If you are on a tight schedule, you can consider cover Florence in 1 full day. However, if you want to enjoy the city, visit most museums and neighbourhoods, you need at least 2 days. In fact, I covered the below places of interest in one day on foot and also did shopping too. We stayed over in Florence for the night and leave for Pisa early in the morning.
Things to See in Florence
1) Santa Maria del Fiore
You can buy a ticket at EUR 18 and you can grant access to all the monuments of the Great Museum of the Cathedral including the Dome and the Bell Tower. The ticket allows the holder to visit all the monuments within 72 hours of visiting the first one. Each monument may visit only once with the ticket.
There are four different parts of this famous church in Florence: the Cathedral, the Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Baptistry.
Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, this cathedral is one of the most famous and largest churches in Europe and they completed it in the 15th century. It is 153 meters long, 90 meters wide at the crossing, and 90 meters high from the floor to the bottom of the lantern. The third and last cathedral of Florence, they dedicated it to Santa Maria del Fiore, the Virgin of the Flower, in 1412, a clear allusion to the lily, the symbol of the city of Florence.
The designer decorates the cathedral facade with a festive combination of white, green, and pink marble on the outside but the interiors of the cathedral are vast and spare. It is not as spectacular as what you might expect. Although spare, there are still beautiful frescoes, paintings, statues, stained window glass to ornate doors and complex mosaics that make up the whole place.
As the entrance to the church is free, the queue to enter can stretch to over 2 hours during the peak season. To make use of the time, we bought gelato to eat while queuing.
Piazza del Duomo (Dome)
A visit to this magnificent dome is a must do when you are in Florence. The great Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi did the design. If you don’t mind climbing 463 steps, it will reward you with a fantastic view of the city.
The steps are steep and narrow and not suitable for people suffering from heart problems, vertigo or claustrophobia.
Please take note that reservation to climb the dome is mandatory and please reserve ahead as it was full for the next 3 days when I was there.
Giotto’s Bell Tower
Giotto’s bell tower is another climbing tower, just like the dome. It is one of the four principal monuments on the Piazza del Duomo. The view at the top is stunning and breathtaking. For comparison, the Dome will offer a better photo taking as Bell Tower are an enclosed top with a metal grill around the tower.
Giotto’s bell tower has 49 fewer steps as compared to the Dome. There is no need for any reservation to climb the tower.
From time to time, there are terraces where you can stop, take photos, and catch your breath if needed. Hence, you don’t have to worry if you can’t climb up 414 steps at one go.
Baptistry of San Giovanni
Right across the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, you can see the octagonal baptistery. It is one of the most ancient churches in Florence. Beautifully decorated with mosaics and the stunning masterpieces inside the baptistry will amaze you.
You can read up here for more information on the baptistry before visiting.
2) Gucci Garden Museum
Out of curiosity, we went to check out the Gucci Garden Museum. It cost EUR 8 per adult. You can request the staff to let you visit the museum for free if you happened to buy their products from the Gucci Garden.
It is a great place for fashionistas and lovers of the brand. The three-story museum comprises the history and fashion of clothes, luggage, bags, accessories, but also silver glasses, picnic baskets, and lamps bearing the Gucci logo.
3) Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and famous bridge in Florence and was also the only one to survive in Florence during World War II. It is a romantic spot, with its great views over the river and of the bridge itself. Stop by to enjoy the wonderful scenic
The bridge still housed several shops along with it which occupied by jewellers, art dealers and souvenir shops.
4) Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the best and most famous lookouts for a magnificent panoramic view of Florence.
If you don’t mind walking just like me, you can walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. You need to walk up a hill and climb several steps from the base which Piazzale Michelangelo sits. It will be a little tiring but it is worth it.
I walked up via de Bardi follow by San Niccolo, a lovely neighbourhood, then once you go through Porta San Miniato you will see steps to your left and that is where the climbing leads you to Piazzale Michelangelo. I came down via Porta San Miniato follow by Lungarno Torrigiani and cross the Ponte alle Grazie Bridge.
You can take the bus (No. 12 or 13) or even drive up there.
There is no entry fee to Piazzale Michelangelo. If you have the time to spare, it will be nice to sit at the cafe to eat and drink while enjoying the breathtaking view.
5) San Lorenzo Market (Mercato Centrale)
San Lorenzo Market is the largest and oldest market in Florence. There are two separate markets; indoor and outdoor market.
The ground floor of the indoor market is a conventional marketplace selling wine, cheese, spices, oil, gelato, chocolate, pasta, and cold cuts while the upstairs food court is a handy stop-off for a quick lunch. The market is open every day from 8 am to midnight.
As for the outdoor market, the shops are selling leather, clothing, and souvenirs.
We stayed at c-hotels Joy and it is highly recommended as it is less than 5 minutes walking distance from Firenze S.M.N Station and also within walking distance to the city centre. We took the Economy Double and find that the room size is reasonable and comfortable for 2 pax. The breakfast spread was nice and good and they even serve fresh fruit juice.
For more information, you can check it out at booking.com.
Tips for Visiting Florence
- You can visit the places stated above by walking.
- Do not take things from a stranger or shake your hands when someone approaches you. They could be a scam and pick-pocketing, just like in every other touristy place. Stay alert and using common sense should be enough to stay safe.
- Travel light and have a pair of good walking shoes as there will be lots of walking and climbing of stairs. They do not allow sandals into the cathedral.
- Wear clothes that cover your shoulders and knees as the cathedral has a strict dress code.
- They do not allow the visitor with bulky bags and backpacks to enter the Dome, the Campanile, and the museum.
Overall, I would recommend to stop over in Florence to relax if you are travelling to Italy as it is a nice and beautiful place to visit.