Living in Italy has allowed me to visit some incredible places both in and outside of Italy, an one of my favorite cities to visit within Italy is Florence! Being the capital of Tuscany, you already know it's going to be incredibly beautiful with some delicious wine. I've had the opportunity to visit Florence in the summer, late winter and now spring. If you only have one take away from this post, it should be that to truly experience all that Florence has to offer, I would recommend staying for at least a few days or even a week. You can even use it as a hub and do a day trip to places like Pisa, Siena and Lucca, but Florence shouldn't really be a day trip. Anyways, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite things to do, places to eat and places to stay.
When to Visit Florence:
The summer months draw in much larger crowds, but the beauty of the city can be enjoyed year round. One thing to note is many Italians actually leave during the month of August, and because so many locations are run by families, many shops are closed during this month. However, the hotel prices do drop a little bit, but the temperatures are pretty brutal (hence why many locals leave for vacation during this time). If you can, I'd recommend going in April or May. The temperature is perfect, the flowers are in peak bloom and the crowds are still lower than in June/July. Honestly, there really isn't a low season in Florence, because it's freaking Florence.
How to Reach Florence:
If you are flying into Italy, you will either fly into the Florence Airport or more likely the Bologna airport. Either way, you will probably be making your way to the main train station in Florence called Firenze Santa Maria Novella (SMN). The tricky thing with flying is waiting to purchase a train ticket to the main train station. If flying into Bologna, I experienced the train tickets to be quite pricey in the spring to Florence even though it was only a 30ish minute train ride. If we are already in Italy, we've been able to find great prices on either Italo or Trenitalia if we book the train early enough as the economy seats obviously are the first ones to go.
Things To Do in Florence:
Ok so there are a LOT of things to do and see, and you'll be able to whittle things down based on your personal preferences, but here are a few things we've done that we've truly enjoyed. I'd also recommend checking out Girl in Florence for even more ideas. I also had the pleasure of meeting her in person during my most recent trip to Florence and she is truly a gem!
Leather Market: Oh hello shopping! You can definitely bargain, but be prepared to pay in cash. If you're wanting higher end leather, then you should also consider visiting Scuola del Cuoio (leather school). Everything is meticulously handmade so be prepared for a higher price tag. It's fascinating to see even if you don't end up making a purchase.
Visit the Duomo: Get there early if you're looking for pictures! The duomo is super popular so if you want to go inside, be prepared to wait in line. If visiting in the summer, you will need to make sure your outfit covers your shoulders (both men & women) and shorts/dresses go down to your knees. When we've visited in the winter, (after the Christmas/New Years season which typically ends December 6th) we've only waited in line for 5 minutes which was a stark contrast to the 30+ minutes we waited in line to enter.
Galleria dell'Accedemia: Museum where you can see the famous David statue but make sure to buy tickets in advance! The lines can be brutal especially during peak season so do yourself a favor and buy your tickets online.
Piazzale Michelangelo: Beautiful panoramic views of the city! It's lovely any time of day, but especially at sunset. If you want some incredible views with slightly fewer crowds, walk an additional 10 minutes or so up to San Miniato al Monte. This church is one of the tallest points of the city and has pretty much the same views with lighter crowds plus a few benches to sit and enjoy.
Palazzo Vecchio: This famous piazza is ginormous and filled with gorgeous views and jaw-dropping statues. Plus it's nearby some delicious places to eat so yea, you'll want to pop on over.
Scuola del Cuoio: This prestigious leather school has been around since the 13th century and crafts incredible leather items from small keychains and wallets to large purses and jackets. Be prepared for much higher prices, but also higher quality than the leather market I previously mentioned. Also, because it's located right behind the Church of Santa Croce, you can see both places in one trip!
Places To Eat in Florence:
There are so SO many wonderful places to eat in Florence, but here are a few we've visited time and again. Now when it comes to pizza, I typically recommend eating it in the south of Italy if you can. Naples is the birthplace of pizza and there is a significant difference between southern pizza and northern pizza especially when you know the difference. Pasta is amazing throughout Italy, so you can't go wrong there. Florence is obviously known for their Florentine steak so of course I recommend eating steak here at least once. Be aware that they typically like their steak on the bloody side.
P.S. If this is your first time visiting Italy then check out these 10 tips to make your Italian vacation a breeze.
All’Antico Vinaio: This famous sandwich shop sometimes has a 45+ minute line just to order, so while I loved the €5 panino and the freshness of the meats, I wouldn't wait that long in line. We waited about 5 minutes during our most recent winter trip and would definitely do it again if the line was short. There are 3 locations all just a few steps away from each other so they are doing what they can to combat long lines.
Trattoria Za Za: Ok so we don't normally go here for Florentine steak, but their peppercorn steak is amazing! As soon as we step off the train our mouths are immediately watering for this amazing dish.
Caffe La Terrazza Rinascente: Gorgeous rooftop bar with a nice view of the city, but it's a bit pricey and you might have to wait a bit depending on the time of day/year.
Ditta Artigianale: Amazing coffee shop that truly takes price in their coffee shop and we love visiting here if we're looking for a bit of variety.
Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina: This intimate little location is all about the wines! Beautiful but expensive...but totally worth it in my opinion as the servers are very knowledgeable. Make a reservation if you can!
La Menagere: The cutest shop with delicious food, coffee and a great aperitivo. We loved the vibe here and have visited several times during our trips to Florence.
Il Mercato Centrale di Firenze: I love this market because upstairs it has a huge number of restaurants, and downstairs there are a few smaller spots mixed in with butchers, wine shops, etc. if you're wanting to cook at your Airbnb.
Melaleuca Bakery: Opened fairly recently and has some seriously delish pastries and brunch options. The drool-worthy picture of the cardamom bun above is from there and if you want to take a peek at some of their other offerings, you can find their Insta here.
Where to Stay in Florence:
We have always stayed in Airbnbs so here are a few locations to take a look at (we have personally stayed in all but the solo location):
Of course we also love to stay in hotels, so here are a few great ones in the city (we have not personally used these hotels):
We absolutely love visiting Florence and I hope this guide helps you when planning your upcoming trip. There is so much to see and do and can easily use Florence as a hub if you want to visit nearby places like Pisa, Siena or Lucca. If you decide to venture to southern Italy, here are my guides to Naples and the Amalfi Coast as well as the general region of Campania.