Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and known around the world for its culture, art, and architecture, Florence holds many traveler’s hearts. When planning a trip to the Tuscan capital, look no further for recommendations on what to see, where to stay, and what to eat.
Florence’s centerpiece is the Florence Cathedral Complex, consisting of the Cathedral, Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile. The architecture is stunning and will have you busy with your camera for hours, but be sure to head inside the buildings, too. While you can enter the Cathedral for free, you’ll want to climb the Duomo and Campanile, and see inside the Baptistery, too. Visit all three by purchasing a cumulative ticket online for 15 euro.
The Uffizi Gallery is the most famous art museum in the city, and one of the best-known by art enthusiasts around the world. It’s a must-see for art lovers, though you’ll want to do a bit of research before you go or even book a tour. The Uffizi’s sheer size and popularity can be overwhelming, and a tour guide will know all the ins and outs of the museum. Just make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time!
Looking for Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture? David stands in the Galleria Accademia (though you can see replicas in Piazza della Signoria or Piazzale Michelangelo). This art museum is less expansive than the Uffizi, but still sees nearly 1.5 million visitors every year. Because of David’s popularity, you’ll want to buy your ticket well in advance of your visit.
Centrally located, unquestionably hip, and amenity rich, the Hotel Savoy offers the ultimate in Florence accommodations. Situated on a sunny piazza, the 88 rooms of the Hotel Savoy are all impeccably decorated, and some are even outfitted with private steam rooms. For families, couples, or solo travelers alike, the Hotel Savoy is Florence’s most fashionable — and comfortable — place to stay.
No need to pack E.M. Forster’s famous novel “A Room with a View,” if you stay at the Antica Dimora Johlea because you’ll have your own spectacular view of the city below. Well-priced, elegantly decorated, and private, the Antica Dimora Johlea is perfect for those who don’t mind a 10-minute stroll through the piazzas and markets of Florence to get to the main attractions.
For travelers on a budget, or for those who’d prefer to prepare their own food with fresh produce from Florentine markets, AirBnB is a fantastic resource for anyone who’s eager to visit this magical city. Choose from a variety of affordable, well-decorated, charming apartments or rooms that are sure to fit your needs — whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, with a family, or with a furry friend.
Given Florence’s status as a historical hub for painters and sculptors, keep an eye out for local street artists while you’re exploring the city. These men and women will often set up shop near the Ponte Vecchio, the Piazza di Santa Croce, or on the sides of the Cathedral/Duomo. Check out the selections and choose a reminder of Florence for your wall at home — just remember that the artists who are painting throughout the day are usually better to buy from than those who simply lay their paintings/wares out for sale.
Step into Florence’s storied past with a stop at Signum Firenze, a small shop just steps from the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio. Inside, you’ll find a large assortment of paper goods including journals, notecards, maps, and artwork. But there’s so much more! The shop also features miniature Renaissance-man bookshelves and desks, old compasses, personalized wax-stamping equipment, and small globes. This is the perfect place to find gifts for everyone at home!
Florence is awash with leather — you’ll find shops and stalls selling leather goods all over the city! To see artisans in action, and pick up a few pieces for yourself, head to Scuola del Cuoio (translated: school of leather) near the Basilica di Sante Croce. This former Franciscan friars’ dormitory has been transformed into a workshop and accompanying store, and it’s guaranteed that all the items for sale are genuine, too.
If you’re up for a bit of haggling, head to the San Lorenzo Market. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this open-air street market features stalls stocked with scarves, clothing, jewelry, antiques, and pottery. For a quick meal before or after your shopping escapades, head to the indoor section of the market, where both levels are full of fresh food vendors and places to grab a bite.
Traditional Italian cuisine in an ancient tavern atmosphere is what you can expect at Trattoria Marione. This lovely restaurant is unassuming, but the food is superb! Take a break from your phone (there’s no WiFi) and engage in hearty conversation with your travel companions as you dig into plates of pasta, piles of prosciutto, and glasses of wine!
For an enjoyable evening, make your way across the Arno River to Piazza Santo Spirito. There, you’ll find a handful of restaurants with varying types of cuisine. Osteria Santo Spirito features a menu with many appetizers and traditional Italian first and second courses; pasta lovers will want to sample the dishes at Tamerò, a pasta bar that hosts live music; and if you’re willing to wait for a table, try Gustaosteria.
This photogenic Italian bar/pub, located right in Piazza del Duomo, is the perfect spot for an evening drink. MOVE ON boasts the best selection of beers and records, so grab a beer or a mojito and enjoy the atmosphere of this perfectly-placed establishment. Before you leave, make sure to check out the vinyl shop upstairs, which features both Italian and American records.
Florence is considered the birthplace of gelato (Italian ice cream) and therefore has more gelato shops than most cities in Italy! For a classic scoop, head to Vivoli’s, said to be the oldest gelato shop in the city. Though they don’t offer cones, you’ll love that you can choose a small cup and pick up to three different flavors! If you’re feeling daring, try one of their more inventive flavors like “fantasia,” a chocolate gelato with dried fruit and cherries.
Looking for something a bit more mainstream, but still delicious? Make your way to Grom. Located down an alleyway right by the Cathedral, Grom is perfect for a late-night pick-me-up as you admire Brunelleschi’s Dome in the moonlight. Grom makes their ice cream with all-natural ingredients sourced from around the world, so each is as flavorful as the real thing! We recommend the lemon flavor or their specialty, “Crema di Grom,” but you really can’t go wrong here.
Don’t be afraid to try smaller establishments hidden in Florence’s winding alleyways either. Near the Basilica di San Lorenzo, you’ll find Le Botteghe di Leonardo, a bright little shop with a similarly sunny atmosphere. They feature gelato, popsicles, cakes, biscotto, and frozen lemonades — all of which you can enjoy while people-watching from the steps of the basilica.
There are so many gelato shops to choose from in Florence, so be sure to sample freely! Just keep in mind that the best way to determine if a shop is of good quality is to check the color of their pistachio gelato. If you find it’s unusually bright green, head somewhere else. Or, check to see how the gelato is displayed. If it’s piled up past the lip of the tub, that’s not a good sign. Instead, look for the shops that have their gelato covered in refrigerated cases. And be sure to check the prices, too. A small cup or cone shouldn’t cost more than a few euro — which is perfect for those who want to indulge their sweet tooth several times a day, just like the locals do!
Header photo by Sasha Wang.