What you need to know!
When you visit Rome you can’t miss a quick trip Florence. Don't be off-put by the 3 hour drive to Florence and instead jump on the train: you'll be in the heart of Florence in 1 ½ hours!
My one day itinerary for a gastronomic and cultural Flavor of Florence takes you to Florence's best food market, an iconic Florentine trattoria for lunch, and a whirlwind walking tour of the city to see Florence's best sites, shopping streets and antique stores.
And if you'd like to stay just a bit longer than a day check out my recommendation for a quaint "room-with-a-view" hotel and a terrace overlooking the Ponte Vecchio.
Help with setting up your Florence trip
My friend Elyssa just expanded her RomeWise go-to guide to Florence. She’s your need-to-know contact person for Florence so get started by checking out Elyssa and husband Alessandro's brand new website, FlorenceWise. Here's what they say about FlorenceWise:
“We love to explore its art, architecture, culture, food, shopping, hidden gems,….all its nooks and crannies every chance we get. We know the kinds of questions you have when you are planning your holiday and that's why we made this website. For you. So come on in and start exploring! Let us help you turn your too-short holiday in Florence, Italy into a meaningful one.”
Day Trip to Florence
I love to jump on the train and head up to Florence for a day trip whenever I can. Here's my suggestion for a delightful Florence day trip:
How to get to Florence
Book a round trip train ticket from Rome's Termini station to Florence's central train station, Santa Maria Novella, in the very heart of the city. Prices can vary but plan on no more than €90 round trip. The earlier you reserve your trip the less it will cost plus you are guaranteed availability. Purchase a direct trip with no train changes (almost all of them are direct), and a fast train. We usually book a train that takes 1 ½ hours. Purchase a second class ticket and select your seats so you have a window or aisle, and your preferred train car. Wifi is free on board, although it often disconnects as the trip has many tunnels. Bring along your cell phone charger: almost every seat has an outlet (for an Italian plug). Drinks and food are purchasable on board.
If, by some chance, you make a mistake and purchase a ticket that goes into Florence’s Campo de Marte station don't worry. Just outside the station you'll find the #12 bus that will take you right to the Santa Maria Novella station. Bus tickets are €1.20 each and can be purchased right at the news stand or coffee bar within the station. Buy two tickets so you have a ticket to and from Campo de Marte. Note that on the way back to the Campo de Marte station you'll need to take a different bus: #13. It will take you close to Campo de Marte but not exactly in front of it. So how will you know when to get off? I always use a fabulous transportation app: Moovit.
Download the app before your trip and set it up for the city you're traveling to. The app works on android and iPhone. Go to settings, then pick the country and city where you'll be. Use the app to get directions or to find a bus, metro or light rail line. You can also use it to set up a carpool ride.
When you're ready to leave Florence to catch your train back to Rome open the app, put in the train station destination and Moovit will tell you where your closest bus stop is to get to the station. Choose "Get Off Alerts" which will keep track of your next approaching bus and its arrival time and, once you're on the bus, it'll keep track of your trip and tell you when to get off. Note: you need either wifi or cellular connectivity so be sure to set this up before you leave for your trip to Italy, or purchase an Italian SIM card once you arrive. By the way, you can use the Moovit app in most major cities.
What to do in Florence
The city is full of incredible things to see and do; the best known beautiful monuments in Florence are in a small area of the city and everywhere you turn you run into another of the city's treasures. The city center is divided into four areas, each easily reachable on foot, with the Duomo as the geographic and historical epicenter of Florence. Santa Croce is to the east, San Marco to the north, Santa Maria Novella to the west and finally, across the river Arno to the south, is Palazzo Pitti. You may have specific things you'd like to see and do in Florence, but if not, then I suggest a day strolling through the city, and exploring its beauty and atmosphere.
My one day itinerary for a gastronomic and cultural Flavor of Florence
1. Visit Florence’s Central Market
Plan to arrive in the morning and start the day visiting the city's largest market, located in the San Lorenzo area, just northeast of Santa Maria Novella. Head up Via Nazionale as you leave the southeastern corner of Piazza della Stazione Santa Maria Novella.
Turn right off Via Nazionale onto Via dell'Ariento and you'll run directly into the Mercato Centrale / San Lorenzo market with lots of outdoor clothing, leather and souvenir stands.
Inside the market building there’s an abundance of produce, both local and international, fish, meat and spices. On the second floor of the market you'll find lots of eateries and food stands.
Make your lunch reservation at the Trattoria Sergio Gozzi
Once you leave the market head along Via Ariento towards the Piazza San Lorenzo, just several minutes away. When you reach #8A step into the Trattoria Sergio Gozzi (Tel. 055-281-941) to make your lunch reservation. This spot is a down to earth casareccio (homestyle) trattoria that features fabulous classic Florentine food. Most of the clientele is local…always a good sign! The 109 year-old restaurant is now in its third generation of family ownership.
2. What to visit before lunch: the San Lorenzo Complex
After you make your reservation head back out to the piazza where you'll find the San Lorenzo Complex with the Medici Chapel (the New Sacristy and two of the Medici tombs designed by Michelangelo; ticket price €9.00), the Medici Laurenziana Library, and the San Lorenzo facade, designed by Brunelleschi. In the square take a look at the 1540 Giovanni dalle Bande Nere statue. If you have extra time before your lunch reservation, also worth visiting: the Medici Riccardi Palazzo, the San Giovannino degli Scopoli church and the Palazzo Riccardi Manelli.
3. Florentine Lunch at Trattoria Sergio Gozzi
Head back to the Trattoria Sergio Gozzi and get ready for a great Florentine lunch! If you're feeling courageous or love offal try the Lampredotto in umido con patate e cavolo nero. Lampredotto is a local Florentine specialty that you're unlikely to find elsewhere; it's tender and delicious, cooked in a flavorful broth, with potatoes and curly kale.
Otherwise I'd suggest the pici pasta with sausage and cavolo Nero, the ribollita or their delicious pasta e fagioli. Grilled meats are excellent as is the peposo, a peppery beef stew. The menu changes daily but you're sure to find something scrumptious!
4. The Duomo
After lunch it's time to head to the Duomo, the jewel of Florence, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction of the Duomo, or Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, began in 1296. Its exterior is exquisite: marble panels of varying shades of white, green and pink. The Duomo is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and can accommodate 20,000 people.
A full century later, construction of the Brunelleschi dome began, and was completed in 1463. If you'd like to have a closeup view of the dome along with a spectacular view of Florence plan on climbing the 463 steps to the top! You have to book well in advance, and the climb is not for everyone, so perhaps you might head to another spot in Florence instead that has another gorgeous panoramic view of the city. Tickets are required to climb Giotto's Bell Tower, Brunelleschi's Dome, and the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and they can be purchased at the ticket office in Piazza del Duomo. Cost: Brunelleschi’s Dome: €20 for adults and €10 reduced price children; Giotto’s Bell Tower: €15 for adults and €7 reduced price children; Baptistery of San Giovanni: €10 for adults and €5 reduced price children.
Entrance into the Duomo is free.
5. The Statue of David
The Statue of David, the marble sculpture executed from 1501 to 1504 by Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo, is probably the most famous statue in the world. It’s located in Florence’s Accademia Gallery on Via Ricasoli, 60 near the Duomo. Visiting is more complicated than meets the eye, and just because you buy a ticket online ahead of time doesn't mean that the entrance procedure is simple. My strong advice is to go with a guide.
6. Shopping interspersed with more spectacular sites
When you leave the Piazza del Duomo area head down the Via dei Calzaiuoli towards Piazza della Signoria. Via dei Calzaiuoli is one of Florence's most elegant shopping streets filled with handcrafted items and well-known shops, bakeries and gelaterie. The street is filled with lovely palazzi and churches; on your right hand side you'll pass the San Carlo dei Lombardi church and the Orsanmichele church.
7. Piazza Signoria and the
Piazza Signoria is the political center of Florence. Here you'll find the 14th century municipal building, the Palazzo Vecchio. The Fountain of Neptune, sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammannati in 1563-65, to commemorate Francesco I de' Medici's wedding. Also in the piazza is the 14th century Loggia dei Lanzi with its three graceful arches. The Loggia leads from Piazza Signoria to the Uffizi Gallery.
You could spend an entire day in the amazing Uffizi art gallery with sculptures and paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and more. Lines can be long, sometimes hours, so definitely buy your ticket in advance, ideally online.
9. The Arno River & Ponte Vecchio, and
10. Via dei Fossi
Just beyond the Uffizi is the Arno River and the famous Ponte Vecchio. Along the river and on the Ponte Vecchio there are many vendors selling leather goods, paintings, jewelry, clothing and other handcrafted items. Florence has six bridges and all but the Ponte Vecchio were bombed during the Second World War. The riverfront is full of cafes and eateries where you can relax, people watch and enjoy the scenery and a snack.
As you leisurely wander your way back towards the station you might want to explore the Via dei Fossi, renowned for its antique shops, galleries and vintage shops.
11. A room with a view - Hotel Hermitage
If one day in Florence just isn't enough for you – that's often the case with me! – then this is the place for you. Charming, old world Florence, with outstanding views through every window, and from the terrace that overlooks the Ponte Vecchio.
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12. Hop On, Hop Off bus tour of Florence
Another way to experience Florence is on the Hop On, Hop Off bus and you can purchase tickets for 24, 48, or 72 hours depending on how long you are in Florence. It may seem like a corny thing to do, but it's a great way to get an overview of the city.
A Florence memento idea
If you collect Starbucks “you are here” mugs like I do then head to the Starbucks right at the Santa Maria Novella train station before you head back to Rome. This Starbucks just opened at the end of December 2022 and Florence “you are here” mugs as of this date still aren't for sale. Undoubtedly they'll be available soon, so stop by when you're at the station.
Starbucks has three locations in Florence:
Piazza della Stazione, 41- in the Santa Maria Novella train station
Via della Chiesa, 47 (near Piazza Pitti and the Buboli Gardens)
Via San Quirico, 164 - Campi Bisenzio, Centro Commerciale I Gigli (out of the city center)
More things to do in Tuscany
Explore Montalcino and Brunello Wine
Visit Spannocchia, a 13th century Tuscan estate
Pamela Sheldon John's Tuscan Accommodation and Travel Itineraries
Day Trip to Cortona, in the Tuscan province, Arezzo
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