48 Hours in Florence, Italy – Must See Sights + Top Tips

The famous Ponte Vecchio Firenze in Tuscany Italy

Florence, nestled in the heart of Italy’s picturesque Tuscany region, needs no real introduction. It is a city that beckons travellers with its unique blend of art, boasting some of the world’s most iconic masterpieces by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, history, and natural beauty. Renowned for its rich artistic heritage and medieval streets, visitors are easily transported into a bygone era.

Surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany, Florence offers stunning vistas of vineyards, olive groves, and rustic villas. The Arno River gracefully winds through the city, adding to its allure, while the Tuscan countryside, just a short drive away, invites exploration and wine tasting.

 The History of Florence 

Florence has woven a captivating tapestry of history over the centuries. Its roots trace back to Roman times when it was established as a bustling settlement along the Arno River. However, it was during the Middle Ages that Florence began to emerge as a prominent city-state.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Florence blossomed into the epicentre of the Renaissance, a transformative period in human history where wealthy merchant families like the Medici played a pivotal role. Florence became a hub of artistic, intellectual, and scientific innovation, attracting luminaries like Dante Alighieri, whose ‘Divine Comedy’ laid the foundation for modern Italian literature. At the same time, visionaries like Filippo Brunelleschi revolutionised architecture by constructing the now world-famous Florence Cathedral.

Today, Florence’s historic streets, palaces, and museums testify to its illustrious past. Its legacy endures, drawing visitors from around the world who seek to immerse themselves in the timeless beauty that this remarkable city has to offer. Florence is not merely a destination; it is a living monument to human achievement and the enduring spirit of the Renaissance.

Around the streets of Florence look out for the old features on many of the buildings

48 hours in Florence Itinerary

Florence is a city that could take weeks to explore fully, especially if you want to visit every museum and art gallery. After all it is the home of the renaissance, packed full of masterpieces. However, if you have just a couple of days to enjoy this city, we have created the perfect 2-day walking itinerary for you. We provide you will a list of the top sights and the most effective way to cram as much as possible into your 48 hours.

Money saving tip:

To save money while in the city, consider purchasing a Firenze Pass. There are various different options available starting at 40 euros which includes access to museums, public transport, and a free bus to the airport.

Day 1 Florence Itinerary

Breakfast: Start the day in the right way

To set yourself up for the day, a big breakfast is indeed called for, and while you could go to the oldest café in Florence, Gilli, which opened its doors in 1733, we recommend stopping in at Ala Grande Caffe.

Get there at 9am when they open their doors because, trust me, the place fills up quickly but with its extensive breakfast menu, amazing coffee and fantastic location right in the historical centre it is easy to see why everyone raves about the place. A breakfast here is just what you need before hitting the sights.

Get to know the city on a Walking Tour

We find the best way to navigate any new city is to learn from those that know it best, hence we always start a trip like this with a free walking tour. Also, note that I say ‘free’ walking tour. These tours are normally run by those living locally and so you will get some fantastic facts from them, as well as great recommendations on what to see, where to eat and places potentially to avoid during your stay. They are however, not free.

These tour guides are great at what they do and operate on a tips only basis, meaning that you pay at the end for what you believe the tour is worth. We loves these as we find that tour guides are more invested as of course they want to earn a bigger tip from you at the end, unlike some that you pay up front for.

We recommend checking out Sandemans Tours as we have used these a lot of the years, in various cities around Europe and have never been disappointed.

Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Better known as the famous Duomo of Florence, this iconic building is a testament to the craftsmanship of Renaissance architecture, as its intricate details and imposing structure showcase the genius of Filippo Brunelleschi, the mastermind behind its iconic dome. The black and white exterior is the city’s focal point and is one of the best examples of Gothic art and the first Italian Renaissance. Before heading inside, take the time to wander outside, looking up at the many rose windows, the religious paintings and the ornate carvings, taking special note of the intrinsic door designs.

Wandering inside the Cathedral itself is free and therefore well worth it, and although less extravagant, it should not be missed. However, to visit the baptistery, the dome, the museum, or the bell tower, there is a cost involved.

Our advice, if you only have time to explore part of the Duomo, book in advance and climb the 463 steps to the dome; it is the best way to see Brunelleschi’s artwork, plus, as an added benefit, you get a fantastic view out over the city of Florence.

To visit the dome you will need to purchase the Brunelleschi Pass, which includes the Dome, Bell Tower, Museum, Baptistery, and Santa Reparata and currently costs 30€ per adult.

A view of the Duomo while enjoying a glass of wine

Time for a spot of Lunch

With all that walking done, it’s time to take a break and enjoy one of Florence’s top sandwich locations.

Panini Toscani, located close to the Duomo, is the perfect choice for a quick bite. This sandwich shop started as a horse stable in the 14th century but is now widely renowned and favoured by tourists and locals alike because it only uses traditional Tuscan produce to make mouth-watering dishes. There are many different bread options here, although my favourite is alle noci, or walnut bread, which I happily enjoy with a selection of cheeses and a local glass of Chianti.

Climb Giotto’s Bell Tower

Completed in 1359, today, you can still ascend the 414 steps up Giotto’s Bell Tower to experience the breathtaking vistas over Florence from the balconies at 278 feet. You will work your way upwards, passing through three layers of gracefully adorned loggias with charming double-mullioned windows. Finally, when you reach the uppermost level, you will come face-to-face with expansive triple-mullioned windows with 360-degree framed views out over Tuscany.

To visit the Bell Tower, you can purchase either the Giotto Pass, which allows access to the Bell Tower, Museum, Baptistery, and Santa Reparata for 20€ per adult or the Brunelleschi Pass.

Wander around the Palazzo Vecchio

The Palazzo Vecchio is just a short walk away and rests on an ancient theatre dating back to the 1st century. Built in the 13th century, this remains one of the most important palaces in all of Florence but is also now a museum where part of the Medici art collection is displayed.

Outside, you will notice another tower, the Arnolfo Tower, with a clock installed. This clock once served a crucial purpose, alerting the residents of Florence to any imminent dangers, and its timeless charm remains a reminder of older times. Inside are several rooms to explore, including the Salone dei Cinquecentro (the Hall of Five Hundred), perhaps the most famous of all. This hall of impressive artwork was featured in Dan Brown’s Inferno, starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. You, too, can wander through this beautiful building for 12.50€ (at the time of publication).

For those looking to dodge the crowds, climbing the Arnolfo Tower (currently priced at 13€) will give you a similar view of this city, although be warned that it is closed when it rains.

Look inside the Uffizi Gallery

Set on the side of the Arno River, this gallery is home to one of the best collections of Renaissance art work not just in Italy but the world. Art lovers can walk through the main rooms here seeking out works by Botticelli, Correggio, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Caravaggio.

For bookworms, you may prefer Uffizi Library, previously known as the Magliabechiana Library, which houses more than 30,000 works, some dating back as far as 1589. It’s not just the rows of books that will draw the bibliophile in but the space that houses these manuscripts.

Enjoy a pre-dinner drink at a Wine Window

After a busy day, what better way to unwind than with a glass of local wine served through one of the many wine windows that can be found across the city?

The wine windows of Florence are well known but also well hidden.

Enjoy a glass of wine from a wine window

These wine windows were created during the Plague to keep people at bay while still serving food and drink to customers. The little windows are often ornate, with a little wooden hatch that opens to serve refreshments. Several of these little windows are spread out around the city centre, although some are often hard to find. One of our favourites is located close to the Cathedral at Cantina de’Pucci Bar. Another, found on the other side of the Arno River, is Babae in Piazza Santo Spirito, also visited by Stanley Tucci during his tour of Florence.

Have dinner at Trattoria il Bargello

Offering local dishes in a cosy environment, Trattoria il Bargello, with its chequered tablecloths and vaulted ceilings, is quickly becoming a place to eat in Florence. With wild boar pappardelle, bistecca alla Fiorentina, burrata with truffles, and Ravioli pera e pecorino all featured on the menu, this is the place to visit if you are after an evening sampling local dishes.

Day 2 Florence Itinerary

Start the day right with breakfast at Ghibellina Forno Pasticceria Bakery

This bakery has been part of Florence since 1890 and still serves some of the best coffee in the city. Enjoy your morning brew with either a pastry, muffin or something more savoury to help start your day right.

Head to the Galleria dell’Accademia

Florence is known for its outstanding art and so therefore no visit to the Tuscan capital would be complete with a stop-off at the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to the world-famous sculpture of David by Michaelangelo. Start by wandering through the Hall of Colossus where there are many striking altarpieces, before heading into the Hall of Prisoners where a selection of sculptures here outdate the Sistine Chapel. From here, walk through to The Tribune where David takes pride of place. Head on through the Gipsoteca Bartolini which exhibits Florentine art from the Neo-classic to through to the Romantic period. You also have the Florentine Gothic which is dedicated to painters from the 13th and 14th centuries. While the museum of musical instruments is home to many instruments that would have been played during the Medicean court.

The Gallery opens at 8:15 am each morning and we suggest visiting as early as possible to avoid the crowds. It costs 16€ to get in although if you are visiting on the first Sunday of the month, it is completely free.

Head to San Lorenzo church to learn more about the Medici

The stone exterior of this church easily deceives however, walk inside to the Medici chapels and it’s like you have been transported to another world. It is the final resting place for many of the family visited by many every year.

The Cappelle Medicee as it is known, is located in the Basilica of St Lawrence and consists of the Crypt, the new sacristy and the Cappella dei Principi. Perhaps most notably are the two tombs in the sacristy made by Michaelangelo while the beautifully decorated roof is striking.

For anyone interested in the Medici this is somewhere you simply must visit, although it is best to book online ahead of time as the queues for the chapel are often extremely long.

Mercato Central in Florence is the place to head for lunch

Mercato Central, Florence

Head to the Mercato Centrale for lunch

Without a doubt this is one of our favourite places to stop for lunch. Downstairs you have the traditional market place that sells your fresh produce – fruit, veg, meat and fish – along with several traditional Italian market stalls where you will find locals enjoying a ‘pranzo di Lavoro’ for an extremely reasonable price. 

For those looking for a freshly made pasta dish, head to La Primeria, where you can get a healthy serving for just 6€ before heading upstairs to enjoy a drink at the Beer House. It is the ideal place if you are looking to try multiple different dishes, as you can pick up various dishes to sample.

Take in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

It’s not just the Duomo with a façade of white and black, the Basilica of Santa Maria close to the train station also has this striking exterior. History states that this particular one is the first to be built in Florence. The lower marble façade is Romanesque in style while the upper section was not completed for a further 100 years.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella Firenze, Tuscany

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

If you head inside you will come face-to-face with more artwork, including Giotto’s Crucifix and the beautiful frescoes by Filippino Lippi.

Visit the old Forum at Piazza della Repubblica

Located on the site of the old Roman Forum, one of the main attractions of this beautiful piazza is the historic carousel, a whimsical nod to the piazza’s past as the site of the city’s old Jewish ghetto. As you stroll along, remember to look up, taking in the charming buildings adorned with colourful facades. This is where you’ll encounter street performers, artists, and locals going about their daily lives.

The Piazza della Repubblica in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Piazza della Repubblica

For history lovers, the piazza offers a glimpse into Florence’s past, with landmarks such as the historic Caffè Gilli, the oldest café in Florence, while the arch is a fine example of Florentine Renaissance architecture.

Head down to the renowned Ponte Vecchio Bridge via Florence’s Famous bronze boar

Head down Via Calimala towards the Ponte Vecchio until you reach the Mercato del Porcellino. You will find the city’s own bronzed boar to the side of this covered market.

People visit the Fontana del Porcellino in Florence for various reasons, but primarily to participate in the charming tradition associated with the fountain. According to local folklore, rubbing the snout of the bronze boar and dropping a coin into the fountain’s waters ensures good luck and a return to Florence. This age-old custom has become a beloved ritual for tourists and locals alike, drawing visitors to the fountain to partake in the tradition and to capture a bit of Florentine luck.

From here, continue down Via Calimala to one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks, the Ponte Vecchio. This historic bridge, which in its current structure dates back to the 14th century, spans the Arno River and has played an important part in the city’s cultural heritage. Wander across, taking in the atmosphere while perusing the many shops that line both sides of the walkway of this uniquely designed attraction.

The Ponte Vecchop in Florence is perhaps one of the best known bridges in all of Italy

The Ponte Vecchio

Day trippers will flock here, hence the suggestion to visit later in the day after some tourists have left. It is, after all, one of those world-famous sites that everyone should see and will be extremely crowded during the busiest part of the day.

Enjoy evening drinks along the River Arno

Now that you have crossed the river, head to Le Volpi e L’Uva and enjoy the offerings of this small cantina. Set up in 1992, this little bar focuses on showcasing wines crafted from indigenous grapes that create organic and bio-dynamic wines. Enjoy people watching while sampling the wines; take advantage of their charcuterie boards filled with local cheese and hams, and relax after a long day of walking the streets of this fabulous city known for its art and architecture.

Enjoy a quiet dinner at Osteria Cacio e Vino all’Antico Borgo

With a limited number of tables both inside and out, this is a restaurant that fills up fast so it is advisable to book. This is the place to visit if you are looking for traditional Tuscan cuisine away from the commotion surrounding the Duomo and the more touristy locations. The menu is not extensive, but the quality of this little family run tavern and the fact that it is still centrally located means it is one of the most popular eateries in Florence.

Final Thoughts

Even if you had a week to explore Florence, you could not see everything. With 72 museums spread across the city, this UNESCO World Heritage site is visited by millions each year, hoping to feel the romance of the Tuscan capital.

With its unrivalled fusion of art, history, and culture, along with its illustrious past as the home of the Renaissance, Florence is a treasure trove of artistic riches waiting to be discovered. Beyond this, it is also a vibrant modern city with bustling markets, charming cafes, and lively piazzas. Whether indulging in delectable Tuscan cuisine or simply soaking in the beauty of the Arno River at sunset, every moment spent in Florence is an unforgettable journey through time and culture.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy lit up at night

The Duomo at Night

Recommended Tours

If you have more time to explore the area:

You could also do a twin city break, spending a couple of days in Florence before moving on to Siena, Pisa, Bologna, Venice or Cinque Terre or perhaps, you would prefer a relaxing vineyard stay nearby.

How to get to Florence

If flying in, there are two airports to choose from: either Florence itself, or Pisa which is around 75 minutes away but does have more flights landing and often at a cheaper price. It also provides you with an opportunity to do a twin-city break should you wish.

You could also decide to travel from another major city within Italy, for example, Rome, which via their high-speed train service takes just an hour and half, or Venice, which takes just over 2 hours.

For those looking to drive in, you need to remember that Florence itself is within a ZTL (limited traffic zone) and therefore our advice would be to park up away from the city and get either a bus or tram into the centre. For those however, wanting to park as close as possible, this guide to parking locations may help.

Travelling by Motorhome to Florence

For those travelling in their motorhomes, should you not wish to stay on a campsite nearby, there are a couple of parking options for you including:

  • Piazzale delle Cascine (Piazzale delle Cascine, 11, 50144 Firenze) which has around 20 spaces, and does allow overnight parking for free. This park up is around 30 minutes walk from the Ponte Vecchio.
  • Parcheggio Gelsomino SCAF (Via del Gelsomino, 9, 50125 Firenze) which has 50 spaces, water, grey waste and chemical toilet disposal if required for 15 euros a night. This park up is 2km to the city centre, which will take you around 25 minutes to walk into the city or you could catch the number 11 bus.
  • Parcheggio del Poggetto presso LA FLOG (Via Michele Mercati, 24, 50139 Firenze) which has 30 spaces, water, grey waste and chemical toilet disposal if required for 18 euros a night or 4 euros per hour. This park up is around 4km from the city, and will take around 50 minutes to walk
  • Florence Park Scandicci (Via di Scandicci 241, 50143, Firenze) which has 20 spaces, water, grey waste and chemical toilet disposal if required for 20 euros a night. You can pay extra for electricity if required. This park up is around 5km from the city, and will take around 15 minutes on the bus or an hour to walk.

Where to stay in Florence

If you are craving absolute luxury in a fantastic location, then the Hotel Brunelleschi is for you. Located in the heart of the city, overlooking the cathedral, this hotel itself is part of the historical makeup of Florence as it is the only one created within a circular Byzantine tower dating back to the 6th century and a medieval church.

For those that prefer to sit at a rooftop bar with a cocktail in hand, enjoying the sun setting on a cityscape, then the Hotel Calimala, is just a short distance from the main piazza and has an idyllic rooftop oasis to enjoy. With not one but two bars, a patio area decorated in sweet smelling flowers and a plunge pool, after a busy day of sightseeing this hotel offers the comforts of a luxury space far away from the crowds with 360 degree views over Florence.

If you prefer to reside slightly further away from the crowds, but still have easy access into the city each day, there is no better choice than the Hotel Horto Convento. Separated from the hub of the centre via the Arno River and in the now very fashionable neighbourhood of Oltrarno, this hotel started life as a monastery in the 12th century before been beautifully restored. Inside the walls here you will enter a calm, tranquil space that is both a hotel and part University for Catholic Theology housing the Archbishop’s Library and is the perfect location if you are planning to stay around Florence for slightly longer, using it as a hub to explore more of the Tuscan landscape.

Motorhome Campsite Parking in Florence

The pool area of Hu Firenze Camping in the City site.

The pool area of HU Firenze 

Finally, for those travelling with their motorhomes, do not fret. We have also found the perfect place for you to park up – Hu Camping in Town, Firenze. This campsite, located just 3km from the city, is the ideal location for those looking to explore Florence when travelling in their camper. Offering both pitches and mobile homes, a swimming pool, laundry facility, bars and a restaurant along with a small, well stock supermarket for all your essentials, not only is this a secure city park-up it is also a space where you can relax for a few days after your days exploring the historical centre. It also has its own bus service into the city, which picks you up by reception for just 1.50 euro (one way). If however, like us, you want to remain in the city after dark, metered taxis are also readily available and cost around 13-15 euros.

Have you visited Florence? What would you recommend others visit when in the city?

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48 hour travel guide to Florence in Tuscany, Italy, including hotels and motorhome parking recommendations via @tbookjunkie

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