Deciding on the perfect itinerary for the fascinating city of Florence can be tricky. This beautiful Italian city was the birthplace of the Renaissance era and is packed with more art, history, culture, and stunning architecture than you could possibly hope to see in a month (seriously, even the people who live here haven’t seen it all!). Plus, it’s home to many excellent opportunities for shopping, dining and sampling of the local wine.
The mistake many visitors make is trying to see too much too quickly. While it is possible to view the cities main highlights on a 1 or 2-day trip, you might find yourself running from the Renaissance galleries to the statue of Michelangelo’s David, to the Pitti Palace, without the time to enjoy the experience.
So we’ve put together a 5-day itinerary for Florence, which moves at a much more enjoyable pace. It lets you see the city’s top cultural highlights while still leaving plenty of time to relax, wander, eat, drink and shop. Perfetto.
On your first day in Florence, we recommend heading straight for one of the city’s main highlights, the Uffizi Gallery. This gallery is one of the top reasons tourists flock to this beautiful city and it houses hundreds of iconic artworks by such Renaissance masters as Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli.
We strongly recommend that you purchase your tickets in advance. Doing so allows you to book a guide if you want one and a time slot for your visit. But most importantly, it will enable you to skip the queue at the ticket desk, which can sometimes be several hours long. Allow around 3 hours to visit the entire horseshoe-shaped gallery and do justice to all the works.
Then, head out and grab a coffee or a gelato to enjoy as you stroll beside the Loggia Dei Lanzi. This beautiful open-air gallery showcases beautiful examples of renaissance sculpture. Continue until you reach the curiously shaped square, Piazza Della Signoria, which has been the focal point of Florence’s civic power for centuries. It is home to the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s imposing, centuries-old town hall. Head inside to discover artworks hiding coded messages, secret passageways, fantastically decorated chambers, Roman ruins, medieval architecture, the Hall of the Five Hundred, and Arnolfo’s tower, which you can climb for a stunning view over Florence.
End your first day in Florence by taking a walk back through the square to the river and the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Marvel over the beautiful views of the Arno River, the architecture of the famous bridge, and the many jewelry stores and art shops that line it. This lively area is always entertaining, so find somewhere to stop for a glass of wine or dinner and engage in some people watching.
Day 2 of our 5-day itinerary starts early as you head to one of the most visited sights in Florence, the Galleria dell’Accademia. Here you’ll find the iconic statue of Michelangelo’s David and we recommend getting there by 8.30 am to beat the crowds. And again, buy your ticket in advance to avoid wasting hours in ticket queues. Marvel at the size and incredible detail of the world-famous marble statue, then allow an hour or so to enjoy the rest of the Galleria. It holds many other marvelous works which are often overlooked due to the presence of the masterpiece.
Next, head west into the San Lorenzo district, where you’ll find the street stalls of the daily leather market. Florentine leather has a global reputation for excellence so, this is your chance to shop for something unique. Once you’ve made your purchases head inside Mercado Central, an 18th-century building that houses the best of Florence’s street food. Shop all manner of local produce from wine and cheese to olives and spices, and cooked to order meals that will make anyone’s mouth water.
Spend the afternoon exploring the Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square. Here you’ll find Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the city’s more recognizable landmark with its iconic Brunelleschi dome. Also, the octagonal Baptistery of St John and the freestanding Giotto Belltower. History lovers and architecture buffs will be in their element here as they view the collection of historic buildings. Lovers of a panorama will want to climb the belltower for epic views of the city. And for anyone who needs a rest, the square contains plenty of spots to stop for a coffee, sweet treat, or glass of wine.
On Day 3 of our 5-day itinerary, we recommend taking a break from the walking and the galleries and getting out of Florence. Some people will choose to hop over to another Italian city such as foodie paradise Bologna (40mins away), medieval Siena (1.5hours), or even romantic Venice (2 hours). But rather than trying to squeeze a whole other city into your trip we suggest exploring some of the famous Tuscan countrysides. Why not try a wine tour of the world-famous Chianti region? Or head to Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, whose rolling hills you’ll recognize from many Renaissance paintings and Hollywood movies.
You’ll find plenty of organized tours and private drivers available to take you on your Tuscan adventure, and they come with the bonus of pick-up and drop-offs right to your hotel. But if you’re up for it, we believe hiring a car and driving yourself through the glorious country is the best way to see it. And if you fancy it, consider staying over somewhere in the Tuscan hills and returning to the city the following day.
It’s time to cross the river and explore the Oltarno Quarter, a beautiful old neighborhood that’s home to some wonderful historic sights. It was once known for its artisanal population, but their humble workshops have been mostly replaced by high-end boutiques showcasing bespoke tailoring, designer jewelry and fine leatherwork. The nearby San Niccolò area offers slightly more attainable treasures in its funky art galleries and quirky shops and is a lovely place to wander and browse as you make your way towards the famous sights.
Head for Pitti Palace or the New Palace. Purchased in the 15th century as the seat of the Medici family, the palace is now the largest museum complex in Florence. Split into several galleries and rooms, it showcases a range of treasures from Renaissance artworks, to costumes, jewels, silverwork, sculpture, modern art and even a display of carriages once used by the court.
After the palace, make your way into the attached Boboli gardens, a beautiful example of formal Italian gardens that serve as an open-air museum dotted with exquisite sculptures and fountains.
As evening draws near, you’ll want to join the crowds heading to Piazzale Michelangelo. Climb to the top of the path and you’ll gain a view of the Florence skyline that is spectacular at any time of day, but extra special in the evening when the setting sun bathes the city in soft, warm light. Street performers, hawkers and buskers also tend to flock to this area as the sun sets and the atmosphere is unforgettable.
On the last day of your 5-day itinerary, take your time to enjoy Florence. Linger over breakfast, return to your favorite cafe or piazza, and retrace your steps to a sight you didn’t get to see properly the first time around. Then, do a last bit of souvenir shopping or head to Tornabuoni Street, the fanciest street in Florence, to splurge on designer goods. Florence was the birthplace of the luxury brand Gucci and you can visit find their first ever store/museum on Via Tornabuoni. You’ll also find a Ferragamo Museum here showcasing shoes designed for such greats as Marylin Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
If you’d rather do a little more sightseeing than shopping, why not travel back in time with a boat trip down the Arno river. You can sit back and relax as you pass famous bridges and buildings and view this beautiful city from an entirely different angle.
And what better way to finish your Florence experience than by visiting the opera in the city where opera first began. There are several opera houses and theatres in Florence, including the Teatro Niccolini, which has been operating since the 16th century. So research the performance schedules before traveling and see if you can fit a night at the opera into your itinerary.
Does Florence get busy?
Yes, Florence is the third most visited city in Italy and attracts thousands of tourists throughout the peak season of May through to September. If you want to beat the crowds, travel outside of these months. Early spring and late autumn are the best time to visit the city as it’s quieter and the weather is still warm but not too hot to walk around all day.
Also, don’t forget to book your tickets for the main sights ahead of time via phone or online. If you wait to do it on the day, you may find yourself queueing for hours just to buy a ticket. Also, if you’re on a 5-day itinerary, consider purchasing the Firenze Card, which pre-books your entrance to the major sights of Florence and allows you to jump the queues.
How many days do I need in Florence?
This really depends on your traveling style and how much time you have to spare. It is possible to hit all the Florence highlights in just 1 or 2 days, but you’ll have to move at a frantic pace. Plus, you’ll miss a lot of the essence of the city. Our 5-day itinerary lets you move at a relaxed pace, taking the time to enjoy Florence and, of course, it allows plenty of time for food, drinks and shopping breaks.
How do I get to Florence?
You can arrive directly in Florence via the international airport which is 15 mins by taxi from the city. Or if you are visiting from another Italian city, you can take a domestic flight or train. Florence’s main train station is located in the historical center of Florence, walking distance from most tourist attractions.
How should I get around Florence?
If possible, you should walk around Florence. It is a pedestrian-friendly city with all the major historical and cultural sights located within an easy distance of each other. If necessary, taxis are readily available, but, and we can’t stress this enough, do not try to drive yourself around the city center. Cars are not allowed in the historic center without a permit, and if you do so accidentally, you will get hit with a hefty fine, plus the traffic is stressful and parking is notoriously hard to find.
When hiring a car for a day trip away from Florence, it’s best to find a rental place outside the city center and take a bus or taxi to pick it up and drop it off.