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-timers 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. When someone asks for my favorite destination, I always give them my top 5.
Florence, Italy has been in my top 5 for the last 12 years.
What does it take for a city stay in my top 5? That "feeling" every time you return. Where you step foot in the city for a second, third, or tenth return visit and still get an extreme sense of excitement to be back. The "oh how I've missed this place" feeling. It's hard to put into words but my fellow wanderlust's get what I'm trying to say.
If you get that feeling after multiple revisits, that tells me this is a special place and deserves to be on the top 5 list. Florence has been that city for me for over a decade.
It's 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 those that haven't been before.
Keep coming back or subscribe to my newsletters as I will continue to write more detailed blog posts about this breathtaking Renaissance city. It's one of my most revisited cities after all, so I have a lot to talk about!
The best time to visit Florence Italy
One of the most important parts in planning your visit to Florence is WHEN to visit. Go at the wrong time and you'll be fighting the masses and miss out on the charm this city has to offer.
The best times to visit Florence, Italy are mid-March through mid-May and late-September through November. The weather is mild and the city isn't swarming with tourists during this time.
Because Florence is fairly small, peak tourist season (late-May through August) has a very noticeable impact on the city (mainly hotel prices and overwhelming crowds). These are the times I avoid.
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 while many locals leave town (to escape the pre mentioned tourists and heat).
SEE MY OTHER FLORENCE BLOG POSTS:
BEST VIEWS IN FLORENCE + MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE PLACES
FLORENCE VS ROME | WHICH IS BEST FOR YOUR TRIP TO ITALY?
BEST GELATO IN FLORENCE – TOP 5 FLORENCE GELATO SPOTS
A WEEK IN ITALY – 5 ITALY ITINERARY IDEAS
Getting to florence
Peretola (FLR) is the main airport in Florence. Unfortunately for everyone in the United States, there are no direct flights into FLR.
It's a 15 minute cab ride (currently no Uber, WHAT?!) from FLR airport to the city center. Expect to pay around 22-25 euros.
A cheaper option is the Busitalia SITA Nord "Vola in Bus" which takes you to the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station and takes about 20 minutes. A one-way ticket is 6 euros and can be purchased on the bus. The airport website is very helpful in laying out all your options on how to get from FLR to the city center.
The closest airport with direct flights from the US is Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport (PSA). A 1 hour train ride via Trenitalia will get you to the Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station in Florence from PSA airport. It's a short 10 minute walk to the very center of Florence from SMN.
This website is helpful in planning your trip for Pisa airport to Florence.
To keep travel costs low I recommend flying into the larger airport hubs of Rome (FCO) or Milan (MXP). Chances of finding a direct and cheap ticket are much more likely for these airports.
Florence is a quick 1.5 hour train from Rome on Trenitalia and a little under 2 hours from Milan (also Trenitalia).
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 visit to 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 inlcuding 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
Best coffee shops in Florence
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.
best gelato in florence
Gelateria La Carraia: Whenever I visit Florence I have gelato at least twice a day because it's just that amazing here. One of my favorite gelato spots in Florence is La Carraia! Prices are lower than in the city center; you can get a huge cone for 2 euros! Try the white chocolate pistachio.
La Strega Nocciola: The best gelato in Florence that is located in the city center. The owner will probably be the one scooping up your treat, which I love. Try the Buontalenti flavor which is a specialty cream of Florence.
I TAKE MY GELATO SERIOUSLY...WHICH IS WHY I WROTE A "TOP 5" POST ON THE BEST GELATO IN FLORENCE.
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 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 seabass, duck ragu tagliatelle, and the tiramisu. Reservations recommended.
Il Santo Bevitore: Romantic atmosphere with cooking that is 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
If it's your first visit to Florence I usually recommend at least four days. This allows enough time to fit in a day trip or two. Below are the most popular and some of the best day trips from Florence:
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. It's also nice to have someone direct you on the hike, which towns to take the train between, etc.
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 also 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. This tour visits both Siena and San Gimignano. This one combines Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano.
Hotels in Florence City Center
Staying in the city center is key as you'll be walking everywhere while in Florence. These are my top picks:
Luxury hotels in Florence city center
- Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
- The St. Regis Florence
- Rocco Forte Hotel Savoy
- The Westin Excelsior, Florence
- Bernini Palace Hotel
- Baglioni Relais Santa Croce
Mid-Range hotels in Florence city center
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 towards 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.
Hopefully this helps in planning your visit to Florence, Italy! 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.
Thank you, Madam ! Very romantic !
“From her to you comes loving thought,
that leads to highest good, while you pursue it,
counting as little what all men desire:
from her comes that spirit full of grace
that shows you heaven by the true way’:
so that in hope I fly, already, to the heights…”