One Day in Florence: Must See Attractions

Anyone with an eye for aesthetics has to experience Florence for a day. Through this one day in Florence itinerary, sample the warm and vibrant life that Tuscany is known for.  

I spent a good two months in Italy once the country opened up for tourism after the first wave of the pandemic, back in July. And Florence, was a highlight of that trip, a city I loved very much.

Now I am not very sure about the technical terms or the history of the place, but it is built in what is called Renaissance architecture, which is quite beautiful to look at. I learned the word “Fresco” on this trip, because there were so many inside the buildings, here.

If you like history and old stuff, shopping or beautiful things in general, you will love it.

Florence in One Day: Itinerary

Check off Florence’s most representative attractions with this full-day itinerary – wake up early to have your fill of this sensual city.

9:00AM – 9:30AM: Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio Florence
Empty Ponte Vecchio – shops on this were closed due to pandemic

Begin your one day in Florence with the unusual segmental arch bridge that cuts across the Arno River: Ponte Vecchio. A combination of pedestrian crossing and shopping street, the bridge peers down the river with extended side shops. Pick up kitschy souvenirs or art to go! Interestingly, this iconic structure has no clear date of conception. 

Ponte Vecchio means “Old Bridge”. In the old days, the shops on either side of the bridge were butchers and meat vendors. The government then decided to stop the meat trade because it created a nasty smell around the whole neighborhood.

TOP TIP: The best views of the bridge are from the bridge that runs parallel to Ponte Vecchio. So if you want to get good pictures of Ponte Vecchio head to this one.

Shops Opening hours: (shops) 9AM – 1PM, 3:30PM – 7PM. Closed Sundays and Monday mornings.

To next stop: Walk 750 meters for 10 minutes

9:30 AM – 10:00AM: Breakfast

Italians usually eat at the bar their breakfast. They quickly order a shot of espresso and a cornetto to go with it whilst having a banter with the bartender.

Florence has been very kind and friendly to me. I happened to meet this very friendly guy right next to my hotel who was always attentive and talked to me in English.

You don’t have to stand at the bar but still can enjoy the same ambiance of these little bakeries. Avoid the touristy and overpriced restaurants around the main squares like Piazza della Signoria

Things to try are espresso and cornetto (croissant) with creme inside. 

If you’re like me and can’t stand the strength of espresso, go for a cappuccino, or a latte macchiato.

Make your way to the Piazza del Duomo

10:00AM – 11:00AM: Piazza del Duomo & Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

florence cathedral duomo - one day in florence
Florence Duomo

This square and the cathedral in it covers the historic center of Florence. It is usually called the Duomo

Duomo is the most known of the three most important buildings in the square. The other ones being Giotto’s Campanile and the Battistero di San Giovanni.

Though a cathedral, the design is similar to that of a Basilica with a central passageway and with aisles on either side.

The construction began in the 13th century and structurally it was finished in the 15th century. The dome itself took 16 years to complete from 1420-1436. The exterior decorations of the dome though, took another four centuries to finish.

Fun fact: The dome at the time was the largest octagonal dome that was built without a supporting beam. Its Gothic style is quite a sight. 

The white marble coating is marked up with pink and green polychrome designs, the intricate detailing reflected in its large clock face, and the fresco of the Last Judgement. 

Opening hours: 10 AM – 4:30 PM. Closed Sundays.

To next stop: Walk 74 meters for 1 minute

11:00AM – 11:30AM: Giotto’s Campanile

Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)
Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)

If you worry about fulfilling your steps count while wandering Florence for a day – don’t. There are exactly 414 steps in Giotto’s Campanile, marking it a steep but worthwhile climb. Both an art piece and a viewing platform, the structure was constructed during and after Giotto’s lifetime. Stunning with elaborate sculptures and motif panels on its light-colored exterior, it’s a twist on the typically dark Gothic façade. 

Campanile means bell tower. And Giotto was the architect in charge of building the tower. The tower is more for decorative purposes to complement the Duomo complex in Piazza del Duomo.

Though Giotto was the project head, he only worked on the Duomo for three years before his death. During that period, he did the first 2 levels, but he made mistakes.

The guy after him, his assistant, Andrea Pisano, rectified these mistakes – which involved fortifying the foundation and shifting the tower’s weight into its interior structures without which the tower wouldn’t have been able to support its weight, and reach the proposed height of 84 meters and a bit.

Unfortunately, he also died before the completion of the tower, when Florence was hit by the black death

A third architect, one Mr. Fancesco Talenti, finished its construction after the construction was halted for nearly 30 years due to the black death.

There are 414 steps to reach the top of the tower and the tower has seven bells. There is no elevator, so take that into consideration if you have health problems. 

The tower gives your panoramic views of Florence. 

There is a dress code, as you have to enter the Duomo and the baptistry – you have to cover your shoulders, knees, and chest. You may be denied entry if you don’t.

Opening hours: 8:15 AM – 6:50PM.

To next stop: Walk 600 meters for 6 minutes

11:30 AM – 1:00PM: Lunch at Mercato Centrale

Combine scrumptious eats with a quintessential Florence experience – dining at the vibrant Mercato Centrale. The model of all market stops, the eclectic food stalls display colorful rows of produce and raw goods on the ground floor; restaurant-bars and cafés are located a floor up. Feast on oven-baked pizza and authentic hand-made pasta as you watch the crowds bustle.

Mercato centrale one of two markets that comprise the San Lorenzo market. The central market is an indoor one and mainly has food stalls. The outdoor one sells leather goods and other souvenirs.

Fun fact: The guy who designed the shopping complex in Milan – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, designed the market complex too.

Have lunch here. Take a break from the museums and the churches. 

Opening hours: 8 AM – Midnight. 

To next stop: Walk 750 meters for 10 minutes

1:00PM – 2:00PM: Gallery dell’Accademia

For an eye-opening art exhibit, drop by the Gallery dell’Accademia where the collection reflects the historical events of 14th and 15th-century Florence. From sculptures to paintings, to musical instruments crafted in the Renaissance, it’s a history classroom in visual form. Most notably, it hosts the original sculpture of David alongside other Michelangelo originals.

Have you heard of the biblical characters David and Goliath? Michelangelo sculpted a version of David and Goliath in Florence, originally proposed to be installed in the roofline of the Duomo, but was installed next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of civic government in Florence. 

The sculpture was then moved to the Gallery following fears of it getting damaged by the ground on which it was placed- getting cracks due to the uneven surface below. 

This statue has been slightly unlucky because there were the anti-Medici riots who tried to destroy the sculpture, pelting it with stones at first, cracking the arm of the statue, and then there was this crazy guy who had a concealed hammer and tried to break David’s left small toe. (Why though?)

Many flock to the art gallery to get a glimpse of David the original. The one outside Palazzo Vecchio is actually a replica.

Fun fact: David has a small penis that is not circumcised – which is strange if you look at the Judaic tradition. Also it was encompassed in a wooden tomb during world war II to protect it from bombing.

Opening hours: 8:15 AM – 6:50 PM. Closed Mondays.

To next stop: Walk 1.1 kilometers for 12 minutes

2:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Palazzo Vecchio

palazzo-vecchio-one-day-itinerary-florence

Circle around this palace turned historical monument; Palazzo Vecchio is on par with the Duomo in terms of grandness. Presenting a timeline of important figures, their coat-of-arms are embellished on the exterior wall. Within are the lavishly decorated Hercules Room and the Room of Cybele. Today, this town hall and administrative building can be spotted via its striking bell tower.

While you’re in the area, scout out a gelato shop for a brief stop! No day in Florence is complete without this tasty chilled treat.

Opening hours: 9 AM – 10 PM.

To next stop: Walk 700 meters for 8 minutes

3:30 PM – 5:00 PM: Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Gardens

palazzo pitti florence itinerary italy
Palazzo Pitti

Brave the imposing 1400s Palazzo Pitti; while it doesn’t carry the fountain-filled glamor of certain piazzas, the treasure within are another story. One of the largest museum complexes in Florence, its collection of Renaissance art is world-recognized. Beside Rubens, Caravaggio, Titian and Vernose, even the famous Veiled Lady painting by Raphael faces tough competition.

Don’t run off after touring the incredible gallery because adjacent Boboli Gardens is a majestic sprawl of 45,000 square meters – and it is teeming with secreted groves, hedged walls, ponds and fountains. Within the tiered estate is the highlight of your one day in Florence; serene respite and one little hidden gem: the Porcelain Museum.  

Opening hours: 8:15AM – 6:50PM. Closed Mondays. Gardens open all year.

To next stop: Walk 1.6 kilometers for 21 minutes

5:00PM – 6:00PM: Piazzale Michelangelo

Walk fast and you might catch the sunset from the open and romantic Piazzale Michelangelo. If you struggle to see all of Florence in one day, here’s the perfect spot to glimpse everything. See how many landmarks you can find – Arno River and unique Ponte Vecchio, Duomo’s immense dome, the tight-knit and winding streets that connect it all. Florence is gorgeous at sunset as the sinking sun casts shadows of red and gold. Make sure to admire the monuments scattered around the plaza too; they’re all part of Michelangelo’s works.

Opening hours: 9:30AM – 1PM, 3PM – 7PM.

To next stop: Depends on restaurant

6:00PM – 7:30PM: Relax over dinner

dinner florence
Authentic Wild Boar Ragu Pasta

If you have a restaurant in mind to try, this is the perfect time to go! Schedule in a fancy dinner within the historical quarter or grab a bite nearby. Your schedule is as comfortable as you make it. 

Note that from Piazzale Michelangelo, you reached Uffizi Gallery in 1.5 kilometers and 20 minutes of walking. If you plan on being at the gallery around 7:30PM, consider eating dinner around that area instead.

7:30PM – 9:00PM: Uffizi Gallery Night Tour

It’s not exactly a secret but here’s a fun fact – you can sign up for night tours around the Uffizi Gallery. History and art collide at this palace-gallery, enchanting with its arched corridors and ceiling frescoes. Dedicate your attention to the prolific masterpieces showcased here, featuring pieces by Da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian. Some pieces you’ll no doubt jaw drop over include Caravaggio’s The Sacrifice of Isaac and Da Vinci’s The Baptism of Christ.

Opening hours: (typically) 9AM – 6:30PM. Closed Mondays.

To next stop: Depends on location

9:00PM – Finish: Classical Opera

Even if you’re burned out after exploring Florence for a day, don’t miss out on an Italian post-meal classic – the Opera. Whether you’re listening to the dramatic and outstanding performances in a church or lavish music hall, you’ll go to bed satisfied you haven’t missed out on any essential experiences during your one day in Florence. 

Check out showtimes and programs here

Tips for every traveler

Get the most out of your visit with these handy and general know-how’s. 

Get a Firenzecard. For €85, you can enjoy 72 hours of unfettered access to all museum exhibits in Florence with reservations included. Families with members under 18 years old can waive the entrance fee. To double up the benefits, purchase a sister Firenzecard+ as well! With an extra €7, you get 72 hours of unlimited public transport use alongside a museum guide and additional sale offers. 

Start your day early. The more hours coveted in your one day in Florence, the more sights you can cover. Pre-crowd Florence also gifts tranquility and the stunning vista of its buildings under genteel morning rays.

Store your luggage somewhere safe. Check with your accommodation on check-in and check-out times. If they don’t allow baggage storage outside of stay hours, you can find storage options at Santa Maria Novella Station.

Book your tickets in advance. Early birds get the worm and this applies to ticket sales. Whether you’re booking train tickets online pre-trip or making reservations for some exhibit, book early to guarantee your spot and save money simultaneously.

Cross the river. It is tempting to scour around major known-tourist attractions but why not wander the other side of Florence? Not only can you avoid the crowds; you witness more aspects of local living. 

Buy skip-the-line tickets. Maximize time when you’re only visiting Florence for a day. Skip-the-line tickets (often found online at cheaper rates) are the perfect solution. 

Watch out for pickpockets. Pickpockets are unfortunately common so keep your belongings close to you and strategically hidden. Opt for bags with secure zippers and buttons, tuck your wallet and important documents into interior compartments, or have your bag slung in front of your chest instead of back.

Check museum opening and closing hours. The last thing you want is to show up at a museum (or any other attraction) only to find out it is closed. Most museums open around 8:15AM but close at different hours. Note that Uffizi Gallery and The Academy Gallery rests on Mondays, whereas the National Museum Il Bargello is open every day. 

Note: All Italian museums offer free entry, no reservation necessary on the 1st Sunday of every month between October and March. I recommend avoiding this day because it is going to be super crowded. 

Try the authentic street food. The benefits are twofold! Grab food on the go to save time and sample Florence’s favored bites. 

  • Trippa – As the edible lining of a cow’s stomach, tripe doesn’t look appetizing but its chewy texture says otherwise.
  • Lambredotto – Also known as the cow’s fourth and final stomach, this delicacy is a Florence specialty. Tender like roast beef, it is slow-cooked with tomato, onion, parsley, and celery for a homey flavor.
  • Schiacciata – Tuscan’s classic flatbread, schiacciata is a delicious amalgamation of olive oil, sea salt, topped with cherry tomatoes for extra garnish. 

Visit tourist information offices. Gather all the information you need at Florence’s various tourist information offices, located at:

  • Piazza del Duomo (main office) – 1 Via Cavour
  • Via Manzoni – 16 Via Manzoni
  • Amerigo Vespucci Airport – Peretola via del Termine 1 (arrivals)
  • Piazza Stazzione – 4 Piazza Stazione
  • Borgo Santa Croce – 29 Borgo Santa Croce

You can find their opening hours and phone numbers here.

Getting to Florence

Conveniently located between Milan, Rome, and Venice, Florence can be reached via flight or by train. While only certain cities offer direct flights to Florence (including Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Dubai) you do have a choice of two airports: Pisa International Airport or Florence Airport. The further is located further out from Tuscany’s capital, but train service easily covers the distance.

Train to City

Connecting Pisa International Airport to Florence is Italy’s primary train operator, Trenitalia. Purchase tickets for the central Santa Maria Novella Station. The journey is around an hour at the price of €9.70. Check the timetable and buy tickets online at the official website.

The smaller and closer Florence Airport is connected to the city via bus service. In 30 minutes, it delivers you from the airport to Piazza Stazione downtown. Purchase a one-way ticket for €6 or €10 for a round-trip, available onboard or in the airport.

From Rome

Alternatively, pencil in Florence as one-stop in your Italy hop! You can enjoy direct flights into Rome before switching to a high-speed train. Depart from Rome Termini or Tiburtina Station for Florence Santa Maria Novella Station; it takes approximately 1.5 hours. 

Top Tip: Use the trainline app to book train tickets.

Getting Around Florence

Walk: Most attractions are within walking distance with the benefit of everyday delights – why miss out on the aroma of bakeries, the tiny boutiques? Experience what it’s like to live in Florence for one day.

Public Transport

Bus

By far the most comprehensive transport network, buses are your best bet for efficient maneuvering. Serving the city through buses and electric minibuses is ATAF, with the majority of the routes starting and terminating by the southeastern exit of Santa Maria Novella Station. Tickets can be purchased at the ATAF ticketing window inside the station, or at kiosks and tobacconists throughout town.

  • Single-journey tickets (valid for 90 minutes) – €1.50 
  • Single-journey tickets (bought on board) – €2.50
  • 10-ticket carnet/monthly travel pass – €14/€35
  • Children under 1 meter – Free

Remember to time stamp your ticket upon boarding or risk a €50 fine.

Tram

While operations are limited at the moment, more tram lines are in the works. Currently, Line T1 bridges the north and south while Line T2 connects Piazza della Unità (in front of Santa Maria Novella Station) and Florence Airport. You won’t have much reason to use the trams unless passing through residential neighborhoods. Ticket pricing runs similar to the buses – €1.50 when bought at tram stop ticketing-machines or €2.50 if bought on board. 

Taxi

Taxis are unexpectedly many but understandably expensive, especially on weekends and during key events since they’re in high demand. Journeying a few kilometers costs between €10-20 depending on whether you have accompanying luggage, if it’s a public holiday or if you’re charged a night rate. You can find taxis:

  • Near train or bus stations
  • By calling 055-42-42 or 055-43-90 (no reservations)

Moving on Two Wheels

Two wheels can add speed and fun to your travels so consider renting a bicycle. Shops such as Florence by Bike offer a variety of models alongside itinerary suggestions and guided tours. You can also patronize Florence Station Rental for Vespas and scooters. Generally, bicycles on the hire cost a few euros per day while motors cost double the price. 

Useful apps to help you navigate

Simplify your Florence adventure with these useful navigation apps or spice it up with a themed itinerary. 

  • Tuscany+ – Developed by Tuscany’s official tourism board, it’s an augmented reality app where you tap into icons of attractions around you for a live view. Categorized and color-coded into dining, sightseeing, entertainment, and accommodation points, the app allows easy differentiation between your points of interest.
  • Made in Tuscany – Applicable throughout the Tuscan region, this app helps you find Made in Tuscany™ products as well as traditionally-styled accommodation. It is an indispensable tool for discovering authentic Florence and its neighbors.
  • Inferno Florence Guide – A fan of Inferno? Theme your day with this app to explore the spaces cited in the books, complete with an audio guide for backstories and history.
  • Florence Explorer – A paid app that details everything by the cost. If you’re a budget traveler, it’ll help you figure out which attractions/eateries to avoid and which you can afford.
  • Instant Florence – Another paid app, you get your money’s worth in terms of the best things to see. Dive into categories such as ‘Florence for Free’, ‘Trips Out of Town’, and ‘Family Fun’ for both iconic and lesser-known gems.
  • Florence Street Map Offline – An essential app if you won’t have data access and don’t want to carry a physical map, Florence Street Map Offline is exactly what it sounds like. A paperless map on your phone that works using GPS tracking. 

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