My list of what to see and do when visiting Florence, Italy in a day.
In the short time that I had in Rome, I decided to make the day trip out to Florence, only 1.5 hours away by speed train. Firenze is the Italian name for the city of Florence. It is also the name of one of my favourite characters in Harry Potter.
The attractions in Florence are close together and walking distances apart. Coming from Rome where sights are further apart, I actually overshot some of the attractions a couple of times. I didn’t exactly have a game plan prior to visiting Florence, just a list of must-sees while I’m there. I left Rome at 7-ish am and reached Florence at 9 am. My train back was at 7pm.
Here’s how I spent my 9 hours in Florence, Italy.
The bulk of the museums allow you to pre-purchase tickets online, along with a timeslot. Pre-purchasing allows you to skip the line. If you’re on a short timeline like I was, I highly suggest pre-purchasing your tickets to not waste time waiting in line.
After pre-purchasing the tickets online, you will still need to exchange them for the actual tickets. Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your chosen timeslot to get this sorted out.
For my trip, I chose to visit the two more popular ones, Accademia and the Uffizi museums.
I exchanged my tickets at my first stop, the Accademia, at a ticket booth near the entrance. I was also able to get my Uffizi ticket at this same booth. Mildly cumbersome, but better this than waiting in line. I thought my Accademia timeslot, 9.45am, was rather early already, but there was a long line that formed at the entrance.
2. Accademia for Michaelangelo’s David
My first stop was at the Accademia Gallery Museum. The main star and probably the most famous statue in the Accademia would be Michaelangelo’s David. Admittedly quite impressive.
There were other works in the Accademia by the Michaelangelo and other Renaissance artists too. Since I was on a tight schedule, I roamed for a short half hour before exiting. I basically paid 16 Euros to see David. And his magnificent derriere.
Il Duomo di Firenze
The main cathedral in Florence is the Il Duomo di Firenze, otherwise known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Florence Cathedral.
The Duomo has an ornately pretty pastel exterior but don’t stop to admire it or take photos here first; you can do this later. Head straight to the line to enter the Duomo first, which will be long. Fortunately, this line moves fast. Within the cathedral, look up to admire the dome frescoed ceiling. I was out of there in less than 15 minutes.
Same church attire rules apply here; no shorts and shoulders exposed. You will be turned away of you do not meet modest dress rules.
Entrance is free.
Get High Above for a Panoramic View of Florence
The terracotta city of Florence is something to be viewed from the top.
I climbed up Giotto’s Bell Tower for this since I was already at the Florence Cathedral. There are 414 steep steps total in a narrow space. The way up is the same way as down, so expect to be doing a lot of squeezing past people. On that note, if you are claustrophobic or have a fear of heights, skip the climbing.
Alternatively, you can climb up the Brunelleschi’s Dome, also located at the cathedral. I only chose Giotto’s Bell Tower because it did not have a queue. A ticket is required to climb up both these structures, costing 10 Euros. The ticket gets you into a couple other places at the cathedral too.
At the top, you get a strikingly terracotta view of Florence.
I planned to climb up both Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Dome, but I got tired after the bell tower hike that I decided it was time for lunch.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery
The second museum I visited on the trip was the Uffizi Gallery. I spent the most time here, perhaps three hours. The tickets for this was 24 Euros, and you can also pre-purchase them. My timeslot for this was for 1.30pm, and when I arrived the line was even longer here than at the Accademia.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous museums in the world due to the concentrated amount of lavish masterpieces within, mostly from the Renaissance period. Some of the artists on showcase here include Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli, Giotto, and Michaelangelo. Boticelli’s Birth of Venus was probably one of my favourites.
For my visit, I rented the audio guide for commentary. This costed 6 Euros. The Uffizi is unsurprisingly crowded, and there will be a few tour groups in there. The audio guide was helpful to drown out the noise.
Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica di Santa Croce is a smaller cathedral than the Duomo, though no less swoon worthy. Within this church, there are notable pieces of art located within.
Perhaps more interesting, to me at least, is that this church is the burial ground for famous Florentines, such as Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei.
On the day of my visit, there was a soccer match of some sort happening at the Santa Croce square. I’m not a sports person at all, but I got caught up in the fun atmosphere easily. This seemed to be a seasonal thing, but for reference I was there in June.
Admire Leather Craft at Scuola del Cuoio
Before exiting Santa Croce, nip over the back to the School of Leather, or Scuola del Cuoio. This establishment is housed in what was once a monastery of the basilica. The school was initially set up to teach a practical skill to orphans in World War II.
I spent some time here looking through the leather stuff. The leather products were made by hand using traditional methods, so expect prices to match. There are leather trinkets such as coin pouches, bookmarks and keychains for those on a budget. After exiting, I strolled the Santa Croce area and window-shopped at the many other leather shops in the piazza.
See Florence from Piazzale Michaelangelo
I’ve been told that Piazzale Michaelangelo is supposed to be the best place for a panoramic view for Florence. Get here by sunset to witness the city bask in the most vivid reds.
For those who find climbing towers to be a daunting task, this might be a more accessible option. There are busses that go up directly to the Piazzale Michaelangelo. If you’re up for it, you can also walk up to this spot from downtown Florence.