Florence, Italy is a great city. It’s fascinating. There is a ton of history in this beautiful medieval city, from influential Medici family to the astounding architecture of the Duomo. One day in Florence isn’t nearly enough time to get lost in the narrow streets but if you’re passing through and have just one day to see all the sights, then this itinerary is for you. With just one day in Florence, or Firenze as Italians say, you’ll be able to see the famous Duomo, the larger-than-life (in places, anyway) David, and the world famous Ponte Vecchio, as well as a few others. Read on for my definitive itinerary for one day in Florence, Italy.
one day in florence, italy
Begin your day with un caffe, the only way Italians get out of bed in the morning. Italian espresso is a kick in the pants, which you’ll need to go all day. There are cafes on every corner which can make you a quick cuppa so don’t waste time tracking down any particular one. Ask for “un caffe,” or if you want a double espresso, “un doppio.” Drink it hot while standing at the counter and then head on your merry way.
did you know? Italians don’t drink cappuccino after 11am, so if you want to feel like a local, don’t do that either!
the churches of florence
Make your way to the Firenze Duomo. It opens to visitors at 10am (except on Sundays, when it is 1:30pm). A walk through the cathedral itself is free – expect a line but it moves fairly quickly. To climb the Duomo, however, you need a separate ticket. Buy these online before you go or at the ticket office in the piazza. Your ticket will also get you into the Baptistry and access to the campanile, or bell tower. It is good for 24 hours, so you can climb the campanile later in the day if you wish.
On your way to the Duomo, you’ll wander the streets of the old city. Almost all of the architecture here has something to do with the Medici family. There are a few other churches you may see, like the Basilica di San Lorenzo which houses the Medici chapels, or Santa Maria Novella, which has some of the other trees in the city. This, on a warm night, means that as you walk near the church you will hear a cacophony of birds. East of the Duomo (about a ten minute walk) is Santa Croce di Firenze.
dining in florence
Depending on the amount of time you spend at the Duomo and the piazza, it’s probably time for lunch. While there are some okay restaurants in the vicinity of the Duomo, in my opinion there is no better place to go for lunch than to the Mercato Centrale.
While at first glance this looks like a massive farmers market, there is so much more than that. Head for the stairs and go to the second level. This is where you will find a bunch of fantastic restaurants serving inexpensive meals. And, in my opinion, even if you have more than one day in Florence, you should visit this place often!
Some have table service, but it’s pretty easy to order from the counter and then snag seats at one of the community tables. I should warn you that a lot of people eat here – even locals – so if you’re there after 12:30 it could be pretty tricky to find a table. Don’t let that deter you, it’s fun. There are bartenders walking around to take orders for drinks, or you can go to one of the bars to order.
After you’ve sated your appetite and quenched your thirst, it’s time to pay a visit to David. This iconic statue resides at the Galleria dell’Accademia which is about a ten to fifteen minute walk from the Mercato. Book tickets in advance online, unless you’re in Italy in the darkest of winter. The Galleria is much more than just the David, however unless you are an art history aficionado, a quick walk through will suffice. The hall with the plaster casts is pretty interesting. It’s sort of like walking through a crowded art studio!
From the Galleria, you can detour to the Ospedale degli Innocenti, or Hospital for the Innocent, a former orphanage. It is now a museum, but the portico is another Brunelleschi masterpiece. From there, walk south(ish) toward the River Arno. You’ll pass back by the Duomo, although you could easily meander through the Piazza Della Repubblica as well, up to you. Either way, your destination is the Uffizi Galleria, one of the most famous and largest art collections in the world. The 16th century building itself was once the home of the Florentine magistrates (“uffizi ” in Italian means “offices”) and its iconic u-shape with architectural screens is often considered one of the first European architectural streetscapes.
**A very important note about the galleries in Florence: it is imperative that you book your tickets online and well in advance. Both the Galleria and the Uffizi are so famous that in the summer, at the height of cruise ship season, waits can be upwards of five or seven hours. Having a ticket can greatly reduce the time. A private tour is also a good way to beat the lines!
The Uffizi is right next to the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge with merchants on it. It’s crowded but worth a walk through. The Oltrarno, or the other side, or “across the Arno,” is a neighbourhood well worth exploring.
aperitivo and the evening in florence
After your visit to the Uffizi, head to a local bar for an aperitivo. This is the Italian version of an aperitif, and typical small plates of meat, cheese, olives, and bread are included in the price of your drink. Your hotel may offer aperitivo, but if not, here are a few suggestions.
- Il Santino, Via di Santo Spirito 60
- Kitsch, Via S Gallo 22r
- Rifrullo, Via di S Niccolo 55r
Finally, enjoy a walk through the old streets before returning to your hotel to dress for dinner. There is no lack of good restaurants in Florence, it’s just a matter of finding one that is not super touristy! As you’re all aware by now, I definitely prefer restaurants that are crowded at the local dinner time, not the ones that are packed at 7:30pm. That’s simply not when Italians eat!
The concierge at your hotel is usually a good resource for dining options, especially with only one day in Florence. If not, here’s a short list of great restaurants!
- Il Santo Bevitore, Via Santo Spirito 64/66
- Trattoria Cammillo, Borgo San Jacopo, 57/59
- Le Volpi e L’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi 1
- Enoteca Alessi, Via delle Oche 27/29
Heading to Livorno next? Check out La Barrocciaia for rustic, traditional meals
where to stay in florence
There is no shortage of good hotels in Florence. From über luxury to simple, there is something for everyone. The last time I stayed overnight in Florence, we rented an Airbnb. This was ideal for us, as it meant we could cook our own food, buy our own wine, and be fairly independent. (Not to say we didn’t dine out, as we definitely enjoyed lunch at the Mercado Centrale and a few dinners at some off the beaten track places!)
But, where to stay in Florence can be tricky especially in the summer. Pick a central hotel, otherwise you may find yourself walking for a distance. My brother recently stayed at the Marriott AC hotel, but their walk into the historic centre was about forty minutes. By contrast, the luxurious Lungarno Collection hotels are literally on top of the Ponte Vecchio. I visited several of the luxury properties in Florence on my last visit to Italy, and I can safely say that you definitely get what you pay for.
Have you been to Florence? Leave your suggestions for attractions in the comments below! Never been? Pin this >>> for future reference!