As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is one of Italy’s most famed—and most visited—cities. Though it’s easy to see why. With its stunning architecture, unique historical presence, and a food scene that will take your taste buds to new heights, Florence will undoubtedly impress.
With so much to see, do, and eat in this city, planning a trip can be overwhelming. But, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few essential stops every visitor should make while visiting Florence.
What to See
Visit the Santa Trinità Basilica
The Santa Trinità Basilica, or “St. Trinity” church, sits on the square by the same name. The church was originally built sometime in the 11th century and was refurbished between the 13th and 14th century to include a more gothic style. It was then that the church also commissioned large frescos that depicted everyday Italian life. And all of the paintings still adorn the church’s walls today. Visitors are welcome to stop by any day of the week or attend a mass service on Sundays. Visitor hours: Daily 7 a.m.-12p.m. and 4 p.m.-7p.m.
Florence is packed with incredible museums and stunning works of art. But, if you want to skip the crowds at larger museums, try visiting the Palatine Gallery instead. There, visitors will still find historically-important works of art, but it’s laid out in a completely different way. Rather than showing the works in chronological order, or even by schools of art, the museum instead displays the work as if you’re passing through a personal collection. And that gives the museum a level of intimacy you won’t find anywhere else. Tickets run at $24 per adult.
Here’s a professional travel tip for visiting the Ponte Vecchio: Get there as early as possible. The Ponte Vecchio is one of the city’s oldest bridges, crossing over the Arno at its narrowest point. Built in 1345, it has long been at the center of the city’s hustle and bustle. Now, it also comes lined with luxury jewelry shops that are well worth perusing after watching the sun come up over the bridge.
What to Do
Climb the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral
Without question, the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore—otherwise known as The Duomo—is one of the most well-known symbols of Florence. Though visitors are welcome to come and simply enjoy the interior of the 14th-century cathedral, it’s best to go up—way up—to catch the view of a lifetime. If you’re minimally fit, and feel like you need a little adventure, climb the bell tower’s 463 steps. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city below. Reserve a timeslot to climb the tower upon entry. Tickets to climb are $21.
Go on a bike tour
Florence is big. So big that there’s no way to experience it all in one go. But, if you’re looking to get the most out of your trip, try hopping on a bicycle to take in as much as possible. Companies like I Bike Florence will take guests on a full-day trek through the city on vintage bicycles, ending in an ice-cold helping of gelato, making it a picture-perfect Italian day. Pricing starts at $41 per person.
Learn all about the craft of Leather
If there’s one thing Italians do right it’s leather. While in Florence, stop by the Leather School in Santa Croce. There, guests can learn everything about the leather-making process in a three- or six-hour course that includes information on sourcing, designing, and sewing skills. Tours run twice a day Monday through Friday and max out at 16 people per group to ensure an intimate learning environment. But, if you’re really invested, you could always take part in one of the school’s multi-week mastery courses. One-hour workshops start at $300.
Where to Eat
Virtually anywhere you eat in Florence will be delightful, but sometimes you just want to try it all. And that’s where Mercato Centrale comes in. At the market, visitors can dine on just about everything Florence has to offer from snacks to coffee, pasta dishes, and desserts. It also makes an excellent stop for food-centric souvenirs. While inside the market just make sure to stop at the Il Tartufo to taste and buy some of Italy’s most exquisite black and white truffles. Market hours: 8 a.m. to midnight.
No trip to Florence would be complete without an overflowing cone full of gelato. And the one place to get it from is Edoardo. The gelato and ice cream shop believes in doing things right, which means their ingredients are the finest in the business. Their milk and eggs come from happy, free-range chickens and cows, and their sorbets are made from the freshest fruit. While in the shop, try its namesake scoop—Gianduia secondo Edoardo, which comes with pieces of hazelnut and chocolate.
Pizzeria Riva D'Arno
Located along the Arno, Pizzeria Riva D’Arno is a one-stop shop for visitors looking for a prime slice of Neapolitan pizza. At the shop, guests can dine on classic dishes like margarita, caprese, Genovese, or marinara pizzas. For the truly hungry in the crowd, the restaurant also offers salads and typical Italian antipasti choices.
Where to Stay
Four Seasons Florence
If luxury is what you’re after in Florence look no further than the Four Seasons Firenze. The hotel group has long been the master of opulence-meets-comfort and their Florence property more than delivers. Inside, guests will find a replica of The David standing in the lobby, along with dreamy plush rooms, and a dining experience worth staying in for. Guests are also welcome to go stroll through the city’s largest private garden, which spans 11 glorious acres. Rooms start at $1,057 a night.
J.K. Place Firenze
Located on the Piazza di Santa Maria, J.K. Place not only provides guests with unparalleled views but also with exceptional service as well. The boutique property comes with just 20 rooms, so guests and their every need will be well taken care of. Inside, guests can book one of the four master bedrooms, which come with 500 feet of living space. To heighten the experience, try staying a night in Room 12, which comes with an unobstructed view of the Piazza below. Rooms start at $565 a night.
For a center of it all hotel book a stay at the Brunelleschi. Located close to the Duomo, the hotel provides visitors with just about the most authentic Italian experience one can have. Inside, guests will be delighted by the romantic exposed brick decor, candlelit rooms, and historical artifacts at every turn. To truly experience everything the hotel and the city have to offer, book the Tower Suite, which overlooks the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral and comes complete with golden iron chandeliers dating back to the 18th century. Rooms start at $515 a night.