The city of arts, the birthplace of the Renaissance, the heart of Tuscany. That’s the one city in Italy that can take you down the road of history, culture, and arts in ways you’ve never experienced before. You’re reading this article because you want to discover what to do in Florence Italy, and you must know that you’ve come to the right place! For everyone looking for the top 10 things to do and see in Florence Italy, I’m here to say that we’ve gathered for you not 10 but the 15 best things to do in Florence Italy!
If you’ve got some more time in Florence Italy, like two or three days, you should be able to easily visit and do everything on this list. If you’re the slow-travel type of person, I’d really suggest considering a week in the area, and once you’ve seen the city, do some day trips in Tuscany, go on wine tasting, cooking classes, and just enjoy every amazing thing the beautiful regions of Tuscany has to offer.
15 Best Things to Do in Florence Italy
If you’re planning to visit Florence and you want to find the best things to do in Florence Italy, you can see below some of the most important landmarks, as well as statues, tips for what to eat, and also shopping in Florence Italy. At the end of the list, you can also find tips on where to stay in Florence Italy! After two trips to Florence in the past few years, if there’s one thing for sure then it’s that I can’t wait to be back again.
Florence is packed with amazing places, art, so much art, and much more history. When you’re wandering downtown, you can actually feel the history surrounding you, and that’s an amazing experience! For those of you who plan to visit other places outside of Florence, you can explore also some magical towns in Tuscany such as Siena, and for those who want to relax, we’ve covered also the best spas in Tuscany, but also beaches. Finally, for those interested in castles, we’ve got a list of the most beautiful castles in the Tuscany region.
1. Piazzale Michelangelo
My number one favorite place, which is also the spot for the number one of the best things to do in Florence Italy is Piazzale Michelangelo. When we talk about things to see in Florence Italy, seeing the city itself from the best spot for a perfect panorama is unmissable.
Piazzale Michelangelo is out of the city center but still fairly close to it. Within a 15 minute walk, you can easily reach it from the historic center of Florence. You’ll have to cross the bridge Ponte alle Grazie which is close to the cathedral of Santa Croce. From this bridge, you’ll also have a beautiful view over the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
Heading to the top of the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo can be done on a more narrow and steep street and stairs, which takes you there faster, or you can hike up from Piazza Poggi. If you choose this second option, you’ll have some incredible views on the way over the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Firenze’s iconic cathedral and landmark.
The best time to go to Piazzale Michelangelo is always before sunset. When tourism is at its top, you sometimes must be heading there really in time, because dozens and dozens of other visitors do the same, and you’ll not get the best spot to watch the sunset above the beautiful Renaissance city.
2. Piazza della Signoria
If you want to know what are the top things to do in Florence, and which is the main square of the city, the answer to both questions is Piazza della Signoria. Visiting this place isn’t optional since some of the most important landmarks, museums, and statues in Florence Italy are actually on Piazza della Signoria. With that said, exploring the square is also one of the best free things to do in Florence.
But what is that you can do for free at the Piazza della Signoria? First, you can explore the statue gallery, Loggia dei Lanzi with copies of some of the most important renaissance sculptures ever made. It’s also free to enter the inside courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio which is something incredible. The 15th-century renaissance frescoes decorating the walls, the architecture, the artwork, it’s magical.
Palazzo Vecchio was the residence of the famous Medici family in the Renaissance era, while after they moved to Palazzo Pitti it took the town hall role. You can also find the Uffizi Gallery on the square along with the Neptun Fountain (Fontana del Nettuno), and the statue of Cosimo de Medici.
3. Basilica di Santa Croce
One of the most important and most beautiful churches in Florence Italy is the Basilica di Santa Croce. Visiting the basilica and the Piazza di Santa Croce is one of the best things to do in Florence Italy, and this too shouldn’t be optional! When it comes to the question of what to see in Florence Italy, there are about 5 places that can’t be missed and the Basilica di Santa Croce is one of them.
Now, what you should know is that Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world and it’s the main Franciscan church in Florence. Another reason why it’s outstanding is because it’s the burial place of some of the biggest names of history, like Niccolo Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and also Galileo Galilei.
The third reason the Santa Croce basilica must be seen is that it has sixteen chapels of which many are covered in frescoes by the famous renaissance painter, Giotto. Santa Croce is also easy to find. It’s located about 800 meters from the Duomo, between the previously mentioned Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo.
4. Ponte Vecchio
Another highlight of the top things to do in Florence is definitely the beautiful and unique Ponte Vecchio bridge. For those who are looking for the best free things to do in Florence, I have good news. There’s nothing you should pay for to see this bridge, cross it, and see its stunning details. The maximum you could spend is if you buy something in the leather and jewelry stores operating on the bridge.
Ponte Vecchio bridge is a must see in Florence Italy for many reasons. According to local belief, the bridge dates back to the Roman Empire and was destroyed in the 12th century. Eventually, it was rebuilt in the 14th century and the design is more or less the same since. Legend says that in WW2 the only reason why the German army didn’t blow up Ponte Vecchio along with every other bridge in the city is that Hitler requested not to be touched.
The story is that he once visited Florence and he was at the Ponte Vecchio and fell in love with it. So to save the bridge, the army rather blew up the buildings on the two shores of the river. Today on the bridge you could find many local merchants, jewelry, leather, and souvenir stores to explore.
5. Vasari Corridor
If you’re looking for places that can trigger your fantasy, one of the best things to do in Florence Italy is to find the Vasari Corridor. This escape way was built by Giorgio Vasari and it was commissioned by Cosimo di Medici in the 16th century. You’re asking why?
The Vasari Corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti. If are standing in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, and you look at the street on the right-hand side, you should see at about 2nd story the piece of the corridor connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Uffizi Gallery. The way continues all the way to the shore of river Arno, to the piece you could see in the above picture.
Then, this is crossing the Ponte Vecchio bridge and runs all the way to Palazzo Pitti. The purpose of this corridor was for the duke, Cosimo di Medici to move freely between his new residence, the Palazzo Pitti, and the government’s palace, the Palazzo Vecchio. It was also a great way to escape if there was an issue at the government palace, like angry crowds, and get to their residence safely.
6. Palazzo Vecchio – Museum
When it comes to museums in Florence Italy, Palazzo Vecchio might not be the one you choose for the number of items they’ve got in their collection, but this is not the main reason you should be visiting anyway. The main room, the Salone del Cinquecento with exquisite artworks, frescoes, and architectural masterpieces from the Renaissance make Palazzo Vecchio a must see in Florence.
The Salone Cinquecento is the most imposing chamber of all, with a length of 52 meters and ceilings covered in paintings and beautifully worked wooden frames. After Savonarola, the spiritual leader of the republic in the 15th century took over the power in Florence he wanted for the Palazzo Vecchio to serve as the seat of the Grand Council, which included 500 members. – You might remember me saying that the Medici family moved out from Palazzo Vecchio and left that for the use of the government.
In Palazzo Vecchio, they’ve got some temporary exhibitions which should always be checked in advance on their website, but they’ve also got some stunning pieces that are always there. Wandering through those rooms with such incredible wall decoration makes it worth every cent you spend. Speaking of which, the prices vary between €8 and €20+ depending on the type of ticket you purchase.
7. Dante Alighieri
One of the top things to do in Florence, both for history, literature, and modern mystery book/movie lovers Dante Alighieri is a highlight when it comes to Florence. For those who didn’t know until now, Dante was an extraordinary poet, writer, philosopher, and politician in the 13th and 14th centuries. He is considered the father of the Italian language, thanks to his work in developing Italian literature and culture.
As you may know, we wrote the famous Divine Comedy, which includes the Inferno, as well as the De Monarchia which both became a basic for literature and politics. I mentioned the modern mystery books/movies because one of Dan Brown’s famous books is Inferno, which is based on a legend around Dante Alighieri, and after the book, there’s also a movie made. So if you want to see some things about Florence before visiting, that movie is a must!
The death mask of Dante Alighieri
Now in Florence, you can find the Death Mask of Dante which thanks to Dan Brown’s work, and the movie became famous recently. While, you can find statues of Dante in front of the Uffizi Gallery, as well as in front of the Basilica di Santa Croce. Moreover, you can also visit the museum called Casa di Dante, so House of Dante, to learn more about him, his life, and his work.
Now, since I personally am really fascinated by the works of Dan Brown, when I first visited Florence in 2018, all I wanted to see was the death mask. In the past it was considered to be the original death mask of Dante, carved directly from his face upon his death. However, recent studies consider it to be a lost sepulchral effigy of Dante.
The death mask was wandering around many famous personalities along the centuries, while its last owner was senator Alessandro d’Ancona, who donated it to Palazzo Vecchio in 1911. If they didn’t move it, you’ll find the Death Mask on the first floor of the museum in Palazzo Vecchio. But if they did move it around, you can simply ask a staff member to point you to it.
8. Uffizi Palace, Gallery and Courtyard
One of the best things to do in Florence Italy is definitely to visit the Uffizi Gallery. This is not only one of the most important museums in Florence Italy, but actually in the whole country. The Uffizi Gallery is an art museum in Florence Italy where you can find exhibited some of the most important and most remarkable artworks of the renaissance.
When I was looking for things to see in Florence Italy on my first visit, I couldn’t fit two museums in the itinerary, and I didn’t visit the Uffizi Gallery. It was a huge mistake, and thankfully the next time I didn’t miss it. What I’m trying to suggest here is, that no matter how much time you’ve got in Florence, you shouldn’t even think about skipping the Uffizi.
The Uffizi Gallery is located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria, right near Palazzo Vecchio. The prices after the pandemic have jumped a little bit, but the art collection waiting for you is worth every cent, believe me! You can find remarkable works of Giotto, Sandro Boticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio, Giovanni Bellini, Pero di Cosimo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Dürer, Francisco Goya, Rembrandt and many more! And I just listed the most important persons of the Renaissance era in the whole of Europe.
9. Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral
When it comes to the best free things to do in Florence, but beyond that, to what you must see in Florence Italy, it’s definitely the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the most iconic landmark of Florence. I have placed this as 9th of the top 10 things to do and see in Florence Italy, not because it shouldn’t be your number one priority, but because I wanted to highlight less iconic things first.
The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is located on Piazzal de Duomo square, and it’s also knows as the Duomo di Firenze. This is one of the most significant and most imposing churches in Florence Italy, but around the whole country too, if I may be so brave to say that. Now, the construction of the cathedral began in the 13th century, while the structure was finished in the 15th century.
The cupola of the Santa Maria del Fiore was designed and made by Brunelleschi, while the campanile (bell tower) belongs to Giotto. What is really interesting in the Duomo di Firenze is, that outside it’s this amazing marble renaissance cover that you just can’t get enough of. However, when you go inside, it might find you by surprise as it did to me, but it’s not all covered in frescoes as expected. I thought it would look something like the St Peter’s in Rome, but inside is really simple. This doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful though, and I really do recommend visiting inside, or taking a hike to the dome or the bell tower!
10. Palazzo Pitti
I’m still not done sharing tips for what to do in Florence Italy, and here comes another art museum in Florence Italy that you should definitely consider visiting. Palazzo Pitti is one of the top museums in Florence Italy, which also offers something more than just exhibitions. If you’ve been paying attention, you already know that the Palazzo Pitti became the residence of Cosimo di Medici, the duke of Florence, while the Vasari Corridor is the one connecting this building with Palazzo Vecchio.
Now, before all that, Palazzo Pitti in the 15th century belonged to Luca Pitti, who was a famous and rich Floretine banker. The building complex was bought a century later by the Medici family and as I said, it became the mainr residence of the Duchy of Tuscany. Today Palazzo Pitti is the largest museum complex in Florence, holding a significant collection of paintings from Raphael, Caravaggio and more.
Besides the art gallery, you can explore the royal apartments of the Medici family, as well as the silver museum, the porcelain museum and the costume gallery. And beyond all that, one of my favorite, you can explore the beautiful Boboli Gardens as well, which belong to Palazzo Pitti. The gardens are absolutely beautiful. So all together, you’ve got enough to see in Palazzo Pitti for at least 3-4 hours.
11. Eat local food in Florence
Probably one of the top things to do in Florence is to eat. I mean, the whole country is famous for delicious food and amazing dishes. When it comes to Florence however, we name it of the 3 of our favorite Italian regions when it comes to food. If you have more time in Florence Italy, you should definitely roll in a cooking class, do a food tour, or eat pizza in Florence, but in each case, we’ll highlight a few gems for you now!
First, the king of street food, the Schiacciate Fiorentine. It’s a type of sandwich made basically with Focaccia bread, It’s flat, and they’ve got some amazing fillings for each. If you see in Florence the world Schiacciata, you better run and try! For those who like more unique things to try, the Lampredotto is also a street food that’s typically Fiorentine, just at this one, it’s filled with more particular meat, such as the bovine stomach.
Now, the highlight of food in Florence when it comes to lunch or dinner is definitely the famous Bistecca Fiorentina, which is considered one of the best types of stake in the world. Another local goodie is the Trippa alla Fiorentina which is a pasta dish. My personal favorite and I could eat that every day for the rest of my life… It’s the Ragu di Cinghiale (boar ragu) with Pappardele pasta. Oh, and of course, everything with Truffles is a must-eat in Florence!
12. Fontana del Porcellino
For everyone who’s seeking spots and things that can bring you luck, I have good news! Il Porcellino (the piglet) is a bronze fountain of a boar that’s believed to bring you luck. Just as the Trevi fountain in Rome, the breast of Juliet in Verona, or the balls of the bull in Milan, each have their own tasks you have to do in order to attract luck.
Now, the bronze statue, Il Porcellino was sculpted and cast by the Baroque artists Petro Tacca in the 17th century. The one you can find today in the historic center of Florence, on Piazza del Mercato Nuovo is only a copy, but the belief still stands and is practiced. In the end, it all happens in our heads, and not because of a non-living item.
So how to attract luck with Il Porcellino? You have to put a coin in the boar’s gaping jaws with the intention of letting it fall into the underlying grating. You must do this with one hand, while with the other you should rub the boar’s snout. Looking just at the picture above, you can see his snout is shiny and bright while the other parts of the statue are dark brown, and this is because of the many rubs he gets. The belief says that if you do these two steps, it will bring you luck, and it ensures that you will return to Florence.
13. Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze
If you’re wondering what to do in Florence Italy beyond all the above-listed things, the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze is also an unmissable place to visit! For those who intend to visit the city to indulge in art and history, this is one of the most important, unmissable things to see in Florence Italy.
The Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the most important art museums in Florence Italy thanks to its incredible collection which includes the famous David sculpture of Michelangelo. They also have a really large sculpture collection by Michelangelo, and also a collection of paintings by some of the most outstanding Florentine artists mostly from the 14th to the 17th century and the Late Renaissance. La Accademia is the 2nd most visited museum in Florence, as it is also the second most significant one.
14. Shopping in Florence Italy
There are plenty of leather shops and jewelry shops in Florence to explore. We’ve made a list for both of these! If you’ve got some extra time in Florence Italy, make sure you explore some of the high-end stores and boutiques on Piazza della Signoria and on the surrounding streets. You can find also plenty of mid-budget fashion stores, locals, and international ones.
Moreover, there are many Tuscan souvenir shops, stores where they sell local olive oil, wine, and truffles, as well as other meat and cheese products. In the historic center, you can find something interesting on each street. There are art galleries and shops, as well as craftsmen shops, and my favorite, antiquity stores. Shopping in Florence for some local goodies is a must!
15. Piazza Santo Spirito
If you’re looking for fun spots in Florence to spend the late evening and afternoon, you should start at Piazza Santo Spirito. There are plenty of great places around the city center to have an Aperitivo, such as the Piazza di Santa Croce, around the Piazza della Signoria, and on the squares between this last one and the duomo.
But if you cross the bridge, you could eventually find some less expensive, and less busy places. There are great bars in the area of Palazzo Pitti, but the Piazza Santo Spirito is one of the top spots. It didn’t fit into the top 10 things to do and see in Florence Italy, but evening Aperitivos in Florence is a must. Fingerfood and delicious Aperitivo Cocktails are the best way to relax a bit after a full day of sightseeing.
Where to stay in Florence Italy
If you’re looking for tips on where to stay in Florence Italy, we’ve got you some ideas! See below our tips for luxury, mid-budget, and low-budget accommodations. As you’ll see, each of them is in the historic center to save some time, and make sure you’re staying in a safe area!
For Luxury hotels, Hotel Bernini Palace and The St. Regis Florence are some of the most beautiful and highest-rated accommodations in Florence. For mid-budget and affordable hotels are Hotel de Lanzi which has a beautiful view over the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Also, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is a lovely place to stay in Florence. If you’re rather trying to find an apartment to stay at, check B&B La Signoria di Firenze or Finestra sul Duomo, which also has a beautiful view over the duomo.
Wrapping up the 15 Best things to do in Florence Italy
From Florence, you can do many day trips in different Tuscan towns, but you can also be brave and do a day trip from Florence to Venice by train! So now that we’ve been through some of the best things to do in Florence Italy, shopping in Florence, eating local goodies, and exploring some of the most remarkable artworks of the Renaissance, it’s time to explore the city in person! Remember the best things to do in Florence, and check out our lists for the best restaurants in Florence, as well as bars, and wineries! Also, don’t forget to check my itinerary for 2 days in Florence!