I really, really enjoyed our stay in the city of Florence, Italy. It is very centrally located so that you can easily take day trips to a number of places such as Cinque Terre, Tuscany and Pisa, and other places. We took advantage of it’s location and did two day-trips during our 4-night stay. We also spent a very enjoyable day walking around Florence where we saw all of the attractions that were highest on our to-do list. We climbed to the top of the Duomo, visited the Uffizi, ate paninis while walking around, went to the Piazzale Michelangelo to take pictures of the skyline, and then walked across the Ponte Vecchio. I highly recommend Florence and could have easily spent another day wandering around this city.
Unique to Florence:
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)
- Ponte Vechhio
- Uffizi Gallery
- Galleria dell’Accademia (home of Michaelangelo’s Statue of David)
- View from Piazzale Michelangelo
- Centrally located for day trips to: Cinque Terre, Tuscany, & Pisa, and others
- Florentine Steaks
Visit the Duomo at the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – In my mind, the Duomo is the most iconic feature of Florence. It just sticks up so prominently in the Florence skyline photos. And therefore, it should be one of the main stops when visiting the city. What we did was book tickets directly through the website www.MuseumFlorence.com where we bought tickets and specified a time slot to climb to the top of the Duomo. This allowed us to skip the long line outside the church, instead we went to the side entrance on the left-hand side of the church (when viewed from the front) and we were immediately let in to start our climb. You can also book tickets to climb the bell tower from the same time slot. I highly recommend booking timed tickets in advance. When we were in Florence the line to purchase tickets was about 100 yards long at 9am. The climb is a workout and there are a number of tight spaces that are only wide enough for one person to pass so I don’t recommend it for people with physical limitations.
Visit a Museum – Florence has several museums. Below are two of the most popular.
- Uffizi Gallery – Located along the river near the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi is home to many famous paintings and sculptures with the most famous being Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Tickets should be purchased in advance through the website with a specified time slot to avoid long wait lines.
- Galleria dell’Accademia – Located north of the Duomo, the Galleria is home to the original statue of David by Michaelangelo. Tickets should be purchased in advance through the website with a specified time slot to avoid long wait lines.
Visit the Ponte Vecchio – In order to get the best pictures of the Ponte Vechhio you need to cross the Ponte Alle Grazie which is the next bridge to the Southeast. It’s also interesting to walk across the Ponte Vecchio which is nicknamed the “Bridge of Gold” for the many jewelry stores that line the street.
Admire the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo – After crossing the Ponte Alle Grazie we climbed up the stairs to the Piazzale Michaelangelo for the best views of the Florence skyline. It’s also home to a replica of the statue of David.
Walk through the Piazza della Repubblica – We wandered through this Piazza and took pictures of the carousel. There were a lot of buildings under construction at the time, so the pictures didn’t turn out that great. Tons of shops in this area.
Day Trip – There are a number of places that you can take a day trip to from Florence. We ended up doing two day trips, the first to Cinque Terre and the second one to Tuscany and Pisa.
- Cinque Terre – We booked a day trip to Cinque Terre via Viator which ended up being an okay day-trip but certainly not the best one that we went on. First, I had a bit of a mixed impression of Cinque Terre. When we visited in April it rained so we were not able to take the boat part of the tour and our pictures ended up pretty dreary (see right) and not like the pictures that you see others have taken. Second, I was not impressed with the train that connects the five cities. The trains did not run on schedule and they ended up being incredibly packed. I believe Cinque Terre would be more beautiful if visited in the summer time, but I also believe it would be even more crowded.
- Tuscany and Pisa – We booked another day trip through Viator for Tuscany and Pisa and I cannot recommend this tour enough! I really did not know what to expect on this trip but I was pleasantly surprised by the cities of Siena and San Gimignano. We also had a lovely drive through Tuscany to the vineyard where we ate lunch. And lastly, our stop in Pisa where we did the optional climb to the top of the Leaning Tower was amazing. Our tour guide was also wonderful providing lots of interesting information on the bus but giving us a our own free time in each city. She also was an expert at pointing out gypsies/pickpockets so that we were prepared. Brian and I both agree that this tour was the absolutely best 1-day tour of our entire trip and the only tour that rivaled it was our 2-day trip to Pompeii and Capri. Read about the whole tour here!
You can book these exact day trips by clicking on the logo below:
Note: We are an affiliate of this vendor, but only recommend tours that we love!
Next time I visit Florence:
- See the Statue of David (the real one)
- Climb the Bell Tower
- Visit the Boboli Gardens
Walk. The entire center city of Florence is actually off-limit to cars. But its extremely walk able and a great way to get around. There are also city buses or you can rent mopeds, but we just didn’t even bother with the logistics of that.
C-Hotels Hotel Club Florence – I really liked our hotel for it’s location. It was within 1 block of the train station which is where both of our tours through Viator met. Therefore we could get up, get ready and basically just cross the street to meet our tours. We also took the train into and out of Florence so we really, can’t beat having a hotel so close. Another great thing about this hotel is that it’s right around the block from a laundrymat, so it’s a great location to do a load of laundry if you need to do that. Our hotel room was nice, clean, and comfortable. I only have a couple of minor complaints. First, the view from our room was an interior brick wall that you can’t even call a courtyard. Second, this hotel has the most confusing stairs and room numbering system (I can’t even explain it, you have to see it for yourself). Lastly, the shower in our room was poorly designed and ran water outside into the bathroom floor. But overall, with the location benefits, I still really recommend the hotel. It also has a free continental breakfast which is an added bonus.
Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks:
Fratelli Cuore- A fast food restaurant located right near the front exit of the train station. It came in handy one night when we were exhausted and just wanted to get dinner to go, go back to our hotel room and crash. Just double check that you have silverware and salad dressing before you leave with your food.
Gelateria Dei Neri- Okay, so you’ll see gelato places everywhere in Florence and it’s probably pretty hard to go wrong with any of them. But we had Dei Neri and thought it was excellent.
I Due Fratelllini- We really wanted to try Tuscan paninis while we walked around the city of Florence. So we stopped at I Due Fratellini a stand located right along the street and purchased cheap paninis to eat while walking. I selected a salami and cream cheese option while Brian had a sandwich made from wild boar meat! Over all our sandwiches were a fun, cheap, quick lunch.
iTuscani2- One of the stops on our Florence to-do list was a place that served Florentine steaks. Brian did lots of research and made reservations for ITuscani2. The restaurant serves a huge T-bone steak that is usually shared by the table. Therefore, everyone at the table needs to like their steak cooked to the same level of “wellness”. The steak comes with a whole platter of vegetables as well. And we ordered a meat and cheese plate appetizer so we had way more food than 2 people needed. Overall, Brian loved it and said it was one of the top 5 steaks he has ever had (and he’s from Texas so he eats a lot of steak).
Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa- We stumbled across this place after a long day walking around Florence and we were desperate for a place to sit down and eat a nice meal. Luckily, it ended up being one of my favorite pasta places in all of Italy. La Grotta Guelfa is located very close to the Ponte Vecchio in one of the oldest buildings in Florence. The wait staff are incredibly friendly and we had a great table right in front. I ordered the Pasta Arriabiata and loved it. Brian ordered another Florentine steak that he was very happy with.
Tips/ Things to Know:
- We did not buy the Firenze Card because it does not come with tickets for climbing the Duomo. The instructions say that you have to go to the Duomo and then get tickets. Since we only had 1 day in Florence and wanted to be efficient, we booked timed tickets for all of the sights we wanted to see. It might be a good option for travelers who have more than 1 day.
- There’s a very handy easy to use laundrymat called the Speed Queen Lavanderia right around the block from the Hotel Club Florence. It costs right about $5 to wash a load of laundry and another few dollars to dry. The cost includes laundry soap so you don’t have to bother packing any soap in your carry on. We planned this stop as the half-way point for our trip washed the contents of 2 carry on suitcases in one load. The entire process only took about an hour of our time and it saved us quite a bit of money.
My Time Spent on in Florence, Italy:
- 4 nights in April 2017 at the C-Hotels Hotel Club Florence