25 Unmissable Items for Your Florence Bucket List

Florence is a very easy city to love.

From Brunelleschi’s terracotta cathedral dome to the medieval Ponte Vecchio, it is home to some of Italy’s most recognisable landmarks. Echoes of the Medici and Michelangelo resound in its cobbled streets.

Whilst one trip is never going to be enough to visit all of Florence’s must-see sights, you can certainly give it your best shot. So why not make it easy on yourself and hit the ground running with a travel guide to the best things to do in this gorgeous Tuscan city?

Whether you are a first-time visitor or are on a return trip, have the best time ever with this ultimate Florence bucket list.

painting of angel with red wings

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The Ultimate Florence Bucket List: 25 Unforgettable Things to Do

In no particular order here are the best things to do in Florence, all of which I have done over several visits. No recycled knowledge here.

At the end of the post, I nail my flag to the mast and share my favourite bucket list items (but if you can’t wait, you can skip forward here)

1. Wander through Renaissance Florence

duomo complex in florence with the cathedral the baptistery and bell tower
Duomo Complex in Florence

There are few better ways of getting to know Florence and its rich history than by taking a stroll through its historic centre (this is a good thing to do as soon as you deposit your bags at your accommodation).

Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, a movement characterised by a pursuit of knowledge spanning painting, sculpture and architecture. This reached its high point in the 16th Century with the High Renaissance, led by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.

Start at the Duomo, Florence’s geographical and historical heart. Work your way down Via de’Calzaiuoli, one of the main thoroughfares in Renaissance times, past Orsanmichele Church to the magnificent Piazza della Signoria.

From here, the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio are a hop, skip and jump away.

2. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio

ponte vecchio bridge which is an essential part of a florence bucket list

Even if you have only one day in Florence, you should not miss the beautiful Ponte Vecchio, the oldest and the most famous of Florence’s bridges. The butchers’ shops that once lined this bridge have long been replaced by those selling gold and jewellery (the story goes that the meat merchants were evicted because Cosimo de’Medici couldn’t bear the stench).

Above Ponte Vecchio is the Vasari Corridor, an elevated covered passageway that links Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti. Although this has been closed for restoration since 2016, it is due to open again in 2024.

3. Amble along the Arno

view along the river arno with bridge and mountains in distance

But the Ponte Vecchio is not the only bridge in town. There are other bridges in Florence begging to be explored, each with a story to tell.

Strolling along the River Arno is another fabulous way to get to know the city.  The north side is where you’ll find most of the city’s famous sights; south of the river is the lovely Oltrarno district, literally the “other side.”

Starting upriver at Ponte alla Vittoria and working your way to Ponte San Niccolò will take around 40 minutes without stops.

4. Fall in love with Renaissance art at the Uffizi Galleries

painting of madonna and jesus and john the baptist with a small bird
Madonna of the Goldfinch, Raphael
painting of three graces from botticellis la primavera
La Primavera, Sandro Botticelli

The Uffizi Gallery (Galleria degli Uffizi) is home to some of the greatest works of art on the planet. This is an all-that-you-can-eat buffet of Renaissance art so come armed with a shortlist of artworks to make the most of your visit.

Most of all, don’t try to “do” the whole gallery. Pick a handful of key paintings at the Uffizi Gallery and savour them.

5. Visit Florence’s free outdoor art gallery at Piazza della Signoria

ornate fountain of neptune in florence piaza della signoria

Did you know that there is a free open-air art gallery on the doorstep of the Uffizi Gallery?

Piazza dell Signoria is home to the best collection of free sculptures in Florence, including a fake David (more about him later) guarding the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio. The Loggia dei Lanzi – the platform at the Uffizi end of the piazza – contains some of the city’s most famous works of art, including Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women.

6. See where Savonarola met his fate

Piazza della Signoria is also the site of one of the most famous moments of the 15th Century.

An inconspicuous bronze plaque amongst the cobblestones marks the spot where the charismatic monk Girolamo Savonarola (1452 – 1498) was burned to death. This puritanical fanatic turned Florence into a theocracy, sponsored “bonfires of the vanities” and temporarily ousted the mighty Medici.

7. Take in the view from the Tower of Arnolfo

the red roofs and cathedral and dome of florence italy
One of the stunning views of Florence from the Tower of Arnolfo

Gazing over Florence’s cityscape with its terracotta rooftops and iconic cathedral dome should be at the top of your bucket list.

There are several excellent viewpoints in Florence from which to choose, and the Tower of Arnolfo is one of the best. This is the medieval skyscraper of the Palazzo Vecchio, piercing the sky 308 feet above Piazza della Signoria.

Climb its 233 steps for show-stopping views of Florence’s cathedral dome and beyond.

8. Scale Brunelleschi’s dome

people standing on terrace at top of dome of florence cathedral

Whilst I don’t think the views from the viewing platform of the cathedral’s dome are the best in town, you should climb it once in your lifetime, if only to get a close-up view of Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes that decorate the dome’s interior.

But this may not be for you if you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo. There are 436 steps, some steep, and narrow passageways to navigate.

9. Climb Giotto’s Campanile

red dome of florence cathedral and marble cladding on outside of building

In my view, the bell tower designed by Giotto offers better views than those from Brunelleschi’s dome, largely because there are those of the dome itself. You just need to angle your camera lens through the openings in the safety grill.

Like Brunelleschi’s dome, this is a long climb that is steep and claustrophobic in places.

10. Gaze at the Doors of Paradise

bronze bas relief of group of people gathered around a tree
bronze bas relief of a group of people in a temple

Facing the Gothic façade of the cathedral is The Baptistery of St. John, the egg from which Florence’s golden age was hatched.

In 1401, Lorenzo Ghiberti won a competition to design the doors of the city’s new Baptistery, creating its North and East Doors. The latter was later coined “The Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo and altered the way that Renaissance people viewed the world around them.

Although it is worth seeing the real thing in the Duomo Museum, the Baptistery doors are clad in excellent copies of these bronze bas-relief panels. 

11. Say “hello” to David

marble statue of David by Michelangelo

No Florence bucket list is complete without the Accademia (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze), home to the world’s most famous buff biblical shepherd.

Carved from the finest marble from the Carrara quarries and standing 14-foot-high, Michelangelo’s David never disappoints. Although you can see copies of the sculpture outside Palazzo Vecchio and at Piazzale Michelangelo, it is worth paying to see David in the Accademia.

12. Follow the Michelangelo trail in Florence

bust of the head of michelangelo

David is not the only Michelangelo sculpture in Florence. Although the “divine artist” created many of his masterpieces in Rome, many of his important works of art are in Florence and he is buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Trace the life of Michelangelo in Florence, starting with an early crucifix in Basilica di Santo Spirito and ending with the immensely moving Bandini Pietà (1547 – 1555) in the Duomo Museum.

13. See amazing sculptures at the Bargello Museum

marble bust of Brutus by Michelangelo
Brutus by Michelangelo at the Bargello Museum

Housing some of the most magnificent statues in the world, the Bargello is to sculpture what Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is to paintings.  There are key works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Giambologna as well as the Baptistery door competition entries from Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi.

14. Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo

panoramic view of river arno in Florence with bridges and red dome of cathedral
Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Hike uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo for that classic postcard view of Florence, with the city’s major landmarks laid out before you like a model city. Better still, it’s completely free.

15. Smell the roses at Giardino delle Rose

bronze fountain of creature shooting water from its mouth witht he medieval skyline of florence in background

In my humble opinion, the tranquil and fragrant Rose Garden offers the best views of Florence. You’ll find it just below Piazzale Michelangelo and it is also free to enter.

16. Visit San Minato del Monte

statue of angel with outstretched arms t in front of the skyline of Florence italy

Continue the uphill climb to San Miniato al Monte, another fabulous photo opportunity.

Dating from 1015, this is the oldest church in Florence and marks the spot where St. Minias met his maker after he was beheaded by the Romans. It’s worth popping inside the church to view its art-filled sacristy and ceiling of glazed terracotta panels.

17. Stroll through the Boboli Gardens

wide pathway in boboli gardens leading to the pitti palace in florence

Welcome to the backyard of the Medici’s Pitti Palace.

The beautiful Boboli Gardens feature 11 acres of landscaped gardens, Renaissance sculptures and tinkling fountains. Not only are these gardens a respite from the tourist hordes of Florence, but they also offer awesome views of the city and the rolling Tuscan countryside.

18. See Masaccio’s masterpieces at the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine

It’s a tough call but if I had to namecheck my favourite paintings in Florence, these would be the Masaccio frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden is worth the cost of your airfare to Florence alone.

painting of adam and eve in anguish
Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, Masaccio

19. See the frescoes in the Church of Santa Maria Novella

Built by Dominican friars between 1279 and 1357, Santa Maria Novella is one of Florence’s most important Gothic churches.

Its artistic treasures include another work by Masaccio, The Holy Trinity (1427), and wonderful fresco cycles by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi.

painting of a group of 4 men in medieval dress
Detail from Strozzi Chapel, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

20. Visit a Renaissance pharmacy

Take home a fragrance of Florence by visiting the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy.

Directly associated with the Basilica, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. In 1221, Dominican monks founded the church with a garden, and in 1381 they started concocting perfumed waters to fight disease, including the Black Death.

Today’s Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is not a pharmacy but does sell wonderfully pungent, albeit pricey, products.

21. Be inspired by Fra Angelico at San Marco

Add the former monastery of San March to your Florence bucket list to view the finest collection of frescoes by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455). His most famous work of art is The Annunciation (1440 – 1445), depicting the Angel Gabriel with glittery wings kneeling before Mary.

22. Pay your respects to departed Florentines at the Basilica of Santa Croce

ornate marble tomb of michelangelo in florence with three sculptural figures and  a carved bust of the artist

The 14th Century Basilica of Santa Croce Church is the final resting place of many Florentine greats, including Dante, Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Rossini. This Franciscan church is also famous for its fresco cycle by Giotto in the Bardi Chapel, depicting stories from the Life of St. Francis.

At the time of updating this article (March 2024), the Bardi Chapel at Santa Croce was still undergoing restoration and its frescoes hidden by scaffolding.

23. Discover the church of the Medici (and their tombs by Michelangelo)

The Medici Chapels are part of the odd-shaped Basilica of San Lorenzo, one of Florence’s oldest churches.

This is the final resting place of many of the Medici and is home to celebrated sculptures by Michelangelo, dedicated to members of the family.

24. Take a half-day trip to Fiesole

ruins of a roman amphitheatre amidst rolling hills in fiesole in taly

Set on a hilltop overlooking Florence, the Etruscan town of Fiesole is just a short bus ride from the city. It is a wonderful refuge from the heat and crowds of Florence, especially in the summer months, and its Archaeological Area has interesting Etruscan and Roman remnants.

25. Have one of the best sandwiches of your life

If there’s one thing that Florence is not short of it is great places to eat. But for the best lunch stop head to All’Antico Vinaio, whose sandwiches are made with schiacciata, a local bread. Cheap and delicious wine is also on offer.

There are two centrally-located shops, one on Via dei Neri a two-minute walk from Piazza dell Signoria, and a second on Via Ricasoli, near the Accademia.

man walking along a wet cobbled street at night

My Top 10 Florence Experiences

  • Be awestruck at the mastery of Michelangelo at The Accademia
  • Admire the buildings of Piazza Duomo
  • Take in the views of Florence from the Rose Garden
  • Journey through Renaissance art at the Uffizi Galleries
  • Share the agony of Adam and Eve at Brancacci Chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine.
  • Escape the crowds at the Boboli Gardens
  • Scale Giotto’s Tower for some of the best views in town
  • Take the bus to Fiesole
  • View the sculptures at the Bargello Museum
  • Amble along the Rover Arno

I hope this guide helps you put together your own Florence bucket list. If you have found this useful and need more help with planning your vacation, check out a few of my other articles:

If it’s travel inspiration you are after, take a look at these dreamy Florence quotes or my favourite books about the Cradle of the Renaissance.

Happy travels!