Can you see Florence in a day? Your essential Florence Italy luxury travel guide | Everything you need to know to fall in love with Florence
How to see Florence in a day. Florence Italy was one of the many highlights of our time in Tuscany and is not to be missed. It’s such a historical gem and easy to get around in a day, unless you’re wanting to spend a lot of time in the museums. If you’re only planning on spending one day in Florence like we did, there are definitely highlights you’re not going to want to miss to see as much of Florence as possible in a day including my favorite rooftop bars Florence. I’m sharing:
- How to see Florence in a day
- Top 10 things to do in Florence Italy including the Statue of David, Florence Duomo, Piazzas, museums and more.
- The best restaurants in Florence Italy for lunch, dinner and Michelin fine dining.
- The best rooftop bars in Florence for their views
- Where to take the best photos in Florence
- The best 4 and 5* hotels in Florence
- How to get from Florence to Venice with ease
Can you see Florence in a day?
Yes! We managed to see, learn, eat, and drink a lot without feeling stressed or too manic with a little itinerary planning and a lot of research. I used sites like TripAdvisor, US News Travel section, cntraveler, and Googles Travel Guide. These travel review sites pretty much all list the same top 10 sites which are all below in detail.
Below is a 1 day itinerary to see Florence in a day without running around like a headless chicken. It includes the best top things to do in Florence Italy, things to see, where to drink, eat and take the best instagram photos.
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How to get to Florence from other parts of Tuscany
We drove from our hotel in Tavernelle to Florence Italy as it’s only a 30 minute drive. After dropping off the car at the airport, a totally painless and easy experience, we took a taxi to our Florence hotel. As we wanted to drop off our luggage before the 9:30 am Florence 3 hour walking Viator tour we had booked.
It’s normal for us to run early so we even had time for a quick espresso at a cafe in Piazza Della Signoria. This is a fabulously located café right next to the impressive Florence Duomo which is probably the most famous sight on the Florence skyline. What a breathtaking way to start the day! Beware, you’ll probably get haggled here and end up with an over-priced selfie stick (but hey, at least we got some good pics that day).
How to See Florence in a day | Start with a walking tour
We figured the walking tour would be a good way to get our bearings, see the must-see highlights, and learn something of the history. Rather than just randomly walking and not knowing what we’re looking at. It also included a skip the line pass to Galleria Dell’ Accademia to see the famous Statue of David.
Beware of pick-pockets, even with the police presence, they are common especially in the Piazzas. So as obvious as it sounds, don’t leave your bag open or put your wallet in your back pocket. Travel dresses with hidden pockets are a good option. The walking tour of Florence Italy stopped at the following Florence must see spots and things to do.
10 Best Things to See in Florence Italy | Must See Places
Piazza della Republica (tour meeting point): one of the main squares in Florence that has marked the center of the city since Roman times. Home to the historical Caffé Gilli, Caffé Paskowski and Caffé delle Giubbe Rosse which were meeting points for many of the city’s artists and writers in the past. Also, facing onto the piazza is the Hotel Savoy on Via Roma. You don’t need much time here but there’s often markets here if you’re looking to pick up souveniers.
Pitti Palace / Palazzo Pitti: (you’ll only see the outside on the walking tour). You’ll walk across Ponte Alle Grazie to get to the Pitti Palace. This is probably one of the best spots to get photos of Ponte Vecchio as it’s the bridge next to it. There’s even a spot in the middle where you can sit for your photo and make use of your selfie stick!
Ponte Vecchio bridge: you’ll walk across this iconic, romantic, jewelry shop lined bridge and have time to snap photos here during the walking tour. The shops here have been here since the 13th century. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to have shops on the bridge in order to improve the wellbeing of all. As well as to reduce smells from previous tennents such as fish mongers and butchers.
Best place to take photos on Ponte Vecchio Bridge: there’s 4 places to snap your best photos for the gram. At either end of the bridge getting a perspective shot down the middle or either side of the middle of the bridge looking out to the river with Florence on either side.
Piazza della Signoria: I loved this square and didn’t know where to look or wander towards next! There’s so much history and beauty crammed into this one square. Palazzo Vecchio (the most important Administrative building in Florence), Neptune fountain, sculptures, Gucci and Gucci Garden Cafe, the replica Statue of David, and luxury shops such as Chanel. The Uffizi Museum (which houses the Medici’s art collection) is also located just off of this square.
Best place to take photos in Piazza Della Signoria: in front of Neptunes Fountain. Or you can get a little further back and squat down and take photos at an up angle of Palazzo Vecchio so you can get all of the clock tower in your photo.
Florence Duomo / Santa Maria del Fiore (outside only): You can book tickets to go inside the Duomo in Florence Italy but we knew we wanted to see St Mark’s Basilica in Venice and weren’t on a cathedral tour of Italy. I hope that doesn’t make us sound super uncultured! You’ll also see:
Baptistery of St. John which sits in front of the Duomo and has Baptistery’s.
Giotto’s Campanile / Bell Tower. More about the bell tower below. The walk goes past the designer boutiques of Via Tornabuoni & artist’s workshops of lively Oltrarno. You can scout the shops out during your walk and return to any later. You’ve got to love the tax-free shopping in Europe thanks to the tax rebates at the airport!
Best place to take photos in Giotto Campanile: on the south side on Via Della Agli. That way you can get Battistero Di San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Duomo in your shot or early morning before the crowds anywhere in the piazza.
Michelangelo’s Statue of David at Galleria Dell’ Accademia
Galleria Dell’ Accademia. The walking tour included a skip-the-line entrance pass. Our tour guide explained all about the statue of David. How David looks older from the front and younger from his profile. The intricate details including the veins, and how Michelangelo sculpted him out of a single block of marble, that it was intended for the roof of Florence’s cathedral dome. David never made it to the dome as the patrons loved him so much they wanted to display him in closer view.
Best place to take photos of the Statue of David: be patient and you’ll have a chance to take one center front. Also snap one from the right side where David’s looking at you to see him from a more youthful perspective. The tour ends here and if you wish to explore the rest of the museum by yourself you can. We opted to go for lunch instead as we’re always hungry! .https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Private-Tour-3-Hour-Florence-Walking-Tour/d519-29762P1?mcid=56757
Restaurants in Florence Italy | Best Place for Lunch
Finding a restaurant can be totally overwhelming in a large city. Avoid the main squares where the more touristy restaurants tend to be. Instead, look down smaller side streets or where the menu is only in Italian. A tell-tale sign of a tourist spot is where the menu is in several different languages.
Ristorante La Giostra Florence Italy
We had Ristorante La Giostra recommended to us for dinner by a friend but since we already had dinner reservations and it was only a 10 minute walk from the gallery we walked over there for lunch. It’s the kind of place you’d walk past if you didn’t know about it. As soon as you go in you know you’re going to be in for an authentic treat. The service was exceptional and you’re greeted with Prosecco and antipasti.
Their menu is extensive but you can still order off the menu as well. They’re incredibly accommodating. Apparently, it’s even more romantic at night when its lit only by candle light. Definitely make a reservation whether you’re going for lunch or dinner as the secret is out and this place was packed by the time we left.
After lunch, we were over walking and the heat so walked to one of the bars I’d found online and had on our list. If you’re less of a drinker than we are you might want to see these other Florence highlights instead of going for drinks. But it was July, and we were hot and in need of refreshments and to take a load off our feet.
Best Rooftop Bars Florence
I did a lot of research for the best rooftop bars in Florence as we love pre dinner drinks with a view. La Terraza at Hotel Continentale is a very small rooftop terrace right on the River Arno. It was a 10 minute walk from Hotel Spadai where we were staying and a cute spot to stop in for an Aperol Spritz, cold glass of rosé or cold beer. Because it’s hidden on the rooftop and only those in the know, know, it’s not too touristy either! I hope I didn’t just ruin it by letting the secret out!
After getting up at 6am, by this point we were ready for a siesta, so that’s what we did. We had enough time to nap for 90 minutes (we’re not power nappers), go to find a Gelateria, then come back and get ready for dinner. Our evening plan included going out a couple of hours before our 9:30 pm dinner reservation so we could bar hop.
Florence Aperitivo and The Best Places For Florence Rooftop Bar Cocktails at Sunset
Aperitivo is a part of Italian culture I adore and adopted a long time ago from working with Italians. It’s a great way to start date night or when meeting friends. I’ve listed all of the ones I’d found ahead of time below.
We chose to go to Se’Sto on Arno but first had to stop for golden hour photos at the Duomo and also for a cocktail at a cute little bar right on the river en route to Se’Sto. If you haven’t fallen for Florence’s charm and romantic side yet, there’s nothing quite like a pre-dinner drink on the river with your date.
Se’Sto on Arno Restaurant and Rooftop Bar Florence Italy
I can’t say enough good things about Se’Sto on Arno which is the rooftop bar at the Westin Excelsiore. The panoramic views (both inside and out) blew us away. Thankfully, I have a very patient husband as I was way into taking photos of the city scape at sunset from the open air terrace (I wasn’t the only one). If you can make reservations ahead of time, definitely do. As it’d be a shame to miss out on this place. They also offer gourmet Aperitivio for 28-32 Euro which includes the most divine food and includes a drink. We didn’t, as we had a 7 course dinner ahead of us!
Best place to take panaromanic sunset photos in Florence: outside on the Se’Sto on Arno rooftop terrace to the left before you enter the bar for the best panoramic views of Florence.
Where to have Aperitivo in Florence / Best wine bars & Florence rooftop bars
River Royale happy hour on river North side of Arno. Quiet, casual and authentic.
Hotel Baglioni, Terrazza Brunelleschi known for having some of the best views of the Florence Duomo.
Where to experience fine dining restaurants in Florence Italy | Michelin Star Romantic Dinner
I knew I wanted to do a Michelin star restaurant with a view in Florence. Italy is known for its cuisine, so I wanted to do it right and after much looking, decided on Ristorante Borgo San Jacopo (1 Michelin star) at the Borgo San Jacopo hotel. I’m quite particular and I liked the look of their tasting menu, which is really the best way to do a Michelin restaurant, as well as their river front location.
They have the smallest terrace right on the Arno River which seats 8-9 people max. You can request a seat here when making your reservation but they can’t guarantee it. Borgo San Jacopo restaurant has 2 seating times so we booked for 9:30 pm. This gave us more time during the day to explore since we were only there for 1 day.
The food and service was exceptional. While neither of us liked every course we could certainly appreciate the thought and presentation. You can also do wine pairings but since we’re both picky with wines opted for Lauren Perrier Rosé instead since champagne goes with everything!
9 courses later (they give you a couple of extras) plus some bread later we rolled out of there. Grateful for the stroll back to our hotel where we slept like babies
More To See and Best things to do in Florence Italy
In Piazza Del Duomo you can climb Giotto’s Campanile (Florence Duomo’s bell tower) for fantastic views of the city. It’s mandatory to book tickets and reserve a time slot in advance.
Uffizi Gallery: Here you can see all of the Italian greats: Botticelli, Caravaggio & Titian to name a few. You’re best to book tickets in advance as this gallery is hugely popular. Give yourself 2 hours to explore the art, longer if you want to stop at the Uffizi gallery cafe with its spectacular views.
Piazza della Signoria – I really wanted go to Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura (part of the eclectic exhibit and boutique space Gucci Garden) for drinks outside in the Piazza but unfortunately you can’t just do drinks here, you have to dine. It really has a great location in Piazza della Signoria with views of the fountain. I can’t vouch for the food but if you want to go be sure to make reservations ahead of time. It’s worth going into this gorgeous Gucci store and fashion museum. The dressing rooms alone make it worth trying on the latest seasons styles.
Basilica of Santa Croce: if you are wanting your church fix and don’t want to deal with the long lines at the Duomo this is another option. Built around the same time as the Florence Duomo, it may not be anywhere near as big but the:
“interior is home to the tombs of some of the most influential Renaissance artists and scholars in the world including Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli.” The Crazy Tourist.
Boboli Gardens Florence Italy
Boboli Gardens are claimed to be one of the greatest open-air museums in Florence and part of Pitti Palace. If you’re looking for a more peaceful side to Florence, escape to the centuries-old oak trees, sculptures, and fountains which inspired many European Royal gardens such as Versailles. Boboli Garden Tickets are 10 Euro and opens at 8:15 am. Closing times vary depending on the month from 16.30 – 19.30 so check their website.
How much time do you need in Florence Italy
One day in Florence is enough to see the highlights, fall in love with its beauty and charm, and get a good feel for the city without feeling like you’re missing out. However, if you’re an art buff or want to spend time in the museums, then you’re going to need more time. 2 days would be sufficient. However, it’s also a city you could go for a long weekend or a week and still find places and restaurants to explore.
Best 4 Star and 5 Star Best Hotels in Florence Italy | Where to Stay
When choosing a hotel in Florence Italy look for one close to where you think you’ll be spending the most time, the facilities, reviews on noise levels, and if they have views (either in the rooms or a rooftop bar, etc).
Hotel Spadai 4*
There are so many hotels to choose from in Florence. We choose this for it’s location which was a minute walk (100 meters) to the Duomo and really central. The rooms aren’t large, as you’ll know is common in European cities but they are beautifully done with antique materials that blend naturally with a superb contemporary style and the beds are super comfortable. I was worried the church bells and police sirens would keep us awake but the windows are pretty well sound proofed.
Don’t skip breakfast, you’ll need it to fuel all of your walking and exploring and the spiral staircase to their inside viewing deck is also by the entrance to breakfast.
This also looked lovely and has a great river front location not to mention the Se’ Sto on Arno rooftop bar I raved about above.
How to get from Florence to Venice
From Florence we took a direct train to Venice which was super quick and easy:
Train Venice Venezia San Lucia to Lake Garda (Peschiera Del Garda) 11:50am arr 1:16pm (1hr 26 mins)
Florence Travel Tips | Know before you go
Book any tours, restaurants, and even Aperitivo bars in advance. It’s a city and major tourist destination especially in July and August.
Wear plenty of sunscreen, a hat, and carry water. It gets hot walking around. My portable fan may have looked dorky but it was super helpful in the Galleria Dell’ Accademia which is stiflingly warm. We didn’t have an issue with mosquitoes here like we did in rural Tuscany.
Leave valuables in your safe and do up your bags. Wear them crossbody or if you’re using a backpack make sure it’s one that’s knife proof. We didn’t have any trouble and there’s a large amount of police present but it’s better to be overly safe than for things to go missing.
Shop the looks & book your Florence hotel
More Tuscany travel tips
Venice Italy: A romantic travel guide for couples to seeing Venice, Italy in 4 days. Luxury hotels, dining, tours, authentic venice and more.
Lake Garda: Where to stay, what to see, where to eat and drink, what to miss and what to book in Lake Garda, Italy. It was written for couples but there’s lots of information for families too!