Home » Europe » The Best of Florence in One Day

The Best of Florence in One Day

The Italian city of Florence is a world class sight, but since its historic center is packed into a small area you can discover the best of Florence in one day. To help you explore Florence sights I put them on a map and made a walking itinerary between them. 

So whether you are visiting Rome or touring Tuscany you should consider making a day trip to Florence. Take good shoes and walk through the historic city of Florence. Florence is a perfect place to explore on foot!

Ponte Vecchio from Uffici, Florence

This is the River Arno and Ponte Vecchio seen from the Uffici Gallery. 

Since it’s hard to find parking in the historic center try to arrive by train. The main train station of Florence, Firenze Santa Maria Novella is located where the historic center begins and just a 1 km walk is needed to get to all Florence top sights.

The train from Rome to Florence only takes 1,5 hours (tickets on the Trenitalia website) and in the same place you can check out train connections from different parts of Tuscany countryside.

What else should you think about before leaving?  If you plan to visit the Uffici Gallery buy your tickets in advance (read below how) and don’t plan to visit any Florence museums on Monday when they are closed.

So now you are in Florence, Italy, and ready to explore the best of it on foot.

Walk: The Best of Florence in One Day

 

To help you catch the best of Florence in one day I marked a walk on a Google map. You can open the map in Google Maps and use it offline with your mobile device while walking.

The map shows the historic Florence on both banks of River Arno that flows through the city. Santa Maria Novella is north-west of the city center and you will get the train station on the map if you zoom out a bit.

My Florence walk starts at the famous Ponte Vecchio that in morning sunlight looks best from east. We will start in the historic center north of the Arno and spend the rest of the day in Oltrano south of the river.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio and river Arno

 

This is a morning view of the Ponte Vecchio, seen from east. The opposite side of the bridge doesn’t get the sun in the morning.

As its name (Old Bridge) says the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, built in 1345. From the beginning the bridge has been filled with workshops, many of which have extensions with windows and green shutters towards the river.

 

Above the workshops is a corridor built for the Medici family that lived in the Uffici Palace. They needed a private corridor to avoid the crowds when crossing the river to meet their friends on the other side, the Pitti family.

Ponte Vecchio windows

 

We will see more of the Ponte Vecchio later on. Now it’s around 10 and we have a time reservation for the Uffici Gallery.

The Uffici

Uffici from the River Arno

Uffici facade seen from the Arno

Uffici means office. This huge building with two long wings on the inner court was the office of the Medici family that once ruled Florence. They decided to turn their office into a museum where their impressive art collection is displayed.

Among the 1700 works are art treasures by such famous names as Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.

Uffici arcade, Florence

 

At all times of the year the queues to this world-class museum are long, so you should always plan your visit and buy your tickets in advance. There are different options for that and you can read about them on this unofficial Uffici website that also sells tickets.

Statues on Uffici inner court facade

Walking along Uffici corridors you will probably get an overdoze of art. Print out a museum guide or bring a guide book to at least catch the highlights. Or take a guided tour.

The corridors make a sight in themselves – the walls, floors, ceilings, and the marble statues all around.

Uffici Florence

 

Some samples of Uffici east wing ceilings

The west wing has a roof terrace and a café located right above the Loggia dei Lanzi on the square. After you have seen enough of the Uffici take a closer look at the Loggia:

Loggia dei Lanzi

Loggia dei Lanzi from Piazza Signoria

 

Our Florence in one day walk continues on the street level, on the Piazza della Signoria that has some great monuments and buildings. This is the Loggia dei Lanzi, wide arches from 1382 that contain a long row of ancient Roman statues.

 

Among the sculptures are the green bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head and the rape of Polissena statue in white marble.

Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria, Florence walk

 

In fact the whole Piazza della Signoria is an outdoor sculpture gallery. There are many world-known statues like Michelangelo’s David, Ammannati’s Neptune Fountain and Giambologna’s Grand Duke of Cosimo I.

The Piazza della Signoria is lined with restaurants with outdoor tables that are in use all year round.

Below some more photos on the Piazza della Signoria. The photo on the right shows the square seen from the tower of Palazzo Vecchio.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio Florence

 

The Palazzo Vecchio completed in 1322 originally was and still is Florence’s town hall. The thick walls house the huge council chamber Salone dei Cinquecento, dozens of other impressive halls and a courtyard with a fountain.

Photos of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence

Palazzo Vecchio Florence in one day

Museo di Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio Sala delle Udienze

 

To get inside the building you must visit the museum. Go to the Museum entrance on the north side and buy a ticket to the museum and the tower. Both are worth a visit. You can tour the museum on your own or take a guided tour.

The museum covers most of the building. You can walk around in decorated rooms and halls where rulers of Florence used to live and work. And they still work here.

 

On left you can see the Salone dei Cinquecento and the meeting going on that we came for to Florence. The town hall is used for many kinds of meetings, like this EU meeting.

The Palazzo Vecchio with its frescoes and paintings really makes for wonderful meeting surroundings, but since the walls are thick it’s incredibly cold indoors. That must be good in hot Italian summer weather but kind of a surprise in the winter.

Palazzo Vecchio ceiling

A Palazzo Vecchio hall ceiling.

Torre di Palazzo Vecchio

Florence from Palazzo Vecchio

 

But don’t’ leave the Palazzo Vecchio before climbing to the bell tower. It makes a long climb and the views to Piazza della Signoria, Florence and the region get more and more amazing as you climb.

I went up all the way but what I liked most were these Florence views from defence wall holes on the palace roof.

 

The tiled roofs of Florence look so great from above! If you go up in the Palazzo Vecchio tower and get the views from there, there’s no need to climb to the top of the Duomo for similar views. But of course if you stay longer in Florence, climb everywhere you can!

Here you can read more on the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio.

Florence old town roofs

Old Town Alleys

Florence old town view

 

Before leaving the northern side we of course still have to see the Duomo, but before that take a walk in the historic center. All streets look the same and yet they all are individual. This is Italy at it’s best!

 

East of the Palazzo Vecchio is the church of Santa Croce, you have seen the church from the tower. The Basilica di Santa Croce stands on a beautiful large square Piazza di Santa Croce lined with pavement cafés on all sides.

Piazza Santa Croce, Florence in one day

 A sunny spring afternoon on Piazza di Santa Croce

The Duomo

Florence Duomo, Italy

 

If the Ponte Vecchio is the most famous sight of Florence, the Duomo certainly takes the second place.

The Duomo, officially the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, can be seen from everywhere in the city, it’s so much taller than all other buildings in Florence. The  dome is huge and can be accessed by 463 steps. And its bell tower Campanile is almost the same height.

 

Both the Duomo and the Campanile are decorated by bright Tuscan marble that shines in white, green and pink. The Campanile is the older of the two, from 1359.

But the Baptistry building in front is still older. It is from the 4th century and one of the oldest buildings in Florence. The Baptistry is famous for its mosaic ceiling and east doors featuring the “Gate of Paradise”. You don’t have to go in to see the doors, they are outside.

The Campanile, Florence in one day

 

Entrance to the Duomo is free and with a ticket you can climb both to the dome and the Campanile for splendid views of Florence.

The Duomo of Florence

 

On the way to the other side of the river follow the main shopping street past the square of Piazza della Repubblica.

Piazza Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica, Florence walk

 

The Piazza della Repubblica has a massive Roman style triumphal arch with impressive arcades on both sides. They all remind us of a 19th century period when Florence was the Italian capital.

At that time there were plans to destroy the historic quarters and replace them with impressive buildings of this kind. After these buildings were built the rest of the plan was abandoned. The capital was moved to Rome.

Piazza della Repubblica arcade Florence

 

Today the Piazza della Repubblica is a central meeting place for people in Florence with pavement cafés on all sides and a carousel in the middle.

And the hotel we stayed at in Florence was in the triumphal arch building!  A very central location and great views from the breakfast room!

 

Above left is the Mercato Nuovo, a covered market building south of the Piazza della Repubblica that today is occupied by souvenir stalls.

 

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio gold shops and walkers

 

And now again the Ponte Vecchio, to get to Oltrano south of the River Arno.

The Ponte Vecchio with all its jewellers’ shops… There really are lots of them on both sides so you don’t even see the river – except in the middle where there are three arches on one side and an open area with locks on the other.

 

Oltrano is a bit like Trastevere in Rome, the other side of the river. But originally Oltrano was a family Pitti area.

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti, Florence

 

The Pitti family built their palace here in 1457. The building turned out to cost them too much and a hundred years later the family went bankrupt and sold their palace to the Medicis.

The Pitti Palace became the place where all Florence rulers lived one after another. Today the palace is s a museum with huge art collections, again art once owned by the Medici family.

In the Pitti Palace the top sights are the Palatine Gallery with Raphael’s paintings and the Museu degli Argenti with silverware.

Pitti Palace inner courtyard with the Artichoke Fountain (the artichoke has been lost) and amphitheatre lawn

 

Boboli Gardens

Giardino di Boboli, Florence in one day

 

If you plan to see Florence in one day you might not have much time for the palace interiors but you can see the Boboli Gardens behind. The gardens were first used exclusively by the Medici family but were later made a public park.

The Boboli Gardens climb up the hill from where there are splendid views to Oltrano and Florence.

A Boboli Garden statue and a lake with a Neptune Fountain 

Oltrano

Oltrano, Florencein one day

 

Oltrano was an area of the less wealthy until the Medici moved south of the river. That made many aristocrats follow them in the area and palaces were built all around.

The palaces still remain and otherwise Oltrano is a quiet residential area with small shops and restaurants along narrow medieval streets – a very attracting area for a stroll.

 

And those Oltrano restaurants are so good! According to what I saw the restaurants are authentic and the staff is nice and spontaneous. We had both lunch and dinner south of the river and we really liked it.

On the photos you can see Oltrano and Piazza di Santo Spirito with a church with the same name. The piazza is lined with artisan shops and pavement restaurants – and palazzi.

You can see one of the palazzi, Palazzo Guadagni behind the green statue.

River Arno Bridges

Ponte Vecchio jewellery shops Florence

 

Before we have completed our Florence walk we still have watch the sun set and the most beautiful Arno bridges in evening light.

Ponte Vecchio medieval workshop walls look so good in the setting sun…

Ponte Vecchio from Arno riverbank and from Ponte Santa Trinita

The next bridge is the Ponte Santa Trinita, named after the church of the holy Trinity on Via de Tornabuoni where the bridge ends.

Ponte Santa Trinita, Florence walk

 

In the Ponte Santa Trinita a new technique of building was used, tree arches supporting a bridge. Michelangelo was involved and the bridge has four statues in the corners representing the four seasons.

Arno riverbank at sunset viewed from St Trinity Bridge:

River Arno, Florence

North bank of Arno and Ponte Vecchio

 

River Arno and Ponte della Carraia at sunset

North bank of Arno towards the next bridge, Ponte della Carraia

Local transport in Florence: a canoe gliding towards the Ponte della Carraia and and vespas on Arno riverbank.

 

And then – this sunset view of the Arno and the Ponte della Carraia ends our Florence walk.

You have now seen the best of Florence in one day and it’s time to head back to where you area staying – or find a hotel room if you suddenly decided to stay in Florence.

 

Ponte della Carraia at sunset

 

More on Italy Travel:

I also have posts on Rome, Cinque Terre and the Tuscan countryside.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

eleven + 9 =