Amazing Things to Do in Florence, Italy (Insider’s tips)

Looking for tips on things to do in Florence?

As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Laurel Perry Turner who owns and operates an authentic Tuscan tour company, specializing in experiencing Tuscany, not just visiting.

Since her first visit to Italy, almost 6 years ago, she was hooked and has traveled the region extensively since.

Laurel shares with us her insider tips on the best things to do in Florence.

Why visit Florence?

Florence can very well be considered one of the art and cultural centers of the world.

Your first step into the city, will be back in time.

Allow yourself to be swept away into the Renaissance as you are surrounded by beautifully preserved, architecturally perfect, historical buildings and breathtaking art at every turn.

Every few steps you will be taken by the smells wafting from the trattorias, osterias, cafes and pizzerias! You will be surrounded by the sounds of the lively conversations in one of the most beautiful languages in the world!

Even the complaining children sound beautiful! (Although, the Italians may not agree!)

In the end, it is the culture of hospitality and the kindness of the Italian people that make you never want to leave.

Florence also makes for a fabulous choice for a place on your Italian honeymoon itinerary.

The Florence Museum Gold Pass will help you skip the queues and arvel at the Statue of David, explore Uffizi Gallery and enjoy views from the top of Brunelleschi’s Duomo without hassle and with an audio guide. Get your pass here.

Top 10 “on the beaten path” things to do in Florence

Duomo/Baptistry/Bell Tower

Commonly known as, “The Duomo”, Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore is impossible to miss.

It is the skyline of Florence. Building began on the huge Gothic duomo in 1296 and it was consecrated in 1436.

Visiting the Duomo in Florence.

Inside Brunelleschi’s Dome you will find one of the most breathtaking pieces of art you will ever see.

It is well worth the stairs you will climb to walk around the inner walls to see the paintings up close and to see an amazing view of the city from the outside.

things to do in florence
Inside view of Brunelleschi’s Dome

The Campanile, bell tower, is in Piazza del Duomo.

You can climb the 414 stairs to get an incredible view, but if you are choosing between climbing the duomo and the tower, go with the dome.

The Baptistery is from the 11th century and one of the oldest buildings in Florence.

Here you will find Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors, the “Gates of Paradise” (they are reproductions, the originals are in the Duomo Museum).

Do you want to climb to the top of the Duomo? Take this Florence Dome Climb Tour through Get Your Guide, that offers you priority entrance.

 Uffizi Gallery

The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art.

It is essential to buy reservation tickets before going to avoid the long line. Trust me on this one, the line can be hours, as they only allow so many people in the museum at one time.

Your reservation is not a ticket, just a pass to get in the much shorter line to enter.

In the museum you will see works from Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Raphael.

Accademia Gallery

Florence’s Galleria dell’ Academia, holds Michelangelo’s David, easily the most famous sculpture in the world.

One of my favorite parts of this museum is the collection of musical instruments, I never tire of this exhibit. It is also quite advisable to get reservations for this museum.

The famous David in Florence.

Boboli Garden

On the other side of the Arno River, you will find Giardino di Boboli, a beautiful and sprawling English style garden on a hillside behind the Pitti Palace.

It is a lovely place to slow down and enjoy the greener side of Florence.

Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti, Pitti Palace, is Florence’s largest palazzo, once owned by the Medici family. You can visit 8 different galleries in the palace.

Be prepared, it is massive and can wear you out quickly.

Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria, the historic and political center of the city, is just off of the River Arno and next to the Uffizi Gallery.

Here, you will find statues including the Fountain of Neptune and a replica of the Statue of David.

I love watching as tourists stand in awe, clicking away at the breathtaking show of art filling the piazza! It was this square where the famous Bonfire of the Vanities was held.

Piazzedella Signoria

La Basilica di Santa Croce

Protected by an imposing statue of Dante, it sits with its beautiful facade in front of a modest piazza.

The Santa Croce was built for the common citizens of Florence, just a 15-minute walk from the much more grand Duomo.

This is my favorite church in Florence. It houses tombs of the likes of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini and the empty tomb of Dante.

For this reason, the Santa Croce is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell’Itale Glorie).

Florence keeps the empty tomb of Dante in hopes that one day it shall be filled with his decayed remains. They are currently housed in the city of Ravenna, his final resting place, after being exiled from Florence.

things to do in florence
Dante’s empty tomb in Santa Croce

Piazzale Michelangelo

It is a must to see the sun setting over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo!

This is, by far, the most famous view overlooking the city and has been reproduced on countless postcards and photographs. You will also find a bronze replica of David that is thought to be safeguarding the city.

You can either take the hike up to the top, take the bus, or hire a cab.

If you choose to walk to the Piazzale, make sure you wander through the Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the other side of the Arno river from the duomo, which is all too often overlooked.

At the very least, try to walk down after the sun sets.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

The Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio was Florence’s first bridge to cross the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days.

Lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, you’ll have a great view of the city along the Arno River.

This bridge is a true landmark of the city of Florence.

At night, it can be quite romantic to take in a local musician busking at the center of the bridge, while gazing upon the city lighting up the river.

The Bargello

The Bargello is the national sculpture museum, located in Florence.

The castle-like building was built in 1255–1350 as the original seat of government. It contains the greatest collection of Renaissance sculpture in Florence and is one of the best collections in Italy.

What you must see here is the huge room filled with Donatello’s masterpieces.

Take in the sights of Florence on a guided walking tour of the historical highlights of the city.

Best Neighborhoods to Explore in Florence

You will hit most all of Florence’s major neighborhoods while exploring the sites, but it is the neighborhood across the river you don’t want to miss.

The Oltrarno, “Across the Arno” is the artisans’ neighborhood, filled with quaint streets and wonderful shops and restaurants.

It is, by far, the most missed gem by tourists in Florence.

The Oltrarno’s lively tree-filled center, Piazza Santo Spirito, is unique unto itself. Lined with bars and a more bohemian style crowd, this is where you will find the locals.

Where to Eat in Florence

  • Gusta Pizza – These guys are so busy, they don’t even need a website! The lines can sometimes be long, but it will be well worth the wait. Some of the best pizza in town! You get see reviews and get information on them on Tripadvisor.
things to do in florence
Pizza Love Letters from under the glass table at Gusta Pizza
  • Authentic Tuscan Cuisine – La Beppa Fioraia- Tratoria Storica Fiorentina is a favorite of the locals. It is a bit on the higher end, but not outrageous. This lovely restaurant is worth the walk to the other side of the river. The food is incredible and the staff quite friendly.
  • Gelato – Is there anything more important in Italy? You must know that not all gelato is the same! Don’t be fooled by the pretty displays, go with the recommendations and where you see a line, there is a reason for it. Remember, it is essential to eat at least 2 scoops a day!
  • My favorite gelateria is La Carraia. Located across the river, but right on it, La Carraia is not only delicious and fresh, but you can get a scoop for only one euro!
things to do in florence
La Carraia Gelateria

You Can’t Visit Florence Without Eating …

The bistecca alla Fiorentina, the Tuscan t-bone!

This mouth-watering piece of meat will never allow you to taste steak the same again!

While I am a bit biased, as this is the place where my travelers stay, Bellavista Impruneta Hotel Ristorante is known for having the best Florentine bistecca around.

It is a stunningly beautiful 30-minute bus ride through the Tuscan countryside to the small village of Impruneta where you will find this gourmet treat.

They also offer gluten-free options.

things to do in florence
Bistecca alla Fiorentina- Bellavista Impruneta

Where to Drink in Florence

Dolce Vita – I love this place! Located in the Oltrarno neighborhood across the river, this is really a “locals” place to be.

It is quite hip and the award-winning bartender turned owner, Dario, will be sure to take good care of you! The crowd here is 20’s-50’s and feels really comfortable for everyone.

things to do in florence
Dario at Dolce Vita Bar

Zoe – Zoe is a lively place to have a drink with great music and a bit of a younger crowd. The bartenders are friendly and eager to show off their skills!

Negroni – A couple doors down from Zoe, this is a place loved by visitors and locals alike! If you are looking for a great drink and good quality food for an aperitive, this is your place!

Best Place for a Night on the Town in Florence

My favorite thing to do in Florence at night is to explore the sites! Visit the museum in Palazzo Vecchio at night and you will get a treat like you never imagined!

No lines, no crowds, and a beautifully quiet view of some of the greatest masterpieces in the world!

Plus, there is nothing like seeing all of the buildings and statues lit up in the night sky!

Stop into Dolce Vita for a cocktail and a little aperitivo and enjoy a lovely tour of the city under the stars!

things to do in florence
View from the top of Palazzo Vecchio

Where to Stay in Florence

Accommodation in Florence

Hotel David – This is an absolutely lovely hotel that is conveniently located. It is not central, so you can avoid the crowds and all the night-time noise.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable. There is WiFi, free parking and gluten-free menu options. Family owned and operated, it is really a wonderful place to stay.

For a unique and local experience book with Airbnb. From luxurious homes to city apartments with sweeping city views they have you covered! Click here to see what’s available for your trip to Florence. 
Booking.com

Where to stay Outside of the Florence

Bellavista Impruneta Hotel Ristorante – If you would like to get a little taste of the countryside while still being close to the city, this is the place for you. Bellavista is located in the quaint village of Impruneta, just a 30 minute countryside drive or bus ride from the city.

Owned and operated by the Becucci family for over 100 years, authentic Tuscany is what you will find here.

There is always someone ready to answer any of your questions and help you in any way. Comfortable rooms, gourmet cuisine, and as the name implies, beautiful views! The village of Impruneta is a gem all to itself!

things to do in florence
Terrace view from Bellavista Impruneta

Markets and Shopping in Florence

Piazza Santa Trinita – This piazza sits just off the river, Via de’ Tornabuoni, is home to Gucci, Armani, Ferragamo, Versace, and many more.

Here, you will find beautifully quaint streets lined with the biggest names in high fashion. Even if haute couture is not your thing, it’s worth the window-shopping stroll.

San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale – Centered on the Medici’s old church of San Lorenzo, between the train station and the Duomo, these streets are filled with markets!

Here you will find the massive indoor food market, and San Lorenzo’s famous leather markets.

It is a fun and lively place to visit and don’t be afraid to haggle with prices.

things to do in florence
Food market

Events and Festivals in Florence

For a comprehensive calendar of major events, go to the events page in Life in Italy. This is where I get all my Italian news and information. This is an incredibly informative site if you are planning a visit.

Getting around Florence

Florence is a beautifully walkable city.

Almost any site can be reached on foot. Just be sure to wear your most comfortable shoes, it will be worth the investment! The brick streets and uneven walkways are not conducive to small heels.

The bus system is quite reliable. Getting around by bus is pretty easy too, you just need to know where to get your tickets and what the routes are.

You can get all of that on the ATAF site.

The Santa Maria Novella train station is conveniently located in the city and fairly easy to navigate. As with any train station, be aware of your belongings at all times.

things to do in florence
Laurel in Florence

Finding WiFi in Florence

I have never had any problem finding a bar (the Italian name for cafes) that offer free wifi to customers. I usually just get a coffee and a pastry and have a seat outside.

The city of Florence now offers free WiFi in 12 piazze and parks. Access is via password in compliance with Italian laws, and limited to one hour a day.

Unfortunately, to get the password you’ll need an Italian cell phone. I’m hoping this will change soon.

Best time to visit Florence

No doubt, spring and fall.

The summers can be quite hot and horribly crowded. The winter is a bit cold, but you will not encounter many tourists at all.

Visiting in the off-seasons will give you a much deeper experience to not have to fight the crowds and it will be significantly less expensive all the way around, especially the airfare!

Favorite Side trip from Florence

Taking a drive through the Chianti, home to the most well-known Italian red wine in the world is something every Tuscan visitor should do.

Extending over the provinces of Florence and Siena and covering all of the area between, Chianti offers a unique landscape with green, rolling hills covered with fields of vineyards and olive groves, small stone villages, and countryside homes in stone.

Driving through the Chianti

You will want to find yourself in Sienna at the end of your drive. Second only to Florence in importance in the history of Italian art, Siena is a must see in Tuscany.

Stop and people watch in Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy, as you soak in all that Siena has to offer.

Take a virtual tour of Siena and get a taste of how magnificent this city really is!

If you do not want to hire a car and drive yourself, you can take a bus or hire a day excursion driver to bring you there.

Siena Italy

Getting There and Away

You can either fly directly into Florence or into Pisa and take the train into the city.

I prefer to fly Luthansa. With layovers in Germany, I find the airports to be accommodating and easy to navigate and the airline to be reliable.

I try to avoid a layover in Paris whenever I can, getting stuck in a massive airport can easily make you miss your connection.

My favorite 3rd party travel booking site is Skyscanner, I have saved hundreds of dollars booking through them.

You can also take a bus or a train in, which will bring you to the Santa Maria Novella station, right in the middle of the city.

Best insiders tip for travel to Florence

Get lost! I love walking down random streets and experiencing the true quaintness of less-traveled paths.

Just remember to be safe and always carry a map! If you get really lost, just ask anyone to lead you to the Duomo.

Palazzo Strozzi– Here you will find a constant rotation of exhibits. It is often overlooked because the current exhibits will not be listed in the guide books.

I try to never miss an exhibit here when I am in town!

Mixing the ancient with the modern, Palazzo Strozzi has never disappointed me.

With all exhibits in english as well as Italian, the breathtaking presentations are certainly an underrated gem of the city.

things to do in florence
Palazzo Strozzi

Taste Florence – If you really want to know about eating in Italy, take time for this Florence food tour! You will not be disappointed!

Don’t forget to stop into one (or a few) of the countless wine shops (enoteca) to find out what Tuscany is really famous for!

I love Florence because…

I am in love with falling in love!

Every time I visit this remarkable city, I fall in love all over again! From the food to the culture, the architecture and the art, the language and the people.

Florence is a city that you will hold in your heart forever!

Plan Your Trip to Florence

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Accommodation in Florence

Flights to Florence

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Tours in Florence

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Is Florence on your bucket list? Great insider tips here on what to see & do, where to eat, sleep, drink, shop, explore and much more!
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BIO – Laurel Perry Turner lives with her three children in Clearwater, Florida. She is a travel and portrait photographer, writer, and owner of Capturing Tuscany, an authentic Tuscan touring company. Laurel is currently writing a book about the people of Giglio Island, Italy and their experience with the Costa Concordia disaster. You can follow her blog, Capturing la Vita. You can also connect with Laurel on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest 

Do you have tips on things to do in Florence? Please share in the comments below.

69 thoughts on “Amazing Things to Do in Florence, Italy (Insider’s tips)”

  1. Fantastic article and pictures – so extremely helpful and informative. Alas, it’s thrilling and heartbreaking for me at the same time! It’s my dream to go to Florence, and I thought we would be doing so this Spring for my 10th anniversary…but financially just realized it’s not yet to be. 🙁 You have a new fan though, Laurel – I will be reading, watching, and planning for my someday Florence trip!!

    And thanks Craig & Caz for bringing such great content.

    1. Hi Tami! Thank you so much for your great feedback! There is no way I could do what I do if my passion for this region wasn’t so deep. When you do make it there… and you WILL… It will change you forever! I wish you the best on your journey to finding your way to Italy, please keep in touch.
      Laurel

  2. Hi Tami! Thank you so much for your great feedback! There is no way I could do what I do if my passion for this region wasn’t so deep. When you do make it there… and you WILL… It will change you forever! I wish you the best on your journey to finding your way to Italy, please keep in touch.
    Laurel

  3. I am so glad I found your blog as my husband and I are off to Europe and the UK for 8 weeks in April/May next year. It has been 30 years since I have been over there and Florence was always my favourite place of all. I have got acres of travel books which just send your head into a spin. I love this post of yours as it is so personal and makes everything to do with visiting Florence sound easy, comfortable and enjoyable. Thank you!

  4. Great summary of Florence. I was just there and enjoyed many of the things Laurel mentions, including Palazzo Strozzi. Their Thursday night events with free entrance and the outdoor cafe scene are great!!

  5. You’ve caught the magic of Florence wonderfully. Such a beautiful place. I’ve only been once, 19 years ago and it was the height of summer so it was very overcrowded. It would be great to go back in the Spring and appreciate it more.

  6. Delhi Information

    Seriously amazing information! Florence has been on my list for a while, but your endorsement really makes me want to go!

  7. What a terrific summary of what to enjoy in Florence – thank you! You mentioned so many of our don’t- miss stops. We get there as often as we can, and are eager to share this favorite with new Music and Markets guests later this month. Can’t wait to return!

  8. Florence is a really great city, but I never had the chance to visit Chianti. If the photo is anything to go by then I’ll have to visit it next time I have the opportunity.

  9. Fantastic article! Your post covered everything – no further research necessary, I’m ready to go to Florence! It wasn’t at the top of my list of places to go but after reading this article, I will definitely make my way there in 2013.

  10. Great tips Laurel! I think a side trip to Sienna is a great idea if you’re in the region – I thought it was such a beautiful town to wander through and [mildly] less overrun with tourists than Florence.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Reena. Yes, Siena is more quiet than Florence, especially in the off seasons. I was able to remove a bucket list item this past summer at the historic Palio race in Siena (not a time to avoid crowds). It was an experience I will hold with me for the rest of my life. Siena is in my top three towns in Tuscany, for sure. You can read my story on the Palio here- http://capturinglavita.com/the-palio/

  11. Really nice and informative post about Florence and its surroundings like Chianti area and Siena. Also consider Lucca as a day trip destination for your tour in Tuscany, I’m sure you won’t forget this small but fantastic city!

  12. What a wonderful post! We missed Florence on our recent trip to Italy but we have plans to visit on our next trip for sure. Your post contains so much valuable information on Florence and the surrounding area that I feel well prepared for our visit, thank you so much! I loved the photography too.

  13. Hi

    Read your article and fell in love with florence, am keen to visit there. As am getting married in november , we are planning a trip there. Is it a great idea to explore Italy in november?

    1. laurel-Capturing la Vita

      Florence is beautiful in November! It can be a little chilly, so plan on dressing in layers. The best part is the lack of crowds.

  14. Thanks alot for the beautiful article and details abt this amazing city, i m visiting italy and ofcourse florence in june with family. got gud tips from you.

    thanks alot

  15. Florence is really a great Italian travel destination, attracts many tourist because of its architecture and culture. On my last vacation I really enjoyed there.

  16. A thousand thanks to you, Laurel ! Lucky me that I found your site and your travel tip to Florence. Your articles is so great and it hit me to my trvel inspiration. I love to go there as your advice. Thank you again!

    1. Laurel- Capturing la Vita

      Thank you, Tata! I’m so glad I was able to help. I am always posting new stories and info on Florence. I never run out of inspiration there.

  17. Thanks for the wonderful tips!
    We are planning to head to Florence next weekend, and your post makes me want to go there TODAY! 🙂

  18. Great to see Il Duomo all over again. Florence has a ridiculous amount of culture all across the city, i remember taking the tourist bus around for several hours in the blistering heat.

    Those who have a few days should certainly take the opportunity to see some of the smaller towns in Tuscany too, as they have their own charm.

  19. There is a new thing to do for the tourists who visit Florence, this is Hell tour inspired by the famous book by Dan Brown, which tells of Dante’s Inferno, several tour operators have organized tours that lead to mysterious and medieval places that were inspired by the great poet Dante during the writing of his literary work.

  20. I have seen many differents cities over the world. Florence is defenitely one of the most beautiful one. I have never seen a city with so much charme. the history, the food and people, everything is perfect! love it! 🙂

  21. Dear Laurel, Florence is really beautiful old city where everyone can find what to do and what to see. That is why we added it’s tourist attractions to our new service for travellers. Now everyone can find all most interesting places and sightseeings of Florence on the map on one page: http://www.itouristmaps.com/italy/florence/ . Hope this will be helpful for you and your readers! Once again thank you for a great article and beautiful photos.

  22. I’m thrilled I came across your site… We were debating whether we should include Florence in our Europe iternary…. Now we are definitely going to …
    Do u have any tips on visiting Florence in December?

  23. I LOVED this post. We have been wanting to do a tour of Italy and Florence is on the top of our list I love art and can’t wait to see all the museums. Of course, who can’t look forward to all the wonderful food that awaits you. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures.

  24. Barbara McDaniel

    Thank you! This is an amazing trip through Florence. I’m so excited to be going to Italy for the first time in April. We have traveled all over the world but have never made it to Italy. Your information will be tucked into purse as Florence is our first stop for the conference and then the on to Rome, etc. cants wait! Thank you for this wonderful tour.

    1. I love Italy ! Especially Florence ! my suggestion is to rent an apartment for about 4-5 nights, there are several global websites but I suggest you something more local… like http://www.florenceapartmentsrentals.com they rent apartments in Florence for family too and also have a Shuttle service for day tours in all Tuscany !
      Cheers

  25. genevieve boutros

    helful information. every book i read about beautiful tuscany makes me very eager to visit soon.

  26. This is such a great post, makes me want to go back and do it all again. So true – I agree that the best thing to do is get lost in the beautiful city. I’ve written about more off-the-beaten path things you should do to get the most of Florence:

  27. Hi Laurel, thanks for this great post. It is really helpful and informative. I am planning my trip to Florence this year and this post provide me so much information. I added several places from your post to my must-go list, Kudos!

  28. Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens is like a walk back in time through the opulent and palatial residence of princesses, grand dukes, and monarchs of Florence

  29. Wow. You covered so many aspects of Florence. I particularly enjoyed reading about where to go for a night on the town because that is the type of thing that is really hard to know without a little insider’s advice. Thanks so much!

  30. Thank you for sharing this great article about things to do in Florence. As for someone who has been living there for the past 18 years, I can tell that these are insider tips!

    It is nice that you have also included off the beaten paths tips, there are so many things to do and see out there. I see that you talk a lot about food in your article and so glad you mentioned the bistecca alla Fiorentina! I have written an article solely on the beef steak Florentine style, you can check it out here: http://www.fibnb.com/insights/florence/florence-food/beef-steak-florentine-style/

    Thanks again for all those tips!

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