How Many Days in Florence? Itineraries For Both Day Trippers and Slow Travelers
There are some places in the world most every traveler includes on their bucket list, and Florence, Italy is undoubtedly one of them. Other than Rome and Venice, Florence is the third most-visited Italian city, so while it’s a must-see city, it can also be super crowded depending on when you go - the time of year, even the time of day. We’ve made many trips to Italy in recent years, but we’ll always remember our first trip to Florence. Frankly, planning it was overwhelming. We had so many questions: where should we base ourselves?, how many days in Florence?, and how far away is Tuscany? (btw, Florence is IN Tuscany) :-).
Whether you’re a day tripper or a slow traveler, these Florence itineraries will help answer some of those questions about how much time to spend. Even if you have several days, accept the fact that there's only so much you can see and do in Florence in a few days. Then start planning your return trip. If you’re like most of us, Italy grabs you like an Italian aunt at Christmas time and doesn’t let go!
How Many Days in Florence?
The vague but honest answer is, it depends… on how you like to travel and what you really want to see. We wanted to suggest itinerary ideas on how to spend your time in Florence whether you’re a day tripper with just one day in Florence or a slow traveler with 5. We don’t recommend cramming everything into one day, but if that’s the time you have, check out the must-see places first (Day 1, the Day Tripper’s Guide) and branch out from there. Honestly, even 5 days isn’t enough time to do it justice since there’s so much to see and not everyone’s definition of “just the highlights” is the same. Some people will tell you one or 2 days in Florence is plenty, and that’s true if you only want to see the tourist sites. But there’s much more to Florence than that. Take a look at the places we recommend, and then decide what’s right for you. You might also consider adding an extra flex day at the end, just in case (you really love it).
TIP: Slow Travel in Italy
If this is your first time to Florence, this guide is especially for you. Maybe you’ve been planning the whirlwind Italy tour as many people do. We understand the need to see as much of Italy as you can in one trip. But if you’re reading this post before you set sail let us introduce you to slow travel . Though the concept isn’t new, the term sprung from the slow food movement originating in the Piedmont region of Italy as the antithesis of fast food. The extension to slow travel means we opt to slow the pace down and spend more time in one place as much as possible. Rather than the Italy in 10 Days tour, slow travel would be Florence in 10 Days, or Florence and Tuscany, or Florence and Bologna. You’ll experience more of the authentic Italy when you see more of the place than the inside of a van. If you’re reading this post after you’ve arrived home from your whirlwind trip to Italy, you might understand why we first learned about slow travel right here in Tuscany, and why we love traveling this way.
The Firenze Card
The Firenze Card is a discount card that covers many major attractions in the city. Like many cards like these, you have to decide whether it’s worth spending 72 euros price. Do a bit of research on the cost of admissions for what you want to see and the time of year you’ll be there, then decide what’s best for your visit, and your wallet. There are two schools of thought here. One is you’re not going to be here long enough to see that much so don’t bother buying it. But if you see just five $15 attractions, the card pays for itself.
TIP: Big Benefit of The Firenze Card
What you may not know about the Firenze Card — and a feature we think is reason enough for buying it — is that the discounted admissions are only part of the benefit. It also helps you skip the long lines, which is huge depending on the time of year you visit. There are separate queues for card holders at the Accademia, the Baptistery, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Palazzo Pitti which includes the Boboli Gardens. I can’t tell you how bad we felt passing the hundreds of people in line to see the Statue of David at 8:30am as we headed for the Firenze Card line. Really #sorrynotsorry. I told my husband that we could skip the line and all the people without Firenze Cards looked at us with daggers. Don't be those tourists!
Florence Itineraries for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 Days
One Day in Florence | The Day Tripper’s Guide
While we definitely don’t recommend this, if all you have is a quick day trip, this Florence 1 Day Itinerary hits all the Florence landmarks you’ve heard about. It’s a whirlwind day and you’ll stay in the same few piazzas around The Duomo. But here are the must-see places in Florence along with tips for saving money on the major sites:
Piazza del Duomo
4 of the most visited sites are located here, so seeing them all in one day is convenient: the Cathedral, the Baptistry and Crypt, Giotto’s Campanile (the Bell Tower) and Brunelleschi’s Dome or Cupola. These last two are worth the effort to climb, not only for the engineering but for the beautiful panoramic views of Florence when you reach the tops. If you are only going to the Piazza del Duomo, for an extra 15 Euros per person, consider purchasing a joint pass, the Il Grande Museo del Duomo Pass, which will give you access to the Cathedral, Baptistry, Bell Tower, Crypt, Museum, and a reservation time to climb Brunelleschi’s Dome, a must do in our book. (Note: people with heart conditions or claustrophobia should consult their doctor before climbing).
Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
These are a short walk south from the Duomo toward the Arno River and are located together. The Palazzo Vecchio is where the city’s town hall is located. You can’t miss it, with the reproduction of the statue of David right next to the front steps. And next to this is the Loggia dei Lanzi with its gallery of large statues.
Piazza della Repubblica
Want to relax and have a formal dinner? Take the easy walk south from the Chapels to this piazza. It’s lined with upscale cafes with outside seating. At night it’s alive with street vendors and performers. There’s even a merry-go-round!
If you have the time, at the far end of the Piazzale degli Uffizi turn right onto the road that runs along the Arno River called Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli. You can see the bridge from here and it’s only a few blocks walk. Here’s where you’ll find the high end jewelry shops complete with high end prices as well as cafes, coffee and gelato shops. After crossing the bridge if you’re hungry or just need a break, there are eateries and shopping galore.
Continue past the Palazzo Vecchio into the Piazzale degli Uffizi, a very large and long piazza. The entrance to the Uffizi is on the left. This is one of the most visited museums in Italy, in fact in all the world. The art collection here is nothing short of amazing. Even if you are not an art enthusiast, the volume and chronology of art works, many by brilliant masters, is worth the time it takes to visit here. But be forewarned, with 50 rooms it can take some time to do a visit here justice. You obviously don’t have to do it all but if your plan is to visit just one museum, make this the one.
Just past the Piazzale degli Uffizi along the Arno you’ll find the Galileo Museum in the Piazza dei Giudici. With the amazing Monumental Sundial (it’s really stunning lit up at night) standing in the front near the entrance, you can’t miss it. A free audio app makes the tour through scientific instruments and artifacts, including an Armillary Sphere with a collection of priceless globes, very enjoyable.
2 DAYS in Florence
This itinerary shows what to see in Florence in 2 days, walking a bit further out from the Piazza del Duomo into the San Lorenzo neighborhood, then back toward.
Venture several blocks north of the Duomo to see Michelangelo’s Statue of David as well as other priceless works of art - but get there early by 8:00am. And if you purchased a Firenze Card, remember to use it to jump the queue. Yes it gets crowded, but this is one of the sights you don’t want to miss in Florence. The sheer size, beauty, and significance of David is breathtaking.
San Lorenzo Market
Several blocks west is the San Lorenzo district where you can shop at the San Lorenzo market, visit the historic Basilica di San Lorenzo, and spend time shopping and eating in the Mercato Centrale. This is an outside market occupying the streets around the Mercato Centrale with all sorts of leather goods - handbags, belts, jackets - from a large assortment of vendors. There are many others as well selling souvenirs of all sorts, sweatshirts and the like. This is the place to put on your bargaining face and haggle away. Remember that if you choose to buy leather here in the market (not in a store), buyer beware. The feel of the leather may seem nice to the touch, but the quality isn’t Florentine quality. Chances are good that it is NOT made in Florence despite what they tell you. Even more reason to negotiate. Surrounding this outside market area are other eateries and brick-and-mortar shops dealing in higher quality leather items.
Located a few blocks north of the Piazza del Duomo, the Mercato Centrale or Central Market is easy to find. Built in 1874 in what was the old center of Florence, the iron and glass building is home to food artisans both traditional and cutting edge. Just about anything that is on the Florentine menu can be found here - artisan breads and confections, freshly made pasta, fresh fish cooked to order, wine, sandwiches, and of course, gelato and espresso - a great place for a delicious lunch! Local acclaimed chefs also frequently run cooking classes and demos so check to see what’s coming up (link to site) during your visit.
Cappella Medici and the Basilica di San Lorenzo
Walk southwest from the Accademia to the Medici Chapels. These were built in the 16th and 17th centuries as additions to Brunelleschi’s Duomo to honor the patronage of the Medici family. The chapels are colocated with the Basilica di San Lorenzo and contain tombs of members of the Medici family. The Sagrestia Nuova, the new sacristy, was designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century. The Cappella dei Principi, the Chapel of Princes, is distinguished by its tall dome and houses a Medici crypt below. Current open hours and ticketing can be found on their website http://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/musei/2/medicee/). The Church of San Lorenzo, consecrated in 393 AD, is one of the oldest churches in Florence. Plan on spending some time here to visit the Chapels, the Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi, and the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo.
3 Days in Florence
For this Florence itinerary, 3 days will add the Oltrarno neighborhood to your walking tour, one of our favorite places to discover a more local atmosphere. Catch up on Day 2 if you missed anything or revisit places you couldn’t get enough of. If you’re ready to move on, head for the Piazza di Santo Stefano and the Auditorium of Santo Stefano al Ponte.
Chiesa di Santo Stefano al Ponte
Make your way to the Santo Stefano al Ponte, then follow the street right out to the Ponte Vecchio under a hidden overpass very few people use, and start your 3rd day across the river. Near Via por Santa Maria, it will be on the left as you face the Arno River before reaching the Ponte Vecchio. The Chiesa di Santo Stefano is one of the oldest churches in Florence. The piazza is small but the Auditorium of Santo Stefano al Ponte has some amazing shows and exhibitions in the Church and Museum. We caught the incredible 3D virtual reality da Vinci Experience here, and loved it so much we went back the next day. Events change periodically and information can be found online or at the entrance to the museum/auditorium.
Oltrarno is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Florence, relaxed and youthful, even with the Pitti Palace at its gateway just across the Ponte Vecchio. It’s a great place to take a relaxed stroll in the late afternoon with street performers galore. Enjoy a late lunch or dinner at Osteria Santo Spirito or Trattoria Sabatino. Tamerò Pasta Bar is the place for mouthwatering homemade pasta, and you can see them making it in the front window. If you’re hungry for a slice, Gusta Pizza makes some of the best pizza we’ve had in Florence.
The Pitti Palace is a magnificent structure started in the 15th century. Just a short walk after crossing the Ponte Vecchio you will come to the large front lawn with its carriage lane leading up to the entrance of the great elegant palace at the top of the hill. The Palace itself is divided into four museums/galleries - on the ground floor is the Treasury of the Grand Dukes; the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments are on the first floor; the second floor has the Modern Art Gallery and the Museum of Costume and Fashion. Plan to spend enough time visiting to fully appreciate the opulence and wealth of those who lived here.
Giardino di Boboli
Directly behind the Pitti Palace are the Boboli Gardens. Expansive and elegant, this formal garden was established by the Medici family. Renaissance as well as ancient statues, grottos and large fountains adorn this beautiful parklike garden. Walk up the stairs to the top to visit the Knight’s House and Rampart with the Porcelain Museum.
Forte di Belvedere
Head all the way to the back of the Boboli Gardens where you will find the 16th century Fort Belvedere. The Fort occupies the highest point in the Garden and was the second largest fortress built in Florence. The panoramic view of the city from atop this terrace is like no other.
Tucked away in the Oltrarno is the lovely Giardino Bardini, which sits below the more famous Boboli Garden and sometimes gets lost in its shadow. But it’s so worth a visit. This garden had fallen into disrepair, but following extensive renovations it reopened in 2009 and today is a peaceful and quiet retreat with impressive historic architecture. Undoubtedly the most scenic part of the garden is the Baroque staircase and, especially if in bloom, the Wisteria Tunnel. Both will lead to the Kaffeehaus and restaurant at the top. Arrive early at either of the two entrances, climb the stairs and you can look back across the Arno and watch the city awaken.
You can always take a public bus or the red double-decker tour bus, but the easiest way to get to the Piazzale Michelangelo is to walk — especially if you’re already in Oltrarno. The walk isn’t at all bad depending on how much photography gear you might be packing. Because after all, this 19th century piazzale is one of the premier locations on the south side of the Arno to photograph Florence at sunset. No matter which bridge you cross, the Piazzale isn’t hard to find. Just beyond the Giardino Gardini is the Piazza Poggi and from here walk up the short winding road. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the replica of the Statue of David. Usually it gets a bit crowded toward sunset, and if you can’t immediately get a place at the wall from which to take a few photos there are plenty of souvenir and food vendors as well as street performers to help pass a little time.
4 Days in Florence | Day Trips
With four days in Florence, one of them can easily be spent seeing some of the amazing places that neighbor the city. Since we love and recommend slow travel and exploring a place more deeply rather than speed-seeing it, these Florence day trips are an easy hour or two away. So if you’re museumed out after 3 days and tired of retracing your steps, not to worry. You’re still lucky enough to be in Tuscany, and there are several excellent day trips or Florence private tours that we highly recommend.
Bologna (40 minutes)
It never ceases to amaze us why more people don’t include Bologna in their Florence itinerary - because you absolutely should! Bologna is widely considered Italy’s culinary city and there are so many fun things to do especially for foodies. Can you say tortellini? Or how about mortadella? The high-speed train, the Alto Velocita, will get you to between Florence and Bologna in lightning speed. The fare is very reasonable and the train is comfy and relaxing. Spend a full day enjoying the historic city, maybe take a food tour, hang out in the Piazza Maggiore, or take a 2 hour bike tour around the city. If this is your first time to Bologna, you’ll have a tough time deciding what to do.
Venice (2 hours)
Although one of our favorite things to do in Venice is to walk the empty streets at night, Venice does make a good day trip, but it will be crowded if you plan to hit the tourist highlights. If you can, we’d recommend staying overnight. If you have limited time and want to get a feel for the local Venice, check out the amazing food tour we took of Santerasmo, a quiet lagoon island right off Venice, followed by a small sunset boat tour of the lagoon that brings you back in to the city. Or download our free self-guided Venice walking tour and make your way through the quieter, uncrowded streets at your own pace. The good news is there are 58 trains a day that travel from Florence to Venice, and with that number you can really fine tune your visit.
One of Italy’s most famous wine regions is just a half hour away, close enough to enjoy the gorgeous scenery or visit a local winery and taste authentic Chianti wine at the source. Or for something truly unique, tour a cashmere goat farm and enjoy lunch under the Tuscan sun. By far the best way to visit Chianti is either on a private tour or with your own rental car. Private tours of Tuscany will pick you up in Florence and deliver you safely back to your hotel or Airbnb after a long day. With your own car, you’ll have all the flexibility to go where you want and spend as much time as you want, and a GPS is all you need to navigate the rolling hills and country roads with ease.
San Gimignano (1 hour, 15 minutes)
Unfortunately there is no direct train or bus to this beautiful and medieval UNESCO town with its famous towers but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to get there. The train will take you to the Poggibonsi stop in 50 minutes. There you can purchase a ticket for the bus into town which only takes 20-25 minutes. Better yet, take the bus from Florence to San Gimignano. You’ll still change in Poggibonsi but the bus to bus time coordination is generally better than the train to bus. San Gimignano is one of Tuscany’s most charming towns and one of the best day trips from Florence to give you a feel for the Medici’s rural seat of the Renaissance. Foodies and wine lovers, don’t visit San Gimignano without a wine tasting at Cappella Sant’Andrea winery just outside of town, where you can taste Vernaccia wine unique to San Gimignano.
Tuscany Val d’Orcia (2 hours)
Just a little further down the road from Siena lies the iconic landscape of Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, the twisty, windy cypress tree-lined vistas that we all associate with Tuscany. This is that Tuscany. By far, the best option to see this region is to rent a car and drive yourself and truly enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Pick the faster Autostrada (A1), and head south from Florence following one of our favorite road trips through southern Tuscany or stop for lunch in historic Montalcino or Pienza. Pienza is known for their handcrafted Pecorino cheese and foodies will need to stop for a tasting tour of Podere il Casale. With a little planning, any of the day trips listed above can be turned into a relaxing overnight stay in any of these historic towns. We loved our stays at these Tuscany hotels and agriturismos:
Where to Stay in Montepulciano (southern Tuscany)
Agriturismo Villa Mazzi is quiet and just 5 minutes from Montepulciano, with stunning iconic views over the valley. Read our review and then check details and availability.
Where to Stay in San Gimignano
We loved our stay at Hotel Le Renaie, a charming small hotel just outside the city. The restaurant was outstanding and we loved being surrounded by scenic rolling hills. Check out our review and check availability and more details.
Where to Stay in Chianti (northern Tuscany)
Il Macinello is a classic Tuscany agriturismo in the heart of the Chianti region, making a perfect base from which to explore. Find out about our stay and get more details and availability.
Siena (2 hours)
From Florence there are two trains per hour, the Rapida which goes direct in 1 hour and 15 minutes, and the Ordinaria which stops in Empoli and takes a little over 1 hour and 30 minutes. The downside of taking the train is the station is well outside the town center. For this reason and to maximize your time we suggest taking the bus. Just be sure when buying your tickets to ask for the “fast” bus which takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes. With stops along the way the slower bus takes a good bit longer.
Cinque Terre (2.5 hours)
You can certainly do a day trip to the Cinque Terre from Florence — and many people do — but trust us when we say it deserves much more time than a day trip, much of which will be spent on a bus. But if you go, stick to seeing one or two towns, walk around and have lunch. You can easily hike through several towns if the tour allows extra time. Day trippers can also take a midday boat tour of the Cinque Terre, a great way to spend a short amount of time.
5 Days in Florence
So you’ve seen all the tourist spots and took a day trip or two from Florence. If you’re still here on Day 5, you’re probably a slow traveler looking for a more local experience and enjoy spending longer in a place. Kudos to that! Spend the day getting to know these neighborhoods to get a better feel for the local Florence.
Often overlooked and situated just 8 km (5 miles) northeast of Florence, some visitors hike the short distance to Fiesole, but if you’re not inclined to walk there, a great alternative is to take a Florence bike tour which includes seeing the sights in this charming suburb. There are Etruscan and Roman archaeological sites, museums, parks, and quaint little streets where you can spend the day away from the crowds and busy streets of Florence.
Sante Croce and Sant’Ambrogio
Not far from the Palazzo Vecchio is the quieter Sante Croce neighborhood, still touristy but much less so than a few streets over. The beautiful Church of Sante Croce dominates the piazza, and you can spend time here at several good restaurants, eating great food and people watching. Walk a little further east into the Sant’Ambrogio neighborhood and you might feel like you’re trespassing on the locals. This isn’t a tourist destination but it is a great place to feel local but still at home. Italians don’t bite. In fact, they’re happy to give you recommendations on where to find the best trattoria and what to order. Sant’Ambrogio also has a great daily morning market worth checking out where you can shop for fresh local produce and flea-market items like clothes and souvenirs.
This local Oltrarno neighborhood gets a lot of traffic from visitors heading home from sunset up the hill at Piazzale Michelangelo, but not too many stick around to explore. But if you love funky art galleries and creative street art, San Niccolò is a great place to spend the afternoon before the sunset show! There are some good restaurants like Osteria Antica Mescita San Niccolò with outside seating and great food where you can linger the day away.
Getting Around Florence
Here’s the good news. Getting around Florence is quite manageable. The historic area and surrounding neighborhoods are very walkable. And if your legs need a rest there’s no shortage of coffee shops and cafes to enjoy a break and do a little people watching.
The Train to Florence
If you’re arriving to Florence by train at the Santa Maria Novella Station, look for the taxi stand right outside the train station (you’ll see the queue with people waiting in line, a most democratic system of getting a taxi in Italy). It’s just a 20 minute walk to the city center. There’s also public transportation with the bus stop nearby. We usually opt for a taxi to take us to take us to our accommodations. Based on where we’ve stayed it’s just been easier and quicker.
Many visitors arrive by train even if it’s for just one day. The train schedule is convenient, and the trains are both comfortable and inexpensive. If you’re on a day trip from Bologna, Pisa, San Gimignano or any of the smaller surrounding towns, trying to decide what to see in Florence in a day can be overwhelming. Do the 1 day itinerary.
Driving in Florence
We can’t stress not driving in Florence enough, even knowing how much we love to drive on our own when we travel. Not only will driving in Florence stress you out if you’re unfamiliar with driving in Europe, but Florence is a heavily-trafficked city with tons of pedestrian traffic. Parking a car here is a real hassle too, and you run the risk of inadvertently wandering into the historic district, the Zona Traffico Limitato or ZTL. Fines for this mistake are steep and the car rental company will charge you a processing fee as well. It’s not worth risking.
Parking a car in Florence is a real hassle and you run the risk of inadvertently wandering into the historic district, the Zona Traffico Limitato or ZTL. Fines for this mistake are steep and the car rental company will charge you a processing fee as well. It’s not worth risking. By all means, driving in Tuscany is fun and managable, but even then we’d recommend taking a taxi from Florence to the airport and picking up a rental car from there.
Where to Stay in Florence
When you’re staying in Florence, a room with a view is a must — in fact, one of the most famous movies ever made about Florence is called A Room With a View. Have you seen it?
We’ve stayed in several hotels in the heart of the Duomo neighborhood, but one year we found a spectacular Florence Airbnb with the best view of the Duomo. The House of Love may sound a bit strange, but it’s one of the best Airbnbs we’ve ever stayed in, with such an unbeatable view we never wanted to go to bed!
Budget to Moderate Hotels
Hotel AdAstra (Oltrarno) - If you’re looking for a peaceful oasis in the city, but still easy walking distance to the major sites, you will love AdAstra Bed & Breakfast, an ultra-stylish villa tucked away in Oltrarno. The property overlooks the expansive 16th Torrigiani Gardens, and the generous and delicious breakfast can be enjoyed from the outdoor terrace with views of the gardens. You’d never guess this is such an affordable hotel option in the heart of Florence. Check rates and availability.
Palazzo Galletti (between the Duomo and Santa Croce) - This B&B is just steps from the Duomo in a charming historic building in center city. The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the prices surprisingly affordable. A great option if you’re looking to stay in the center of action. Check more details and availability.
Palazzo Guadagni (Santa Spirito, Oltrarno) - Another good and very affordable option with a great location in Oltrarno and just one block from the Pitti Palace. The outdoor terrace is stunning and perfect for enjoying cocktails or breakfast. Check rates and more details.
Continentale - The romantic and stylish Continentale is part of the Lungarno Collection, and in a prime location in the historic center overlooking the Ponte Vecchio. You’ll have all the luxury amenities that come with a 4 star hotel including a soothing spa and the rooftop La Terrazza restaurant and bar, the place for late night hang outs. Check details, rates, and availability.
Hotel Lungarno (Santo Spirito, Oltrarno) - The 5 star Hotel Lungarno is pure modern elegance throughout. Completely renovated in 2017, the nautical blue and white interior is striking against the earth tones of the river and Renaissance skyline. But perhaps its most attractive feature is the location overlooking the River Arno, and view of the historic Duomo and other sparkiling sights of Florence, especially at night. Check rates and more details.