If you are visiting Rome or touring Tuscany make a one day trip to Florence. The UNESCO listed Tuscan capital is a world class sight and you will enjoy it. Since the historic Florence is packed into a small area you can easily see it in one day.
To help you explore Florence on foot I made a walking itinerary and put it on the map.
So take good shoes and spend a day walking through the historic Florence. The city is a perfect place to explore in one day.
River Arno and Ponte Vecchio from the Uffici Gallery
Trains to Florence
As it’s almost impossible to park in the historic center of Florence try to arrive by train. Florence main train station Firenze Santa Maria Novella is right where the historic part of Florence begins and you only need to walk less than a kilometer to the sights.
The train from Rome to Florence only takes 1,5 hours (tickets on the Trenitalia website) and the same website also has all train connections from different Tuscan towns.
My post Italy by Train and Car: Rome, Florence and Tuscany tells how to take a rapid train from Rome to Florence.
What else should you think about? If you plan to visit the Uffici Gallery buy your tickets in advance (read below how) – and don’t try to visit any Florence museums on Monday as they are closed on Mondays.
So now you are in Florence, Italy, but where should you go now?
Walking Map: Florence in One Day
Florence walking tour map
To help you plan your visit I marked a Florence one day walk on Google maps. You can open the map in Google Maps and use it offline in your phone to guide you while in Florence.
My Florence walking map shows the UNESCO listed city on the banks of River Arno that flows through it. Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station is located north-west of the city center and you will get it on the map if you zoom out a little bit.
My one day Florence walk starts at the famous Ponte Vecchio that in the morning sun looks best seen from the east. We will start in the historic center north of the Arno and at the end of the day spend some time in Oltrano south of river Arno.
Florence in one day: Ponte Vecchio
This is Ponte Vecchio in the morning, seen from the east as the opposite side doesn’t get the sun in the morning.
As its name (Old Bridge) says Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, it was built in 1345. Ponte Vecchio has always been full of workshops many of which have their own extensions with windows and green shutters facing the river.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Above the workshops is a corridor built for the Medici family that long ago lived in the Uffici Palace. They noticed they need a private corridor across the river. For what reason? They wanted to avoid meeting the crowds when they went to their friends the Pitti family on the south side of the river.
Ponte Vecchio: Medici family corridor above workshops
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.
Florence in One Day: the Uffici
The facade of Uffici 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 then decided to turn their office into a museum to be able to show their impressive art collection.
Among the 1700 works are art treasures by such famous names as Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.
Florence in one day: Uffici Gallery
At all times of the year the queues to this world-class museum are very 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 catch the highlights at least. Or take a guided tour.
The corridors are a sight in themselves – the walls, floors, ceilings, and the marble statues all around.
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. But what to see in Florence next, after you have seen the Uffici? – Take a closer look at the Loggia:
Loggia dei Lanzi
Florence in one day: Loggia dei Lanzi
Our Florence walk continues now on the street level, on the Piazza della Signoria that has some great monuments and huge buildings. This is the Loggia dei Lanzi, wide arches from 1382 that contain a long row of ancient Roman statues.
Florence walking itinerary: Loggia dei Lanzi
Among the sculptures are the green bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa’s head and the rape of Polissena in white marble.
Piazza della Signoria
Florence in one day: Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is a real 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 is lined with restaurants with outdoor tables that are in use all year round.
Below some more photos of the Piazza della Signoria. The photo on the right shows the square seen from the high tower of Palazzo Vecchio.
Piazza della Signoria, Florence
What to see in Florence in a day: the town hall Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio was completed in 1322 and it originally was – and still is – Florence town hall. The thick walls house the huge city council chamber Salone dei Cinquecento, dozens of other impressive halls and a courtyard with a big fountain.
Photos of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence
The facade of Palazzo Vecchio
Museo di Palazzo Vecchio
Florence one day walking itinerary: Palazzo Vecchio
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 look at the museum on your own or take a guided tour.
The museum covers most of the building. You are free to walk around many decorated rooms and halls where rulers of Florence used to live and work. And the rulers still work in this place.
Palazzo Vecchio: Salone dei Cinquecento
On left you can see the Salone dei Cinquecento and a meeting going on. It’s exactly the meeting we came for to Florence. The town hall is used for many kinds of meetings, like this EU meeting in which my travel company Clas is participating.
The Palazzo Vecchio with its frescoes and paintings really makes a wonderful place for a meeting, but since the stone walls are massive it was incredibly cold indoors. That must be good during hot Italian summers but kind of a surprise in winter.
A Palazzo Vecchio hall ceiling
Torre di Palazzo Vecchio
Florence old town from Palazzo Vecchio
But don’t’ leave the Palazzo Vecchio before climbing to the bell tower. There’s no lift so it makes a really long climb. But the views to Piazza della Signoria, Florence and the whole region get more amazing the higher you climb.
I went up all the way but what I liked most were these Florence views from wall holes high up on the palazzo roof.
Walking in Florence: views from the tower of Palazzo Vecchio
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 more need to climb to the top of the Duomo for similar views, Duomo always has long queues. But of course if you stay longer than just one day in Florence, climb everywhere you can!
Here you can read more on the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio.
The red-roofed old town of Florence
Florence Old Town Alleys
Florence old town, Italy
Before leaving the northern side of Arno we still have to see the Duomo and to get to the Duomo we need to walk a little bit in the historic center of Florence. All streets look almost the same and yet they all are individual. This is Italy at it’s best!
Walking in the streets of Florence
East of the Palazzo Vecchio is the church of Santa Croce, you have seen the church when you climbed to the tower. The Basilica di Santa Croce stands on a beautiful large square Piazza di Santa Croce lined with pavement cafés on all sides.
A sunny spring afternoon on Piazza di Santa Croce, Florence
See Florence in one day: the Duomo
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 the Duomo’s bell tower Campanile is almost the same height.
Walking in Florence: the Duomo
Both the Duomo and the Campanile are decorated by bright Tuscan marble that shines in white, green and pink. The Campanile from 1359 is the older of the two.
Yet the Baptistry building in front is still older. It is from the 4th century and one of the oldest buildings in all Florence. The Baptistry is famous for its mosaic ceiling and east doors featuring the “Gate of Paradise”. What is good, you don’t have to go in to see the doors, they are outside.
The Campanile, Florence
Entrance to the Duomo itself is free and with a ticket you can climb both to the dome and the Campanile, they both give splendid views of Florence.
Florence in one day: the Duomo
Now it’s time to move to the other side of the river. Follow the main shopping street south past the square of Piazza della Repubblica.
Florence in one day: Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica has a massive Roman style triumphal arch with impressive arcades on both sides. This building style was used in a short 19th century period when Florence was the Italian capital.
At that time they planned to destroy all the historic quarters and replace them with more buildings of this kind. However after these existing buildings were completed they abandoned the rest of the plan – since the capital was moved to Rome.
Piazza della Repubblica, Florence
Today the Piazza della Repubblica is a central meeting place for people in Florence. The pavement cafés on all sides are good meeting points and a carousel in the middle is good for children.
The hotel we stayed at in Florence (we were here for a few days) was exactly in this triumphal arch building! A most central location and also great square views from the breakfast room.
Mercato Nuovo and Piazza della Rebubblica
Above left is the Mercato Nuovo, a covered market building south of the Piazza della Repubblica that today is occupied by souvenir stalls.
Florence Walking Itinerary: Ponte Vecchio
Walking along Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge of Florence
And now we will cross the Ponte Vecchio and get to Oltrano south of the River Arno.
The Ponte Vecchio with all its jewellers’ shops… There really are a lot of them on both sides. So many that 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.
Photos of Ponte Vecchio
Oltrano is a bit like Trastevere in Rome, the other side of the river. But originally Oltrano was a Pitti family area.
Florence in one day: Pitti Palace in Oltrano
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 then became the place where all Florence rulers lived one after another. Today the palace is 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 courtyard with the Artichoke Fountain (without the artichoke), lawn and amphitheatre
Florence in one day: Boboli Gardens on the Pitti Palace grounds
If you only have one day in Florence you might not have time for more palace interiors. Instead you can see the Boboli Gardens behind the palace. The gardens were first used by the Medici family but were later made a public park.
The Boboli Gardens climb up the hill and from the hilltop there are splendid views to Oltrano and all Florence.
A Boboli Garden statue and a lake with a Neptune Fountain
Florence in one day: a square in Oltrano
Oltrano originally was an area of the less wealthy – until the Medici moved south. That made many aristocrats follow them and palaces were built all around Oltrano.
The palaces still remain and otherwise Oltrano is a quiet residential area with small shops and nice restaurants along narrow medieval streets – a very attracting area for a stroll.
Florence in one day: walking in Oltrano
And those Oltrano restaurants are so good! According to what I saw the restaurants are authentic and the staff is very kind and spontaneous. We had both lunch and dinner south of the river and we really liked it here.
On the photos you can see Oltrano and Piazza di Santo Spirito that has 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 above.
River Arno Bridges
River Arno and Ponte Vecchio
Before completing our Florence one day walk we still have to watch the sun set beyond the most beautiful Arno bridges.
Ponte Vecchio medieval workshops look so good from the west side in the evening…
Ponte Vecchio from the 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 . That’s the street where the bridge ends.
Florence in one day: Ponte Santa Trinita
In Ponte Santa Trinita a new building technique was used as they had tree arches to support the bridge. Michelangelo was involved in the project which is why the bridge has a statue in each of its four corners. They represent the four seasons of the year.
Arno riverbank at sunset seen from St Trinity Bridge:
North bank of Arno towards Ponte Vecchio
North bank of Arno towards another bridge, Ponte della Carraia
A canoe gliding towards Ponte della Carraia and vespas on the riverbank
And then it’s time for sunset. Sunset beyond Arno and Ponte della Carraia will end our Florence in one day walk.
Now you will know what to see in Florence in a day. You have seen the top sights of the Tuscan capital and it’s time to head back to where you came from in the morning – Rome, Bologna or the Tuscan countryside. Or maybe you want to find a hotel room in Florence is you decided to stay in Florence 🙂
Florence in one day: Ponte della Carraia and Florence sunset
More on Florence and Tuscany:
I also have another blog post about Florence. The post tells you how to combine Florence, Tuscany and Rome in one and the same trip:
The post also shows you a day trip option from Florence: Fiesole up on the hills.
Interested in touring Tuscany by rental car? These posts tells you how to do it:
More on Italy Travel:
My all Italy posts are listed here: