a museum
Being only one day in Florence, you won’t be able to properly visit more than one museum, so you have to choose which one it will be. For me it had to be the Uffizi. I had to see all those paintings of Botticelli and the other Renaissance masters, I remember from the glossy pages of the books in art history I was paging through in my teenage years when dreaming of travelling to Florence.
The building itself is a masterpiece designed by no other but Giorgio Vasari. It was meant as an office building, hence the name Uffizi, which translated from Italian means “Offices”. The construction of the building was finished in 1581. After the decline of the Medici dynasty, who were great patrons of art, all artworks collected by the family were left to the city of Florence in 1737. In 1769 the Uffizi opened for the public showcasing some of the finest examples of the Italian Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio) together with Gothic art and paintings of the Dutch and Flemish Masters.
Pitti Palace and Boboli Garden
Most of the tourists don’t make it to the other side of the Arno River (Oltrarno), but this neighbourhood in Florence has its own charms. It was considered a kind of low quality place until 1550 when the Medici family bought the Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti) and made it their home. Today, Pitti Palace is a museum offering a few exhibitions: Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments (Galleria Palatina e Appartamenti Reali), Gallery of Modern Art (Galleria d’Arte Moderna), Treasury of the Grand Dukes (Tesoro dei Granduchi) and Museum of Costume and Fashion (Museo della Moda e del Costume).
Today, the Boboli Gardens are the biggest public garden in Florence, but until 1766 it belonged to the Pitti Palace as Medici’s gardens. The park was a trend-setter in the 16th century with its stylized beauty and served as a model and inspiration for the design of many gardens and parks in Italy and Europe’s court of that time. Walking through the gardens is refreshing and they aren’t that touristy. You will be also rewarded with some beautiful views of Florence. We loved the Boboli Gardens!
You can buy a combination ticket for the Uffizi Museum, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Garden, which is valid for 72 hours and grants priority access. This could be a great option if you are staying longer in Florence, but as we spent only a day there, we chose to visit only the Uffizi and the Boboli gardens.
Have a walk around and discover Florence
The best way to discover Florence is by walking around and letting yourself get lost in this beautiful city. The whole historic centre of Florence is a masterpiece and is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Here you can read about our itinerary along the most famous landmarks in Florence. We started from Boboli Garden and made further our way to Ponte Vecchio.
Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345 and is the only bridge over the Arno River that survived WW2. Early versions of the famous bridge that is one of Florence’s symbols, date back to the 12th and even the 10th centuries. On both sides of the bridge there are hanging shops. Since 1593 there are allowed only goldsmiths and jewelers, as the old butchers and blacksmiths were making a lot of noise and littering the place.
The arched passageway that you see above the bridge is a part of the Vasari’s Corridor – a covered passageway that connects Pitti Palace with the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio. The Medici ordered this “corridor” so that they could walk from the Pitti Palace to Palazzo Vecchio without meeting any commoners on their way.
Piazza della Signoria
From Ponte Vecchio you just pop at Piazza della Signoria – the most famous square in Florence which is a kind of an open-air museum with statues. At the Loggia dei Lanzi you can see the Perseus of Cellini and The Rape of the Sabine Women of Giambologna. The square is dominated by Palazzo Vecchio – the Town Hall of Florence and its clock tower.
In front of the Palazzo Vecchio there is a copy of Michelangelo’s masterpiece – David. The original that stood on this place until 1873, is to be seen in the Galleria dell’ Accademia. To the right of Plazzo Vecchio is the beautiful Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannanti. The lion in front of Palazzo Vecchio is the official symbol of Florence – the Marzocco. This statue is a copy of Donatello’s lion, which is exhibited today in the Bargello museum. The equestrian monument at the square is of Cosimo I – the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, made by Giambologna.
Il Duomo, Campanille and Battistero
After Piazza della Signoria head to the other highlight of Florence – Piazza del Duomo with the famous Cathedral of Florence (Il Duomo). Yep, it is as beautiful as on all those pictures and even more! And yep, the crowd flocking to admire it and take a picture is also that immense. So, if you can appreciate the place being able to ignore the crowd, you will love it. Otherwise, you will hate it. Take a glimpse and leave.
The Cathedral of Florence (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) has a mesmerizing and overwhelming beauty. If you can judge for the megalomaniac grandeur and prosperity of a place by the architecture of the time, Tuscany, and Florence in particular, were world leaders in the 13th-15th century. Otherwise, why would you build the biggest cathedral ever? Well, it was overshadowed later by St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. It took almost 150 years to finish this masterpiece (1296 – 1436). The Dome of the Cathedral is designed by Brunelleschi – an absolute architectural masterpiece, and the frescoes inside are by Giorgio Vasari.
Next to the cathedral there’s another Renaissance masterpiece – the Bell Tower (Il Campanile) designed by no other than Giotto and finished by Andrea Pisano after Giotto’s death.
Opposite the cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovani (Il Battistero) with the famous Gates of Paradise (the East Door) – designed and made by Ghiberti and his assistants.
We didn’t have time to visit neither the cathedral, nor the bell tower, but if you are staying longer than a day in Florence, you can do it and I am sure that from the top of the cathedral’s dome or the bell tower you would have the most amazing views of Florence. Alternatively, if you are not into museums, you can skip the Uffizi and then you’ll have time for Il Duomo ant its Campanile.
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
After Piazza del Duomo head to Piazza della Santissima Annunziata via Via dei Servi. Piazza della Santissima Annunziata is perhaps the most symmetrical square in Florence with the porticoed buildings of the Spedalle degli Innocenti (the orphanage designed by Brunelleschi) to the left, the Loggia dei Servi di Maria (today a hotel) to the right and the Church of the Santissima Annuziata at the bottom.
The equestrian statue on the square is the last work of Giambologna and represents Ferdinando I de’ Medici – Grand Duke of Tuscany. Giambologna’s work was finished by his student Peitro Tacca, who has also designed the two fountains on the square – Fontane dei Mostri Marini.
Piazza di San Marco, San Marco and Galleria dell’ Accademia
Leave Piazza della Santissima Annuziata and head to Piazza di San Marco following Via Cesare Battisti.
This is the square that hosts the famous Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and its Gallery. This is the oldest art school in the world founded in 1563 by the Medici. The square is named after the convent and the church of San Marco. San Marco functions as a museum today and you can see frescoes from Fra Angelico inside. The monument on the square is of General Manfredo Fanti (1806-1865) – important figure from the time unification of Italy (1815-1871).
It’s in the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where you can see the original statue of David by Michelangelo. We didn’t visit this museum as we were staying only for day in Florence.
Piazza di Santa Croce, Santa Croce, Dante Statue and Pazzi Chapel
After San Marco head to the other end of the historic centre of Florence – Piazza di Santa Croce. There you can admire the beautiful Basilica di Santa Croce. It’s also known as the Temple of Italian Glories, as many famous Italians like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini are buried there.
In front of the basilica there is the Statue of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) – the greatest poet of the Italian Renaissance, who wrote his major work Comedy (Divine Comedy) in the vernacular instead of in the Latin language used for literary works those days, thus laying the foundations of the modern Italian language. The statue was built in 1865 by Enrico Pazzi.
Adjacent to the Basilica is another masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance architecture – the Pazzi Chapel. It was designed by Brunelleschi and built in 1443.
Bargello and Casa di Dante
From Piazza di Santa Croce we headed back west to Piazza della Signoria and got lost in all the streets and alleys in the heart of Florence. Do not miss to walk past the Bargello – another famous museum in Florence. Close to the Bargello is located the house where Dante had supposedly lived. Today, it’s a museum dedicated to Dante’s life and works.
Piazza di Santa Trinita
We ended our tour on this side of the Arno River at Piazza di Santa Trinita with the Church of Santa Trinita. The column in the middle of the square comes originally from the Baths of Carcalla (Ancient Rome) and it took more than a year to be transported from Rome to Florence. It was erected on the square in 1565. The statue on the top of the column is carved out of porphyry. It took Francesco del Tadda 11 years to make it.
Ponte Santa Trinita
We crossed the Arno River at Ponte Santa Trinita. From this bridge you have beautiful views to Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River. If you are there at sunset, you won’t regret it.
Piazza di Santo Spirito
Our last stop in Florence before heading back to San Gimignano where we were staying, was Piazza di Santo Spirito. It is a lovely square where you can take a break and relax and enjoy the authentic Florence that is not the “open-air museum”. The church of Santo Spirito at one end of the square was the last work of Brunelleschi and it was finished after his death.
Road Signs Art in Florence
When walking around in Florence keep your eyes open and you can spot those whimsical road signs. Before I visited Florence I didn’t know anything about them, but I was surprised each time I saw one for the wittiness behind it. Later I read that they are made by the French artist CLET (Anacleto Clet Abraham), who lives in Florence. Here you can read an interesting interview with him I found on the Visit Tuscany website.
Wasn’t that the perfect day in Florence? I know that 24 hours aren’t enough, but I hope this itinerary will help you see the highlights of Florence in one day. What are your favorite things to do and see in Florence? Share them with us in the comments below! Do you have other suggestions? I would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.