A Jam-Packed One Day In Florence Itinerary
Updated: Aug 30
Here's my detailed one day itinerary and travel guide for visiting Florence Italy.
One day, no matter how well organized, is definitely not enough time to properly enjoy Florence. You can only scratch the surface. But sometimes one day is all you have when road tripping in Tuscany.
This Florence itinerary gives you a step by step guide to help you make the most of 24 hours in Florence. It takes you to the absolute must visit sites, landmarks, and attractions. You can add or eliminate sites based on your pace of travel.
Florence is an overwhelmingly beautiful city, the "Cradle of the Renaissance." With the best Medieval and Renaissance art in Europe, Florence is a veritable art lovers paradise.
Florence is also a city that's alive, sensual, and romantic. You can be seduced by Botticelli and awed by Michelangelo, in a time tunnel experience. Not surprisingly, Florence's entire historic center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Florence is effectively an open air museum with stunning art and architecture at every turn.
How To Spend 1 Day in Florence
1. 8:00 am: Oltrarno Viewpoints
Start your day in Florence sipping espresso at Cafe degli Artigiani, a coffee lover's dream cafe. You can grab pastries at Dolcissima Firenze.
Then, get ready for some amazing views over the city from the Oltrarno. The best viewpoints in Florence are at Piazzale Michelangelo and the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte.
When people visiting Florence want a panoramic view, they usually head to Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence's famous lookout square. To be sure, Piazzale Michelangelo is nice, with a replica of Michelangelo's David sculpture. But it's also filled with bus loads of tourists and vendors hawking trinkets.
For a far superior experience, don't stop walking. Head 5-10 minutes further uphill to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. It's worth the arduous climb, I promise.
San Miniato is an oasis of calm away from the hurly burly of Florence with amazing Gothic art and unsurpassed views. The perspective over the city is absolutely extraordinary. This is where you have the best view of the Duomo.
Don't forget to head inside. The ancient Romanesque church is a unique and harmonious blend of medieval architectural styles, pre-dating Florence's Renaissance treasures. San Miniato is a hidden gem in Florence, perfect for history buffs, and one of the best free things to do in the city.
Right behind the basilica is the Porte Sante Cemetery, which also boasts great views. Built in the 19th century, the cemetery was designed by Niccolo Matas, who was also the architect for the facade of the Santa Croce. The graveyard is an open air museum, stuffed with beautiful funeral art, mausoleums, and memorials of illustrious Florentine Catholics.
The private temples and tombs are in varying architectural styles, from Renaissance to Art Deco. Many of them are inspired by Florence's churches.
Some are decorated with symbols, allegorical figures, and sentimental portraits. The most famous effigy (shown above) depicts the Mazzone siblings dancing together, fully united in the after life.
2. 9:00 am: Pitti Palace
To visit the Pitti Palace is to immerse yourself in beauty and history. The palace is an incredibly unique combination of splendor, in situ art collections, and beautiful gardens.
The magnificent Palazzo Pitti was the regal home of the Medici family. The palace is the largest palace in Florence and one of Florence's most stunning architecture gems. Built in 1457, it was built for Florentine banker Luca Pitti, a Medici rival.
The Palazzo Pitti houses four different museums. By far the most important is the Palatine Gallery. With only one day, head straight to the Palatine and skip the other three museums. The Galleria Palatine occupies the left wing of the first floor.
The gallery houses an impressive collection of over 500 in situ paintings, chock a block on top of each other amid lavish stucco and silk furnishings. In the five Planet Rooms, there are beautiful ceiling frescos by Pietro da Cortona.
The collection includes works by Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Caravaggio, and other European and Italian painters. Be sure to check out Botticelli's and Lippi's Madonna and Child in the Prometheus Room.
Two versions of Andrea del Sarto's massive Assumption of the Virgin are in the Iliad Room. And one of my favorite artists, Artemisia Gentileschi, has another version of Judith and Holofernes in the Saturn Room.
3. 10:30 am: Boboli Gardens
After gazing at these master works, take a quick stroll in the backyard playground of the Pitti Palace, the lovely Boboli Gardens. The gardens are the largest green space in Florence, sprawling over 11 acres. The gardens are effectively an open air museum, with hundreds of nooks to explore. They opened to the public in 1776.
The gardens are laid out in the Italian style, with beautifully worn Renaissance statues and fountains. The Rococo Kaffeehaus is on the eastern edge of the gardens, and its terrace is the perfect viewing point.
The famous Fountain dell'Oceano and the Bathing Venus were sculpted by the underrated artist Giambologna, whose statues grace the Bargello Museum and the Piazza della Signoria.
The Grotto Grande, also known as the Buontalenti Grotto's, is a fascinating place. In 16th century Tuscany, it was the fashion to build decorative grottos reconstructing natural caves. The grotto once had a fresco by Michelangelo (now in the Accademia) and has copies of his four slaves.
4. 11:00 am: Ponte Vecchio
Then take a stroll across Florence's storybook bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. It looks like cobbled together houses suspended over the Arno River.
The bridge has three arches topped with a jumble of charming shops. In an urban setting, space was at a premium, so the bridge became a sort of mall.
Originally, the Ponte Vecchio housed unglamorous butcher shops. But the Medici didn't like escorting their aristocratic guests and diplomats over the bridge with the wafting stench. So they swamped the butchers for goldsmiths. Now, you can buy expensive jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio.
5. 12:00 am: Lunch
Break for lunch and a wander, enjoying the joys of a traffic free Florence. Try Casa del Vino, where you can get sandwiches, crostini, or charcuterie plates with a delicious glass of wine.
All'Antico Vinaio is also a must-try, just minutes away from Piazza della Signoria. Sandwiches are made with a local bread called schiacciata.
6. 1:00 pm: Duomo Complex
Head to historic Florence and take in the complex of Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, nicknamed the Duomo. I recommend purchasing a combination pass that allows you to see all the sites within the Duomo complex -- the Duomo, the Baptistry, the Giotto Bell Tower, and the Duomo museum. They're all eminently worth seeing.
You should start with the stunning Duomo Museum, the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, to get the historical backdrop for all these structures. The museum is housed in the Piazza del Duomo at the back of Giotto's Bell Tower, behind the Duomo apse. The museum space is a fabulous treasure box of sculpture. Its rooftop terrace also offers a mesmerizing view of Brunelleschi's dome.
The first thing you see is the museum's well lit showstopper -- the Hall of Paradise. The hall contains a magnificent reconstruction of a Duomo facade designed by the first Duomo architect Arnolfo di Cambio. In 1587, it was torn down to make room for a Renaissance facade (that was never completed).
The museum also has an unparalleled collection of Medieval and early Renaissance Florentine pieces that once decorated the Duomo complex structures. You will find pieces by artists such as Ghiberti, Donatello, Michelangelo, Arnolfo di Cambio, and Nanni di Banco.
Then, head to Florence Cathedral -- the most prominent, and popular, landmark in Florence. It was built over 172 years, beginning in 1296. The Commune of Florence hired architect Arnolfo di Cambio, a man responsible for building much of 13th and 14th century Florence.
Florence Cathedral is Gothic in style, but not in the light and elegant way you think of Paris' Notre Dame. It's made of brown sandstone and beautifully faced with pink, green, and white marble.
Filippo Brunelleschi's magnificent terra cotta colored dome, built from 1420-36, is the highlight. The burnt orange Duomo cupola is the very symbol of Florence. It’s decorated with frescos by Giorgio Vasari, a Florentine artist and the world’s first art historian.
For panoramic views, climb up Brunelleschi's dome. You can admire the Vasari frescos up close and have stunning views over Florence. Alternatively, you can take in views from Giotto's Bell Tower. Or, you may have your fill of views from your morning hike.
Next, stroll to the Baptistery, in front of the main facade of the Duomo. Dating from 1059, it's over a thousand years old. The Baptistery sports three magnificent sets of bronze doors. On the eastern side are the famous golden "Gates of Paradise" designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and nicknamed by Michelangelo. (The originals are now fully restored and housed in the Duomo Museum.)
The Baptistry is lined with ancient Roman columns of gray granite, likely repurposed from the ancient Roman Forum down the street. The highlight is a stunning golden Byzantine style ceiling mosaic telling the story of the Last Judgement. You can plop down on the pews and admire it.
7. 3:00 pm: Uffizi Gallery
After you're done admiring the Duomo complex, head to the Uffizi Gallery, Florence's #1 site with the world's best collection of Italian medieval and Renaissance art. You'll need to make a reservation in advance. The lines are epically long.
The Uffizi is Italy's premiere gallery, preserving this precious legacy. The museum has the world's best and most abundant collection of Italian medieval and Renaissance art. The museum is a crowd pleaser, the third most visited site in Italy. It deserves its accolades.
The Uffizi houses seminal works from the 13th to 18th centuries, with a concentration on Renaissance art. Here's where you'll find one of the world's most iconic paintings, Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus.
If your time is limited, you should focus your efforts. The must see halls include the Hall 2 (Giotto), Hall 8 (Lippi), Halls 10-14 (Botticelli), Hall 15 (Leonardo), Hall 41 (Raphael and Michelangelo), Hall 83 (Titian), and Hall 90 (Caravaggio). Here are my tips for visiting the Uffizi.
8. 5:00 pm: Michelangelo's David
After the Uffizi, the Galleria Accademia is Florence's most visited museum. People flock in to see what is probably the world's most famous sculpture, Michelangelo's commanding statue of David.
The 17 foot sculpture is considered the embodiment of male beauty, a Calvin Klein-like model of physical perfection. David was commissioned for Florence Cathedral. The city intended to place the statue high above in a niche. But they decided that David was too beautiful for that location.
It's essential to have a reservation for the Accademia. Click here for my guide to David and how to skip the line to see it.
But there's more to the Academia than just David. Michelangelo's Prisoners grace the Hall of the Prisoners. They are four unfinished male nudes that were originally intended for the Tomb of Pope Julius II. You can see Michelangelo's approach to carving; the figures appear to be emerging from the marble. Another must see sculpture is Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Women.
9. 6:30 pm: Dinner
For dinner, dine at Trattoria da Tito, not far from the Accademia, or Bobo's Trattoria. Or take a guided food tour for the total Florence food experience. Click here for an excellent guide to the best restaurants in Florence to choose from.
10. 9:00 pm: Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is one of the few sites in Florence open at night. From April to September, it's pen until 11:00 pm. And that's the best time to visit to avoid crowds.
The Palazzo Vecchio was the seat of government and one of the three palace-residences of the Medici dynasty. It sits in the Piazza della Signoria, which is essentially a free open air sculpture gallery.
It's definitely worth going inside the Palazzo Vecchio, though so many tourists don't. If you're not too exhausted from your busy day, I'd definitely visit the palace.
The Palazzo Vecchio is a doughty medieval fortress on the outside and a resplendant Renaissance palace on the inside. It's one of Florence's most historic and important buildings. In some ways, Palazzo Vecchio explains the entire history of Florence.
The Tower of Arnolfo can be climbed, and provides fantastic views over Florence and the Duomo. And the lines aren't nearly as long as for Brunelleschi's dome or Giotto's bell tower.
Inside, you can admire the stunning Michelozzo-designed courtyard, explore the grand Hall of the Five Hundred, admire Michelangelo and Donatello sculptures, and gaze admiringly at beautiful frescos at every turn. It's rumored that the Vasari frescos in the Hall of Five Hundred may hide a "lost" Leonardo da Vinci painting.
On the second floor are the sumptuously decorated private rooms of the Medici, with recently restored frescos in the beautiful Apartment of the Elements. You'll also find Donatello's groundbreaking Judith and Holofernes sculpture in the Hall of Lilies.
Must Know Tips for Visiting Florence in One Day
Florence isn't a big city. You can traverse the entire city in 30 minutes. So plan to spend your time walking for the most part. It's pedestrianized, so there's no traffic.
Set up a good itinerary in advance, using this Florence Itinerary for guidance. Get the latest opening hours from the tourist information office. Check your guidebook (or go online) to see which sights are open on which days.
In general, Sundays and Mondays are not ideal days for sightseeing in Florence. Many places are either closed or have shorter hours. Sights may also have shorter hours off-season.
If you're going in high season, be sure to book tickets for the must see attractions and museums in advance. But it's really better to visit in shoulder season in the spring or fall to avoid hordes of tourists.
If you're only in Florence one day, don't buy the Firenze Card, which is Florence's 72 hour museum pass. Just pre-book individual skip the line tickets on each museum's website.
I hope you enjoyed my one day blitz itinerary for Florence. You may like these other Florence and Italy travel guides:
If you'd like to spend one perfect day in Florence Italy, pin it for later.