Florence (or “Firenze” in Italian) serves as one of the most popular travel destinations in all of Italy. Between housing some of Italy’s best museums, most beautiful cathedrals, and tastiest authentic restaurants, this city makes it difficult to narrow down what to do in Florence. Fortunately, Florence is very compact, flat, and walkable — meaning you have the opportunity to glide through the streets filled with colorful and elegant sights and sounds. From views to sights, shopping and eats, we have compiled a must-do list for the stunning city of Florence.
The city’s oldest and most famous bridge, it is highly likely you will pass this gorgeous landmark during your time exploring Florence, whether you like it or not. Spread across the River Arno, there are many shops lining the sides of the Ponte Vecchio bridge. On either side, you will be able to find a plethora of art dealers, souvenir shops, and stunning jewelers. If you’d like to see the bridge from a different angle, the Corridoio Vasariano is a great way to see the Ponte Vecchio from afar.
The Duomo, also known as Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of Florence’s most famous landmarks. Arguably the centerpiece of the skyline of Florence, its construction began back in 1296, and it was formally consecrated in 1436. When you walk inside, be sure to gaze up at all of the breathtaking artwork that wraps the walls and ceilings. Take the 414 stairs up to see a more up-close look at the detailed paintings. At the top, you will find one of the most incredible views.
San Lorenzo Market
Wander through the San Lorenzo Central Market, and discover new items ranging from cow stomachs and intestines to a varying selection of wine, cheese, biscotti, and salami. This open-air market runs from the edge of the Church of San Lorenzo, up to and around the Mercato Centrale. It’s the perfect place to pick up some reasonably-priced treasures for yourself and for family and friends back home. Be prepared for some big crowds and keep an extra eye on to your valuables. Beware of sellers without stands, selling goods on the pavement, as they are most likely advertising illegal knockoffs.
Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli)
Spend your afternoon outdoors strolling through the beautiful Boboli Gardens. Originally belonging to the Medici family, this treasure opened up to the public in the late 18th century. Serving as a peaceful sanctuary from the rest of Florence’s tourist hustle and bustle, the gorgeous gardens will allow you to take a much-needed pause in your busy day. Wonder at all of the intricate sculptures and grottos placed across the extensive greens.
Visitors on average tend to spend between one and two hours admiring the picturesque views. Always check the day of your intended visit, but the gardens typically open at 8:15 a.m. Also, note they are closed on the first and last Monday of every month. Admission to the gardens ranges from 6-10 euros per visit (or the equivalent of $7-11 USD).
If you’re choosing to visit our previous recommendation, the Boboli Gardens, it’s worth pairing it with a visit to Palazzo Pitti as well. Once a recognizable Renaissance residence, it now houses an extensive selection of some of Florence’s most notable museums. Some of the most famous include Galleria Palatina featuring Titian, Raphael, and Rubens. The palace’s museums house art ranging from historical fashion to some of the Medici family’s household treasures. Head to this spot early in the day and leave yourself plenty of time to wander through the various gardens and museums. Some visitors even need a second day to fit all six of the museums in.
Palazzo Pitti is open from Tuesday to Sunday between the hours of 8:15 a.m.-6:50 p.m. Tickets range from 10-16 euros depending on the season (or the equivalent of $11.25-18 USD). To avoid waiting in line, you can make an entrance reservation for an extra three euros (or around $3.50 USD).
Visit leather shops
There are many local markets and shops with authentic leather. During the Renaissance era, and continued through today, Florence has remained one of the most famous cities in Italy for leather work. The leather school behind the Santa Croce church is a great place to purchase a new belt or pair of gloves. La Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani is a popular spot for leather handbags and Massimo Leather is the place to go for leather jackets.
Enjoy an aperitivo
Generally held between the hours of 7-9 p.m., head to the local bars for aperitivo. A favorite pastime of Italians, enjoy some complimentary free snacks and appetizers with your ordered evening drink. This tradition is in place of drink discounts or two-for-one happy hours you might see in other parts of the world. Some popular aperitivo spots in Florence include Soul Kitchen, which offers different specialties depending on the night of the week (vegetarian, barbecue, etc.), and Gallery Cafe, which offers live music on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Eat lots of pizza!
While this is up for debate, we believe that the best pizza in Florence is at Gusta Pizza. While the line can sometimes be long based on what time you visit, it is well worth the wait. If you don’t believe us, check out their amazing reputation on TripAdvisor. Their fresh ingredients and great-tasting pie will bring you back more than once.
Finish your meal with gelato
The next most popular food next to pizza in Florence is gelato! Rumor has it that Florence might have invented gelato back in the 16th century. A good place to start is Vivoli Gelato, one of the oldest and best gelato shops in all of Florence. This shop has been open since the 1930s back when they would ship ice down from the Apennine mountains. You may just need to purchase a new leather belt after all of these foodie adventures.
What about Florence excites you the most? Have any hidden secrets we should add to our list? Extend your Florence travels with Acanela’s Venice to the Vatican trip!
Post written by: Kirsten Cusack