72 Hours in Florence
Welcome to our 3 days in Florence itinerary! 72 hours is perfect to make the most of this city. Planning a trip is fun but time consuming, however with this Florence Travel Guide you won't have to spend much time thinking about what to see in Florence. Just follow our suggestions and we are sure you'll have an amazing time. Enjoy!
Art, culture, food and wine, Florence has it all. A city rich in beauty, it is a wondrous collection of buildings, paintings and sculptures, leading some to say by simply walking its streets Florence is an open museum to all who visit. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, when a period of great wealth and collection of art took place (between 14th to 17th centuries), today Florence has almost 70 museums to explore not including its many churches full of artistic treasures too – you are spoilt for choice in what to see and do in this exciting capital city of Tuscany.
DAY ONE – Discovering Medici
The Medici is arguably the most infamous family to come out of Florence, initially successful merchants of wool before making their financial mark in 1397 opening one of the world’s first banks. With money came power then politics – for almost 300 year they ruled Florence – investing much of their wealth into the arts, the churches and monuments which makes Florence such a spectacular city today. Discover more of their heritage by visiting their city palaces and secret corridors…
Start the day exploring Palazzo Vecchio in main square, piazza della Signoria. Begun in 1299, this medieval palace with 94-meter high tower is a city centerpiece and today the political seat of Florence (the mayor has his office inside). Here you can explore the stately room, Salone dei Cinquecento, created for the grand council which had 500 members, then take in the old Medici apartments, where the family lived until the mid-1500’s, before climbing the tower for stunning views over Florence. Don’t miss the Lion House where Cosimo the Elder kept his collection of lions ready for use during festivities for visiting dignitaries.
Grab a panino at Ino. This simple sandwich bar tucked on a backstreet near Piazza degli Uffizi has a wide selection of combinations for a quick yet tasty lunch, Italian style. Try a simple salami or indulge in Tuscan truffles all washed down with a glass of the local red wine (Via dei Georgofili, 3r/7r).
Walk the Vasari corridor via Uffizi Gallery. The oldest public gallery in the world, Uffizi is an art museum housing thousands of items including works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio to name a few. From here you can access Vasari Corridor, built in 1564 as a private walkway for the Medici, running almost a kilometer in length to Pitti Palace on the south side of the city. The corridor can be visited as part of a tour and is lined with portraits plus offers stunning views down the river Arno as you pass over Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), lined with gold shops, before finishing near the Grotto in the Boboli Gardens.
Find the throne room in Palazzo Pitti. When the Medici outgrew Palazzo Vecchio they headed south purchasing a modest palace initially built by Florentine banker, Luca Pitti. In 1549 they took possession of the palace and doubled it in size making it the grandest of all the palazzi in Florence. From the façade, it is very fortress like with large stonewalls yet inside it is a different affair with frescoed ceilings, walls lined with paintings by Rubens, Raphael and Titian and rooms filled with richly coloured tapestries and furniture. In the Royal Apartments, you’ll find a number of grand and gilded spaces including the Throne Room complete with deep red throne where the Kings of Italy, after the country united in the 19th century, would sit when receiving subjects.
After all this exploring, take a seat at boutique wine bar, Le Volpi e l’Uva (Piazza dei Rossi, 1r) which has a bold selection of Italian wines by the glass. For dinner, try the handmade pasta at Casalinga (Via dei Michelozzi, 9r) before grabbing an icy treat at Gelateria della Passera (Via Toscanella, 15r) in the pretty piazza della Passera.
Other Medici sites worth exploring if in Florence for more time:
* Palazzo Medici Riccardi – the original Medici home, this extensive palace in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood was completed in 1484 and includes a stunning inner courtyard and the Magi chapel, famed for its frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli, a student of Fra Angelico.
* Medici Chapel – attached to the San Lorenzo church, this dome-roofed building was created to house the family’s tombs. Inside are incredible statues by Michelangelo in Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) while in the main Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of the Princes) an octagonal room with 59m high dome takes centre stage.
DAY TWO - Finding David
Many illustrious artists called Florence home including the prolific sculptor, Michelangelo. His statue, David (1501-4), is one of the most well know pieces of art in the world, standing 17-feet tall and weighing 6 tonnes, a marvel to many who see him. But did you know there is more than just one David statue in Florence? From indoor galleries to public squares, come find the David statues of Florence and learn more about Michelangelo too.
Cast your eyes on the most famous David in Galleria dell’Accademia which houses the original statue by Michelangelo. For almost 370 years, this David stood outside Palazzo Vecchio in piazza della Signoria, becoming a symbol of the city. In 1873, to conserve this precious piece of art, David was moved (taking 40 men 5 days to do so!) to the Galleria dell’Accademia where he proudly sits today in the main hall surrounded by other works by Michelangelo including his unfinished Prisoners series of sculptures for Pope Julius II.
Admire the façade of the Duomo. Florence cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is a magnificent church famed for its dome, which took 16 years to complete (in 1436). Michelangelo’s David was commissioned to be on the church façade yet legend has it once Michelangelo revealed his statue to the Florentines, in such admiration for its artistic perfection they decided to place David outside the town hall where it remained for centuries and where today you can find a replica of the David in this original spot by Palazzo Vecchio in piazza della Signoria, erected in 1910.
Take a seat at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori (Via dei Magazzini, 3) and choose traditional Tuscan dishes from a handwritten menu. This hole-in-the-wall restaurant has just a few tables so get there early as it fills up with a hungry lunchtime crowd.
See inside the oldest public building in Florence. Bargello was once home to the city council in the Middle Ages and later acted as a prison – up until 1786 executions still took place in the inner courtyard. Today it is a public gallery (since 1865) housing works by Michelangelo, Cellini and Donatello’s David, this bronze cast commissioned by the Medici family and for a time resided in Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Bargello showcases predominantly sculpture however does also have an armoury display plus fine collection of ceramics, textiles, tapestries, and old coins.
Take a stroll over bridge Ponte alle Grazie towards look out Piazzale Michelangelo. This open space was created during the gentrification of Florence in the 19th century and offers a panoramic view for postcard worthy photos of the city below. Here you will also find a bronze replica of David, made by taking a cast of the original, and where, on 25 June 1873, it was pulled up the hill by nine pairs of oxen before settling into its new home. Piazzale Michelangelo is popular particularly at sunset when you can buy wine from one of the local food stalls and sit on the steps to see the colours of the city change as the day ends with stunning views looking down the river Arno.
Relax over a hearty dinner at Trattoria del Fagioli (Corso dei Tintori, 47r) a family run restaurant renowned for its classic plates including Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a thick T-bone steak which is lightly seared on both sides and only comes one way, bloody. Post dinner stroll to nearby Via dei Neri for gelato at Gelateria dei Neri (Via dei Neri, 9/11r).
Other Michelangelo sites worth exploring if in Florence for more time:
*Casa Buonarroti – for the enthusiasts, spend time in the neighbourhood of Santa Croce and visit Michelangelo’s home, now a museum dedicated to his life with rare drawings on show.
* Church of Santa Croce– one of the most historic religious sites in Florence, this church houses the tombs of many statesmen including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and one dedicated to the poet, Dante.
DAY THREE - Eating Florence
Food and Florence go hand-in-hand and a trip to the Tuscan capital would not complete without eating your way through the array of sumptuous treats on offer.
Start your morning in Mercato Centrale, the largest food market in Florence, which is still the go-to for many of the city’s restaurants to buy fresh produce ready for our lunches and dinners. Take a stroll on the lower level, which offers fresh vegetables, meats and cheese stalls plus shops sampling balsamic vinegars and olive oils. For the strong willed, join the locals ordering lamprodotto at Da Narbone, a tripe sandwich traditionally washed down with a glass of Chianti – even at 9am! Later in the day, the newly renovated upstairs food court opens at 10am with a heady mix of food stalls offering fresh food, and fast, until midnight.
For a more refined, typical Italian breakfast, stroll to the pretty piazza della Repubblica and a take spot at Gilli, a historic and elegant café in the center of Florence. Since 1733, Gilli has been serving Florentines and is a great example of their morning breakfast ritual. First, pay at the cashier then show your receipt to the counter staff in exchange for soft, fluffy pastries and a strong cappuccino served by baristas in suits and ties. Take time to look up at the ceiling which has frescoes and wood panels which makes you feel, in an instant, you are in an 18th century Florentine coffee house.
Post café, head across the piazza towards Palazzo Davanzati. Originally the residence of the Davizzi, a family of wealthy merchants and bankers, it’s a great example of a medieval home complete with kitchen on its top level, which was common place in the Middle Ages. In 1578, the Davanzati family purchased the palace and embellished the facade with a large coat of arms. Inside, you can view the drawing room, the study and the bedroom with open-beamed ceilings and visit the kitchen (by appointment) on the upper floor.
Walk over the bridge of Ponte Santa Trinita to the Oltrarno, the neighbourhood over the Arno, which is filled with lane ways and artisans stores. Down a backstreet is In Tavola, a cooking school who specialise in tradition Italian cooking classes including homemade pasta making where you prepare three types of pasta with three different sauces to match the shapes (matching pasta shapes and sauces are very important to Italians) and also create a typical Italian dessert too.
Aperitivo time. After a day of food adventures, it’s time for cocktail hour and the tradition of aperitivo is a Florentine must-do. This pre-dinner drink, be it wine, beer or the popular Spritz (Aperol, prosecco, soda water) is an ideal way to wind down after a day exploring the city. The leafy piazza Santo Spirito, lined with bars and al-fresco tables, offer a ringside seat to watch the Italian world go by. The small but local, piazza della Passera, is another space to sit with a Spritz with the locals and drink in, literally, all that Florence has to offer.
If you can possibly squeeze in more fare, try a southern Italian style pizza at Gusta Pizza (Via Maggio, 46r) popular with students and travellers, it’s shared seating inside or make like the locals and take your pizza to the steps of the neighbouring church of Santo Spirito.
**Nb: This itinerary is action packed and all museums are places you could easily spend a lot of time depending on your passion for what’s on show. It’s always recommended to pre-book tickets where possible to ensure you have maximum time to enjoy the venue versus spending time stuck waiting in lines.