Updated: Apr 28
Florence is one of my favorite cities to visit. The city has an ethereal glow an authentic old-world charm that is hard to find. Here is my guide to some of the most famous attractions and some of my personal tips.
The Florence Cathedral, formally the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is a cathedral of epic proportions. The dimensions of the building are enormous: building area 8,300 square meters (89,340 square feet), length 153 meters (502 feet), width 38 meters (125 feet), width at the crossing 90 meters (300 feet). The height of the arches in the aisles is 23 meters (75 feet). The height of the dome is 114.5 meters (375.7 feet). 1 The building should be visited more than once, and especially should be admired at night when there are fewer crowds. In the summer nights live music can often be heard echoing the area. The Baptistry of St. John next to the Cathedral also has intricate detailing that shouldn't be missed.
If you are up for a bit of a sweat, you can book a climb to the top of the Duomo or Bell Tower. I visited the top of the Duomo and it included a few tight spaces, but the views of the city were absolutely breathtaking at the top. You can also get an up-close view of Giorgio Vasari's Last Judgement Fresco and inside the cathedral along the way. I would recommend an early morning climb if you are there in the spring or summer since there is no AC in the stairways and it can get very hot.
The Piazza della Signoria is a square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Withing the square is the Palazzo Vechhio and the Loggia dei Lanzi. The Loggia dei Lanzi contains many sculptures such as my favorite Medici lions. These can be visited at all times of the day, and my recommendation is to go at night when it is less busy since there are no operating hours for visits.
Another great square visit is the Piazza della Repubblica which is the original site of the city's forum. It has a busy merry-go-round which offers fun respite for kids.
The Piazzale Michelangelo was never high on my list to visit because it was a little far off the city center. I finally made my way there my third trip to Florence and wished I had visited sooner. It is a square with a panoramic view of the city from across the Arno River. Be sure to stop at the Giardino delle Rose along the way up the climb to the square.
The Ponte Vecchio is best seen from afar. When you are actually on the bridge it is often full to the brim of commuters, hawkers, and tourists, especially around sunset/dinnertime.
Galleria dell'Accademia houses the famous statue of David and is a must-see quick stop. You can book a time to visit by calling in ahead to skip the lines.
The Uffizi Gallery is not to be missed if you appreciate Italian art. It is an immense museum and requires hours to feel as if once has scratched the surface. There are often long lines for entry, and I would recommend the Skip the Line tickets to save precious vacation time.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and Basilica of Santa Croce are made in the same pink, green, and white marble as the Duomo, and are must-sees to understand and delve into the architecture style of the time.
The Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens are highly regarded sites. However, I have unfortunately yet to visit them as I seem to have lined up my visit with the first Sunday of the month, where entry is free, but the lines can grow to 3+ hours.
Walking is the best way to get around Florence.
Taxis are another way to get around, but if you stay in the neighborhoods above they will seldom be needed. We used 4390 Taxi Florence (+39 055 4390) with no issues. At times the phone lines were busy, but you could always book in advance for important things such as flights.
Where to Stay
The Duomo area is my top pick since it is central to everything. The Piazza della Signoria area is another great option which is very central. The Santa Croce neighborhood will put you approx 15-20 mins walk away from all fo the main attractions yet still away from the tourist density. The Santa Maria Novella area has some better-priced accommodations and is also near the city center however it is near the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station which can have some seedy characters.
How Long Should I Stay in Florence
This is a hard question to answer. From my personal experience, I had visited Florence for 3 nights my first time in the spring of 2018 and was back in the spring of 2019, and again that fall of 2019. If it wasn't for the unfortunate state of affairs currently with COVID-19 around the world, I would likely be there again now. It's safe to say that this is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I am a bit biased about how long you need for a trip. If you are just trying to hit all of the spots mentioned above 4 days would be long enough with a well planned out yet restful trip.
Check out my post for where to eat in Florence!
1 Source Wikipedia