50 Things to do in Florence (New 2020)
Florence is one of the most important historical and artist cities our planet has ever seen. There are endless things to do in Florence; from the iconic Duomo to taking some trips to the medieval Tuscan hill towns.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Florence. I’ve visited the city over 8 times. I’ve used it as a base for road trips, and for work.
The history of the city is unprecedented. The talent in art and architecture that’s steemed still has an impact on the world today.
A thing I love about Florence is that one each visit I fall more in love with this central Italian city.
Florence has a lot of ground to cover. And each time I visit, I discover new attractions and new things to do in Florence.
Here is a list of some of the best sights, viewpoints, museums, and day trips from Florence. That will take you through the city’s highlights, but also to some off the beaten path locations.
50 Epic Things to do in Florence
Explore the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
(The Florence Cathedral)
Is there a more grand, or well known, cathedral in the world than the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore? Seen for miles around this Duomo without question is Florence’s most archetypal building.
Gathering inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome, work started on this wonder during the mid-1400s.
However, from start to finish the project took over 140 years to complete. And as it progressed, the Duomo underwent some major hiccups and changes.
Perhaps the biggest problem the builders faced was how to construct the Mansory dome.
And for a long time, the dome seemed doomed.
However, Filippo Brunelleschi. took up the challenge of the Florence cathedral dome, a sobering 100 plus years after the start of the cathedral’s construction.
But that’s not all. Get ready to have your mind blown with a couple of Florence Cathedral facts!
What’s even more mind-boggling is that Brunelleschi trained as a goldsmith, and had no architectural training.
But that’s not all. Get ready to have your mind blown with this Florence Cathedral facts!
Brunelleschi won this project by winning a contest by balancing an egg on a slab of marble. Thinking outside the box, he cracked the bottom on his egg, making it easy to rest on top.
To the benefit of us all, he pulled off the impossible and built the largest masonry dome the world has ever seen.
Florence Cathedral stands as an awe-inspiring reminder of Firenze’s past. And every year millions of visitors around the world enjoy his work today!
See the View From Florence Cathedral Dome
Entry to the cathedral itself is free. But a ticket is required to venture to the top of dome of Florence cathedral.
In my humble opinion, it’s practically a disservice to yourself not to give yourself the treat that is the view from the top of the Duomo. Without question one of the best things to do in Florence.
From the top, you’ll have an all-encompassing view of this Florence. Especially the striking view of Giotto’s Campanile (or Bell Tower) right in front of you.
As immerse yourself in the sights take a second to think about all the famous artists that passed through those streets. Or how in medieval times Florence was the center of trade in Europe.
Without question, the Florence Duomo’s one of the best things to do in Florence Italy.
This magnificent domed edifice serves as a prime example of Gothic, Renaissance style.
Window Shop on the Ponte Vecchio
Ah The Ponte Vecchio, another of the famed sites in Florence. The bridge dates back to the medieval times. Even the name – Ponte Vecchio meaning is “Old Bridge”.
This stony bridge’s most notable feature are the small shops bursting off the side, literally dangling over the arches just feet from the Arno river.
Since the 13th century, this bridge has been a shopping hub. Although, your shoppers out there shouldn’t get too excited. Most likely you’ll only be window shopping as every store on the bridge is hawking expensive gold, jewels, and art. Can you blame them, just imagine the rent!
So for anyone, like myself, backpacking Italy or traveling on a tight budget the Ponte Vecchio out of our price range.
Make sure to pull yourself away from the gleam of gold and the glint of expensive jewelry long enough to enjoy the view of the Arno.
The Ponte Vecchio is still a must-visit. Frankly, there’s no other bridge like it in the world.
The Ponte Vecchio opens up midway across it and gives sweeping views of the Arno River.
Pro Tips: Take a walk along the Arno, – heads toward the Corridoio Vasariano from the bridge – to get some great photos. The best time is at sunrise, sunset, or night – when the lights of the bridge reflect off the water. The nearby Bridge of Ponte Alle Trinita (Trinity Bridge) is another magnificent spot to snap pictures of the bridge, especially at night.
Ponte Vecchio Pro Tips
Getting the Best Photos: Take a walk along the Arno, – heads toward the Corridoio Vasariano from the bridge – to get some great photos. The best time is at sunrise, sunset, or night – when the lights of the bridge reflect off the water.
The nearby Bridge of Ponte Alle Trinita (Trinity Bridge) is another magnificent spot to snap pictures of the bridge, especially at night.
Admire David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
The Galleria dell’Accademia draws the biggest crowds of any museum in Florence. Why? Well, the museum home to the most famous statue on the planet. Of course, I mean Michelangelo’s David.
Located in the Galleria Dell’Accademia this 500-year-old artistic paragon worth waiting in line and the price of admission fee. Dwarfing the other works of art this statue around it this statue stands as a 17-foot high statue carved from a single block of Marble. Without a doubt, this masterpiece is Michelangelo’s most noteworthy work of art, and arguably the best thing to do in Florence.
The rest of the Galleria Dell’Accademia’s teeming with impressive works of painting, and statues. And it’s easy to get swept away for hours in the sheer amount of history contained inside its walls.
Accademia Visiting Information
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 08:15 to 18:50.
Closed on Mondays
Single ticket: 16 Euros.
You might want to reserve you tickets online, as some dates book out. However, there’s an extra charge to book online.
You can book tickets here.
Address: 60, Via Ricasoli, 58, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Learn the Secrets of Italian Pasta at a Cooking Class
Mamma Mia!, I can hear the distress in your voice. I mean, in a city with as much history, art, and charm as Florence who would want to waste time with a cooking class. Let alone put it fifth on a list of things to do in Florence.
Well, me I guess; and by the time your done reading this, I’ll wager you feel the same. A pasta-making class is such a special and unforgettable experience I’ve had in Florence.
Yes, I love the astonishing art of the Renaissance, and the splendid buildings sprinkled across the city. But a cooking class can be just as memorable.
Imagine spending an evening with a handful of other travelers, learning well-guarded secrets of Italian pasta.
During the class, you’ll discover the importance of truffles. Plus, how delicious they taste, plus, the crazy amount of money they cost. You’ll learn the secret to making a good sauce step-by-step. You’ll go through the pasta making process step by step armed with your instructors’ guidance and a never empty glass of wine.
And at the end of the night, you’ll get to feast on your bounty. Not only that, but you’ll also learn how to make gelato, which makes for the perfect nightcap to the evening.
I took my mom to the class, and out of our many visits to Florence (Which numbers over 10), this remains a highlight.
Best Florence Cooking Classes
Make Pasta With a Local Chef: The tour is run through Walks of Italy, which provides the best tours of Italy in my opinion, (And they didn’t even pay me to say that)
Check out the the Florence Cooking Tour.
Dive into the Works of the Renaissance at the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi’s the second most frequented museum and one of the more prominent things to do in Florence.
However, I still feel like the Uffizi doesn’t get a fair shake.
For the most part, travelers choose between the Renaissance art of the Uffizi or seeing Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria Dell’ Accademia. (And honestly, who’s not going to choose David). Maybe that’s the reason the Uffizi has a to-scale replica of David sitting outside their entrance.
Either way, picking between these two galleries is an enormous mistake. Do both!
The Uffizi’s an inviting introduction to Renaissance art. Uffizi’s crown jewel goes to the pristine “Birth of Venus”. This artistic masterpiece is considered Botticelli finest work.
The Uffizi’s priceless collection of 16th and 17th-century art spans across dozens of rooms and showcases hundreds of works of art. The museum is a detailed glimpse into one of the most important moments in European history.
Rooms throughout the museum showcase world-famous artists, and art styles of the Renaissance, like the rooms dedicated to Michelangelo and Raphael.
Pro Tip: One pro tip applying to the Uffizi. Get there early! When everyone’s lining up at the dawn to see David, this gives you the prime opportunity head to the Uffizi without the crowds. And there’s a good chance you’ll have the incredible painting, like the “Birth of Venus”, all to yourself.“
Take in the Birds eye View from the Top of Giotto’s Campanile
Giotto’s Campanile (referred to as the Bell Tower) stands at a staggering 278 feet (84 meters) beside Florence’s Duomo. The bell tower was designed by Giotto, a distinguished and renowned artist. Giotto’s fame stretches far beyond Florence, as he was one of Italy’s foremost painters.
The tower is like Brunelleschi’s dome, in-the-fact that it gives you a panoramic view of the entire downtown.
Although, The Duomo domes are slightly higher than the bell tower. But Giotto’s Campanile offers something that the Duomo can’t. A bird’s eye view of Florence’s Cathedral. The only downside… you have to clamber up the 414 steps to the top.
Giotto Campanile the most ornate example of Gothic Architecture in Florence. And even if you choose not to go to the top, it’s worth taking a moment standing at the base and taking in it in.
The ticket for Giotto Campanile also works for the Opera Duomo Museum, which we will talk about later.
Soak in the Fiery Sunset From the Top of Piazzale Michelangelo
As the last embers of the sun fade below the skyline, it reflects off the thousands of red-tiled roofs across Florence; bathing the city in a fiery hue.
Piazzale Michelangelo, a tall hill overlooking the city, and in my option, one of the best sunset spots in Italy..
At the top up this hill, there’s a panoramic view of the city, taking in the city’s most iconic buildings. With Tuscany’s verdant, roller coaster hill off in the distance,
On every visit to Florence, I snatch a bottle of vino, a loaf of bread and some cheese, and head to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo.
No visit to Florence is complete without one sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo. In recent years, the spot’s only gained popularity.
Nowadays, expect medium-sized crowds, locals hawking art, and other mementos But there’s still a good deal of space to stretch out and those looking for the best sunset spot in Florence won’t be disappointed with Piazzale Michelangelo.
Pro tip: Head up early to explore the lush rose and iris gardens on top. (more on those gardens later).
Get up Close to Renaissance Statues in the Piazza Della Signoria
In many respects, Piazza Della Signoria is the pulse of Florence. This large, L-shaped square’s acts as a tourist epicenter; but also moonlights as an open-air gallery.
On the corner there’s a plateau – Loggia dei Lanzi – teeming with statues of refined renaissance art. This open-air sculpture gallery is free to enter and lets you get up close to these antique sculptures.
Famous statues in the Piazza include Donatello’s -Hercules and Cacus. And the famous fountain of Neptune – lying smack dab in the middle of the Piazza. Neptune’s fountain dates back 500 years, and was built to celebrate the opening of an new aqueduct. The statue showcases the sea god on a chariot being drawn by 4 horses.
Palazzo Vecchio looms over the square, dwarfing everything in comparison. The Palazzo has public and private rooms that are luxuriously decorated and open for public view. Here you’ll see a copy David by Michelangelo on display – just around the corner from the Uzzifi.
Tourist cafes and restaurants are sprinkled around the plaza, making it a good place for a break, if you don’t mind being incircled by other tourist. Overall, the Piazza Della Signoria puts you on the doorstep on some of the best things to do in Florence like the Hall of Academica, The Uffizi Gallery.
Wander Through Three Different Historical Era’s inside the Palazzo Vecchio
When exploring the Piazza Della Signoria don’t miss the chance to go into the Palazzo Vecchio.
A visit to this “Old Palace” is to step back into three different eras of history. What other sites in Florence triples as roman ruins, a Renaissance gallery, and a medieval fortress? Now, that’s one impressive historical resume!
The Palazzo Vecchio stands as an emblem of the city. A symbol of civil power. The building as we know it today dates back to the end of the 13th century. And built on top of an old Roman theatre. This hoary ruin dates back 2,000 years to the colony of Florentia.
There are a couple contributions to the Palazzo Vecchio from the Renaissance that shouldn’t be missed. Namely the two massive murals on either side of the walls of the main hall. These were painted by none other than Da Vinci and Michelangelo. They painted the Battle of Anghiari and Battle of Cascina respectively; although, neither master finished the works.
Appreciate the Overlooked View from the Top of the Palazzo Vecchio
While we are talking about Palazzo Vecchio, let’s talk about the view from the “Old Palace”.
Most of Florence’s iconic views take in Palazzo Vecchio, however, there’s only one that flips the script and lets you see them and see the view from a tall tower in the Palazzo.
After a modest climb of only 416 steps, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the entire city, and surrounding valley.
It’s one of the best perspectives of the city. And all-to-often an overlooked viewpoint.
Eat Your Weight Of Pistachio Gelato…well Any Flavor
What’s more Italian than Gelato? Well, pistachio gelato! Since Italy grows the world’s best pistachio’s? (there’s your fun fact about Italy for the day.)
Of course any visit to Florence requires you to sample dozens of unique gelato flavors during your time in Italy. But Pistachio should be at the top of that list. And done right it’s the perfect blend of salty, and sweet. It has a powerful, rich, and flavorful finish.
Wait, before you sprint out of your hotel, and into the nearest Gelato shop, let me give you two pro tips to distinguish authentic gelato from the over-produced touristy junk.
I could write a whole blog post on finding the perfect Gelato. But for this post of best things to do in Florence we will keep it simple. Oh, man, I love Gelato
How to Tell Good Gelato from Bad Gelato
The height is the easiest way to tell a good Gelato from a bad one.
Bad Gelato: If you see a heaping mound of Gelato, resembling a mountain jutting up from the container….Stay away!
This happens from them over whipping it to produce more and filling the Gelato with air.
Good Gelato: Is level with the metal container.
Another easy way to distinguish between the real and fake color.
If the Gelato’s bright and vibrant, like they plucked it from a rainbow. Then it’s not good. This is a result of them using dyes and flavoring to make it.
This doubles for certain flavors like Pistachio and Mint.
Pistachio Gelato should be brown! Not green.
Mint should be white! Not Green.
Experience Museum Madness inside the Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace)
Without a doubt, the Palazzo Pitti is one of the best things to do in Florence -and at the same time, one of the least visited of Florence’s important landmarks. Maybe because it’s in a more local area of the city?
Palazzo Pitti’s on the southern banks of the Arno – just a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio.
The palace stands as a monument to 14th-century renaissance architecture in Florence. Palazzo Pitti’s massive in size and scope. It’s one of the largest monuments in the entire city. The original palazzo was built by Filippo Brunelleschi (who constructed the Duomo Dome).
Today the palace houses a few different museums such as the Costume Gallery, Porcelain Museum, Carriage Museum, and the Palatine Gallery.
However, I would argue that the palace’s biggest draw are the ever verdant Boboli gardens (more on them later), and the palaces fresco’s, artworks, silver museum, and interior designs.
This grand palace was home to some of the most famous families in Florence, such as the Medics, and the Grand Duke.
Wander Boboli Gardens, Florence’s Greatest Open Air Musuem
Part of Palazzo Pitti, these massive gardens (that cover over 45,000 square meters) are worth their own entry on this list of things to do in Florence. And a perfect escape to get some fresh air.
Don’t let the lush sea of grass, and plethora of flora and fauna fool you. Boboli Gardens are much more than gardens. They are a site that holds a lot of historical importance in the city. These gardens acts as Florence’s greatest open-air museum, holding old statues, monuments, an Egyptian Obelisk, and even an Amphitheatre.
Perhaps the most famous site in the garden, sitting above the amphitheater, is Neptune Fountain. Or maybe the series and slopping avenues, terraces, and tree-covered tunnels known as the Viottolone. Travelers could easily spend hours and hours wandering around Boboli, and not see everything these gardens have to offer.
Share a table Inside the World Famous Trattoria Mario
Trattoria Mario’s Florence, the most famous trattoria in the city. And it’s reputation reaches far beyond the realm of TripAdvisor reviews. This trattoria’s frequented by locals as much as by visitors.
Due to the buzz, getting a table’s sometimes tricky. (espically, during peak travel season). Your best bet is arriving at the start of lunch.
Tables are shared in this restaurant – so its a good chance to talk to other travelers – or if you’re lucky a Florentia.
The restaurant has been a part of Florence’s history since 1953. But the remarkable interior, like the oak ceiling and coffer dates back over 400 years, to the renaissance. Trattoria Mario serves a wide variety of hot dishes. There’s passion, love, and care in every bite. A couple of favorite dishes are the trippa alla fiorentina, and pork loin. The Trattoria also serves a variety of soups.
Quick Facts About Trattoria
What is a Trattoria? A Trattoria’s a small, usually inexpensive, Italian restaurant that specializes in serving simple food.
Trattoria Pronunciation: trat·to·ri·a /ˌträdəˈrēə/
Taste Your Way Around Mercato Centrale
Let me come clean. I’m borderline obsessed with Mercato Centrale. And since we are discussing food, I can’t pass up this opportunity to talk about it.
Mercato Centrale’s the oldest and largest food market in the city. They fill the ground floor with fresh vegetables, butchers, and wine shops. It’s buzzing with the sounds of locals shopping, and the smells of freshly cut flowers. Here you can stock up on fresh cheese and cured meats before as some snacks before heading out into the city.
However, the real draw is the 2nd floor. Here are dozens of tiny restaurants all serving a variety of foods from pizza to dim sum. Watch all a freshly made cannoli is filled right before you’re eyes! (insert me drolling here),
Mercato Centrale’s a good place to try some of Florences traditional dishes. hand’s down it’s one the best areas to eat in Florence! The downside is that shortly after it opens its packed elbow-to-elbow. Get there early and grab a seat!
Outside the market are dozens of vendors and hawkers selling all the typical souvenirs. The Mercato Centrale a sumptuous place to sample a taste of all the food that Florence offers. The Mercato Centrale within walking distance from the main train station, and a great place to experience an Italian market
Visiting this indoor market is an essential part of every visit to Florence. I may be biased though.
Come Face to Face With Florence’s Most Famous Family the at Medici Chapel
Within walking distance from the Duomo sits the Basilica di San Lorenzo. This basilica dates back to 393 when it was consecrated by Saint Ambrose of Milan.
And while the Basilica di San Lorenzo has many reasons to visit, its biggest claim to fame is that it is the final resting place for the most famous family in Florence… You guessed it, the Medici.
San Lorenzo was the “official” church of the Medici family and became their mausoleum during the renaissance. The new sacristy was worked on by Michelangelo. Inside the church there many colorful fresco’s and works of art. The exquisite art gracing the dome is one of the church’s biggest draws.
Experience the Wonder of Tuscany on a Tour
By this point, I think we can all agree that Florence is an unbelievable city.
A city full of pristine paintings, red-tinted medieval buildings, and large collections of the world’s greatest statues.
However, your entire visit to the region shouldn’t be spent in Florence.
After all, some of the best parts of Tuscany are right on your doorstep!
You won’t want to miss the lush, rolling hills. The hilltop vineyards, hundreds of Cypress trees giving way to the horizon.
Let’s not forget that Tuscany is famous for its quaint medieval hill towns, food (boar in particular), cheese, and, it-goes-without-saying, wine. A smart way to see the best parts of Tuscany in single a day from Florence is by treating yourself to a tour.
Of course, you can hop between the villages yourself, but that means a lot of planning, waiting on buses, and navigating time tables. I suggest a tour because it just lets you sit back and enjoy it. Take in the roller coaster landscape. Plus, they’ll take you to all the best spots.
I recommend this tour by Walks of Italy – The only tour company – I recommend in Italy. They focus on small groups (18 people max). The tours take you two historic towns, UNESCO stamped sites, vineyards, and wineries (a wine tasting is included in the tour). As an added bonus you even get to watch a live pasta-making demonstration.
Sure tours cost more than doing it yourself. But it replaces stress with relaxation and lets you focus on just enjoying Tuscany.
When it comes to a Tuscany Tour, the extra money is worth it.
Best Tour of Tuscany
Without question this is my favorite tour from Florence to Tuscany.
Here are a few highlight!
- Historic Tuscan Town of San Gimignano
- Chianti farmhouse & vineyard
Pay Respect To Florence’s Most Iconic Figures at Santa Croce
Surprisingly, Santa Croce doesn’t draw huge crowds most of the time. Possibly because it’s a little bit off the traditional tourist trail.
However, history lovers will want to head to the basilica; as it’s the final resting place for some of the biggest names in Florence’s history. Here lies the burial ground of famed artist Italians such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Rossini.
Even Galileo (who was not allowed a Christian burial until 95 years after he was put to death by the church) was moved to the Basilica grounds. Santa Croce’s interior is stately and features dozens of reliefs and monuments to famous artists and authors like Dante.
Some of the reliefs here are done by Donatello, and frescos made by Gaddi and Giotto.
The basilica, itself, dates back to 1297. Santa Croce has a crypt and 16 chapels to explore.
Santa Croce isn’t completely devoid of tourism and draws a small crowd during peak season. However it’s nothing like some of the other things to do in Florence.
Wander Through 700 Years of Art History inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
If you elect to head to the top of Giotto Campanile then entry to the Opera Duomo Museum’s already included in your ticket. The museum’s worth a couple hours of your time. And an ideal place to dive deeper into the history of the Duomo and the surrounding sites.
Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo (Opera Duomo Museum) spans three floors, and covers 25 rooms. The museum covers over 700 years of history and features more than 750 pieces of art – many of which were once displayed in the Duomo. Noteworthy works of art are the Gates of Paradise and Michelangelo’s Pieta.
Opera Duomo Museum holds the largest collections of Florentine monumental sculptures in the world. Many of which date back to the medieval and renaissance eras.
Within two hours you can see most of the museum. However, art lovers that will want to take their time could easily spend half a day here wandering through the museum corridors. Over 25 rooms of art spanning three levels.
Your visit to the Museo dell’ Opera will end on an open terrace, treating you to a sweeping, grand view of Brunelleschi’s Dome.
See Da Vinci Notebooks Brought to Life At the Da Vinci Museum
The Da Vinci Museum brings the work, designs, and inventions of “the master” to life. The museum has huge replicas of inventions found in Da Vinci’s notebooks. You can see the life-size versions of Da Vinci’s vision of tanks, helicopters, and gliders – that were hundreds of years before their time. There are five sections to the museum. It covers his mechanisms, as well as the four ancient elements of earth, water, air, and fire. The museum also has a documentary about Da Vinci’s life on a loop.
The Da Vinci Museum a great way to see his works, and get a small window into his unparalleled way of looking at the world. It’s also a great educational resources. The museums rather small and only takes around an hour to go through. And while it’s not the greatest thing to do in Florence, it’s still worth checking out.
Beat the Crowds to The Baptistery of Saint John (Battistero)
The Battistero’s, another site that’s included in the Giotto Campanile and the Opera Duomo Museum ticket. Giving you no excuse not to visit. The baptistery’s small, and during peak times gets crowded quickly. Visiting first thing in the mornings a good plan to avoid the crowds.
You wouldn’t know it by its outside facade, but this baptistry is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Experts have dated this building back to the fifth century. That’s a thousand years before the Renaissance!
Historians are 100% sure of the building’s original purpose. However, many believe that this building was once used as a temple to Mars. ( the God of War for the Romans.)
Today every inch of the battistero covered in majestic works of art. Including a replica of the Gates of Paradise. Pay special attention to the ceiling’s, which is covered in elaborately detailed frescoes.
The Baptistry worth visiting! And will only take an hour or two out of your time in Florence.
Visit – the Often Overlooked –
Church of Santa Maria Novella
Arriving in Florence by train? Then the Church of Santa Maria Novella will be the first site you see; it is sitting right outside the railway. Santa Maria Novella isn’t high on most people list of things to do in Florence. However, that’s a rookie mistake.
The front facade has a similar design to the Duomo, made with pale marble, and colorful lines. The architecture was designed by Fra Jacopo Talenti, and Leon Battista Alberti. The building has a unique style. And more importanly it’s one of the most important renaissance style buildings in Tuscany.
The interior’s just as grand as the outside. Containing a handful of chapels, contributed by various wealthy Florentine families during the renaissance. It’s said the layout was the work of Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo Dome.
The church holds many works of art like Masaccio’s Trinity, and Giotto’s Crucifix. Don’t overlook this wonderful church when planning things to do in Florence.
Getting a Extra Dose of Luck from the Legendary Porcellino
Porcellino’s made quiet the name for himself in Florence. The golden statue of the boar draws a crowd of tourists every day. Porcellino resides in the shadows under the arches of Mercato Nuovo, nearby Ponte Vecchio.
This strange statue might not seem worth the visit at first. But, the legend of Porcellino, spins a tale that might interest you. Local myth says that those who rub his nose ensure good luck for themselves. Because it’s wildly believed he grants you luck, the snouts turned a goldish color from sheer amount of people rubbing it. Who knows if the legend is true? But hey, when on holiday every extra bit of luck helps! Am I right?
Giving Porcellino’s shiny bright snout a rubs, also participating in a local Florentine legend – which is always fun.
Shop for Leather at Goods in Scuola del Cuoio
Italian leather id renowned world round. Known for its high-quality designs that are hand tooled, and expertly crafted.
I’ve never seen more leather shops and hawkers than in Florence. Leather is everywhere! For those looking to extend their collection of cowhide head to Scuola del Cuoio.
In Scuola del Cuoio, fantastic leather products. Here you can see how the products are made. And shopping areas nearby that offer a range from belts, purses, and bags. Whatever you are looking for in leather you can find it here?
In my experience Florence’s leather markets are a bit pricey, but the quality of the leather and Italian craftsmanship is worth the price tag. Well worth it, if you’re into leather goods.
Enjoy the View from The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte
By this point, you’ve probably realized that most of the things to do in Florence revolve around three things – art, architecture, and churches. So you shouldn’t feel a shock when I say that our next entry’s The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte. Because it has similar designs to Santa Maria Novella, you might feel a slight temptation to skip this Abbey.
I would encourage you not too.
This 700 plus year-old church has something special that sets it apart. From the abbey, you get a panoramic view of the Florence skyline. Including unobstructed view of the Duomo, and Palazzo Vecchio.
It’s one the best – and least known – viewpoints of Florence. From the Abbey entryway you’re even higher than Piazzale Michelangelo.
Venture inside to discover that the church is covered with pale marble, covered in verdant geometric lines, and frescos. Santa Miniato surprised me with its beauty.
One reason many people skip San Miniato is because of its location. The Abbey sits outside the city walls, and takes a little more work to get to. However, if not far enough that it can’t be reached by a 30 minute walking for downtown Florence. It can also be reached by bike or bus.
Get out of Downtown and Discover Tuscany Town of Fiesole
Looking for a thing to do in Florence that involves getting away from the bustling tourist crowds? Fiesole’s the place for you.
The village is easily reached by car or bus and is only 10 km outside of the city. If you want to walk off some of that gelato, or just want a day in nature you can walk, run, or bike to the village within a couple of hours.
One highlight is that Fiesole boasts unparalleled views of Florence.
But there’s a wealth of things to do. You can explore the Etruscan and Roman ruins, old monasteries, or find a great place to relax and overindulge in food and wine.
The village, itself, holds an old-world charm, and a quiet atmosphere. Fiesole might just be your highlight of visiting Florence.
Fiesole was once, one of Florence’s rivals is now one of its greatest escapes. And Fiesole marks one of the best day trips from Florence.
Bike Around the Wineries in Chianti
Since we are already talking about the area surrounding Florence it’s the perfect time to mention Chianti. Chianti’s a great trip for those who don’t want to venture out of the city for an entire day. You can easily spend a few hours explore Chianti and then head back to Florence.
Chianti lies just 35km (20 miles) from Florence. It’s a fascinating and significant winemaking region. Chianti’s bursting with olive groves, vineyards, and orchards. The area’s famed for its fiasco wines. Fiasco’s an Italian wine in a plump bottle and covered by a straw skirt, that resembles a hula dancer attire.
The region namely known for its production of red wines that have to be made from at least 80% Sangiovese grapes. For you white-wine-drinkers out there, the region also has a noteworthy selection of whites such as Riserva, Galestro, and Vernaccia Di San Gimignano (A popular dessert wine in Italy).
Want to stretch your legs. Well, Chianti has places to rent bikes. Make your own way on an adventure biking between the different wineries.
Meander of the Tourist Trial and Into Un-Touristy Oltrarno
Seeking to saunter away from the regular Florence Itinerary? Or maybe just get a glimpse into how modern-day Florentines live? If you answered yes to either question, then you will want to head to Oltrarno – across the Arno.
In fact, whenever you hear a Florentines says Diladdarno (Oltrarno) what they are to refer is the other side of the Arno; the side opposite the Duomo.
Once you walk a few streets away from the central area, you’ll find that the tourist shops thin out. Soon they are replaced entirely by local houses and tree-shaded acres. The best areas are the Santo Spirito and San Frediano. Note that the Santo Spirito sees a little tourism these days, but not too much, and mainly at evening.
The Oltrarno’s known for it is quaint houses, hole in the wall bars and cafes, churches, and workshops.
You’ll find works of arts like the Cappella Brancacci – an incredible renaissance fresco. There’s also Palazzo Pitti, and the Boboli Gardens (which we talked about earlier). Forte Belvedere, San Miniato al Monte – just to name a few.
Staying in Oltrarno
Looking for where to stay in Florence? Well, staying a few streets into this area is a nice, quiet, and a cheaper option in Florence.
There are some great Airbnb’s in Oltrarno (And they are even cheaper once you get this Airbnb coupon code)
Taste Local Favorites at the Piazza Santo Spirito
Since we are talking about Oltrarno, one square you need to visit in Piazza Santo Spirito. Piazza Santo Spirito dates back to the 1200s. The are sharped edged octagonal fountain is the primary landmark. This fountain is made from soft sandstone and marble decoration.
To be honest, this fountain won’t blow your mind. Compared to some other squares in Florence, Piazza Santo Spirito seem impressive. However, it holds a time-worn, rustic charm that I find infectious. And we are not visiting it for its looks; but rather for the atmosphere and food.
The seemingly charming square’s flanked by small, locally-owned restaurants, During the day vendors set up tents in the square, selling leather goods, clothes, and handmade trinkets to locals. The square really lights up at night, when dozens of more food vendors show up, featuring local produce, snacks, and tapas. (You’ll see some tourist here, but it mostly frequented by locals).
Piazza Santo Spirito gets you out of the hustle and bustle of the touristy square in Florence and gives you a small glimpse into local life in Florence. ( For the best view of the square head to the balcony of Hotel Palazzo Guadagni)
One site you can miss is Basilica di Santo Spirito. Literally you can’t miss it – the massive basilica looms of the square. This church is another designed by famed architect Filippo Brunelleschi. The origins of the church date back to the mid-15th century. Originally, Brunelleschi wanted the church to face towards the Arno. However, the locals refused to sell the land.
This church contains Andrea Orcagna’s -Cenacolo “Last Supper”. Sadly, this masterpiece is mostly in tatters, and only pieces of the artwork remain
Eat The Best Gnocchi in Florence at Osteria Santo Spirito
The local osterias around Santo Spirito offers some great aperitivos and happy hour prices. And while there are tourists here, it isn’t overloaded with them.
It’s a popular spot for neighborhood locals.
Its also home my favorite dish in Florence. So save room when wandering the Piazza Santo Spirito Market because you’re about to get a treat. Head to the southwest corner of the market square and into Osteria Santo Spirito. And order the 4 gnocchi di Formaggio ( 4 Cheese Gnocchi)… then promptly giggle with glee. The dish runs a bit rich for Gnocchi, but it is mouth-watering good. I eat it every time I am in Florence. This is one thing to do in Florence that shouldn’t be skipped.
Osteria Pro Tips
Osteria Meaning: An Italian restaurant (usually inexpensive).
Osteria Pronunciation: ow·steh·ree·uh
Admire the Medieval Architecture of Siena
Sorry, I must implore you to leave the charming embrace of Florence for a day, and head to nearby Siena. (Or Sienna if you’re from the west).
And if you opt-out of the tour I recommended above; well, you should still plan a trip to Siena.
The biggest attraction in the city, is the city itself. Built on a strategic hill this stony city resembles a fortress. Inside the city you’ll find undulating cobblestone streets, rough and ready medieval homes, gothic churches, and breathtaking views of the Tuscan landscape.
The heart of the city lies in the Piazza del Campo. City Halls around the world have modeled themselves after the Piazza del Campo. (You might notice similarities spending 2 or 3 days in Copenhagen.)
For hundreds of years the history between Florence and Siena was turbulent – to say the least. The two cities had a rooted rivalry and even warred against each other.
We know today Sienna as one of the most well preserved medieval cities in Europe. And to put it bluntly; there’s no other place like the medieval walled city of Siena. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Circling back to the Piazza del Campo. Another of the city’s claims to fame is the Palio di Siena. The historic horse race that takes over the entire city every July. One fun fact about Italy, is that in this race more emphasis is put on the horse than the rider. Whatever horse win is the hero of the day. Not the person that rode them.
Take A Break From Museums in the Verdant Giardino Bardini (Bardini Gardens)
We all know that Florence is famous for its world-renowned painting, architecture, and statues. Meaning, most travelers often overlook the green spaces dotted throughout the city.
But Giardino Bardini’s a no-brainer for nature lovers looking for things to do in Florence. As well as a haven for those seeking a break from paintings, statues, long lines, and museum corridors.
Most travelers are unaware of these remote gardens. But those who take the time will discover four hectares of calm and peaceful paths.
There’s a terrace overlooking the Arno, Baroque style stairwells, all-encompassing views of Florence, colorful flowered covered archways.
There’s a lot of natural beauty to be found in Florence for those who seek it out. The garden does cost (six euros), but for those seeking natural beauty without leaving the city will not be disappointed.
See over 350 Rose Variations at the Giardino delle rose (Rose Gardens)
There are two more gardens worth talking about in Florence. the first is the Giardino delle rose; better know – to us with a minuscule grasp on Italian – as the Rose Gardens.
This lush area sits to the left of the Piazzale Michelangelo (the sunset hill). Being that the gardens are located on one of the city’s best vantage points, you can expect magnificent panoramas of Florence.
Inside the garden are over 350 different kinds of roses planted in this garden. Including a rare Japanese Shorai Oasis. The best time to visit the garden is around May and June when the roses are at their prettiest. However, the Giardino delle rose worthwhile to visit year-round.
The gardens are free to enter (and since you’ll already be on top of Pizaalae Michelangelo for the sunset) why not head up early and check them out.
Explore the Emblematic Giardino dell’Iris (The Iris Garden)
The Iris Gardens (often referred to as Giglio or Giardino dell’Iris) acts as an emblem of the city.
The Iris is the symbol of Florence. It’s the red plant featured on the Florentine flag and various other things. And once you take note of the design, you can’t help but notice it all over the place.
The Iris Gardens have over 200 species of Florence’s iconic flower. Peppered through the garden are different plants and olive trees. You also get some vast views of lush landscapes
Spring’s the best time to visit the gardens. May in particular, because the flowers are blooming.
Like the rose garden, Giardino dell’Iris also on top Piazzale Michelangelo. Just to the right of the sunset spot, and near the San Niccolo Tower.
Shop at Il Mercato delle Cascine: Florence’s Largest Open-Air Market
Il Mercato delle Cascine has everything you could imagine from food to to tiny trinkets.
Not only is it the largest outdoor market in Florence, it’s also the cheapest.
If I’m staying in an apartment or airbnb in Florence, a place I can cook meals, I often use an uber promo code to get to this market cheap and shop for cheap. Well, that’s was before Italy banned Uber.
Il Mercato delle Cascine great for stocking up on local produce, meats, and cheese. Plus, you get to interact with locals, who don exuberant smiles.
But honestly you can find everything from lettuce to bed lines, from olives to shoes. Those looking for an atypical souvenir can look through all the different trinkets, and gadgets scattered around the market. The world is your oyster, at least in this market.
It’s a fun little market, taking place every Tuesday morning. The market sits along the riverside by Cascine Park.
Experience An Authentic Evening of Food and Wine in Florence
Another tour I can’t recommend enough is the authentic meal and wine evening in Florence. This tour is provided by Walks of Italy – surprise, surprise.
With this tour you’re magically turned into a local for an evening. You see, the local side of the city, eat the local specialties, and wander the local neighborhoods; with a local tour guide. Does it get better than that?
The tour starts off with a bang, as you sample various types of meat, truffles, and cheese. Paired with Tuscan wine, of course. Next you move onto the bruschetta (and more wine). Soon you’ll find yourself making your way through the off the beaten path neighborhoods. Along the way, you try local starters and learn about Florence’s different kinds of vinegar, olive oils, and more.
Enjoy the pit stop in Piazza Santo Spirito for an aperitivo, and happy hour.
However, The highlight of the evening is a hearty meal at the end. Of course, it wouldn’t be a meal in Italy without a digestif, and gelato to finish the experience.
I think this is a great tour for one of your first nights in Florence.
This way you learn about the local foods of Tuscany, and can ask about other local foods and restaurants to try.
Best Tour of Tuscany
Venture off The Tourist Trial to the Medici Villas
Another off-the-beaten-path thing to do in Florence is visiting the Medici Villa.
Built on a tall terrace, just outside of Florence, in the small town of Castello. This became the home of the Medici family in the 16th Century. The rooms are exquisitely designed, with colorful paintings and illustrations.
The ballrooms are perhaps the most ornate room. Of course, the bright red, white, and gold dining room is a close contender. The park and gardens surrounding the city are lush, and also worth spending some time in them. The network of builds include hunting lodges, farms, and more.
Some of the sites are so spectacular that 12 of the villas were UNESCO stamped in 2013.
This villa is just waiting to be discovered, but as of now, remains off most travelers radars. And get this, some Medici Villas are 100% free to enter!
Travel to the Idyllic Tuscan Hill Town of Cortona
Another trip that will take you around an hour and a half to reach from outside Florence is Cortona. Cortona’s known as a compact town bursting with charm. Cortona’s an idyllic Tuscan hill town sitting at over 600 feet high on a hill.
As you can imagine, being so high up, Cortona lends itself to expansive views over the region. To this day the city remains enclosed in medieval walls dating back to Roman and Etruscan times.
Cortona has a few must-see attractions. The Diocesan Museum, Girifalco Fortress, and Santa Margherita Sanctuary are at the top of the list. But wandering through the medieval streets, and panoramic views are reasons enough to visit this city.
Cortona town lies in the Valdichiana (or Chiana Valley). Near Arezzo, and in the southern part of Tuscany. The journey from Florence to Cortona takes around an hour and a half from Florence to reach by car, train, or bus.
See Early Works by Donatello inside the National Museum of Bargello
National Museum of Bargello Are you tired of hearing about Museums in Florence? Trust me, I’m running out of the descriptive words for them.
Well, we have one more – at least – that we have to mention. The history of the National Museum of Bargello starts before walking through the door. The museum is set inside the Palazzo del Bargello – one of the oldest buildings in Florence. At one time the Palazzo del Bargello acted as a well-protected fortress with an austere facade, and embattlements. The building even has a tumultuous past as a jail.
Infamous past behind it, the building was turned into a museum in the 19th century.
Today the museum houses many sculptures, ducal collections, and gothic arts.
The Palazzo del Bargello’s most see-worthy attractions are the artistic works of Donatello. Such as an early marble David, a bronze David, and the Marzocco.
Other famed artists featured in this museum include Michelangelo, Cellini, Verrocchio, and Luca Della Robbia – just to name a few.
Digging into its past, the Palazzo del Bargello has a collection of goldwork, ivory, and weapons from the medieval era.
The stunning art, detailed collections, elegant courtyard, and venerable architecture make this a superb choice for those looking for historic things to do in Florence.
Devour Slices of Gusta Pizza
Ok, so we all know that if you want to eat the original “pizza”, you need to head to Naples. However, gusto pizza is hands down Florence’s best pizza. At this small establishment the menu is simple, there’s hardly any seating, and they only take cash. All of which only add to the place’s charm.
Lines can get long. However, the wait is worth it! And since the inside dinning quickly gets crowded you best bets to get you slice to go.
Gusta Pizza is located nearby Pitti Palace, and Boboli Gardens.
Chow Down on bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak)
Can you even imagine leaving Florence without trying the city’s most iconic dish aka the “Florentine Steak.”
Italy’s known for their strict food regulations. And there are a few rules restaurants must follow in order to serve a bistecca alla Fiorentina.
First, a bistecca alla Fiorentina has to be the T-Bone cut of meat. Second the cow must have come from the Chianina region.
The steak should also be cooked on a wood grill. And the portion should be around 1 kg.
The bistecca alla Fiorentina’s only cooked for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. This does mean that the steak is slightly undercooked, which boosts to the flavor.
Now, the famed Florentine Steak has it’s pros and cons. The pros are that this mouth-watering piece of meat will change how you view steak for the rest of your life. It might be the best meal you ever eat. The con is that ordering a Florentine Steak isn’t cheap and can decimate your Italy budget. At the lower end of the pricing, scale, expect to pay around 40 euros.
Wait, don’t let the price make you take this off of your list of things to do in Florence. Because the steak weighs almost as much of a box of wine, it has enough meat that you can easily split the steak with a friend and leave satisfied.
popular places to get a bistecca alla Fiorentina
- Mamma Gina
- Osteria Caffè Italiano
- Trattoria Mario
- Trattoria De Marione
- Buca Mario
Hold Up the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Another outstanding trip – just over an hour outside of downtown Florence – is the legendary Leaning Tower of Pisa. There are multiple trains between Florence and Pisa every day. However, I highly recommend doing it as a tour, as it is more relaxing, and tacks on some great experiences. Explore the entire city of Pisa including the Piazza dei Miracoli, Baptistery, and of course the Leaning Tower.
There’s also the ancient cemetery of Campo Santo that houses the early art of the Renaissance.
If you hop on this tour, not only will you see all the things listed above, but after leaving Pisa you’ll visit a local winery in the Tuscan hills for lunch and wine tasting.
And as you take your air-conditioned minibus back to Florence, you’ll make one last stop at the admired Tuscan town of Lucca. In Lucca you’ll see one of Italy’s most revered churches. And get some time to explore on your own!
Leaning Tower of Pisa Visiting INfo
Find the best tour from Florence to Pisa Day trip with Winery Lunch and Lucca Tour.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 08:30 to 20:30. -22:00 (Depending on the season)
Closed on Mondays
Booking tickets in advance is highly reccomened.
Tickets inculde admission to the Tower, the Cathedral, The Baptistery, and the Sinople Museum.
Tickets cost around 25 Euros.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, 56126 Pisa PI, Italy
The leaning tower is 69 km away from Florence. You can get there via train or bus. The journey takes around an hour and half. Tickets cost around 14 Euros.
Experience the Nightlife in Florence
Looking for a little nightlife in Florence? Well, don’t expect the all night club scene of Berlin, or wild and wacky bars scattered across Amsterdam. However, if you are looking to bar hop and grab some cocktails, then there is a decent nightlife scene in the city.
One of my favorite bars is Dolce Vita in Oltrarno – the untouristy neighborhood mentioned earlier. The bar carries a local atmosphere, has great cocktails, and an award-winning bartender. What more do you need?
Of course, we are talking about Tuscany here, so wine bars abound in Florence. One cozy wine bar loved by travelers is Il Santino. They offer a wide array of Italian Wines.
The bar is bustling often bursting out onto the street. They also offer a small selection of foods to pair with the wines. This small and cozy shop is a great place to start an evening out on the town.
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina
Rasputin holds a speakeasy vibe and has the vintage decor to back it up. Sometimes it’s hard to get in. Adding to the speakeasy culture it’s paying homage too. There offer no food, but have killer cocktails, and a cheerful atmosphere.
Even locals refer to Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina as one of the best wine bars in Florence. The staff is experts in Tuscan wine, mostly the reds.
This only makes it an excellent option for wino’s – like myself – that want to taste all the vino Florence has to offer. Another perk is that the Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina is family run!
Mad Souls and Spirits
Those seeking a rustic dive bar will feel right at home at Mad Souls and Spirits. What makes this place special is its fun approach to cocktails. The menu changes frequently and often cater to the theme. The bars creative, and often reasonably priced drinks.
Have a Pint at Archea Brewery
Since we’re discussing booze. Did you know that Florence has a brewery? This is the perfect thing to do in Florence for those who aren’t huge fans of wine. The Archea Craft Brewery in Florence.
They offer a tasting rack that requires distinct styles like the Archea Ipa.
Now, you should know that, while it is an Italian craft beer, Archea doesn’t hail from Florence. However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enjoyed.
The beer is great, the bar has a local atmosphere, and there’s outdoor seating.
Eat Wild Boar with Pappardelle Pasta (pappardelle alla lepre o al sugo di cinghiale)
Many people don’t realize how prominent boars are in Tuscany, from cuisine to a symbol of the region. You might be surprised to learn that there are over 150,000 wild cinghiale “boars” in the region. Boars often damage the vineyards, and crops (Which makes the locals mad)
And while boar meats are featured in many dishes, my favorite is Boar Ragu (pappardelle alla lepre o al sugo di cinghiale), which was my first meal in Tuscany. This meals feature pappardelle pasta with a wild boar ragu sauce. Yummy, I get it on every visit to Tuscany.
Try The Popular Florence Street Food of Cow Stomach
Lampredotto is popular street food in Florence. You’ll also see it in the Mercato Central Market. While cow stomach might not sound appealing, trust me, it’s worth trying.
First, it gives you a window into Florence and lets you immerse yourself in the culture.
It also helps you face a fear and conquer something you are nervous about. Which, let’s be honest, is one of the best life lessons you learn traveling?
And third, and maybe most important, because it is delicious.
Lampredotto the street version of the food. While in a restaurant dish it’s known as Trippa.
Souvenir Shop at Mercato delle Pulci
Mercato Delle Pulci is the popular flea market in Florence. It’s open daily and a great place to mark souvenir shopping off your list of things to do in Florence.
Vendors sell leather goods like belts, bags, and wallets. There are art prints, handmade jewelry, and local art.
There’s a chance that you’ll naturally pass by this market when wandering Florence; as it is close to the Piazza del Ciompi.
Admire the Greats at the Piazzale degli Uffizi
If you’re not interested in the Gallery Uffizi. Then head to the Piazzale degli Uffizi. It’s just outside the museum and free.
Essentially an outdoor hallway filled with statutes of some of the most prominent figures in Florence history. People like Michelangelo, Donatello, Dante, and Galileo.
Lining the statue-filled archways are local artists working – and selling – their paintings.
It’s one of my first stops in Florence as it gets me in the mood of the city, and all the wonderful art I am about to take in.
See the World’s Largest Collection of Scientific Instrument at Museo Galileo
The Museo Galileo, also known as the Institute and Museum of the History of Science) is just a stone throws away from the most iconic sites in Florence. Meaning it has a lot of sites to contented with and often – wrongly – gets overlooked.
The museum of Galileo holds one of the world’s largest collections of scientific instruments.
They have the Medici Collection of science instruments that date back over 500 years.
They have a room dedicated to mathematics. The Accademia Del Cimento, which was used to study the principles of natural philosophy. And enriched new tools used to study barometry and pneumatic. Of course, much of the museum revolves around the life and works of the man who it is named after.
Galileo works, and his life story are told through his texts, images, and references. It’s great for anyone interested in this giant historical figure who was born in Tuscany. Or anyone interested in science.
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