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11 things to do in and around Florence, including a bit in the city and a few great day trips you can take from Florence.
Explore The Historical Centre of Florence
As lame as it sounds, the historical centre of Florence honestly feels like something out of a fairytale. The architecture is amazing. It’s well worth a full day just wandering and exploring, and of course stopping off for a gelato or two along the way. Be sure to visit the Piazza Del Duomo, Piazza Della Repubblica and Piazza Della Signoria.
- Tip: Hire a bike for the day. You can see a lot more, and it’s great fun cycling around the city
Visit Piazzale Michelangelo
For the best views of the city, head to Piazzale Michelangelo. It’s a bit of an uphill hike (and even harder if you’ve hired a bike), but the views are worth it. It’s stunning.
Do The Florence Free Walking Tour
A good way to get your bearings in the city and find out a little more about its history is to do a free walking tour. These tours are tip based, meaning you don’t pay anything upfront, and at the end just give the guide a tip based on how much you think the tour was worth.
Visit The Uffizi Gallery
One of the largest and most famous museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery holds a huge collection that’s mainly renaissance art. You can find works from all of the major Italian renaissance artists, including Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello, Botticelli and many more.
The museum is one of the most visited in the world, meaning it’s always super busy. You can book your ticket online, which does help with waiting times. Do this either through the official website, or an official ticket reseller. Tickets cost around €17.
You can also do a guided tour of the museum. However, these cost about €50, so it’s only something to do if you’re really keen on learning more about all of the art there.
- Tip: The museum is CLOSED on Mondays, so keep that in mind when planning your visit.
The Cathedral in Florence, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Il Duomo. This cathedral was one of our highlights when visiting Florence. The only problem that we had with it was trying to get a picture – it’s tough to get everything in the frame…
Construction on the cathedral started in 1296, and was completed in 1436. The famous dome was designed and completed by Italian Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. When it was constructed, the dome was the largest anywhere in the world.
The cathedral is located in Piazza del Duomo. Entrance is free but there are usually quite long lines. If you want to go up to the dome, you have to pay a fee €15.
- Tip: We thought the best part of Il Duomo was just admiring it from the outside, so don’t be too stressed if there are long lines and you don’t get a chance to look inside.
Check Out The Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval stone bridge that passes over the Arno River. The bridge has been in place for centuries – the first known mention of it was in 996. It’s been destroyed and rebuilt various times since then.
An interesting fact about the bridge: During World War Two, the Nazis, when retreating from Florence, destroyed all the other bridges in the city, but left the Ponte Vecchio intact. Allegedly, they did this on direct order from Hitler. We’re not entirely sure how true that last bit is, but they certainly left the bridge alone while destroying all the others.
Take A Day Trip To Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Italy, with a population of 100,000 people. The city is of course most famous for its tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower was constructed between 1173 and 1372. It was built on soft ground, and with poor foundations, causing it to lean. The lean began during construction, and gradually worsened over time.
The tower leans at 3.97 degrees now, but at it’s most has had a lean of up to 5.5 degrees (before restorations throughout the 20th century).
Getting to Pisa from Florence
You can get to Pisa by either train or bus… but the train is quicker and more comfortable, and can often be cheaper, so that’s what we’d recommend. The trip takes around an hour, and there’s no need to book in advance – just buy a ticket at the station before you go.
- Tip: If you’re travelling to or from Cinque Terre, you generally need to change trains along the way. So try and organise for the changeover to be in Pisa, so you can spend a few hours here on the way through. It’s much more time efficient, and a few hours in Pisa is generally enough for most people.
See The Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the main town hall of florence. It was built between the 13th and 14th centuries. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, who also worked as the principal architect on the Cathedral in Florence, Il Duomo.
The Palazzo Vecchio functioned as a seat of power in Florence for many years. This included time as the seat for the Medici family, and later as the seat for the council of florence. It was also the seat of the Italian government for a short period (1865-71) when Florence was temporarily the capital.
You’ll find the Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the Piazza della Signoria. These days it’s a museum. An entry ticket costs €18, and you can explore the archeological site (it was built on Roman ruins), the tower and battlements, as well as the actual museum itself, which has a large collection of renaissance art.
For more info on the Palazzo Vecchio including opening hours and costs, and to book a ticket online, head to the Palazzo Vecchio page on the main Florence museum website. Tickets are open ended, and can be used any day within 6 months of purchase.
Michelangelo’s Statue of David sculpture is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world. He created the statue between 1501 and 1504. It came to be a symbol of the city, and was initially placed for display in the Palazzo della Signoria. In 1873, it was moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia, where it remains today.
The Galleria dell’Accademia is another museum in Florence that’s full of renaissance architecture. As it’s so popular, you’re best to to book tickets online ahead of time, to make sure that you get the time and date you want. Depending on how flexible you can be with times, a few days in advance should be fine, but if you’re going in July (peak season) maybe look the website a week or so in advance to see what’s available, and go from there.
Take A Day Trip To Sienna
If you have the time, it’s quite easy to do a day trip to Siena from Florence. It’s a great way to see another slightly smaller Italian town. Siena is hugely popular among tourists, mainly for its medieval style old town.
Getting to Siena from Florence
The trip from Florence to Siena takes around 1.5 hours, whether you take the train or the bus. If you decide to take the train, just be sure to book a direct train (there are some direct trains, but lots of them require you to change). Tickets should cost less than €10. Trains depart from Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Check the timetables online at Trenitalia, but you can just buy your ticket at the station.
If you’re taking the bus, the trip takes around the same amount of time, and can be slightly cheaper (around €8). Sitabus is the company that runs the buses, so to their website to have a look at the timetable. The bus station in Florence is in Via Santa Caterina da Siena 15, right by the Santa Maria Novella train station.
- Tip: We took the train, but it seems about the same either way, so if you want to save a couple of euros it might be worth taking the bus.
Do A Tuscan Wine Tour
Tuscany is pretty famous for its wine. If you have the time, it’s worth escaping the city and heading out on a wine tour for the day. The countryside is great, and of course the wine is too.
These tours are not cheap. They will generally set you back €100 or more for a full day tour. So weigh up whether you think it’s worth the money. There are plenty of companies that run daily wine tours from Florence. We’d recommend just shopping around at either your hostel or the information centre for this one to try and find the best deal.