From ancient beginnings as a Roman city to nearly three centuries of rule under the Medici dynasty and beyond, Florence has flourished. It is the home of Italian Renaissance, and many believe, the birthplace of modern politics. Famous artists and artisans have roots in Florence, including Michelangelo, Leonardo DaVinci, sculptor Donatello and more recently, Salvatore Ferragamo, “shoemaker to the stars.”
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is quite literally a work of art. You’ll find stunning architecture, fabulous food, colorful people and a story of culture and history that continues to embellish itself even today.
The beauty of exploring this gorgeous city is that you can do so at your own pace. Florence is completely walkable and far easier to navigate than Rome. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a city so rich in history, art and culture, but by planning ahead and sticking to an itinerary it is possible to get to know Florence in one day.
Planning is crucial to the success of any visit and when you want to get the most out of a day in the Cradle of the Renaissance it’s important to go with a well-thought out, well-planned itinerary. Completely self-guided and easy paced, our suggested map highlights all of the must-see attractions of Florence
The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore, or more simply Il Duomo, is a significant structure. Perhaps the most iconic structure in Florence, Il Duomo is the third largest church in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Because of its sheer size and the fact that construction lasted over 140 years and involved many architects of note, there is so much to see within the cathedral itself. However, the most emblematic of all is the Dome. The climb to the top, all 463 steps, is worth it. Your payoff? You’ll take in the most stunning views of Florence and the surrounding area.
Il Duomo is a visitor attraction that draws large crowds, but the cathedral is also a place of worship. There is a dress code that must be observed. No bare shoulders, knees must be covered and hats removed.
Via dei Calzaiuoli
Between Il Duomo at one end and Piazza della Signoria at the other, Via dei Calzaiuoli is a natural next stop. This quarter-mile stretch of pedestrian-only avenue, lined with shops, was once home to some of the most noble families in Florence, as well as craftsmen, artisans, a church with lush gardens and a convent.
Today you’ll find the Via dei Calzaiuoli is home to iconic Italian shops such as Max and Co., Poggi and a branch of the high-end Italian department store, Coin. You’ll also see some gorgeous examples of architecture, and you can do a bit of people watching too.
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is a bustling public square and open air art gallery. The 14th century Loggia dei Lanzi is located in the corner of the Piazza, adjoined to the Uffizi Gallery. Wide arches open to the street and display a series of statues depicting masterpieces of antique and Renaissance art.
One of the most famous pieces of art in Florence, if not the world, is The David by Michelangelo. The actual marble statue once resided in the Piazza della Signoria but started to show signs of damage due to the shifting ground beneath where it stood. The statue was relocated and replaced by a replica in 1910.
The Uffizi Gallery
Immediately adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria is the Uffizi Gallery. Here you will find collections from many 14th century and Renaissance painters, mainly Italian but also other European masters as well. The gallery houses an invaluable collection of statues and busts from the Medici family. These sculptures include ancient Roman replicas of lost Greek sculptures.
Expert Tip: In order to beat the crowds, purchase your tickets ahead of time. Plan to go very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
This iconic old bridge is a Florentine landmark. It is the only bridge not destroyed by the German Forces in WWII. Instead, the Germans destroyed the buildings on either side to prevent access. There are shops along the span of the bridge, mostly selling jewelry, and a walkway with windows above.
The bridge was built in 1565 and connected the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. It was constructed as an efficient passageway for Duke Cosimo Medici to move between his home and grandiose “office.”
The Mercato Centrale is an enticing stop for foodies and an exciting point of interest for all others. The San Lorenzo Central Market is the place for things like fresh produce, meat, cheese and local food products. But from 10 am until midnight the Mercato Centrale is where you’ll find an array of eateries to satisfy your hunger for tasty food. There are traditional dishes as well as some things to entice the adventurous foodie in you. Lampredotto, for instance, a dish made from the fifth (and final) stomach of the cow. Do you feel daring?
Surrounding the market building are stalls selling everything from jewelry to leather goods, clothing and souvenirs. Don’t be afraid to haggle over price. This is how business is conducted in that environment.
One Day May Not Be Enough
While one day in Florence may seem too short to see and explore all that you want, it is doable. If the itinerary sounds a bit too hectic for you, plan on enjoying 2 days. No matter how brief your encounter, rest assured Florence will work her magic and charm her way into your heart for all time.