I love living in a city where, if I want to, I can escape from life and do something touristy, such as visit a museum or climb the duomo. There are tons of things to do in Florence, so here are some of my favorite things to do that you may want to check out during your time here.
Piazzale Michelangelo, along with climbing the duomo and visiting the different piazzas, is my number one thing to do. If you have only one day in Florence, I strongly suggest not missing the views from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Essentially it’s an open area on the other side of the arno (river) up on a small hill that overlooks all of Florence. Come for sunset or sunrise, or really just any time. It’s majestically picturesque and perfect for taking photos to capture the beauty of Florence.
It is great to sit on the steps, or a bench, or even standing to admire the wide sweeping vista. You can bring some wine, champagne, whatever your choice. Drink some coffee and enjoy the breath taking views.
How to get there?
You can simply walk by crossing the Ponte Vecchio and then go left for a ways, then take a right behind some buildings and hike up some stairs.
Or you can keep walking along the river until you see The Tower of Saint Niccolo, and when you see that, swing a right and keep going up. There’s a path through some greenery. (This is my preferred route)
Another option is to cross the bridge near Santa Croce, and again go left until Saint Niccolo’s Tower. There, take a right and then hike up, following the path through the trees.
For those who don’t feel like walking, you can take Bus 13. You can board at the main train station, Santa Maria Novella.
Climbing the Duomo
Another one of my musts in Florence. You can buy a ticket for 10 euros. This includes the climb to the top of the Duomo, the Bell Tower, and the Batistera (round building in front of the duomo). The climb is interesting as you go up stairs that open up to the inside of the dome. Here you can see up close the beautifully painted ceiling. Then you begin an adventurous climb to the very top of the coppola. Here you have panoramic views of the city. Snap a few photos, sit, relax, take it all in.
Visiting the Piazzas
The historical center of Florence is small and very walkable. I like to say the piazzas make a circle. For example you can begin at Piazza Duomo, then head to Piazza Repubblica, then Ponte Vecchio, then to Piazza Signoria, and finally to Santa Croce. (Or any version of this)
On the other side of the arno you will find these piazzas: Piazza Pitti, Piazza Santo Spirito, and Piazzale Michelangelo.
Putting it All Together
If you are up for walking, you could do this: Piazza Duomo, Piazza Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Signoria, Piazza Santa Croce, and then cross the bridge to head up to Piazzale Michelangelo. (Or invert it)
Some other piazzas that don’t fit in this “circle”, but are quite nice to visit if you have the time (and the energy) are Piazza Santo Spirito and Piazza Pitti, where there is the Pitti Palace. You can cross the Ponte Vecchio and walk straight until you reach the Pitti Palace, then you go right and eventually will run into Piazza Santo Spirito. The Boboli Gardens are also near the Pitti Palace.
There are many different museums to see in Florence, but I am going to talk about some of the main ones.
There is the famous Uffizzi museum, which is nice if you like art. Another is the Accademia where the original David is. To be honest though, the original David could be skipped. There is a copy of David in Piazza Signoria that is free to see (it is outside). It isn’t the original, but if you aren’t too heart-set on seeing the original and don’t want to wait in a long line, the outside copy is just fine.
Pitti Palace is on the other side of the river and is where the Medici family lived. I really liked seeing the pretty ballrooms and quarters.
Tip: The museums are free the first Sunday of every month.
Also, be careful about “skip the line” tickets. They are not always what they seem!
Boboli Gardens is also absolutely beautiful. I love strolling the grounds and relaxing. It is very peaceful. It is connected to the Pitti Palace. There is also a free rose garden underneath Piazzale Michelangelo that many people go to lounge on the grass during summer.
The biggest, but also VERY touristic market, is the San Lorenzo market. Watch your purses and wallets here! It is great to buy souvenirs, but it isn’t what the real Italian markets are like.
There are “real” markets on certain days where you can buy everything from clothes to household items. There is a nice one in Scandicci every Saturday.
Cascine also has a market every Tuesday. Sant’Ambrogio has an antiques market, and occasionally Piazza Santo Spirito has an interesting vintage market. There’s a market in Piazza Liberta every Friday morning, but I haven’t been to it yet.