One Day in Florence: The Ultimate Itinerary
Ah, Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance! There is so much to see and do in Florence, that one day isn’t nearly enough to experience everything. However, it is possible to cover some of the city’s highlights in a single day.
Florence is an outdoor museum. If you only have 24 hours to visit Florence, our 1-day itinerary will make sure you walk away feeling like you’ve experienced much of what the city has to offer…with a desire to return for more.
Locations and Highlights
Florence is a very walkable city. This route can be traversed entirely on foot at an easy pace. The following map plots the locations that we recommend for our 1-day itinerary. Start at the northernmost point, the Galleria dell’ Accademia, and zigzag your way down through the historic city center, eventually crossing the Arno River. Relax and rest your weary feet by watching the sun set from one of Florence’s prominent bridges. Conclude your day by enjoying Florentine cuisine at one of our favorite restaurants.
The statue of David by Michelangelo is one of the most recognized works of Renaissance sculpture in the world, and it’s housed at the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. The statue of David is the highlight of the museum, although other Florentine masterpieces abound throughout.
For those who may be thinking that you may not want to spend your precious 24 hours in Florence touring a museum, don’t worry: the Galleria dell’ Accademia is pretty compact and a visit takes only about an hour. Be sure to purchase tickets online in advance, as the lines for the Galleria dell’ Accademia start early and can become quite lengthy.
Buy tickets: Firenzi Musei website
Find David Elsewhere
If you want to save time or cost by not visiting Galleria dell’ Accademia, copies of the statue of David are located throughout Florence, including in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, which comes later in our 1-day itinerary.
Piazza del Duomo
Florence’s Duomo is the city’s most iconic landmark. The white and green marbled facade topped by a red-tiled dome dominates the Renaissance cityscape. The plaza around the Duomo becomes packed with visitors throughout the day.
Despite the breathtaking exterior, the vast interior of the Duomo is shockingly sparse. Visitors are willing to stand in line for hours to enter the cathedral and see…nothing. Well not nothing, per se, but crown jewel of the Duomo is the dome. And the best way to view the dome is by purchasing a ticket to tour the Cupola del Brunelleschi. A tour of the Cupola gives you an up-close-and-personal view of the elaborate frescos on the underside of the dome, and sweeping view of the city from the top.
The cathedral ticket costs €18 and includes access to the dome, the campanile (bell tower), the baptistry in front of the cathedral, the crypt, and the museum. Depending on how much you fall in love with the Duomo, you can spend time lots of time in each location. But we highly recommend seeing the dome, campanile, and baptistry at minimum.
For detailed information about visiting the Duomo complex, be sure to check out our tips for visiting Florence’s Duomo.
Hours: Monuments have different opening and closing hours which vary throughout the year; check with the website for opening hours.
Buy tickets: Il Grande Museo del Duomo
If you plan to climb to the top of the dome, make sure you’re in good shape. It’s 463 grueling steps to the top of the dome, and another 414 steps to reach the top of the Bell Tower. The stairs can be rather claustrophobic, as well, so be prepared.
Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica is a pedestrian square in the heart of Florence. The western side of the plaza can be identified by a series of porticos and a massive triumphal arch. The plaza is surrounded by historical cafes, and a traditional merry-go-round is featured in the center of the square.
Grab a pastry and coffee at Cafe Gilli. Established in 1733, Cafe Gilli is the oldest cafe in Florence. It is the only example of a Florentine Liberty-style cafe, and is a mandatory stop for both locals and tourists.
Mercato del Porcellino
Just steps away from the Piazza della Signoria lies the Mercato del Procellino (also known as Mercato Nuovo). This 16th-century covered portico is where many of Florence’s famous leather goods are sold. Peruse through the stalls filled with jackets, purses, bags, belts, notebooks, and more. Don’t be afraid to bargain if you want to purchase something.
The market draws its namesake from Il Porcellino, a bronze fountain of a wild boar found on the southern side of the loggia. Visitors flock to the famed fountain to toss in a coin and rub the boar’s snout for good luck.
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is the heart and political focus of Florence. Each day thousands of tourists flock to the square to admire the beautiful Fountain of Neptune and the surrounding buildings.
On one side of the plaza is the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art. Sculptures include Hercules and Nessus and Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna, a bronze statue of Perseus with the severed head of Medusa by Cellini, and a marble copy of Menalaus Supporting the Body of Patroclus.
The square is dominated by the 14th-century crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, the old town hall. Visitors can tour the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio for free. Tickets to tour the museum and to climb the tower range from €10-14. The tower offers sweeping views of the city and some of the best views of the nearby Duomo.
Michelangelo’s statue of David was originally placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio. It has since been moved to its permanent location at the Galleria dell’ Accademia. A replica stands in its place at the front gate of the Palazzo Vecchio.
The Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) dates from AD 972 and spans the Arno River at its narrowest point. The bridge is considered one of the most beautiful sights in Florence, and visitors flock to it in droves.
Butcher shops originally lined both sides of the stone bridge until the late 16th century when Ferdinando I de’ Medici ordered them to be replaced by goldsmiths to enforce the prestige of the bridge. The bridge has twinkled with the glittering wares of jewelers ever since.
During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans during their retreat from the advance of the liberating British army. This was allegedly because of an express order by Hitler in recognition of the bridge’s historical value.
After a day of navigating crowds in the heart of the city, why not escape to the quieter neighborhood of Oltrarno? You can get there simply by crossing the Arno River. (The name Oltrarno means “beyond the Arno.”)
There are a number of sights to see in Oltrarno, including the Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, the Branacacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, and the Piazzale Michelangelo. But if you’re only spending one day in Florence, you just don’t have enough time to do it all.
Instead make your way from the Ponte Vecchio to the Basilica di Santo Spirito. This famous church was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the same guy who constructed the dome of the Duomo. Brunelleschi died before the church was finished, so the exterior of the church is quite plain. The the elaborate interior, however, is one of the preeminent examples of Renaissance architecture.
Sunset from St. Trinity Bridge
As the sun gets lower in the sky, head to the St. Trinity Bridge (the next bridge down river from the Ponte Vecchio). The sun sets gracefully to the west, splashing light on the Ponte Alla Carraia and the Arno River.
If you need another reason why the St. Trinity Bridge is perfect for sunsets, just turn around for beautiful views of the Ponte Vecchio. Stick around after the sun goes down to see the Ponte Vecchio and the buildings along the Arno River come alive at night.
After a long day, it’s time to sit down and enjoy a full meal. All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi is one of our favorite restaurants, showcasing the finest foods from the Tuscan countryside. If meat is your thing, be sure to try a famous thick-cut Florentine steak. The steaks are massive, and easily sharable amongst 2-3 people. Otherwise check out classics like panzanella, ribollito, or homemade pici (a Tuscan style of pasta).
That wraps up our 1-day itinerary. Is there anything we missed that a first timer should see? What are your top picks for things to do in Florence in one day?
Like this post?