Florence in Four Days
Things to do in Italy's Renaissance capital
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in the world. It is also home to an extensive collection of Renaissance art and sculpture, making this a must visit city for art lovers.
Sitting along side this art and history is an amazing food culture that we enjoyed sampling on our very short visit.
We had just 4 days and 3 nights to explore as much as we could and while it was not our favorite place in Italy we would love to return and spend more time in the region sampling its amazing food and wine. Next time I would rent an apartment and spend time just enjoying the food and wine.
I took all of the images on this page in March 2010. Please contact me if you would like to use any of these photos.
Florence is home to many of history's most famous men including artists Botticelli, and Michaelangelo, scientists Galileo, Meucci and of course Leonardo da Vinci and in more recent times designers Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo
Top 3 Museums in Florence
Most people plan a trip to Florence so they can visit one or more of the big 3 museums. I am ashamed to say we saw none of them! We had just spent a week in Rome visiting almost every museum we came across and were in need of other distractions by the time we reached Florence.
- Galleria degli Uffizi - Home of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Boticelli
Make sure you book in advance in high season as the lines can be insane. You can book on the website or by phone +39 055 294883
- Bargello (Officially The National Museu of Bargello) - This museum houses some of the most beautiful sculptures of the renaissance period. Bookings are not as essential here
- Accademia Gallery - The Accademia is home to the original of Michaelangelo's David. If you decide not to visit you can view the copy in Piazza del Michaelangelo outside the town hall, where the original once stood. No photography allowed in this museum. Again in peak season it is best to book. There is a charge of about 4 Euro for pre-booking here
It must seem sacrilege to art lovers but we had limited time and were more interested in seeing some of the outlying towns instead.
Don't miss the smaller museums
We visited the Mueso di Leonardo on a wet Friday morning and were among only 5 visitors at that time. There was plenty to see and read and it is a really great place to visit with school age children or anyone with an interest in how things work.
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum - over 20 moving wooden inventions to explore
The perfect guide for first time Florence visits
This book provides a 101 guide to Florence. A perfect introduction if you know very little about the city and its history. There are also some great self-guided walks that are very easy to follow.
- Head up to Piazza Michaelangelo in the late afternoon and stay for sunset. I don't think there is a better view of the city. If you have time and are up to it the walk is enjoyable. There is a hill and about 70 steps from Lungarno della Zecca to reach the Piazza but the view is worthwhile. You can also catch a bus from the train station (no 12 or 13) and the hop on hop off bus stops here too. There is a bar or you can bring your own wine and picnic in the park.
This image is from by Asiir at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons as our visit was on a wet day and did not photograph well at all.
Day trips from Florence
This beautiful UNESCO listed town is home of the famous Palio horse race and the gorgeous black and white Siena Cathedral.
The Leaning Tower is just one of the buildings in the Piazza dei Miracoli & the others are even more beautiful - a good stop off enroute to the co
The setting of the Twilight movies this town is now very popular with families of teens.
Another UNESCO site, we visited on our way home from Siena. The towers made this my favourite town in the region.
I first read about this town in Peter Moore's book Vroom with a view, my favourite Italian travelogue about a man and a vespa touring Italy.
More Twilight fame - scenes of the film were shot here. With it's car free main street it is also a great stop for wine lovers.
A beautifully preserved walled town that can be reached via train from Florence and a good spot to combine with Pisa.
Day trip to Siena and San Gimignano - Even if it's just a day trip I think a visit to San Girmignano is worthwhile
Our trip to Siena and San Gimignano
We had pretty limited time in Florence and some pretty terrible weather - it was mid March - but I was determined to see Siena and some of the scenery in the countryside around Florence. We took a day trip with a small group operator that covered a quick stop in Pisa (which is all I think it needs), a morning in San Gimignano with a visit to a wine shop and wine tasting (the vineyard was closed due to bad weather) and an afternoon exploring Siena and it's beautiful Duomo.
If you are on a tight budget or prefer to avoid tours you can do it yourself via public buses from Florence to San Gimignano and Siena
Mercato Centrale, San Lorenzo Florence - A visit here made me wish I had booked an apartment
The central market in Florence is an indoor food market that is open from 7am-2pm Monday to Saturday but has shorter hours in winter so be sure to check before your visit. Everything from fruit and vegetables upstairs to all sorts of meat and cheeses downstairs the market is a great place to build your own picnic lunch or grab essentials to prepare in your holiday apartment. The stallholders were really friendly and happy to answer questions and let me take photos of the amazing produce.
You might want to skip the meat section if you are a vegetarian - they pretty much have every imaginable animal part available for purchase. Outside the market in the surrounding streets were stalls selling scarves, leather goods and clothing at quite reasonable prices.
You will find the market at Via Rosina, 4 50123 Florence, Italy
Have you been to Florence?
The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo -
Learn about the history of Florence though it's most famous family
The Medici family were the most powerful of Florence's renaissance period. This book is perfect pre-reading for your visit to Florence.
Where should you stay? - We stayed at Hotel Cestelli
Choosing where to stay really depends on how long you will stay in Florence. If you have 5 days or more I would consider a self-catering apartment so you can make the most of the fresh produce and cook up a storm.
As we only had 3 nights we decided on a small hotel. Hotel Cestelli is a 3 star hotel housed in an atmospheric 12th century apartment. It is located less than 5 minutes' walk to Ponte Vecchio and about 10 minutes' walk from the train station, in a relatively quiet street close to all the main attractions.
We chose this hotel because it had really large rooms that were perfect for our family of 3. There was no breakfast room or breakfast included but we did not mind this as there were many choices nearby. Some rooms have shared bathrooms so be sure to check. We had a good size bathroom that was old but very clean. The hotel is basic but for the price and location we were more than happy. The hotel managers were really friendly and helpful offering advice on dining options nearby.
More help planning your Florence trip
- Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine's Florence for Foodies
Reviews of great places to visit in Florence
- Markets in Florence
A list of various markets in Florence
- UNESCO listed town San Gimignano's official website
A complete guide to planning a visit to or a stay in the 10th century town of San Gimignano Tuscany. We loved our visit here and I highly recommend going.
- Official Florence Tourism website
Events, transport information
- Slow Traveller's Florence pages
This website ha a wealth of information about travelling in Florence. There are hotel and restaurant reviews and some great travelogues.
- Free Florence i-phone app
Florence Explorer By Tobin Fisher is a great guide for any visitor to Florence. It is fully functional offline meaning it won't cost you a cent to install or use. Includes maps, restaurants and accommodation options along with all the usual tourist
What we ate in Florence
or what we enjoyed most
I spent hours reading tripadvisor reviews and the forums on Chowhound and noted several restaurants and bars we hoped to try. We managed to find 2 of them, there were simply so many nice places we came across on our own that we just followed our noses in the end.
Here are our top 3
From all that reading one place we decided we needed to try was Grom Gelato shop, it had had so many glowing reviews I thought it warranted a taste test. It was amazing. The best gelato of our 6 week holiday. So good that we tracked it down again in Venice when we arrived. Good to note they have gluten free products too.
We had also read in Gourmet Traveller magazine about the great value panini from I Fratellini near the Duomo. Obviously so had lots of other people because it was crowded every time we went past. We queued but it only took a few minutes to reach the front and you really do need that time to view the list of 29 fillings and make your choice. They also serve wine in small tumblers.
And finally one we did not read about... Trattoria Carrozze (translates to the Old Coach) was just on the corner of the street we were staying in. The first time we visited it was because we were too tired to venture any further. The meal was fantastic and the value quite good. On our last night in Florence we decided we wanted to return. They serve lots of typical Tuscan cuisine along with great pizzas and desserts if you can fit one in. The atmosphere was warm and the place was pretty busy after 8pm so I would recommend a reservation.
Food lovers Florence
Florence is the perfect escape for foodies with great restaurants, the fantastic market and many great food towns within a day trip's reach. If you are planning on staying a few days I suggest you consider an apartment so you can have one meal a day that you create yourself from the amazing fresh produce of the region.