Planning to visit Florence, Italy and looking for tips on what to see, do, and eat? My Florence travel guide has all the essentials you need for a successful trip! This guide was made with first-timer visitors in mind as I'll provide a general overview of the city.
"What cities make your top five list?". A question Jake and I play around with all the time.
Florence, Italy has been in my top 5 for the last 14 years.
What does it take for a city stay in my top 5? That "feeling" every time you visit. A place that after a second, third, or tenth return trip, you still get an extreme sense of excitement to be back.
In short, I'm trying to say that this is a destination not to be missed.
Florence is small enough to be walkable and not overwhelming, boasts some of the best food on this planet, and radiates charm and culture.
If you're planning to visit Florence, Italy, this Florence travel guide is a great place to start. I'll share all the essentials you need, especially helpful for first-time visitors.
Keep coming back or subscribe to my newsletters as I'll continue to write more detailed blog posts about this breathtaking Renaissance city.
It's one of my most visited cities after all, so I have a lot to talk about!
This map shows the everything listed in this Florence travel guide for first time visitors. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - top Florence sights and attractions
- Purple - coffee shops, gelato, restaurants, etc.
- Black - recommended hotels
The best time to visit Florence Italy
One of the most important parts of planning your visit to Florence is WHEN to go. Choose the wrong time and you'll be fighting the masses. Much of the charm will be lost.
The best times to visit Florence, Italy are early spring and late fall. Mid-March through mid-April and October through November bring mild weather and fewer tourists.
Because Florence is fairly small, peak tourist season (mid-May through August) has a very noticeable impact on the city (mainly hotel prices and overwhelming crowds).
Try to avoid August at all possible costs. Not only can it get terribly hot during this month but the city is absolutely packed with tourists. Many locals leave town to escape the aforementioned tourists and heat.
How many days in Florence are ideal?
I recommend 4 nights in Florence in order to have time for day trips. You have plenty of options; Tuscany, Siena, Cinque Terre, etc.
You'll need 2 days to explore Florence and 2 days for day trips.
On the quickest of trips, I recommend 2 nights in Florence. It will feel rushed, but you'll have enough time to see the top sights in the city.
For those not in a rush, this is a city I love to slow down. Personally, I think Florence is a better place to bake in extra time than Rome, Venice, and Amalfi.
If you want to do several day trips, go wine tasting, shop, eat your way around the city...then you could easily spend 5 days in Florence.
Getting to Florence, Italy
Peretola (FLR) is the main airport in Florence, Italy.
To get from FLR airport to the city center, the best option (and cheapest at €1.50) is the new tram system. It takes 15 minutes to get from the airport to the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station.
It's a 10-minute walk to the very center of Florence from SMN.
If you don't want to walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station to your hotel, then grab a taxi for about €25. Uber is not available in Florence (as of this writing).
Unfortunately there are no direct flights to FLR from the United States. So you may want to consider flying into Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA).
A 1-hour train ride via Trenitalia will get you to the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence from PSA airport.
This website is helpful in planning your trip from Pisa airport to Florence.
To keep travel costs low, you could also fly into the larger airport hubs of Rome (FCO) or Milan (MXP). Chances of finding a direct and cheap ticket are more likely for these airports.
Florence is a 1.5-hour train from Rome on Trenitalia and a little under 2 hours from Milan (also Trenitalia).
Where to stay in Florence for first-timers
If you're visiting Florence for the first time, staying in the city center is a must. Basically, locate the Duomo and pick a hotel within a radius of 15 to 20 minutes from there.
Go farther than this and you'll lose a lot of precious sightseeing time getting to all the top sights and restaurants, plus you'll lose the experience of staying where all the atmosphere is.
Where to stay in Florence for first-time visitors: luxury hotels
WHERE TO STAY IN FLORENCE FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS: mid-range HOTELS
Getting around Florence
The best way to get around Florence is by foot. The city center is easily walkable and small enough that you could get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes.
Must-see sights in Florence
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and therefore offers the best Renaissance art in all of Europe. The museums are some of the best in the world.
You'll also find art all over the city, like in the main square of Piazza della Signoria (photo above).
If this is your first time visiting Florence, I would recommend a minimum of 3 days to see the major sights in Florence.
Accademia: Michelangelo's David. Reserve in advance! You can't visit Florence, Italy and NOT see THE David. It's a requirement.
Uffizi Gallery: the greatest collection of Italian paintings and one of the most famous museums in the world. Reserve in advance!
Duomo: the most iconic sight in Florence, also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but paid admission is required for other areas including the climb to the dome, the Duomo Museum (worthwhile), and the Baptistry.
Ponte Vecchio: famous bridge lined with gold and jewelry shops. Make sure to stop by during the morning and evening during your visit to Florence.
Piazzale Michelangelo: the best photo opportunity in Florence located on a hilltop square with panoramic views of Florence as your backdrop.
Piazza della Signoria: the main square in Florence with the Palazzo Vecchio, a towering medieval fortress and tower, and an outdoor sculpture gallery including a copy of Michelangelo's David.
San Lorenzo Market: lively outdoor market selling leather, clothing, and popular souvenirs.
Mercato Centrale: indoor food market with traditional food stalls on the first floor (meat, produce, cheese, etc.) and an Eataly (large food court style) on the second floor with 500 seats and free WiFi.
Best places to eat in Florence, Italy
Best coffee shops in Florence
I have an entire blog post dedicated to the best cafes and coffee shops in Florence. Here's as summary:
Ditta Artigianale: hands down my favorite coffee shop in Florence.
Ditta Artigianale Neri is small, always busy, and more popular with tourists.
The Ditta Artigianale Sprone is two stories, has a large patio, and seems to draw the student crowd.
Both serve an excellent cappuccino and flat white along with iced coffees, matcha, and cafe bites like burritos, avocado toast, pancakes, croissants, muffins, and sandwiches.
La Ménagère: if you're looking for an Instagrammable coffee shop in Florence, this is it.
La Menagere is a concept store combining a coffee shop on the right side and a flower, home, cafe/restaurant on the left side. They have a nice sidewalk patio as well. Grab a Nutella croissant!
Ben Caffe: this Florence coffee shop serves some of the best coffee at the best price. It's tucked away in the heart of the city center.
You won't happen upon it by chance and have to be looking for it...hence why it doesn't seem to be flooded with tourists.
Quick and casual Eats in Florence
Mercato Centrale: Eataly food market (mentioned above). Create a picnic from a selection of fresh produce, meat, and cheese on the first floor.
Head upstairs to eat in with a wide selection of stands offering pizza, sandwiches, gelato, coffee, cheese, truffle dishes, and more!
Gustapizza: a visit to Florence means consuming lots of quality pizza and pasta. Gustapizza offers some of the best pizza in Florence at low prices (around 5-10 euros).
La Divina Pizza: Roman-style pizza in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. Try the fig and burrata!
I Due Fratellini: take-away sandwich shop.
All'Antico Vinaio: arguably the best panini in Florence. It's so popular they have several tiny shops right next to each other to speed things up.
Be sure to get the truffle cream on your sandwich.
Note Di Vino - Enoteca Wine Bar: - great little wine bar with crostini, small sandwiches, and other snacks. They have a cute sidewalk patio with a view of the Santa Croce Basilica and piazza.
Le Vespe Cafè: come here if you need a break for the typical pasta and pizza meal. When I'm craving some greens, I come here.
The Mediterranean and salmon poke bowls are fantastic and fresh. This is a popular brunch spot too.
Best gelato in Florence
Gelateria La Carraia: prices are lower than in the city center; you can get a huge cone for €2.50! Try the white chocolate pistachio.
Best dinner restaurants in Florence
Ristorante La Giostra: if I died tomorrow this would be my last meal. Enough said.
Advanced reservations strongly recommend.
Book La Giostra towards the beginning of your visit to Florence because you might just want to return before you leave.
Order whatever handmade ravioli they have. I've tried both the pear and ricotta and the pumpkin...both are insane.
Trattoria ZaZa: pizza and Tuscan cuisine restaurant that has unfortunately become a tourist hotspot (it doesn't stop me from loving it though).
I love the truffle sea bass, duck ragu tagliatelle, and the tiramisu. Reservations recommended.
Vini E Vecchi Sapori: incredible pasta...may be hard to get a reservation as it's quite small.
Il Santo Bevitore: romantic atmosphere with recipes that are less heavy and more refined. Reservations recommended.
Santino: cute Charcuterie spot that is the sister restaurant of the above.
O'Munaciella: restaurant popular with the locals offering pizza and traditional Tuscan dishes.
Day trips from Florence, Italy
If it's your first time visiting Florence, I usually recommend spending at least 4 nights in the city so you can have time for two day trips.
Best day trips from Florence, Italy:
Cinque Terre - five colorful fishing villages strung together along the Mediterranean coast. It's popular to hike between the towns and the views are incredible.
I recommend joining a tour as it's a little complicated to get to Cinque Terre via public transport.
I did the group tour with Walkabout and highly recommend it. I felt like I got to see everything, had just enough time to explore the main villages, and the guide was informative, funny, and professional.
There is a wonderful private tour if that's more your style.
Tuscany wine region - pair rolling hills, medieval towns, quaint tasting rooms, and incredible wine into one memorable day. Join a tour to fully enjoy the experience...and the wine.
- Small-Group Wine Tasting Experience in the Tuscan Countryside - 4-hour tour visiting two wineries + olive oil tasting and snacks.
- Taste of Chianti: Tuscan Cheese, Wine and Lunch from Florence - full-day wine and food tour. Travel through the Tuscan hills by a 4x4 off-road vehicle, stopping to visit a wine estate and historic villa, and a cellar specializing in bottles of Chianti Classico, finish with a 3-course meal.
- Full Day Tuscany Wine Tour - made with 18 - 39-year-olds in mind.
- Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour from Florence - see it all with this tour; Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and lunch at a Chianti wine estate.
Siena - a smaller version of Florence that feels a bit more medieval. Take the train and wander on your own or join a tour. I recommend fitting in more than one city if you're doing a tour.
Fitness in Florence
If you feel the need to run off some of the gelato and pasta you've consumed during your visit to Florence, then head towards the Arno River!
The best jogging route in Florence is to head West along the river toward Cascine Park (a nice size at 395 acres).
Once you reach the park you can either jog on the trails in the center among the trees or stick to the path along the river. You'll be in good company with local Florentines jogging, rollerblading, biking, and playing sports.
In general, I try to stay away from large parks after dark, just to be on the safe side.
I wrote this Florence travel guide with first-time visitors in mind. Hopefully this helped in planning your visit to Florence and answered some questions along the way.
These are the recommendations I've been sending to my family and friends for years and I'm so happy to finally finish this post and share it with you.