Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, boasts an unparalleled legacy of art and architecture. Home to masterpieces by artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli, its museums, churches, and palaces are treasure troves of human achievement. This blend of history, artistry, and Tuscan charm makes Florence uniquely special, capturing the imaginations of travelers for centuries. If you’ve got 3 days in Florence, we’ve got you well covered with our itinerary. Read on to discover the best things to do in Florence in 3 days.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Are 3 Days Enough For Florence?
- 2 Getting To Florence
- 3 How To Get Around During Your 3 Days in Florence
- 4 Is The Firenze Card Worth It For 3 Days?
- 5 Your Perfect 3 Days in Florence Itinerary
- 6 More Than 3 Days in Florence?
- 7 What To Eat in Florence
- 8 Where To Eat in Florence
- 9 Where to Stay in Florence
- 10 Florence Travel Tips
- 11 Further Reading For Your Florence Visit
- 12 More Information About Italy
Are 3 Days Enough For Florence?
Three days in Florence is a good amount of time to experience its artistic and architectural highlights. During this time, visitors can explore the city’s must-see attractions, stroll the historic streets, and taste Tuscan cuisine.
While 3 days in Florence allows for a whirlwind tour of its main attractions, to truly soak in its intoxicating blend of art, history, fashion, and culture, a longer stay might be more fulfilling.
Getting To Florence
If you’re traveling to Florence by air, you’ll be flying into Florence Airport, also known as Amerigo Vespucci Airport or Peretola Airport (FLR), about 4 km (2.5 miles) northwest of the city center.
There are multiple ways to travel from Florence Airport to the city center. The most cost-effective option is taking public transportation, primarily using the T2 Leonardo Tramway.
The tramway connects the airport directly to Florence’s central train station, Santa Maria Novella (SMN). There are no changes required, making it a straightforward journey of about 20 minutes.
The tram operates from around 05:00–24:00. The tram runs frequently, approximately every 4-5 minutes during peak hours and every 8-10 minutes during off-peak hours.
Tickets can be purchased from machines at the tram stop. A single ticket costs 1.70 EUR. Ensure you validate your ticket before boarding.
The taxi rank is located just outside the arrivals terminal. A trip to the Florence city center from the airport usually takes around 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
Private/shared transfers are the most comfortable and convenient way to get from Florence Airport to your destination in the city. They are especially useful if you are traveling in a group, have a lot of luggage, or want to ensure a smooth and stress-free journey.
If you choose to rent a car, the airport has several car rental agencies. To reach the city center, you can take the “Viale Alessandro Guidoni” road towards Florence, then follow signs for “Centro” (City Center).
Be aware that Florence has a restricted traffic zone (ZTL) in the city center, and non-residents are not allowed to drive within this area without incurring heavy fines.
If you are traveling to Florence by train, the main train station in Florence is Santa Maria Novella (SMN), located in the city center. It is a major transportation hub, well connected to other parts of Italy and Europe.
Santa Maria Novella Station is within walking distance of many hotels and attractions in Florence. If you prefer not to walk, you can take a taxi or a bus.
How To Get Around During Your 3 Days in Florence
Walking is the best and most enjoyable way to explore Florence, especially if you’re there for three days. Most of its famous landmarks and museums are within walking distance of each other.
A significant aspect of Florence’s allure is the condensed and pedestrian-friendly nature of its ancient historic core. In case you’re interested in seeing the best of Florence on foot, check out this highly-rated Florence Walking Tour.
While walking is recommended, Florence does have a decent public transportation system operated by Autolinee Toscane. The buses and trams can take you to almost any part of the city.
A single ticket costs 1.70 EUR and is valid for 90 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at kiosks, convenience stores, or directly on the Autolinee Toscane mobile app. Remember to validate your ticket once you’re on the bus or tram.
Keep in mind that the historic center of Florence is a ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone) area. It is best to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours offer a convenient way to see major Florence sights without worrying about navigation or public transport schedules. They provide flexibility as you can get off at any stop of interest and come with an audio guide.
Florence is a bike-friendly city and this can be a quick and enjoyable way to get around, especially if the weather is nice. In case you’re interested in seeing the highlights of Florence on a bike, check out this excellent Florence E-Bike Tour.
Segways offer an exciting and quick way to get around Florence. In case you’re interested in seeing the notable attractions of Florence on a segway, check out this highly-rated Florence Segway Tour.
If you want to see the must-see attractions in Florence in comfort and in an environmentally friendly way, check out this popular Florence Electric Cart Eco Tour.
Is The Firenze Card Worth It For 3 Days?
The Firenze Card, or Florence Card, is a convenient all-inclusive pass offering access to various museums and attractions for a set price. The card grants access to over 70 museums and historic sites in Florence.
The card includes unlimited use of Florence’s public transportation system, adding to its value. It also allows priority access, meaning you can often skip the regular ticket lines. During peak tourist seasons, this can save significant time.
Ultimately, if you’re planning an intensive 3-day exploration of Florence’s rich art and history, the Firenze Card can quickly pay for itself and is worth it. Otherwise, individual tickets might be more economical.
Your Perfect 3 Days in Florence Itinerary
For this ‘3 days in Florence’ itinerary, I have included the major attractions and off-beat corners in the city. I’ve divided the itinerary in such a way that it gives you a multifaceted view of Florence.
Naturally, everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace. The earlier you start your day the more time you’ll have to see the attractions.
Below I have compiled a list of the best things to see in Florence in 3 days:
Day 1 in Florence: The Historic Center & Santa Croce
Day One of this ‘3 days in Florence’ itinerary covers the most notable points of interest in the southern and eastern parts of the historic center of Florence. The Piazza della Signoria and the Santa Croce areas feature here. I suggest seeing the sights in the chronology that suits you best (after the first attraction).
The historic center of Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a testament to the city’s profound impact on art, culture, and politics during the Renaissance era. Encircled by medieval walls, its cobbled streets and piazzas teem with architectural and artistic marvels.
Palazzos and historic churches are scattered throughout, each narrating tales of power, ambition, and genius. Every corner of this compact center offers a journey through time, making Florence an eternal muse for art and history enthusiasts.
1. Uffizi Gallery
Standing imperiously alongside the Arno River, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the world’s most acclaimed art museums. The Uffizi’s collection is vast and represents a broad spectrum of art history, with its primary strength lying in the unparalleled assembly of Renaissance art.
Designed by the Renaissance architect Giorgio Vasari in the 16th century, the Uffizi’s exterior features a prominent use of pietra forte sandstone, articulated with a rhythmic sequence of arches and pilasters. Inside, the Uffizi’s U-shaped layout encloses a narrow courtyard, reflecting Renaissance ideals of symmetry and proportion.
There’s a reason why the Uffizi is the most visited museum in Florence. Its vast corridors unfurl a narrative of artistic evolution, from medieval depictions to High Renaissance masterpieces.
The Uffizi’s rooms brim with works from luminaries such as Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Masaccio, Correggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Dürer, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio.
The quality of the artworks at the Uffizi Gallery is such that it can cause Stendhal Syndrome, a psychosomatic condition that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an overload of beautiful art in a short period. It was first diagnosed in Florence in the 19th century.
The layout is mostly chronological, enabling visitors to trace the progression and evolution of art through the centuries. The key highlights of the Uffizi Gallery that are must-sees for any visitor are –
- “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli: The most famous piece in the Uffizi Gallery is a celebrated depiction of the goddess Venus emerging from the sea. One glance is all it takes to understand why this is one of the most famous and celebrated paintings in the world.
- “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli: An allegorical portrayal of spring with a mesmerizing blend of mythology and nature.
- “Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio: An early example of Leonardo’s brilliance, illustrating the moment Angel Gabriel announces to the Virgin Mary that she will bear Jesus.
- “Venus of Urbino” by Titian: An intimate depiction of a reclining nude, showcasing Titian’s mastery in portraying flesh tones.
- “Medusa” by Caravaggio: A haunting and realistic representation of the Gorgon Medusa by the bad boy of Baroque on a shield-shaped canvas. A particular favorite of mine.
- “Judith and Holofernes” by Artemisia Gentileschi: A powerful portrayal of Judith beheading Holofernes, highlighting Gentileschi’s unique perspective on biblical stories.
- “Doni Tondo” by Michelangelo: This brilliant circular artwork is Michelangelo’s only known panel painting, showcasing the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus.
- “The Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello: An artwork illustrating a key Florentine military victory, utilizing early linear perspective techniques.
- “The Duke and Duchess of Urbino” by Piero della Francesca: Iconic diptych profile portraits showcasing Renaissance ideals of composure and dignity.
These highlights represent just a fraction of the Uffizi’s glorious collection, making it one of the essential stops for any traveler visiting Florence. Additionally, the gallery’s interior is adorned with frescoes, stucco decorations, and marble statues.
Practical Information For Visiting the Uffizi Gallery
Opening Hours: The Uffizi Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday from 08:15-18:50. It is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25.
Prices: Tickets to the Uffizi Gallery vary from 17 EUR during the low season (November to February) and 30 EUR during the high season (March to October).
Tickets: The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most visited museums in Italy, and it can get very crowded. Thus, It is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance to avoid long lines.
Tickets can be bought online through the official website. You can also book a skip-the-line timed entrance ticket through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.
Guided Tour: To get the most out of your visit and a more in-depth understanding of the artworks, consider booking this highly popular skip-the-line Uffizi Gallery guided tour. We took this tour and it was worth every penny.
Given the Uffizi’s extensive collection, it’s advisable to prioritize certain sections or pieces if you’re on a limited schedule.
Security Check: All visitors must pass through a security check before entering the gallery. Large bags, backpacks, and umbrellas must be checked at the cloakroom.
2. Fontana del Porcellino
The Fontana del Porcellino, situated in Florence’s historic Mercato Nuovo, is one of the most beloved landmarks in Florence. It is a bronze fountain and statue of a wild boar (“porcellino” means “little pig” in Italian).
Created by Pietro Tacca in the early 17th century, the statue is a copy of a Hellenistic marble boar from ancient Rome that’s now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Its popularity amongst tourists and locals isn’t just for its artistry or historical significance but also for the tradition attached to it.
Legend dictates that rubbing the boar’s snout ensures a return to Florence, which has resulted in a polished, gleaming nose from countless hands. Additionally, dropping a coin from the boar’s mouth into the grate below is believed to bring good fortune.
Over time, this interactive engagement has transformed the statue from a mere piece of art into one of the most sought-after Florence Instagram spots.
3. Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria has been Florence’s political heart since the 14th century. Much more than a square, it’s really an open-air museum embodying the city’s political, cultural, and artistic heritage.
The L-shaped Piazza della Signoria has witnessed pivotal moments in Florentine history, including the rise and fall of the influential Medici family – the great political and financial dynasty that left an indelible mark on the Renaissance.
The plaza has also been a stage for historical events, such as the Bonfire of the Vanities in 1497 when the religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola orchestrated the burning of “sinful” items.
Today, the square is dominated by tourists, with pigeons fluttering about, people snapping selfies, horse-drawn carriages, and weary travelers.
Piazza della Signoria is anchored by the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s historic town hall, which epitomizes the city’s political might and its intricate dance with dominant families, especially the Medicis.
Flanking the Palazzo is the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery showcasing sculptures that convey political messages, reinforcing the might and vision of the ruling elite.
Two prominent statues at the forefront merit detailed attention: Giambologna’s “The Rape of the Sabine Women” is a striking example of the dynamic Mannerist era that succeeded the composed and self-assured Renaissance.
The monumental statue depicts a Roman man lifting a Sabine woman, while another male figure crouches below. The piece is celebrated for its serpentine composition, inviting viewers to walk around and appreciate its form from multiple angles.
Meanwhile, the loggia’s standout artwork is Benvenuto Cellini’s “Perseus with the Head of Medusa”, depicting the Greek champion who beheaded the serpentine Medusa. Cellini showcases the realism of Medusa’s anguish and Perseus’s determination with intricate detailing.
Directly in front of the Palazzo Vecchio stands the replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original being in the Accademia Gallery). This iconic statue was once located here as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance against tyranny and external threats.
Also notable is the Fountain of Neptune, a monumental piece symbolizing Florence’s naval ambitions, and the various historical buildings surrounding the square, each with its tale.
4. Palazzo Vecchio
One of the absolute must-see Florence attractions is Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. Rising majestically in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio is an exemplary blend of medieval fortressed architecture and Renaissance grandeur.
The Palazzo Vecchio’s robust, square structure, built primarily of solid rusticated stonework, is a prime example of Florentine political power and Italian medieval fortress architecture. Dominating the skyline is its iconic crenelated tower, the Arnolfo Tower (Torre di Arnolfo), rising imposingly above the city.
The façade facing the Piazza della Signoria features an asymmetrical arrangement with the tower slightly to one side. A series of arched windows punctuate the massive walls, providing a contrast to the solidness of the structure.
Before going in, take a moment to admire the interior courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is a splendid display of Renaissance artistry. Its walls are adorned with vibrant frescoes depicting scenes from Austro-Medici history, painted by the celebrated artist Giorgio Vasari.
The Palazzo Vecchio’s richly layered interior is a testament to its function as both a center of governance and a display of Florentine cultural and artistic might.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted by the vast Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), the largest room dedicated to civic power in Italy. Commissioned by Girolamo Savonarola in the late 15th century, this vast hall was initially intended as a space for the Grand Council, made up of 500 members, to convene.
Giorgio Vasari later expanded and adorned it with remarkable frescoes, under the patronage of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. These artworks depict significant military victories of Florence over its rivals. Alongside the frescoes, the room boasts gigantic sculptures, notably Michelangelo’s “Victory” and Bandinelli’s “Hercules and Cacus.”
Throughout the palace, chambers, and corridors are decorated with frescoes, sculptures, and ornate ceilings. The Apartment of the Elements, for instance, showcases Renaissance art dedicated to natural elements, a confluence of mythology and science.
Don’t miss the Studiolo of Francesco I which dazzles with its exquisite inlaid panels and precious artworks, symbolizing the Medici’s thirst for knowledge.
Another notable highlight inside the Palazzo Vecchio is the Sala delle Carte Geografiche (The Map Room) – a cartographer’s dream.
Jacky and I really liked the Sala dei Gigli (Hall of the Lilies) – a lovely embellished with golden fleur-de-lys decorations. It is most notable for housing Donatello’s Donatello’s “Judith and Holofernes,” a bronze statue symbolizing the strength and virtue of Florence.
From the Arnolfo Tower, visitors are treated to one of the best views of Florence, including the majestic Duomo, the Arno River, and the surrounding Tuscan hills.
Practical Information For Visiting the Palazzo Vecchio
Opening Hours: The Palazzo Vecchio Museum is open Friday-Wednesday from 09:00-19:00 and Thursday from 09:00-14:00.
The Arnolfo Tower is open Friday-Wednesday from 09:00-19:00 and Thursday from 09:00-14:00 (April-September); and Friday-Wednesday from 09:00-17:00 and Thursday from 09:00-14:00 (October-March). Keep in mind that the tower is closed in the event of inclement weather.
Prices: The entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio Museum costs 12.50 EUR and the entrance to the Arnolfo Tower also costs 12.50 EUR.
Guided Tour: A guided tour of the Palazzo Vecchio comes highly recommended as an expert guide unravels the palace’s secrets, sharing tales of power, intrigue, and Renaissance artistry making a guided experience truly unforgettable.
5. Piazza Santa Croce
Florence is renowned for its enchanting piazzas that are hubs of art, history, and daily life. The Piazza Santa Croce is no different and stands as one of the largest and most impressive piazzas in the city.
Dominated by the Santa Croce Basilica on one side, the piazza is surrounded by historic palazzos with traditional Florentine architectural features: rusticated stone ground floors, large shuttered windows, and red-tiled roofs.
The most striking building (besides the Santa Croce Basilica) in the piazza is the Palazzo dell’Antella on the south side. This well-preserved, 16th-century patrician house is notable for its continuous façade and a series of stunning frescoes, depicting mythological scenes and allegories.
Beyond its architectural splendor, the Piazza di Santa Croce serves as the host location for the intensely fierce Calcio Fiorentino matches held at the beginning of summer each year. These games, blending soccer, boxing, rugby, and wrestling, are set in a large sandpit, and feature teams from the four medieval quarters of Florence.
6. Santa Croce Basilica Complex
An important port of call on the trail of Florentine churches is the magnificent Santa Croce Basilica (Basilica di Santa Croce) – an epitome of Gothic architecture in Italy. Conceived as a Franciscan church, its foundation stone was laid in 1294, with Arnolfo di Cambio, the renowned architect behind the Florence Cathedral, leading its design.
The façade of the basilica, a 19th-century addition by Niccolò Matas, is a delightful composition of white, green, and pink Tuscan marble. It’s adorned with intricate patterns, pointed arches, tiered gables, and elegant rose windows, features that are characteristic of both Gothic and Renaissance edifices.
What’s particularly striking about Santa Croce’s interior is its spatial vastness, creating an aura of divine grandeur. The church follows a traditional basilica plan: a long central nave flanked by two side aisles, separated by rows of imposing columns.
Santa Croce’s floor and walls are dotted with funerary monuments. Prominent tombs include those of Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Rossini, and Machiavelli. The inscriptions and sculptures adorning these tombs pay homage to the individuals and their contributions to various fields.
Marvel at the Giotto frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels, where Giotto revolutionized religious art with his depiction of biblical narratives.
A section of Santa Croce’s convent has been transformed into a museum, primarily to house artworks damaged during the devastating 1966 Arno flood. Here, you’ll find the Pazzi Chapel, one of Filippo Brunelleschi’s architectural masterpieces.
The chapel, showcasing a rectangular design, is a quintessential work by Brunelleschi and epitomizes early Renaissance architectural style. The architectural details are highlighted using light gray pietra serena against the backdrop of pristine white plastered walls. The sole decorative elements are roundels by della Robbia portraying the Apostles.
Don’t miss Cimabue’s Crucifix – the painting that became emblematic of all the artworks damaged during the 1966 flood. This monumental wooden crucifix, measuring about 5 meters in height, was created by the artist Cimabue (Cenni di Pepo) in the late 13th century.
It depicts Christ on the cross, but unlike earlier Byzantine portrayals which often showed Christ as a triumphant, otherworldly figure, Cimabue’s representation is more human and emotive.
Practical Information For Visiting the Santa Croce Basilica Complex
Opening Hours: The Santa Croce Basilica Complex is open Monday-Saturday from 09:30-17:30. On Sundays and religious holidays, it is open from 12:30-17:45. The last admittance to the basilica is always at 17:00.
The Santa Croce Basilica Complex is closed on 1 January, Easter, 13 June, 4 October, 25 December, and 26 December.
Prices: The entrance to the Santa Croce Basilica Complex costs 9 EUR.
Tickets: Tickets to the Santa Croce Basilica can be booked online or at the complex.
Guided Tour: Consider booking an excellent guided tour of the Santa Croce Basilica Complex which gives you the chance to delve deep into the art, architecture, and history of this iconic Florentine landmark.
7. Galileo Museum
If you have any gas left in the tank and time permits, do make it a point to visit the Galileo Museum (Museo Galileo). Housed in the 11th-century Palazzo Castellani, the museum showcases an impressive collection of scientific instruments and tools from the Renaissance to the 19th century.
The museum is something of a shrine to the Pisa-born scientist Galileo Galilei. Notably, it holds two of Galileo’s original telescopes and the very lens he used to discover the moons of Jupiter.
Some of the most discussed artifacts in Florence are the bottles in the museum that house Galileo’s fingers.
Beyond Galileo’s contributions, the museum boasts a plethora of other instruments, reflecting the immense curiosity and scientific vigor of the Renaissance. Thermometers, hygrometers, barometers, and early medical instruments are beautifully displayed, revealing the intricate craftsmanship of the era.
Equally captivating are intricate models that depict the ancient and Renaissance understanding of the cosmos. These include impressive armillary spheres and globes from the 16th and 17th centuries that illustrate the motion of stars and planets.
I also like that the museum offers several interactive sections where visitors can engage hands-on with scientific principles and the workings of various instruments.
Another standout feature is the “Medici Collections,” which is dedicated to the instruments commissioned and collected by the Medici family. Their patronage of science and art is well-documented, and this section illustrates their pivotal role in promoting scientific advancement.
The Galileo Museum is definitely worth visiting, especially if you have an affinity for science, history, or the Renaissance period. A typical visit to the museum lasts between one to two hours.
Practical Information For Visiting the Galileo Museum
Opening Hours: The Galileo Museum is open from 09:30-18:00 (Wednesday-Monday) and from 09:30-13:00 (Tuesday). The museum is closed on 1 January and 25 December.
Prices: The entrance to the Galileo Museum costs 14 EUR.
Tickets: Tickets to the Galileo Museum can be booked online or on-site.
Guided Tour: This highly-rated guided tour of the Galileo Museum gives you the chance to uncover the secrets of this museum and the history behind its exhibits.
8. Ponte Vecchio
You can’t visit Florence and not see Ponte Vecchio, a Florence bucket-list favorite. The oldest and most famous bridge across the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, translating to “Old Bridge,” is a testament to Florence’s enduring history and architectural innovation.
Its origins trace back to Roman times when the first bridge was built using wood. Successive floods destroyed various iterations of the bridge until 1345 when it was reconstructed, adopting the form we recognize today.
What makes Ponte Vecchio exceptional is its continuous line of shops flanking the pathway, historically occupied by butchers, fishmongers, and bakers. Disturbed by the odor and commotion from these plebeian crafts, a 16th-century Medici aristocrat replaced them with the refined goldsmith stores and jewelry shops that remain to this day.
This change was partially due to the Medici’s newly built Vasari Corridor, which runs over the shops and connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, providing an elevated passage for the ruling elite.
The Ponte Vecchio’s renown saved it in 1944 from the Nazis, who had directives to demolish all of Florence’s bridges before retreating out of Florence as the Allied forces advanced. Instead, they destroyed the buildings at both ends of the bridge, intending to block passage.
The best time to cross Ponte Vecchio is in the late afternoon.
For the best view of Ponte Vecchio, head to Ponte Santa Trinità in the evening. The interplay of light with its reflection showcases the old bridge in its finest medieval glory.
Day 2 in Florence: Duomo, San Marco, San Lorenzo, and Santa Maria Novella
Day Two of this ‘3 days in Florence’ itinerary covers the most notable points of interest in the central and northern parts of the historic center of Florence. I suggest seeing the sights in the chronology that suits you best (after the first attraction).
1. Duomo Complex
Start your tour of Florence’s main central sights on Piazza del Duomo. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Duomo Complex is globally recognized for its unparalleled contribution to cultural heritage, representing Florence’s artistic and innovative zenith.
Anchored by the iconic Florence Cathedral with Brunelleschi’s pioneering dome, the Duomo complex includes the ornate Giotto’s Campanile, the historic Baptistery of St. John, the Crypt of Santa Reparata, and the invaluable Opera del Duomo Museum.
The Florence Cathedral, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, began its construction in 1296 on the foundations of the 7th-century Santa Reparata Church. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, its construction spanned centuries, with numerous architects and artists contributing.
The cathedral’s vast façade is adorned with intricate polychrome marble panels in shades of green, white, and pink. Statues, rose windows, and Gothic embellishments accentuate the building’s surfaces.
While the exterior boasts polychrome marble, intricate reliefs, and ornate statues, the interior of the Florence Cathedral exudes a sense of solemnity and restraint. Its vast Gothic spaces are characterized by large stone walls, high ribbed vaults, and colossal pillars, all relatively unadorned.
The defining feature of the Duomo is its vast dome, which stands out in the cityscape and is a symbol of Florence itself. The dome is an architectural triumph that forever changed the landscape of Renaissance engineering and design.
What makes it exceptionally special is its revolutionary construction technique. Brunelleschi’s ingenious approach defied conventional methods. He opted for a self-supporting dome, discarding the typical use of flying buttresses found in Gothic cathedrals.
Utilizing a double-shell design, the inner shell provides structural stability, while the outer one defines the dome’s majestic silhouette. Furthermore, the unique herringbone brick pattern Brunelleschi employed within the dome allowed the bricks to set without collapsing, eliminating the need for constant internal scaffolding.
The interior of the dome is adorned with a series of frescoes depicting the “Last Judgment.” Conceived by Giorgio Vasari and completed by Federico Zuccari, this vast artwork presents concentric circles showcasing heavenly and hellish realms.
Climbing the dome of the cathedral is one of the best things to do in Florence and absolutely worth it if you’re physically capable. The climb takes you up close to Vasari and Zuccari’s “Last Judgment” frescoes inside the dome and offers sweeping panoramic views of Florence from the top.
Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto), adjacent to the Duomo, stands as a stunning example of Gothic architecture. Towering at 84.7 meters, it boasts a slender, rectangular design adorned with white, green, and pink Tuscan marble, creating intricate geometric patterns.
The tower’s façade is punctuated with delicate sculptures and lozenge-shaped reliefs. Visitors can walk 414 steps to the top of the campanile for a panoramic view of central Florence and a unique perspective on Brunelleschi’s dome.
The Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di San Giovanni) predates the Duomo, and is one of Florence’s oldest religious buildings, with origins tracing back to the 4th or 5th century. Clad in white and green marble, the octagonal edifice exhibits harmonious geometric patterns on its exterior.
The Baptistery’s most celebrated architectural features are its three sets of bronze doors crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The sublime east doors have long been known as the “Gates of Paradise” ever since Michelangelo looked at them and declared them “so beautiful they would grace the entrance to Paradise.”
The doors feature 10 dramatic lifelike Old Testament scenes in gilded bronze, each a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. The panels stand out for their groundbreaking perspective and intricate relief panels.
The interior of the Baptistery is an awe-inspiring fusion of art and spirituality. I was totally mesmerized by the dome’s mosaic ceiling, aglow with gold, illustrating stories from the Last Judgment, Genesis, and the lives of John the Baptist and Jesus.
Vivid figures, including angels, prophets, and apostles, populate these tales, culminating in the majestic depiction of Christ in Judgment. Complementing the overhead brilliance, the intricately designed marble floor boasts geometric and floral patterns, subtly guiding one’s gaze upwards.
The Opera del Duomo Museum exists mainly to house the sculptures removed from the niches and doors of the Duomo group for restoration and preservation from the elements. As such, it shouldn’t be skipped. Some highlights of the museum include:
Original Gates of Paradise: Ghiberti’s gilded bronze doors, originally created for the Baptistery, depict biblical stories with astonishing detail and craftsmanship.
Pieta by Michelangelo: One of Michelangelo’s later works, this poignant sculpture was originally intended for his own tomb.
Wooden Model of the Cathedral: A glimpse into the initial architectural plans for the cathedral, showing its evolution.
Brunelleschi’s Death Mask: An intimate relic of the architectural genius behind the cathedral’s iconic dome.
Sculptures and Reliefs: Works by prominent Renaissance artists, including Donatello and Luca della Robbia, which once adorned the cathedral and its campanile.
Practical Information For Visiting the Duomo Complex
Opening Hours: The opening hours vary for each monument in the Duomo Complex. Generally, the monuments are open daily, with the Cathedral being closed on Sundays and the Opera del Duomo Museum being closed on Tuesdays. You can check opening hours here.
Tickets: The entrance to the Florence Cathedral is free but you need a ticket to access the other monuments of the Duomo Complex. The lines for the Florence Cathedral can be very long and since you’ll have limited time, I recommend skipping. Plus, you can see the interior of the cathedral if you opt for the dome climb.
A single all-in ticket (Brunelleschi Pass) provides access to all monuments of the Duomo Complex: the Cathedral, the Dome, the Baptistery, Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower), the Crypt, and the Opera Museum.
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office or online through the official website or via third-party resellers like GetYourGuide or Tiqets. It is highly recommended to buy tickets in advance due to high demand and the limited number of visitors allowed each day.
Climbing the Dome: Climbing the Dome of the Florence Cathedral is a popular activity, but it requires a timeslot reservation, which can be made when purchasing your ticket.
The arduous climb involves ascending 463 steps, and there is no elevator. The staircase is narrow and steep in parts, so it may not be suitable for those with mobility issues, cardiovascular issues, or a fear of heights.
Guided Tour: A guided tour includes an expert guide who provides historical and architectural context about the complex and its monuments.
- Click here to book this highly-rated guided tour of the Baptistry and the Opera del Duomo Museum which also includes the Dome Climb
2. Medici Chapels
One of my favorite points of interest in Florence are the Medici Chapels (Cappelle Medicee). If Florence is an art lover’s paradise, then the Medici Chapels, situated in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, are its jeweled crown, rich in artistry, history, and architectural brilliance.
The chapels comprise two primary structures: the New Sacristy and the Chapel of the Princes.
An epitome of opulence, the Chapel of the Princes showcases the Medici’s unparalleled wealth. This mausoleum, with its octagonal layout and vast dome, is a kaleidoscope of marbles and cut marbles and semi-precious stones—jasper, alabaster, mother-of-pearl, agate, and the like.
Lavish doesn’t begin to cover it! As you step in, the intricate mosaics, semi-precious gems, and ornate patterns give a palpable sense of the grandeur the Medici family once wielded.
The New Sacristy is a masterwork designed by the Renaissance genius, Michelangelo. Home to the tombs of Medici dukes, Giuliano and Lorenzo, it’s adorned with Michelangelo’s profound statues symbolizing Day and Night, and Dawn and Dusk.
These figures exude deep introspection on life and mortality. The room’s harmonious proportions, coupled with the sculptural narrative, reflect Michelangelo’s unparalleled ability to capture emotion in stone, making the New Sacristy a sublime testament to his artistic brilliance.
Practical Information For Visiting the Medici Chapels
The Medici Chapels are open Wednesday-Monday from 08:15-18:50. The entrance costs 10 EUR. Tickets can be purchased online through the chapels’ official website or at the ticket office.
3. Central Market
The Central Market, or “Mercato Centrale”, in Florence is a bustling hub of culinary delight, an emblematic fixture in the heart of the city. Established in 1874, this two-tiered market stands as a testament to 19th-century iron and glass architecture.
The ground floor is a maze of stalls brimming with the finest Tuscan produce: fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and more. Vendors display an array of olives, oils, local delicacies, and traditional Florentine specialties.
As you ascend to the upper level, you’re greeted by an array of eateries and artisanal food outlets offering delectable Tuscan dishes, from savory to sweet. It’s not just a place to shop; it’s an immersive sensory experience.
The Mercato Centrale is a Florence must-see as it provides a first-hand glimpse into the convivial (and sometimes grumpy) nature of Florentines. It’s a spot where all sorts of people from businessmen to blue-collar workers come to grab a quick bite to eat, haggle, and buy fresh produce.
The Mercato Centrale is open daily from 09:00-24:00.
4. Accademia Gallery
A trip to Florence without visiting the Accademia Gallery (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze) would be a cardinal sin.
Founded in 1784 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, the Accademia was initially envisioned as a teaching facility for students of the adjacent Academy of Fine Arts. However, today, it stands as a monumental canvas of artistic genius, safeguarding some of the most iconic masterpieces of Western art.
What truly sets the gallery apart is its iconic centerpiece: Michelangelo’s “David” – arguably the most famous sculpture in the world.
Carved from a single block of marble, Michelangelo’s grand-scale David stands poised and composed, his slingshot casually draped over his shoulder, exuding confidence as he prepares to confront Goliath.
Michelangelo’s artistry shines through in his meticulous details, from the prominent veins on David’s hand to the expert use of contrapposto in his stance. From the first moment you lay eyes on David, the sheer magnitude of the sculpture juxtaposed with its intricate detailing creates an overpowering sensation.
Yet, the Accademia’s allure doesn’t stop there. It houses Michelangelo’s four famous unfinished “Prisoners” or “Slaves”. These figures appear to be struggling to free themselves from the confines of the marble, representing the human soul’s attempt to break free from mortal constraints.
Beyond Michelangelo, the museum hosts a rich collection of Renaissance paintings. From the vivid works of Botticelli and Ghirlandaio to Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Sarto, the gallery provides a comprehensive journey through the artistic evolution of the period.
Practical Information For Visiting the Accademia Gallery
Opening Hours: The Accademia Gallery is usually open Tuesday-Sunday from 08:15-18:50. It is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25. Admission to the gallery ends 30 minutes before closing time.
From mid-June to the end of October the Accademia Gallery is open until 22:00 on Tuesdays and until 21:00 on Thursdays. However, opening hours can sometimes change, so it is always a good idea to check the gallery’s website or contact them directly before your visit.
Tickets: The entrance to the Accademia Gallery costs 13 EUR. It is highly recommended to purchase tickets for the gallery online in advance to avoid hideously long lines, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Tickets to the gallery can be purchased through the gallery’s official website which has a 4 EUR booking fee. However, once booked, tickets are non-refundable under any circumstances.
In case you want to purchase a refundable ticket, you can purchase an entry ticket through GetYourGuide with priority entrance. Book early as tickets tend to sell out fast.
Guided Tour: You can also book a popular skip-the-line guided tour that provides in-depth information about the artworks and the history of the gallery. This tour is also useful if regular tickets are sold out (which is often the case).
The Accademia Gallery is fairly small, so a visit here should take 30-45 minutes.
5. Santa Maria Novella Complex
One of Florence’s greatest monastic churches, the Santa Maria Novella Church is also one of my favorite Florence attractions. Originally built in the 13th century by the Dominican order, its harmonious façade, adorned with green and white marble patterns, is a visual treat and sets the tone for the masterpieces within.
The Gothic-styled interior, characterized by its mesmerizing black and white marble design, is home to a wealth of artistic masterpieces. The nave piers are positioned more closely towards the church’s eastern end, creating a visual deception that makes the church seem longer than it actually is.
Giotto’s Crucifix, hanging with solemn grace, represents a transition from Byzantine to more naturalistic styles, showcasing heightened emotionality in its depiction of Christ.
The stunning Tornabuoni Chapel offers a narrative journey through frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio. These depict the lives of Mary and John the Baptist and are renowned for their intricate details and inclusion of contemporary Florentine society, blending the divine with the mundane.
The most significant work inside is arguably Masaccio’s “Trinity”, one of the earliest examples of linear perspective in art. This fresco transformed the understanding of space and depth in painting, signaling a paradigm shift towards the Renaissance.
Don’t miss the Spanish Chapel and Filippo Strozzi Chapel, both of which are adorned with captivating frescoes that communicate theological and historical narratives.
But art is not the only reason for the church’s fame. Its architectural elements, like the cloisters and chapels, echo stories of powerful Florentine families, their politics, and their patronage. The Rucellai Chapel houses the revered Rucellai Sepulchre, while the Green Cloister is an oasis of frescoes amidst a serene garden backdrop.
Practical Information For Visiting the Santa Maria Novella Complex
Opening Hours: The Santa Maria Novella Complex is open from 09:00-17:30 (Monday-Thursday & Saturday), 11:00-17:30 (Friday), and 13:00-17:30 (Sunday). The last admission to the complex is 1 hour before closing time.
The complex is closed on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
Prices: The entrance to the Santa Maria Novella Complex costs 7.50 EUR
Tickets: Tickets to the Santa Maria Novella Complex can be bought online or on-site.
6. Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
Nestled along a typical Florentine street with a modest facade is the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy (Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella), often regarded as the oldest pharmacy in the world. Additionally, it’s celebrated as one of the most beautiful pharmacies in the world, and its allure transcends beyond its mere function.
This timeless gem was established in 1221 as an apothecary by Dominican friars who began cultivating herbs to produce remedies and salves for the monastery’s infirmary. In 1612, recognizing the demand, the monks decided to offer their products to the broader public by opening the apothecary’s doors.
As you step through its entrance, you’re greeted with ornate vaulted ceilings and frescoed ceilings. Opulent chandeliers hang from the ceilings, casting a soft, warm glow over the intricately tiled floors.
The aged wooden cabinetry and glass-fronted display cases line the walls, showcasing an array of vibrantly colored bottles and ornate packaging. These cabinets, reminiscent of apothecaries of old, contain elixirs, perfumes, creams, and soaps that are presented like jewels in a treasure chest.
In various corners, you’ll find antique equipment and containers displayed, offering a glimpse into the ancient practices and alchemical processes that the Dominican monks once used to craft their remedies. Additionally, there’s a museum to discover and a tea room to relish.
The pharmacy continues to craft products by hand, adhering to the age-old formulas established by the monks hundreds of years prior. Candles, aromatic waters, scents, soaps, and facial lotions are among the beautiful items available.
Even if shopping isn’t on your agenda, a trip to the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is a Florence must-do, both to admire the magnificent interiors, and to take in the delightful scents of its perfumes, soaps, and other products.
The Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is open daily from 09:30-20:00. The entrance is free and you’re under no obligation to buy anything.
7. Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica in Florence is one of the city’s main squares, known for its historical significance and architectural grandeur. Originally the city’s Roman forum and later a bustling market district, the piazza underwent major transformations in the late 19th century, embracing a more modern look.
Today, it boasts a grand arch, the Arcone, inscribed with phrases recalling the square’s ancient roots. Cafés and historic literary cafés, like the famed Caffè Gilli and Caffè Paszkowski, line the piazza, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists to sip espresso and watch the world go by.
Street musicians, performers, and the historic carousel add to its lively ambiance. As a testament to its history and social importance, the Piazza della Repubblica remains a vibrant heart of Florentine life.
8. Via dei Calzaiuoli
Via dei Calzaiuoli is one of Florence’s most vibrant pedestrian thoroughfares, connecting Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Signoria. This bustling pedestrian-only street is steeped in history, yet thrums with modern-day energy.
Named after the “calzaiuoli” or shoemakers that once lined the street, it now hosts a plethora of shops, from local artisans to international brands. As you stroll, the street offers glimpses of remarkable architecture and art, such as the Orsanmichele Church with its niche statues by renowned Renaissance artists.
Its central location means it’s always abuzz with both locals and tourists, making it not just a pathway, but a destination in its own right.
Day 3 in Florence: Oltrarno & the Bargello
Day Three of this ‘3 days in Florence’ itinerary covers the most notable attractions in Oltrarno, the district on the south bank of the Arno River. I suggest seeing the sights in the chronology that suits you best (after the first attraction).
1. Bargello Museum
When seeing Florence in 3 days a visit to the Bargello Museum (Museo Nazionale del Bargello) comes highly recommended. It offers a journey through time, celebrating the rich tapestry of history, art, and architecture that Florence has so munificently offered the world.
Erected in 1255 to serve as Florence’s municipal headquarters, the Bargello stands as the city’s most ancient surviving governmental building. It now houses an exceptional collection of Renaissance sculptures and various other priceless artifacts.
For Renaissance art lovers, the Bargello is to sculpture what the Uffizi is to painting. While exploring the Bargello Museum, visitors should particularly look out for the following highlights –
Donatello’s “David”: This bronze sculpture is a masterpiece of Renaissance art and represents a pivotal moment in art history, as it is considered the first freestanding nude since antiquity. Molded in bronze, Donatello’s rendition of David appears youthful and reflective after his victory over Goliath.
Donatello ingeniously incorporates Goliath’s head and David’s sword as foundational supports for the piece. When unveiled, the statue stirred controversy due to David’s almost complete nudity, save for his boots, with its striking realism causing unease. Simply amazing!
Giambologna’s “Mercury”: A magnificent representation of the Roman god in flight, it demonstrates Giambologna’s mastery in depicting motion in sculpture.
Michelangelo’s “Bacchus”: This statue of a young Bacchus, the god of wine, displays Michelangelo’s early experimentation with the human form and his fascination with classical themes.
I love how the sculpting follows classical techniques, yet the unstable, inebriated stance playfully challenges the grace of ancient pieces.
Della Robbia’s Works: Luca della Robbia and his family were renowned for their glazed terracotta works. Several of their bright and vibrant creations can be seen in the museum.
Gothic and Renaissance Ceramics: The museum’s collection of ceramics provides a comprehensive look at the evolution of ceramic art in Italy, especially during the Gothic and Renaissance periods.
Medals and Coins: The Bargello has a vast collection of coins and medals that trace back through various epochs of Italian and European history.
The Bargello also features an expansive collection of textiles, tapestries, ivory, silver, and armor.
The museum’s architecture, with its crenelated tower and formidable stone walls, adds to the overall experience. The central courtyard, adorned with coats of arms, and the intricate detailing on the arches and stairwells, remind visitors of the building’s medieval origins.
Practical Information For Visiting the Bargello Museum
Opening Hours: The Bargello Museum keeps the following opening hours –
- Monday, Wednesday-Friday, & the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sunday of the month: 08:15-13:50
- Saturday: 08:15-18:50
It is closed on Tuesdays, January 1, May 1, and December 25. Additionally, the museum is closed on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month.
Prices: The entrance to the Bargello Museum costs 15 EUR.
Tickets: Tickets to the Bargello Museum can be bought online or on-site.
Plan to spend about 2 hours at the Bargello Museum if you intend to view the museum’s main highlights, though art enthusiasts may wish to allocate more time.
2. Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
The Pitti Palace is one of the veritable must-see sights in Florence. Originally constructed for the Florentine banker Luca Pitti in the mid-15th century, the palace is a magnificent example of Renaissance architecture with its rusticated stone façade and symmetrical design.
By the mid-16th century, the Medici family acquired it and expanded the complex, transforming it into Europe’s grandest palace. Its splendor was unmatched until Louis XIV constructed Versailles near Paris.
In the 1800s, the Pitti served as a residence for Italy’s royal family during the period when Florence momentarily became the national capital. In 1919, Victor Emmanuel III handed it over to the state, which then transformed it into various museums.
Today, the Pitti Palace houses five distinct museums: the Treasury of the Grand Dukes and the Museum of Russian Icons, the Palatine Gallery, the Imperial and Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion.
The Palatine Gallery is considered to be Florence’s most important art collection other than the Uffizi. It is worth the price of admission to the Pitti Palace alone
Housed within the opulent rooms of the palace, this gallery showcases an exquisite collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings. The walls are adorned with works by eminent artists such as Raphael, Perugino, Titian, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Tintoretto, Veronese, Caravaggio, Rubens, and Van Dyck, displayed amidst the rich decor of the grand ducal residence.
One of the most captivating features is the gallery’s layout, where paintings are arranged not chronologically, but based on aesthetics, creating a visually harmonious ambiance.
Among the standout pieces of the Palatine Gallery are Raphael’s “Madonna of the Chair,” Titian’s “Portrait of a Young Englishman,” and Caravaggio’s “Sleeping Cupid.” Additionally, visitors can marvel at Rubens’ “Consequences of War,” Raphael’s “Madonna of the Grand Duke”, and Veronese’s “Portrait of a Gentleman in a Fur.”
The Royal Apartments are located in the Pitti Palace’s western section. The rooms are strikingly lavish, adorned with plush carpets, intricate wallpapers, rich fabrics, and ornate furnishings, reflecting the Neo-Baroque and Victorian tastes of the Savoy kings.
Some rooms are identified by their dominant color theme and house artwork that complements the ambiance. This leads to the Queen’s and King’s Apartments and a grand ceremonial chamber, all of which are furnished with heavy, era-appropriate furniture.
Amid the general interior flamboyance are some thoroughly appropriate Baroque canvases, plus some earlier works by Andrea del Sarto and Caravaggio’s Portrait of a Knight of Malta.
While the Renaissance capital isn’t primarily known for modern art, the Gallery of Modern Art in the Pitti Palace boasts significant pieces from the 19th-century Tuscan art movement called the Macchiaioli. This group embraced a Tuscan version of Impressionism, focusing on ‘macchie’ – the splashes of color on canvas and the interplay of light and perception.
The collection predominantly features countryside scenes, laboring peasants, and an array of portraits. Look out for the works of Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Fattori.
The famous Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace boast a collection of statues and stand as a prime example of early Renaissance gardens. Crafted primarily between 1549 and 1656, the gardens feature intricately designed box hedges, clusters of ilex trees, an abundance of statues, and cypress tree-lined paths.
Since 1766, when its gates were opened to the people of Florence, the gardens have remained a favored spot for local families to enjoy leisurely weekend walks. Among the things you shouldn’t miss at the Boboli Gardens are –
- Amphitheater: The primary entrance leads to this semi-circular space, once a quarry, that hosts events and concerts.
- Neptune’s Fountain: A monumental fountain with a towering statue of Neptune at its center, often referred to as the “Fountain of the Fork” due to Neptune’s trident.
- Buontalenti Grotto: A stunning three-chambered cave adorned with frescoes, sculptures, and dripping stalactites, showcasing Mannerist art.
- Viottolone and Isolotto: A long, cypress-lined avenue leading to a large pond, with an island at its center hosting a grand obelisk and the Ocean Fountain surrounded by statues.
- Drunken Bacchus: Created by Pietro Tacca in the early 17th century, this eye-catching statue of Bacchus depicts him as an overweight and somewhat inebriated figure, merrily perched atop a giant turtle.
Practical Information For Visiting the Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens
Opening Hours: The Pitti Palace is open Tuesday-Sunday from 08:15-18:30. It is closed on Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25.
The Boboli Gardens are also open Tuesday-Sunday. The opening hours are –
- January, February, November, December: 08:15-16:30
- March & October: 08:15-17:30
- April, May, September: 08:15-18:30
- June to August: 08:15-19:10
The Boboli Gardens are closed on the first and last Monday of each month, January 1, May 1, and December 25. The last admission to the gardens is always one hour before the closing time.
Prices: Tickets to the Pitti Palace cost 17 EUR. Tickets to the Boboli Gardens cost 11 EUR. The combined ticket to the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens costs 23 EUR. The ticket counter shuts an hour prior to the museum’s closing time.
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased on-site or online through the official website. You can also book a skip-the-line timed entrance ticket through GetYourGuide or Tiqets.
Since they are overseen by the same organization, you can also purchase a very handy combo ticket to the Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, and the Boboli Gardens.
Guided Tour: To fully appreciate the grandeur of the Pitti Palace and the skills and techniques of the great artists who feature in the Palatine Gallery, I highly recommend checking out this highly-rated Pitti Palace and Palatine Gallery Guided Tour.
Alternatively, you can enjoy insightful commentary, skip-the-line access, and a comprehensive, unforgettable experience on this Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, and Palatine Gallery Guided Tour.
The time required to see the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens varies depending on individual interests and the pace of exploration. However, try to limit your visit to about 3 hours.
3. Enjoy a Gelato
One of the must-have experiences in Florence is treating yourself to an authentic gelato. Indulging in gelato amidst the city’s picturesque cobblestone streets and historic piazzas is a sensory delight.
Florence boasts a legacy of crafting gelato that dates back centuries, with recipes perfected over time to create the creamiest and most flavorful scoops. The artisanal gelaterias in Florence use the freshest seasonal ingredients, ensuring a symphony of natural flavors in every bite.
Florence is home to some excellent gelaterias and Gelateria della Passera is one of the very best gelato shops in Florence. From classic flavors like stracciatella and pistachio to unique local variations, the range here is both impressive and delicious.
4. Santo Spirito
The famed Piazza Santo Spirito is one of the top hidden gems in Florence. The square embodies the city’s lively, bohemian spirit and comes alive with locals and visitors alike, especially during its daily markets and evening gatherings.
Lined with charming cafes and restaurants, this cobblestoned piazza offers a more relaxed, authentic Florentine experience, contrasting with the bustling tourist centers on the other side of the Arno River.
The focal point of the Piazza Santo Spirito is the Basilica of Santo Spirito. The church’s unadorned, pale façade may appear unassuming at first glance, yet the inside, which might seem austere relative to subsequent churches, stands as a paramount representation of Italian High Renaissance architecture.
Designed by the renowned architect Filippo Brunelleschi, the harmonious interior of the Basilica of Santo Spirito showcases Brunelleschi’s genius in creating proportion and space, marked by a series of columns leading to a grand dome. This design symbolizes the essence of Renaissance ideals: simplicity, balance, and a celebration of humanistic values.
Notably, the basilica houses an impressive collection of artwork, including pieces by noteworthy artists such as Lippi and Ghirlandaio. In addition, a crucifix believed to be sculpted by a young Michelangelo can be found in one of its chapels, adding to the church’s rich artistic legacy.
The Basilica of Santo Spirito is open every day except Wednesday. It is open Monday-Tuesday & Thursday-Saturday from 10:00-13:00 & 15:00-18:00. On Sundays and public holidays, the basilica is open from 11:30-13:30 & 15:00-18:00. Free entrance.
5. Brancacci Chapel
Next, make your way to the Brancacci Chapel (Cappella Brancacci). Located within the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, the Brancacci Chapel holds a unique position in the annals of art history.
The Brancacci Chapel is often referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance,” and it showcases the collaborative brilliance of two artistic giants: Masaccio and Masolino. Their frescoes, created in the 1420s, depict scenes from the life of St. Peter, rendered with unprecedented realism and emotional depth.
What sets the Brancacci Chapel apart is Masaccio’s groundbreaking use of light, shadow, and perspective. His “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden” and “The Tribute Money” are particularly lauded for their narrative clarity and innovative chiaroscuro technique.
These sublime frescoes were instrumental in shaping the course of Renaissance art, inspiring a generation of artists, including the great Michelangelo.
Tragically, Masaccio died young, leaving some frescoes unfinished. Over time, other artists, notably Filippino Lippi, completed the work. Despite suffering from damage over the centuries, a careful restoration in the 1980s revived the frescoes’ original vibrancy.
Practical Information For Visiting the Brancacci Chapel
Opening Hours: The Brancacci Chapel is open Monday, Friday, & Saturday from 10:00-17:00. It is also open on Sunday from 13:00-17:00. The last admission to the chapel is always 45 minutes before the closing time.
Prices: Tickets to the Brancacci Chapel cost 11 EUR.
Tickets: A reservation is mandatory to visit the Brancacci Chapel meaning you just can’t show up and buy a ticket. Tickets can be bought online through the official website or via GetYourGuide.
Guided Tour: To unlock deep insights, appreciate artistry, grasp historical context, benefit from expert knowledge, and engage in interactive discussions, consider booking this worthwhile guided tour of the Brancacci Chapel.
6. Piazzale Michelangelo
Cap off your three days in Florence by heading to Piazzale Michelangelo. This atmospheric square, perched on a hill south of the historic center, is a required stop for every visitor to Florence.
Designed in the 19th century by architect Giuseppe Poggi, the balustraded square is adorned with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s “David” and his Medici Chapel sculptures.
But the real allure of Piazzale Michelangelo is the breathtaking view, encompassing the iconic Florence Cathedral, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Arno River, spread out in the valley below and backed by the green hills of Fiesole beyond. The vista is especially mesmerizing during sunset.
More Than 3 Days in Florence?
If you have more than 3 days in Florence, there are still several great attractions/activities in the city that are worth doing which he had to leave off this itinerary.
Florence is the ideal starting point for excursions to the postcard-perfect Chianti Wine Region, the stunningly beautiful Cinque Terre area, and the idyllic Tuscan towns of Pisa, Siena & San Gimignano.
What To Eat in Florence
When spending 72 hours in Florence, you should definitely try some delectable Florentine food. The heart of Tuscany offers a mouth-watering culinary journey and there are certain dishes and foods you simply cannot miss.
Some of the must-eat Florence foods are Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Lampredotto, Ribollita, Crostini, Pappa al Pomodoro, and Schiacciata.
Where To Eat in Florence
Florence has plenty of great dining options offering all sorts of cuisines. The following are some of our top restaurant recommendations for traditional Tuscan food during your 3 days in Florence –
1. Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco
2. All’Antico Vinaio
3. Trattoria Dall’Oste
4. Osteria dell’Enoteca
5. Trippaio del Porcellino
6. La Giostra
7. Trattoria Sostanza
8. Mercato Centrale
Where To Stay in Florence
Florence offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences.
When choosing a hotel in Florence, consider staying in the historic city center or in the vicinity. This area is home to most of the city’s famous landmarks, museums, and galleries, all within walking distance.
Budget travelers can find more affordable options near the Santa Maria Novella train station or in the San Marco district. Remember to book well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as hotels in Florence fill up quickly.
Hostel: Ostello Bello Firenze, a popular choice for budget-minded travelers looking for someplace close to the Santa Maria Novella Train Station and city center
Budget: Hotel Margaret, an excellent choice if you’re on the lookout for a frugal, no-frills option in central Florence
Mid-range: Hotel degli Orafi, a great choice if you are planning to stay in Oltrarno
Splurge: Hotel Bernini Palace, one of Florence’s most prestigious hotels, only a 5-minute walk from Florence Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio
Florence Travel Tips
Here are some important tips you should know for visiting Florence.
Best Time To Visit Florence
The best time to visit Florence is during the spring (April to June) or fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant, and the city is not overcrowded. These months offer mild temperatures, and you can enjoy outdoor activities and sightseeing comfortably.
Summer (July and August) is the peak tourist season, and the city can be extremely crowded and hot. Winter (November to March) is the low season, with fewer tourists, but the weather can be quite chilly, and some attractions may have reduced hours.
Book Tickets and Tours in Advance
I cannot stress this enough but Florence is extremely popular with tourists and chances are you’ll spend a better part of the day in queues if you do not pre-purchase your tickets online in advance.
Although you will pay extra for a skip-the-line ticket, it’ll help make the most of your visit, rather than standing in 2-hour long queues to enter the most popular attractions.
Expect To Encounter Scaffolding
Restoration work is always taking place somewhere in Florence, and there is rarely any indication before you go in as to how much of the building is under wraps.
The presence of scaffolding can be disappointing for visitors who are looking forward to seeing famous landmarks, as it can obscure the view and make it difficult to take good photos. However, it’s important to remember that this work is essential for the preservation of these important sites.
Beware of Pickpockets
Like any other tourist destination, Florence has its share of pickpockets. Exercise caution with your possessions, particularly in areas with a lot of people.
It can get very hot in Florence, especially in the summer. Make sure to stay hydrated and take breaks in the shade when needed.
Respect Dress Codes
Some churches and religious sites require modest dress (covered shoulders and knees), so be prepared.
Avoid Traveling With Large Bags and Backpacks
Most of the museums and attractions, including the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia Gallery, and Florence Cathedral, do not allow large bags and backpacks inside. They usually have a cloakroom where you can leave your belongings, but space is often limited, and there’s usually a long queue.
Further Reading For Your Florence Visit
That summarizes our definitive 3 days in Florence itinerary. We reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Florence!
More Information About Italy
Herculaneum: Check out our definitive guide to visiting Herculaneum!
Now, what do you think? How would you spend 3 days in Florence? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).