Florence, known as the “cradle of the Renaissance”, is famous for its rich cultural history, especially in art, painting and architecture. Its world-class museums, historic monuments and churches, and good food are some of the things people know about this charming city. What they don’t know is that, this relatively small capital of the Tuscany region is packed with other great attractions. Our suggested itinerary is designed to show you the best the city has to offer and what are the things you can accomplish in 3 days. Depending on your interests and travel priorities, you can certainly mix and match destinations, activities, and attractions.
Things to know before travelling in Italy:
Language – Italian is the official language of Italy. Although may Italians can speak and understand English, never assume that all people will or expect that they should speak English. Speaking at least some Italian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals. Some helpful phrases are as follows:
Parla Inglese? = Do you speak English?
Gracie = Thank You
Buon Giorno = Good Morning / Good Afternoon
Ciao = Hello / Goodbye
Quanto costa? / Quanto costa quest? = How much does it cost? / How much does this cost?
Etiquette – Most Italians don’t like vulgar and loud people. As a visitor, you are expected to behave politely and dress appropriately. When you enter a shop or restaurant, acknowledge the people by saying “Buon Giorno”. If you get into conversation with an Italian, do not go on the subject of mafia as this is considered to be rude.
Money and currency – Italy uses euros, the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to travelling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs (called bankomat) at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations.
Getting there – There are plenty of direct flight to Florence if your trip originate within Europe. Otherwise, you need to connect at some of the European airport hubs and that will add extra time to your trip to Florence. Also, keep in mind that flights to Florence tend to be pricier than flights to Pisa for example, which is why you should check for flights to Pisa or Bologna, or even Venice. Each of these airport has great train and bus connection to Florence so at the end you save money and often time if you book your ticket to one of the surrounding airports (for example a round-trip ticket New York-Florence costs 982 USD and up, while New York-Bologna can be found for 677 USD plus 14 EUR for the train to Florence).
Getting around – 3 days provides barely enough time to see the best of Florence so basic knowledge of how to get around is recommended. The center of Florence is a fairly compact area which can be explored on foot or on a bicycle. Also, the city has good public transport systems so there’s no need to rent a car. Renting a car and driving on your own is not recommended because of limited parking spaces.
Where to stay – Italy has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. In Florence, you may choose to stay in the historical center, outside the center but still within the city or the surrounding countryside. If you are going to follow our suggested itinerary, we recommend a stay in the historical center since all of the main sights are so close to each other and can be easily reached on foot. Look for accommodations around Piazza San Marco, Piazza Santa Croce and the Arno.
Hotels to consider in Florence:
Hotel David (Viale Michelangiolo, 1, 50125, Florence, Italy)
Portrait Firenze (Lungarno Acciaiuoli 4, 50123, Florence, Italy)
Grand Amore Hotel and Spa (Via dei Servi 38/A, 50122, Florence, Italy)
The St. Regis Florence (Piazza Ognissanti 1, 50123, Florence, Italy)
Hotel Spadai (Via Dei Martelli 10, 50129, Florence, Italy)
Detailed Itinerary Florence in 3 Days
Day 1: Explore the Historical Center around the Duomo
There’s no better way to get acquainted with the city than visiting Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square), where you will see Santa Maria del Fiore (more popularly known as the Duomo), the cathedral of Florence, and Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Grab some gelato on your way to your next destination, Casa Museo di Dante (Via S. Margherita, 1, 50122 Firenze, Italy), where Dante lived. Go for lunch in one of the restaurants around the area before heading to Museo Nazionale del Bargello, a famous museum home to Florence’s renowned sculptures.
Spend the rest of the afternoon in Uffizi, one of the oldest and most prominent museums on earth. The museum houses some of the most important works of the Renaissance, including works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael. Remember to book in advance online to avoid waiting for hours in line.
Day 2: Piazza San Marco and Piazza San Lorenzo Area
Be at the Galleria dell’Accademia (Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50121 Firenze, Italy) when it opens to see Michelangelo’s David before the crowds arrive or even better – buy your tickets online in advance. This is probably the most famous attraction in Florence that is why many visitors come here. Aside from David, there are also many other artistic delights in the gallery which are worth seeing such as Botticelli’s Madonna and Child and Madonna of the Sea and Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women.
Head to Santa Maria Novella (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 18, 50123 Firenze, Italy) before lunch and see some of the most groundbreaking frescoes of the early Renaissance. After lunch, visit the Giotto frescoes in Santa Croce Church (Piazza di Santa Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze, Italy), the final resting place of Michelangelo and other Renaissance giants. In the afternoon, head toward Piazza San Lorenzo and visit the Medici Chapels, which belongs to the complex of San Lorenzo. In the evening, grab some Tuscan dinner at the San Lorenzo Market, behind Piazza San Lorenzo.
Day 3: Discover Oltrarno
Start off your day with breakfast at one of the breakfast and brunch spots in Oltrarno, the area across the Arno River. After breakfast, make your way to Palazzo Pitti (Piazza de’ Pitti, 1, Firenze, Italy), one of Florence’s magnificent architectural monuments. There are 5 museums inside the palace plus a classic example of Italian gardens, The Boboli Gardens. One of the biggest public parks in Florence, the Boboli Gardens feature some impressive outdoor sculptures. Grab some lunch at one of the restaurants around Santo Spirito, a charming square famous among locals. Then, continue your walking tour to the San Niccolò area until you reach Piazzale Michelangelo, where you can enjoy a splendid view of Florence.
This is the end of our 3-day suggested itinerary. You may extend your vacation for as long as you prefer or until you get to see all attractions that interest you. Take time to meet the locals, sample the best Italian dishes or explore other parts of Italy. If the pace gets too hectic, then reorder your sightseeing priorities. Happy travel!
Have you been to Florence or anywhere else in Italy? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.