How to Spend One Day in Florence: Itinerary & Tips for Your First Visit
Do you want to make the most of one day in Florence, Italy?
This is where I can help you. I have visited this Renaissance gem many times and have the first-hand knowledge you need to make sure that you have the best time there, especially as a first-time visitor.
Hit the ground running with this 1-day Florence itinerary, which includes tips and practical information to make your visit unforgettable.
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Start dreaming about your day in the Cradle of the Renaissance with this collection of inspirational quotes about Florence.
Tips for the Perfect Day in Florence
Before we jump into your Florence itinerary, a few tips for having the very best day in Florence.
1. Have a plan
I cannot emphasise the need to have a plan for your day in Florence too strongly. This is not a city to wing it.
Whilst this need not be set in stone, it should give you a loose framework on which to hang the day.
2. Try not to visit Florence on Sundays or Mondays
Sundays and Mondays are not the best days to visit Florence on a day trip.
Many of its main attractions are closed on Mondays (a notable exception is the Duomo). Some places have reduced opening hours on Sundays.
3. Book your tickets in advance
Most first-time visitors to Florence make a beeline for three sites: Duomo, Uffizi Galleries and the Accademia. If you don’t buy tickets in advance you run the real risk of standing in long queues or, worse still, not getting in at all.
Don’t be a hostage to fortune.
4. Get an early start
The earlier you start, the more you will be able to fit in. Florence is always going to be busy but attractions are generally less crowded at the start of the day.
5. Try to stay overnight
Although Florence is an easy day trip from Rome or Venice, if time permits, try to stay at least one night. That way, you will get to experience its streets when they have emptied of day trippers, and see the city lit up at night.
The Ponte Vecchio is particularly lovely after the sun goes down.
1-Day Florence Itinerary at a Glance
This one-day Florence itinerary is designed to give you a snapshot of the rich history of the city through its attractions in a time-efficient manner.
Florence one-day sightseeing map
If you find it helpful to map things out, here’s one that I made earlier. For an interactive map, simply click here or on the image itself.
Florence in a Day
8 am: Breakfast in an Italian bar
Italians don’t go a bundle on big breakfasts, preferring to quickly chug down a coffee with a pastry.
Coffee in Italy is served in a bar (il bar). Do as the locals do and have a cappuccino or espresso at the counter with a sweet treat.
You can sit down but this will cost you more.
READ THIS NEXT: How to Order Coffee in Italy Like a Local! (+ 18 Types of Italian Coffee)
9 am: Say “hello” to David at the Accademia
Galleria dell’Accademia, known simply as the Accademia, is home to one of the most famous sculptures in the world: Michelangelo’s David.
Crafted from gleaming white marble from the quarries in Carrara in Tuscany, this buff biblical shepherd never disappoints. Standing 17 feet high, David is a symbol of both the Renaissance and the city of Florence.
But don’t visit the Accademia just to see David.
Close by is a group of Michelangelo’s greatest artworks in Florence, known collectively as the Prisoners or Slaves. Looking like they are trying to escape from the slabs of marble, these unfinished figures still show the marks made by the artist’s chisel.
10 am: Visit Renaissance ground zero at the Duomo complex
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, which was characterised by a pursuit of knowledge stretching across painting, sculpture and architecture. The Renaissance peaked in the 16th Century with the High Renaissance, led by the big beasts of the art world: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.
The area around Florence’s Cathedral (Duomo) is ground zero of the Italian Renaissance. The Duomo complex comprises the Duomo, the Duomo Museum, Giotto’s bell tower, and the Baptistery.
The façade of the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is clad in an explosion of white, pink and green marble. However, the iconic terracotta dome is the Duomo’s architectural claim to fame. Built between 1420 and 1436, Brunelleschi’s dome seems to defy gravity.
Whilst it is free to enter the cathedral, queues can be very long and it’s safe to say that it is more impressive on the outside than inside. Unless you have a burning desire to see Vasari’s Last Judgement that decorates the inside of the dome, I recommend that you just admire the cathedral from the outside.
Piercing the sky above Piazza de Duomo, this 270-foot bell tower, designed by Giotto, was built between 1334 and 1359.
Climbing the dome or Giotto’s Tower
I recommend climbing either Brunelleschi’s dome or Giotto’s Tower for their unforgettable views of Florence.
Over the years, I have climbed both the dome and Giotto’s Tower. Although both are strenuous and claustrophobic climbs, the views that they offer make these worthwhile.
If I was forced to choose between the two, I would go for Giotto’s Bell Tower. It offers views of Florence equal to that from Brunelleschi’s dome, and includes those of the dome itself. You just have to position your camera to get a clean shot through the safety grille encircling the viewpoint.
To climb the dome and the bell tower, you need to book a ticket in advance. These tickets also include admission to the Baptistery of St. John, Santa Reparta (in the bowels of the cathedral) and the Duomo Museum.
The cheapest way to do this is via the official website here. Failing that, try booking through GetYourGuide here.
St. John’s Baptistery
The octagonal 12th Century Baptistery of St. John is famous for its bronze doors, the result of a competition that kick-started the Renaissance. A copy of Ghiberti’s famous golden “Gates of Paradise” is on the eastern side of this building (the original is in the Duomo Museum).
Inside, the Baptistery has a glittering medieval mosaic ceiling. This is covered with scenes from Genesis, the lives of Christ, St. John the Baptist and Joseph the Patriarch, and the Last Judgement.
12 am: Eat the best sandwich in Florence for lunch
After a busy start to your day in Florence, you must be feeling peckish. My lunch recommendation is the legendary All’Antico Vinaio, whose sandwiches are made with schiacciata, a local bread. Wine is also on offer.
You will find this on Via dei Neri, a two-minute walk from Piazza dell Signoria (there is another one is on Via Risacoli near the Accademia).
1 pm: Sneak a quick peek at Orsanmichele Church and Piazza della Repubblica
Time permitting, it’s worth a quick detour to Orsanmichele Church and Piazza della Repubblica.
Orsanmichele is thought to be where the Renaissance began. This former grain market became a church for Florence’s powerful guilds and merchants.
In the late 14th Century, these guilds commissioned statues to fill the church’s 14 exterior niches. Today, copies of the statues occupy these niches whilst the originals are in a small museum belonging to the church.
But Florence’s history didn’t start with the Renaissance. The city’s roots can be traced back to the 1st Century BC when it was a Roman military colony.
Piazza della Repubblica was the heart of the Roman city and is one of Florence’s historic landmarks. The Column of Abundance (Colonna della Dovizia) stands at the intersection of the two main Roman roads, the cardo and decumanus maximi.
1.30 pm: Stop by Piazza Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza della Signoria has been Florence’s political and social heart since Renaissance times.
It is dominated by the towering Palazzo Vecchio, guarded by a fake David. This was Florence’s town hall until Cosimo I de Medici (1519 – 1574) turned it into a lavish palace for his personal use. Although you have to pay to enter Cosimo’s apartments, you can visit the ground-floor courtyard for free.
To the left of the Palazzo Vecchio is another popular landmark, the monumental Fountain of Neptune. It depicts the Roman god of the sea watching over his posse of nymphs, tritons and dolphins.
On the other side of Palazzo Vecchio is Loggia dei Lanzi.
This is Florence’s free open-air sculpture gallery. It is home to some of the best statues in Florence, including Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women and Perseus by Benevenuto Cellini.
2 pm: See the best Renaissance art at the Uffizi Galleries
Even if you have only a passing interest in art, don’t miss the Uffizi Galleries if you are in Florence for a day.
This is the greatest collection of Italian art in the world. Many of the best paintings in Florence are here, including those by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael (Urbino’s favourite son) and Titian amongst many others.
I recommend spending around two hours at the Uffizi Galleries. However, if your time is limited, concentrate on these halls:
- Hall 2 (Giotto & the 13th Century)
- Hall 7 (Masaccio, Veneziano and Paolo Uccello)
- Hall 8 (Filippo Lippi)
- Halls 10-14 (Botticelli),
- Hall 15 (Leonardo)
- Hall 41 Michelangelo)
- Hall 66 (Raphael)
- Hall 83 (Titian)
- Hall 90 (Caravaggio)
BONUS TIP: A window at the end of the Uffizi’s great hallway opens out onto one of the best views of Florence. There are also fine views from its terrace café, yours for an overpriced coffee.
If you plan to include the Uffizi Galleries in your Florence itinerary, book your ticket well in advance. The cheapest way of doing this is through the Uffizi’s official website here.
If the official website shows no availability, you might have better luck buying your ticket through a 3rd party here. Although this is likely to be a more expensive option, the booking interface is clearer and it comes with free cancellation within 24 hours of your visit.
4 pm: Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
Adjacent to the Uffizi is the beautiful Ponte Vecchio, an essential Florence bucket list item and the most famous of the bridges across the River Arno. Its image has been used as a backdrop to some of the most popular films set in Italy.
The butchers’ shops that once lined the Ponte Vecchio – the river was used as a convenient waste disposal system – have been replaced by gold and silver shops.
Walk east along the river towards Ponte alle Grazie. From here there are lovely views in both directions along the Arno, and it is home to a striking modern sculpture, The Common Man by the French artist Jean Marie Clet Abraham.
5 pm: Take in the views from the Oltrarno
Your sightseeing day in Florence ends on the other side of the River Arno in the Oltrarno. This is the district that tourism largely ignored and is where you will find show-stopping views of Florence.
The three photo spots that I recommend are Piazzale Michelangelo, the Rose Garden and San Miniato al Monte. All offer wonderful views and are within a ten-minute walk of each other.
Visit one, two or all three. The choice is yours. All are free to enter.
The vista from Piazzale Michelangelo is that classic postcard view of Florence.
From Brunelleschi’s towering dome to the series of graceful bridges spanning the Arno River, many of the city’s landmarks are laid out before you. There’s also a good café with a panoramic terrace.
But this is a very touristy spot, especially around sunset, and one that is popular with coach parties.
My favourite Florence viewpoint is the Rose Garden.
You will find this peaceful refuge just below Piazzale Michelangelo. As you might guess, it is planted with fragrant rose bushes but also has a Japanese garden donated by Kyoto, Florence’s twin city.
San Minato al Monte
Five minutes uphill from the Rose Garden and Piazzale Michelangelo is San Minato al Monte. Dedicated to St. Minias who was beheaded on the banks of the Arno in 250 AD, this is the oldest church in Florence.
The sensational views from its elevated position mark the end of a perfect day in Florence. All that remains is to make your way back to Santa Maria Novella train station, or find somewhere to have an apertivo and delicious Tuscan dinner
Seeing Florence in One Day: Tips & Essential Information
Visiting Florence as a day trip
Thanks to its excellent rail connections and conveniently located train station, it’s easy to visit Florence on a day trip from Venice, Rome and other Italian cities. You can check the train times of Trenitalia here and Italo services here.
TYPICAL JOURNEY TIMES TO FLORENCE BY TRAIN
Rome to Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes
Milan to Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes
Bologna to Florence – 40 minutes
Siena to Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes
Pisa to Florence – 1 hour
READ THIS NEXT: How to Do a Day Trip from Venice to Florence by Train
How to get around Florence
The best way to get around Florence is on foot.
From Santa Maria Novella train station, it’s a ten-minute walk to the Duomo. Most of the attractions included in this 1-day Florence itinerary lie on the north bank of the River Arno, within easy walking distance of each other.
There are also fun-filled ways of getting around Florence. For instance, take a look at an eco-tour by electric cart, a guided bike tour of the historical centre and a tour by electric scooter.
There’s even an electric bike tour at night with gelato tasting. That would work for me.
Where to stay in Florence
If possible, try to stay at least one night in Florence.
As the city’s historic core covers a small area, wherever you stay is likely to be central. Simply pick a place that suits your budget.
This is one of the most expensive cities to stay in Tuscany and you may struggle to find somewhere decent that isn’t a hostel for less than £100 a night.
Here are my recommendations for where to stay in Florence:
Luxury Hotel – Casa Howard Firenze – Residenza d’Epoca
This boutique hotel located in the right part of Santa Maria Novella offers rooms with original décor and antique furnishings. It’s reportedly quiet, considering its location, and provides first-class service.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
Mid-range hotel – Hotel Globus
Located a stone’s throw from the Uffizi Galleries, Hotel Globus is an excellent choice of mid-range hotel in Florence. This small 3-star property offers air-conditioned rooms, including a single room for solo travellers.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
Budget – Guest House Bel Duomo
Run by an English-Italian family this 3-star guest house offers air-conditioned rooms in the heart of Florence’s historic centre. Upgrade to a room with a balcony for a sensational view of Brunelleschi’s dome.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY
One Day in Florence: FAQs
Is one day in Florence enough?
One day in Florence is not enough to do it justice. Visiting Florence for a day will merely allow you to scratch its surface.
This Renaissance gem has much to offer and in an ideal world, you should spend at least three days in Florence.
However, life is often far from ideal. If you are taking a road trip through Tuscany’s towns and cities, one day may be all that you have. But that one day will give you enough time to fall under the city’s spell.
Is a day trip from Rome to Florence worth it?
In the absence of more relaxed alternatives, it is worth taking a day trip to Florence from Rome. Train connections are excellent and it is a relatively cheap and easy day trip.
Just make sure that you set off early and plan your day ahead.
Final Tips for Spending One Day in Florence
And that’s (almost) a wrap.
I’ll sign off with a few final Florence tips.
Dress modestly when visiting any of Florence’s churches. Always respect worshippers, even when Mass isn’t in progress, and never ever use flash.
Loos are scarce in Florence and don’t be surprised if you are charged €1 to use a public toilet. Therefore, make good use of toilets in bars and restaurants.
Last but not least, don’t overdo it. Build breaks into your day in Florence to allow you to pause, cool down and grab a gelato or water.
Find out more about the Cradle of the Renaissance, or be inspired to book your trip, with this pick of my favourite books on Florence.