When trying to figure out how to long to spend in Florence, I tried to weigh up how much there is to do in the city and what food I wanted to try. I came up with 3 Days in Florence because I only had 10 Days in Italy in total, and there were a few other places I wanted to check out while I was there (Venice, Bologna, and Pisa).
The Best Time to Visit Florence
There is never a bad time to visit Italy, especially Florence. It’s such a magical city with so much to see and do. I’ve been twice now and I could easily fill another few days there on a third trip to the city, seeing and doing completely new things.
That being said, there are definitely better times to visit the city, in my opinion.
August is one of the busiest times of year for tourism in Italy, and Florence is rammed with visitors. Not only is it crazy busy, but many Italians go on vacation and close their businesses while they’re away. So some of the most raved-about restaurants in Florence are closed for at least a week (the one surrounding the 15th) or more.
The summer months, in general, are some of the busiest, the hottest (that Italian humidity is no joke), and the most expensive. So if you can avoid them, I recommend it.
One of the best times of year in Italy is late September. All the kids have gone back to school. A huge number of tourists have headed home. It’s slightly cooler, but still sunny and warm. Even into October, Florence is a wonderful place to explore.
Where to Stay in Florence
My favorite neighborhood to stay in Florence is around Santa Croce. There are so many amazing restaurants there and it has a more local feel as its much more residential than around the Duomo.
Florence is such a walkable city, so you’ll easily be able to get around no matter where you stay.
I stayed at this fantastic Airbnb in Florence on my last trip. While it was someone else’s apartment, we had our own private area of the place with our own room, a small balcony, and our own bathroom. We never saw the owner while we were there, so it felt like we had our own hotel room. It’s very centrally located and super well priced in what can be a very expensive city. Book that Airbnb here.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can sign up with this link to receive up to $40 off of your first booking.
Florence definitely doesn’t have a shortage of unique boutique hotels. If you’re here on a romantic trip, I definitely recommend splurging a little to enjoy a centrally located spot with good views and good room service. These are my top picks in Florence:
- Hotel Alessandra: This old-world hotel has some of the most stunning period furniture that I’ve ever seen. It just oozes romance. It’s located near the river and it includes breakfast. Rooms start at $180 per night. Book here.
- Hotel Pitti Palace al Ponte Vecchio: The views from these rooms, the location along the river and adjacent to the Torre de Rossi, the elegant rooms, the rooftop restaurant, and that room service that I was talking about. There is so much to love about this hotel. All for the crazy affordable rates starting at $90 per night. Book here.
- Gallery Hotel Art: Perhaps the most expensive hotel on this list, but one of the most beautiful. Art lovers who have come to the city to immerse themselves on Florentine art should book at least one night at this hotel. Choose the room with the bed on the balcony if you want some romance under the Italian stars. Rooms start at $225 per night. Book here.
3 Days in Florence
Day 1 – Tackle the Duomo
If this is your first time in Florence, I highly recommend a visit to the Duomo. Sure it’s touristy, but it’s touristy for a reason (plus, um, you’re in Florence in the first place which is crazy touristy, so just embrace it). It’s truly a stunner from the outside and it’s worth checking out from the inside, too.
This should be the first thing you do because it’s only open for a few hours a day and the longer in the day you wait, the busier it will be (or you’ll just totally miss out on getting to go inside). So set the alarm for early and grab a cappuccino and pastry quickly before you head out the door.
With only 3 days in Florence, you don’t have a ton of time to be waiting in line all day. If you plan to visit the Duomo, be sure to get a tour ticket so that you can skip the line and head straight in with a guide who will teach you loads about the history of the building as well as the city itself. It’s worth the price.
This tour where you can skip the line and get a guide is the best value for money in my opinion. It’s $15 per person and the groups are never larger than 25 people. It’s 30 minutes inside the Duomo so you can see and enjoy it without spending your whole day inside the church (there’s more to see people!). You can book that tour here.
This tour is over an hour, costs about $40 per person, and includes a climb up the Duomo as well as a tour around the inside of the church. If you want to see loads, this is the ticket to get. Book that tour here.
Explore Inside the San Lorenzo
After you finish at the Duomo, you won’t be too far from San Lorenzo. This is one of the most stunning places that we visited in Florence in my opinion. The line is usually pretty short, only about a 15 minute wait if you time it right. You shouldn’t need a skip-the-line pass or a guide here.
One of the main draws to this Medici-owned church is the library. It was designed by Michaelangelo, as was much of the entire building. The staircase is famous and stunning, but the interior of the library is just as impressive.
You’ll notice that the exterior of the basilica is incomplete. Michaelangelo designed dozens of exteriors for the Medici family, and they didn’t like any of them. The project was never completed and you now have quite a striking exterior with exposed stones that should’ve actually been covered.
Inside the church itself, is a collection of some of the most stunning pieces of art I’ve ever seen.Take your time and you’ll likely spend about an hour and a half exploring around here.
Take Plenty of Breaks and Eat All the Food
I’ve written an extensive post about the best places to eat in Florence, so be sure to try some of those spots for either lunch or dinner. Simbiosi, a wonderful pizza and pasta restaurant, is very close to San Lorenzo.
Just be aware that restaurants are open for lunch until about 2:30pm and then they close completely until dinner service at around 7:30pm. This was tough to get used to for me since living in Mexico most people don’t even have lunch until about 3pm.
Plan your day around when and where you want to eat so you don’t miss out on all of the amazing food!
Day 2 – Fiesole
A 30-minute bus ride from the center of Florence is a day trip that is totally worth taking. The town of Fiesole is in the Tuscan hills just outside of Florence and has some really incredible Roman ruins to explore.
To catch the bus to Fiesole, head to Piazza San Marco and look for the stop for bus number 7 on Via La Pira. It’s cheaper to buy your bus ticket before you get on the bus. There is a ticket machine in the piazza.
The bus runs once every 30 minutes and takes between 25 and 30 minutes. Fiesole is the last stop. Don’t forget to validate your ticket once you get on the bus – there are people getting on doing random checks and you will be fined!
Once you get to Fiesole, I recommend heading to the ruins first. You can get a ticket that only includes the ruins or you can add the museum as well. The museum offers a lot of information about who used to live here (it wasn’t just the Romans!) and what it may have looked like when it was a thriving city.
There are also small plaques around the ruins as you self-guide your way around in both Italian and English.
After you explore the ruins, grab some lunch at La Reggia. It’s famous for its farm-to-table menu. Unfortunately, it was closed for the August holidays when we went, but I would have loved to try it.
Carry on up the hill from the restaurant for amazing views back over the countryside. You can even see downtown Florence from there. Up a few more steps and you’ll come to a small chapel. It’s very quiet and peaceful up there. We sat for a while just enjoying the quiet and taking in the view.
Before you get back on the bus, head to the row of restaurants across from the bus stop. Be sure to have gelato (there’s only the one gelato shop there, you can’t miss it). It was the bests gelato I had during my entire trip to Italy.
Leather (and other) Shopping
By the time you get back to downtown Florence, most museums will be starting to close (I found most shut around 5pm) and churches often closed their doors much earlier. So instead, hit the shops.
Florence is known best for its leather, but it can be hit-or-miss in my experience. If you just want a fun souvenir, check out the markets. If you have a bit of money to spend and want a real experience, it doesn’t get any better than the Leather School. It’s a truly over-the-top experience of luxury and the bags are stunning (and of the highest quality).
Sunset at Piazzale Michaelangelo
It’s funny – everyone who told me to go here told me it’s a great secret. “No one knows about this spot” they all professed.
Well, it seems like it’s not a very well kept secret. Walk up to the top of this hill on the on the south side of the river near San Niccolo and you’ll get one of the best central city views of Florence and the surrounding area. Head there for sunset and tou’ll also be there with every other tourist who is currently in Florence.
But there’s plenty of space for everyone. You can buy a few beers once you’re up there or to save a few Euros, buy it from a shop before you head up the hill. Either way, it’s the best outdoor bar in the city in my opinion!
Day 3 – Museums Galore
One your last day in Florence, be sure to visit any and all of the museums that take your fancy. Love art and want to see the David in the flesh? Then you should definitely get yourself to the Uffizi Gallery. It’s one of the most abundant collections of Italian art in the entire country and is worth the wait if you have time.
If you want to hit a bunch of museums during your final day, pay to skip the line. You pay for a specific time to go into the gallery, but you have to be there right on time, otherwise, you’ll lose your slot. It’s $25 and includes your ticket as well as an audio guide to use around the museum. Book a skip the line ticket here.
If you enjoy science, I highly recommend a visit to Museo Galileo, also called the History of Science Museum. Luke and I totally geeked out here over the different inventions that are on display. You’ll be able to see Galileo’s actual telescopes that he used to disprove that the world was flat. His actual thumb is also there which is odd and sort of gross.
A church, that is much like a museum, that I recommend getting into is Santa Croce. It’s the resting place of Michaelangelo and Galileo among other famous Italians. The interior is packed with brightly painted frescos, colorful tiles, and an ornate alter. Don’t forget to look up because the ceiling is a piece of art, too.
Tips for Visiting Florence
All churches in Florence have quite strict dress codes, even small ones that have no cost to enter. Women should cover their shoulders and their legs at least up to the knee. If you’re visiting during the summer like I did, you can either purchase a cloth kimono at some of the larger churches, which you can then use everywhere else.
I usually wore a dress that was at least at long as my knees. If it was a sleeveless dress, I carried around a thin t-shirt that I could simply slip on top of my dress when I entered a church. Other women would carry scarves. The other option if you are wearing a t-shirt and shorts is to cover your legs with a sarong or scarf.
Men also have to cover their arms (no tank tops), but people seemed less strict about men in shorts. So long as they are around the knee, you should be okay.
I wrote a full post about what to wear in Italy in summer to help with this (for both guys and gals!). You won’t have this problem in winter when you’re all bundled up from the cold!
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