Italy is hands down one of my favorite countries to visit and has been for a very long time. I did, after all, study abroad in Italy where I instantly fell in love with the food, culture, language, and history.
I heartily recommend everyone make it to Italy at some point in their life. A visit to this beautiful and passionate country is life-changing.
If you're researching Florence vs. Rome, I can assume you are set on visiting Italy (excellent choice) and possibly have limited time which will not allow you to visit both cities.
I'm sure Florence or Rome seems like an overwhelming decision, especially if you've never been to Italy. Well, fret not! I'm here to help. I’ve been to both Florence and Rome many times.
This post will discuss which city is best depending on what type of traveler you are and what type of trip you are looking for. If you find yourself Googling Florence vs Rome…continue reading below so I can help steer you in the right direction.
Why decide between Florence or Rome if you can do both?
Before I go into my opinion on Florence vs Rome, let me first say that I am mildly obsessed with both. These are two spectacular cities that will not disappoint. I don't often return to the same destination multiple times...let's just say I plan to revisit Florence and Rome as much as time and money allow. That is how special these cities are and how high they rank on my personal travel list.
I would highly recommend that everyone visit each city at some point in their life. My first suggestion would be to fit both cities into one visit. It’s actually quite easy to include both places on a short itinerary.
You can travel between Florence and Rome in as little as 1.5 hours via train. On the shortest itinerary, I would spend 2 full days in each city, fly into one city and out of the other. Simple, easy, and you get to experience the best of both worlds.
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The short and sweet answer to Florence vs Rome
Since you’re reading this post on Rome vs. Florence I will assume you are either short on time or would like to explore one city to the fullest. Therefore, fitting both destinations in your itinerary is not an option.
If you want the quick answer on Florence or Rome, I would say Florence should be your first pick. Yes, Rome has the Colosseum and the Vatican, but I truly feel Florence gives a more well-rounded experience, isn't as overwhelming (it's smaller than Rome), and has some of the best day trip options from colorful coastal towns to the wine region of Tuscany.
My personal opinion is that the food and restaurants are also better in Florence. There seem to be a lot more low quality, tourist trap restaurants in Rome than in Florence. I've never had a bad meal in Florence and this is one of the few cities I'm comfortable popping into a restaurant without researching it.
Florence vs Rome - Who should pick Florence
Florence is a top pick for lovers of food, art, wine, and fashion. It's 100% walkable, romantic, and offers plenty of day trip opportunities.
Florence has a soft spot in my heart. In fact, it's been one of my top 5 favorite cities in the world for about ten years. It's the home of the Renaissance and offers some of the most famous museums and art collections in the world.
The city center is compact and all the major sights are within walking distance. You won't have a problem filling your itinerary with remarkable things to do. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio (the picturesque bridge lined with shops) and browse the window displays filled with gold and silver jewelry.
Climb to the top of the Duomo, the main church of Florence, to see views of the city below and get a sneak peek at how the dome was constructed. Admire Michelangelo's David and browse the most impressive collection of Italian paintings in the world at the Uffizi. Cross the river and make the 20 minute hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo. This viewpoint will take your breath away.
One of my favorite things to do in Florence is to visit Piazzale Michelangelo both early in the morning and at sunset. It's usually empty and beyond peaceful in the morning (and a great time to get pictures).
The sunset experience is completely different. You'll find locals and tourists sitting on the steps or gathered around the square (often with a bottle of wine) enjoying the display of evening colors. Watching the last rays of light touch the city of Florence is an experience that never gets old.
And of course, like any major European city, you'll have your pick of palaces, cathedrals, and other museums to visit.
Florence is also extremely picturesque. Charming side streets, river views, the colorful Mercato Centrale food market, lively piazzas (squares), and outdoor cafes lead to never ending photo opportunities.
The restaurant and wine bar scene is also incredible in Florence. Unlike most tourist cities, almost every restaurant is incredible. This is one of the few cities I don't feel forced to spend hours researching restaurants in order to bypass the subpar tourist traps. I honestly don't think I've had a bad meal in Florence, and that includes the places I happened upon by chance.
If you're visiting Italy to shop, Florence has it all and is actually the birthplace of several world-renowned brands including Ferragamo, Gucci, Cavalli, and Pucci. Shop along Via de'Tornabuoni for all the hottest designer names or go across the river for boutique shops and artisan workshops.
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Florence is located in the Tuscan region and offers enough day trip opportunities to add another week to your itinerary. The opportunities really are endless.
Join a tour group and spend the day in Cinque Terre. The string of colorful coastal towns with postcard perfect views. Hop a train and spend the day in Siena (a smaller version of Florence that feels like a medieval movie set). Book a private tour of the top wineries in Tuscany. Visit medieval hill towns like San Gimignano and Montepulciano...you'll feel like you've traveled back in time to another world.
Several other notable places to visit via train from Florence are Pisa (45 minutes), Lucca (1 hour 15 minutes), and even Milan (2 hours).
If you prefer to base yourself in one place, Florence is an excellent choice as there are so many places to visit nearby via train, car, or tour group.
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In summary, if you want a walkable city, endless day trip opportunities, and are focused on art, food, fashion, and wine, Florence is the right choice when debating between Florence or Rome. This is also an easy place to slow down and have a relaxing vacation or a romantic getaway.
Rome vs Florence - Who should pick Rome
Rome is a top pick for History buffs on the Florence vs Rome debate. You'll stay plenty busy in rome dashing between numerous bucket list sights.
My biggest argument for choosing Rome over Florence is if you're keen to explore Roman history and see the most famous sights of Western civilization. The Roman Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican to name a few.
These sights are truly mind-blowing and will leave you awestruck. Gaze upon the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, learn about the world of gladiators at the Colosseum, view the birthplace of Ancient Rome as you wander the Roman Forum, feel dwarfed as you take in the sheer size and grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, admire Roman Engineering as you view the mathematically perfect Pantheon dome.
If history is your thing, few cities can top what Rome has to offer. If you want to tick some of the most famous sights in the world off your bucket list, Rome will give you a handful.
You may be wondering why Rome doesn't win the Florence vs. Rome debate given its impressive history and sights. In short, it doesn't really offer that Italian charm most visitors are looking for when coming to Italy. Rome is massive. Unlike Florence, you really can't get everywhere by foot. You'll have to get used to using the metro, bus, or calling a taxi.
Because Rome is so big and because there are so many sights to see, Rome requires much more planning than Florence. You really have to plan your day around what area you want to focus on that day since the city is so spread out. The crowds in Rome are also massive. If you choose to visit Rome, I highly highly highly recommend visiting during shoulder or slow season (winter, early spring, and late fall). The crowds can really become overwhelming.
Not to say Florence doesn't have its own crowds, but Rome just seems a tad more intense.
One of the best secrets I found in Rome was to wander the city really late at night. I'm talking 11:00 pm to 1:00 am or so. This was one of the few moments I could actually enjoy sights like the Trevi fountain or the Spanish steps not crawling with tourists. Rome is special in that the city lights up at night. It is quite spectacular to enjoy Rome in its eternal glow without the crowds.
Because Rome has been a tourist hot spot since the beginning of time, there's been plenty of time for restaurants to play the game of lowering quality and preying upon the unsuspecting visitor. You really must do your research on where to dine as you have a much higher chance of wasting a meal at a subpar, overpriced trap.
Unlike Florence, the location of Rome does not lend itself to an array of exciting day trips. Rome is not a place you spend extra nights so you can fit a few day trips in. You stay in Rome to see Rome and then move on.
Rome is special and has sights that will remain in your memory forever, but it doesn't scream romance or dolce vita. Instead, it's a place where you hit the main sights and run to other cities that really ooze Italian charm and character.
Don't forget to book your Rome tours in advance!
In summary, if you really want a taste of dolce vita (the sweet life) head to Florence. Florence is walkable, has more day trip options than you could possibly fit into one trip, some of the best food you'll ever taste, is charming and romantic, and will satisfy those hungry for art, fashion, food, and wine.
Choose Rome if it's the historical sights you are looking to check off your list. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi fountain, Pantheon, St. Peter's, and the Vatican.
Rome is a destination where you'll be busy running from place to place as there is so much to see and do. It does not offer the incredible day trips that Florence has and lacks a bit of the romance and charm Italy is known for, but to say you've seen where Western civilization began...that's something.
Rome is an amazing destination but it will take more planning and effort to ensure you have an enjoyable time and see all the sights on your list. Florence can be a bit more laid back and plan as go.
Are you looking to tick off bucket list sights and have a whirlwind trip cramming as many ancient attractions in as possible? Then Rome it is. Are you looking to experience Italian culture, art, shopping, and food? Maybe slow down and enjoy a romantic getaway or experience some spectacular day trips? Then Florence is for you!
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Florence vs Rome - Which is best for your trip to Italy?
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