Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is one of the gems of Italy. This Florence itinerary covers up to three full days in this historic city and is easy to customize!
This post was originally published May 2017 and was updated May 2022.
Home to some of the most famous pieces of art, a beautiful cathedral, and lots of fab gelato, Florence isn’t to be overlooked when planning a trip to Italy. It’s considered by many to have been the birthplace of the Renaissance, and world-famous artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinvi called Florence home. Other famous Florentines include Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, and Niccolò Machiavelli, a diplomat and philosopher who wrote the political treatise The Prince (which I had to suffer through in high school!).
Although best known for its pivotal role in the Renaissance, the city of Florence has roots that stretch much farther back. The city was originally founded as a Roman military colony in the first century and over the centuries it became acclaimed for its craftsmen.
Today the city center of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its most famous landmark is the enormous Duomo (Cathedral), and it also houses some of the best known art galleries in the world. Florence’s galleries boast works by Botticelli, Titian, Rafael, and many more illustrious artists.
When planning a trip to Florence, I recommend spending at least three full days there to fully appreciate its beauty and see the city’s top attractions. However, if you don’t have that much time this Florence itinerary can still help you plan your trip. I’ve broken down the full Florence itinerary into 1-, 2-, and 3-day chunks so you can adjust it to suit your travel plans.
Map of the Highlights of Florence, Italy
I’ve created a map for this Florence itinerary, color coded by days. I’ve marked the top sites in Florence, Italy on the map below and have gone into detail about each one in the body of this post.
Florence Itinerary Day 1: Duomo, Uffizi, Ponte Vecchio & Piazzale Michelangelo
If you only have one day in Florence, you don’t want to waste any time! This 1-day Florence itinerary covers the absolute top attractions in the city. If you follow this itinerary as written, you’ll have a very full day of sightseeing. However, I’ve purposely left you a little wiggle room so that you’ll have time to do some exploring on your own.
Here are the absolute highlights of Florence, Italy that you should see on your first day.
The Florence Duomo
Time needed: 30 – 45 minutes for the church itself, 90+ minutes for the entire complex (with required combo ticket having been purchased online in advance)
Officially known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s Duomo is the city’s most famous landmark. The cathedral you see today was built in the 13th century atop the foundation of a 7th century church (you can see the remains of the original church in the crypt of the Duomo!). The Duomo’s iconic Renaissance dome was added in the 15th century by Filippo Brunelleschi, and the facade of the cathedral wasn’t completed until the 19th century!
When you enter the Duomo, be sure to look behind you at the 24-hour clock above the entryway. It dates back to the 1440s and it still works!
I won’t go into detail about the other unique quirks of the Duomo, as that could be a full guide in itself. But you absolutely can’t miss Vasari’s Last Judgment fresco that decorates the dome. (No, really, you literally can’t miss it because there will be a crowd of people underneath it!)
Although the line for the Duomo is long, it moves along fairly quickly. Note that the church itself is free to enter, but you must purchase a combination ticket to climb the dome and bell tower, and visit the baptistry and museum. I don’t always think paying for a view is worth the money, but in this case I cannot stress enough how breathtaking the view from the top of the Duomo is! You’re not only treated to a panoramic view of the city, but you also get a better view of the cathedral itself.
Tip: Even if you’re visiting during the shoulder season, plan for lines all around the Duomo complex — a line to enter the church, a longer line to climb the bell tower, and probably the longest line to climb the dome. If you buy a ticket online in advance, you should be able to scoot along faster, but you may still wind up waiting to climb the dome for a good 30 minutes. It’s absolutely worth it though!
Piazza della Repubblica
Time needed: 15 minutes
From the Duomo, make your way down Via Roma until you reach the Piazza della Repubblica. This piazza has marked the center of the city since Roman times, and it was here that the Roman forum was held. In the center of the square is the unmissable Column of Abundance (Colonna della Dovizia). This marked the exact spot of the forum.
The Piazza della Repubblica once contained a slew of medieval buildings, but they were unfortunately torn down in the 18th century during a period of modernization.
Time needed: at least 3 hours (expect to wait in line if you didn’t buy tickets in advance)
After the Duomo, the Uffizi is the top site in Florence, Italy. If you’re going to visit just one art museum, make it this one (although I actually can’t pick between the Uffizi and the Accademia — more on that in a bit!).
The Uffizi Gallery is located in a gorgeous 16th century building that almost rivals the priceless art pieces it houses. A visit to the Uffizi includes a plethora of Renaissance masterpieces from artists like Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raffaello, and Caravaggio. The museum also has an extensive collection of ancient sculptures.
Tip: If you buy the “PassePartout 5 Days” combination ticket, you’ll get admission to the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, and Boboli Gardens at a reduced rate (all of which are mentioned in this itinerary!). The combo ticket is definitely worth buying if you’ll follow the full 3-day Florence itinerary, but I don’t recommend buying it if you’ll be in Florence for just a single day.
Time needed: 30 minutes (if casually perusing, more if you’re doing serious shopping)
Until 1218, the “Old Bridge” was the only bridge that crossed the Arno River into Florence. This isn’t your average bridge, however. The entire bridge is lined with shops, which when seen from the river look like they’re about to fall off into the water! (To my knowledge, that’s never once been an actual concern.) The shops along the Ponte Vecchio have historically been jewelers and goldsmiths, so expect to see lots of bling as you cross the Arno.
During your walk, keep an eye out for the Vasari Corridor — it’s a 1-kilometer passage that runs above the shops and connects the Palazzo Pitti to the Uffizi Gallery. The Medici family commissioned this secret passageway after they moved their residence to the Pitti Palace.
Time needed: 30 minutes (more if staying to watch the sunset)
This gorgeous piazza is the perfect place to watch the sunset over Florence. It’s so-named because there are copies of Michelangelo’s most famous works displayed around the piazzale. While I wish I could claim credit for discovering this lovely vista on my trip to Florence, it’s actually a very well known spot; as such, the piazzale can be very crowded during peak season. However, the panoramic view of Florence is worth it!
You can reach the Piazzale Michelangelo on foot or by bus. I highly recommend walking up to the piazzale if you have the time and desire. To reach the piazzale: turn left at the end of the Ponte Vecchio and make your way towards Piazza Poggi. From there, it’s a short but steep climb up to the overlook (tennis shoes or sturdy sandals are fine! It’s not a literal hike).
San Miniato al Monte & Cemetery of the Porte Sante
Time needed: 30 minutes
Just 10 minutes away from the Piazzale Michelangelo is the basilica of San Miniato al Monte (“Saint Minias on the Mountain”). This Romanesque-style church was built between the 11th and 13th centuries, and the crypt supposedly holds the remains of Florence’s first martyr, St. Minias.
The entire church is surrounded by defensive walls that were put up by Michelangelo during the Siege of Florence in 1529. Behind the church is a stunning cemetery called the Cemetery of the Porte Sante (Sacred Doors Cemetery). Founded in the 1800s, the cemetery is essentially an open-air museum of funerary art, which sounds depressing but it’s actually one of the loveliest places in all of Florence.
Tip: Note that the cemetery is only open until 5pm. Depending on the timing of your day, you may or may not be able to see it.
By this point, you’ll have had a very full day running around seeing the top sites in Florence. Depending on your hunger and energy levels, I recommend returning to your hotel to rest a bit, grabbing a bite to eat, or exploring aimlessly.
Florence Itinerary Day 2: Accademia Gallery, Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Gardens
Day two in Florence will involve less walking and more time spent at a handful of cultural attractions. There are quite a few “must see” sites in Florence, so know that even those these didn’t make the cut for day 1 of this itinerary they’re still some of the absolute best things to do in the city!
Here are the Florence attractions you’ll want to see on your second day in the city.
Time needed: 90 minutes to 2 hours (more if you read the descriptions in detail)
Officially known as the “Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze,” the Accademia Gallery is right up there with the Uffizi for being one of the best art museums in Florence. The star attraction at the Accademia is Michelangelo’s 5.7-meter tall marble sculpture, “David.”
Now, an art historian could tell you much more about “David” than I could, but personally this is the most impressive piece of art I’ve ever seen. I visited Florence for the first time during my study abroad semester in college, and “David” was the first piece of art that ever truly moved me. It seems so basic — a marble statue of a biblical figure — but there’s something about it that keeps your eyes fixated on it. The next time I’m in Florence, I’ll absolutely be returning to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece again!
The Accademia Gallery is much smaller than the Uffizi, but in some ways it’s even better! It boasts the largest collection of Michelangelo statues in the world, as well as a sizable collection of early Italian paintings and musical instruments. The bulk of the crowds will be centered around “David,” but otherwise the Accademia has a more relaxed atmosphere than the Uffizi, which I appreciated.
Time needed: 3 to 4 hours
The Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) was built in the mid-1400’s for a Florentine banker named Luca Pitti, hence its name. In 1550, Cosimo I de’ Medici and his wife Eleanor of Toledo purchased the palace and turned it into their new Grand Ducal residence (they were previously living at the Palazzo Vecchio).
The Palazzo Pitti complex now houses four separate museums: the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, the Palatine Gallery and the Imperial and Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion. Although the museums are each on the smaller side, it will take you a few hours to see everything.
If you’re short on time or are starting to get museum fatigue, you can either opt to admire the palace from the outside and then make your way to the Boboli Gardens or you can limit your visit to a few choice exhibits. Personally, my favorite museum was the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments. It occupies the entire first floor and showcases much of the artwork from the original Medici collection — including the largest collection of Raphael paintings in the world!
Tip: To see all of the museums within the palace complex, you must buy a combined ticket. If you visited the Uffizi Gallery on day 1 as I recommended, then you’re better off buying a “PassePartout 5 Days” combination ticket for admission to the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, and Boboli Gardens at a reduced rate.
Time needed: 90 minutes to 2 hours (more if you want to explore at a leisurely pace or sit down to relax)
Located just behind the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens are impossible to miss! This impressive garden complex is dotted with hidden grottos, various sculptures and decorative fountains, and countless winding paths to get lost on. Be sure to visit the 18th century Lemon House as well as the three-story round Kaffeehaus.
Tip: If you’re visiting the garden on a hot day, be sure to refill your water bottle and maybe eat a snack before going inside. This portion of your day will be spent exclusively outside in the direct sunlight. Also, consider bringing a book; this is a great place to wander, get lost, and rest your feet at the end of a museum-packed day!
Florence Itinerary Day 3: Basilica di San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio & Basilica di Santa Croce
I hope you like museums and churches, because you’re going to be visiting even more of them on this Florence 3-day itinerary! However, as with days 1 and 2 of this itinerary, I’ve allowed some wiggle room on day 3 so that you have time to enjoy a leisurely lunch or take an aimless stroll through the city center.
Here are the highlights of Florence you’ll be seeing on the third day of your visit.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
Time needed: 90 minutes
Supposedly the oldest church in Florence, the Basilica di San Lorenzo was consecrated by Saint Ambrose of Milan in 393 AD. It served as the original cathedral of Florence prior to the building of the current Duomo. And here’s a fun fact: the facade was never finished! So when you visit the basilica for the first time, don’t mistake the bare facade for being halfway through a renovation — it’s been like that for many years!
Even after the Basilica di San Lorenzo stopped being the cathedral of Florence, it remained a prominent church in the city thanks to the patronage of the Medici family. It was the Medici’s parish church, and most of the best-known family members are buried inside the Medici Chapel.
The Basilica di San Lorenzo is actually a five-building complex, and you can see the entire site with a combined ticket. If the Biblioteca Laurenziana is open on the day you visit (it only opens when there’s an exhibit), I HIGHLY recommend paying extra to see it. It’s a gorgeous library designed by Michelangelo for the Medici family. Inside the library there are two aisles lined with benches that serve both as places to study as well as storage. The library has a core collection of over 3,000 manuscripts!
Time needed: 2 hours
This 13th century palace once served as the seat of the city government. In the 1540s, the Medici family made it their official residence. The fortress you see today was built in the 14th century atop the ruins of an ancient Roman theater (the remains of which you can see with a combined ticket for both the palace and the archaeological site).
There are many beautiful rooms to discover in the Palazzo Vecchio, but one of my favorites is the Hall of the Five Hundred. It’s a stunning 54-meter long room that’s decorated with mural by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. You can also tour some of the remaining Medici family apartments on your visit, as well as climb the bell tower for a breathtaking view of Florence!
Basilica di Santa Croce
Time needed: 90 minutes
Located on the Piazza de Santa Croce, the Basilica of Santa Croce is a massive 12,000-meter complex that houses almost 4,000 works of art dating back as far as the 13th century — most of which were specially designed for and created in the basilica! The foundation stone of the current church was laid in 1294, although it wasn’t consecrated until its completion in 1443. It’s the largest Fransican church in the world, so you can see why it took so long to build!
In the crypt, you’ll find the tombs of famous Italians such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Take your time when visiting the church, as there’s a lot to take in.
Tip: Note that entrance to the church is 8 Euros and audio guides cost extra.
This is your final stop on this 3-day Florence itinerary. Use the rest of your time to see additional Florence attractions (listed below) OR get lost in the city. There’s so much to see and do, and a little flexibility when planning a visit is always a good idea in my book.
If You Have More Time in Florence…
The following Florence attractions are ones I haven’t yet had time to visit myself, but that I’ve heard good thing about.
- Villa Bardini — Villa known for its stunning gardens surrounded the medieval walls of Florence. Supposed to have one of the best views of the city!
- Forte di Belvedere — Historic fortress with another great view of the city.
- Ponte Santa Trinita — Another bridge over the River Arno. This would be a great spot to take a photo of the Ponte Vecchio!
- Basilica di Santa Maria Novella — Another hybrid church-museum.
- Mercato Centrale — The city’s central market, with stalls selling a variety of meats, cheeses, and produce.
Once you visit Florence, please leave me a comment letting me know if you did anything extra that I didn’t mention on this itinerary. I’ll be going back to Italy soon and want to know what else to see and do! (Yes, even travel bloggers need recommendations!)
A Few Tips on Using This Florence Itinerary
- PassePartout 5 Days — I’ve mentioned this a couple times already (no, this isn’t sponsored nor is it an affiliate link), but to save money I recommend buying this combo ticket to get access to the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, and Boboli Gardens.
- Where to eat in Florence — I opted to not share specific restaurants in Florence on the itinerary because restaurants open and close all the time, and your tastes may differ from mine. However, I will say that Gusta Pizza is arguably the best in the city!
- Customize this itinerary — Depending on the length of your stay, you can mix and match the activities on this itinerary to suit your whims. I grouped together activities that I felt complemented each other and that took you to different parts of Florence, but do with that information what you will.
- Prepare to wait in lines — If traveling in peak season, be prepared to take things slowly as the lines for the major attractions will be loooong. If you’ll be in Florence June through August, try to book as many tickets in advance as possible to save yourself some time!
- When to head out each day — Babe, you’re in Italy now! There’s no need to bolt out of bed at 7am to see everything mentioned in this post! However, you won’t be able to do everything I’ve mentioned if you wait until, say, 11am to get going.
FAQs About Visiting Florence, Italy
Is Florence Worth Visiting?
YES! If this flexible 3-day Florence itinerary hasn’t convinced you to visit the city yet, then obviously I haven’t done my job well. Please visit Florence, you will LOVE it.
Is Florence Safe for Tourists?
Yes, very much so! My only piece of advice would be to put your bag or purse on the front side of your body when crossing through crowded areas (like on the Ponte Vecchio). Pickpocketing isn’t as common in Florence as it is in Rome, but you should still keep your wits about you.
How Many Days Do You Need in Florence?
At least three full days, but you can spend up to a week here if you plan on taking day trips throughout the area. Or, if you want to visit lots more museums.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Florence?
I recommend visiting Florence during shoulder season — April through early June, September and October. July and August are the hottest months and also the most crowded.
What’s the Best Way to Get Around Florence?
On foot, although there’s a good bus system that runs through the city as well. I had to use the buses the last time I stayed in Florence as my hotel was about 20 minutes outside of the city center. The bus system is fairly easy to navigate, but make sure you have Euro coins on you to pay for your ticket in exact change.
What Are the Absolute Must-See Sites in Florence?
If you’re pressed for time and can’t see everything I’ve mentioned on this Florence itinerary (all of which are the must-see sites, in my opinion), then make sure you at least have time for the following:
- Uffizi Gallery OR Accademia Gallery
- Ponte Vecchio
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Walk around the city center
Excited to Visit Florence with This Itinerary?!
I’m dying to return to Florence, but I’ll have to settle for living vicariously through you! If you plan a trip to Florence with the help of this itinerary, please leave me a comment below letting me know how you enjoyed your visit. And if you have questions about the itinerary or Florence in general, don’t hesitate to ask!
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