It’s practically a crime to visit Italy without stopping in Florence for a few days. Home to some of the most famous pieces of art, a beautiful cathedral, and lots of fab gelato, it really shouldn’t be missed. I packed in as many activities as possible into the few days I spent in Florence, and my whirlwind trip inspired me to make this handy guide for future travels.
Days two and three of this guide might seem a bit sparse at first glance, but keep in mind that you’re going to be waiting in hour-long lines for almost every tourist attraction in Florence. So anywhere you go, you need to take into account the wait times in addition to the time you’ll actually spend inside the museums and such.
This three-day Florence itinerary is a great jumping point for anyone spending a few days in the city. And if you’ve been to Florence before, I’d love to know your favorite spots in the city!
The Duomo is the sight to see in Florence. It’s in the very heart of the city, and thousands of tourists visit it every year. I recommend getting to the cathedral first thing after breakfast so you can avoid the worst of the lines. Keep in mind that the cathedral itself is free to enter, but you have to pay to climb the bell tower and dome. Personally, I’d recommend doing both because the views of the city are absolutely stunning.
Walk across Ponte Vecchio
Take some time to enjoy Ponte Vecchio after you’ve finished exploring the Duomo. Merchants have sold their wares on the bridge since it was built, but the butchers of the past have been replaced by the jewelry dealers and souvenir shops you see today.
If you look up, you’ll see the Vasari corridor, which was used by the Medici family. This corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti and ensured the the Medici family would never have to cross the bridge with the commoners.
Walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo
Once you’ve elbowed your way through the crowd on the Ponte Vecchio, make your way to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a 20-30 minute walk, but going by foot allows you to see parts of Florence most tourists don’t bother seeing. You’ll pass a few gelato shops and cafes on the way, which you might want to stop at if you haven’t had lunch yet. At the very least, get a few scoops of gelato to keep you company during the walk.
San Miniato al Monte
Just a few minutes walk from the Piazzale is the beautiful San Minaito al Monte, a cathedral that sits at the top of a tall hill. The cathedral’s exterior is still vibrantly painted, but the interior is rather faded. The impressive design of the cathedral complements the now faded walls, however, and made it even more beautiful to me. Behind the cathedral is a large cemetery, which is worth visiting as well.
Visit the Academia Gallery
I recommend visiting the Academia over the Uffizi for a few reasons. Namely because the Uffizi is filled mostly with paintings that depict the Madonna and child, and art of that nature. The Academia is a bit smaller, and has a larger variety of art, including Michelangelo’s David. To figure out which gallery is best suited to your preferences, check out my guide to the differences between these two famous art galleries.
As with the Duomo, you’ll want to get to the Academia right after breakfast, or else you’ll end of waiting in line for an hour or more. Definitely take your time in the gallery and be sure and read the placards for the paintings, as they explain the history of the artwork you’re looking at.
Stroll through the Boboli Gardens
Behind the Palazzo Pitti are the stunning Boboli Gardens. After your morning inside the Academia, it’ll be nice to stretch your legs and enjoy the gardens. The palace itself is now a museum and is worth visiting if you’re up for another museum. However, the museums inside the palace aren’t so spectacular that you absolutely have to visit them. The gardens though are a must. My favorite spot in the garden was the hot houses filled with citrus trees.
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, and can’t be missed. Get here early to—you guessed it—beat the lines as much as you can. The inside is now part museum and part palace, and there are even Roman ruins underground that you can visit. If you’re a history buff, this is the place for you.
Stroll through the city center
The Palazzo Vecchio will likely take you the entire morning to explore, so after lunch I’d recommend leaving any set plans behind and just enjoy the city of Florence. There are plenty of other noteworthy sights to see in the city, but if you truly have just three days in this magical city I wouldn’t try to squeeze every place in.
If you need suggestions on where to begin your stroll, I’d recommend beginning at the Duomo’s square and working your way out from there. There are any number of cathedrals this three-day Florence itinerary doesn’t include, but sometimes it’s more fun to stumble across them by accident than to plan a visit. Pop into a bakery during your meanderings to try some authentic Italian baked goods—after all, you can’t visit Italy and not eat dessert!
I don’t know about you, but I’m itching to revisit Florence. If you’ve never been before, I highly recommend it. You need at least three days to see a decent chunk of the city, but you could easily spend a week here if you wanted to take a day trip or two as well.
Which part of Florence are you most interested in visiting?