8 things to do while in Florence, Italy
In the city of Florence you’ll find many things to do that will keep you occupied for a few days. The first time I visited the city there were a few things I didn’t get to do. If you’re only in town for a couple of nights, here are 8 things you must see and do while in Florence, Italy.
1. The Uffizi Gallery
If there’s one thing you should try and make time for while in Florence, it has to be the Uffizi Gallery. I’d go as far as to say that a trip to Florence is incomplete if you don’t get a visit in. It’s such a exquisite place that even if you’re not a fan of art, you’ll probably still find something there that will peak your interest or have you gazing in awe. The works of art go back many years and you’ll find everything from paintings to sculptures there.
It’s not really somewhere you can nip round and see in half an hour. If you’re aiming to see as much as possible, it’ll certainly take longer than that to get around the gallery. To save time (and long queues), you should think about booking your ticket in advance. I did that the first time and it made getting in a lot quicker.
On my second visit, I entered free of charge. This is because on the first Sunday of every month, entry to State Museums in Italy are free of charge. You’ll still need to go to the Uffizi in advance (early is best) to pick up a free ticket from the machines outside. They’re issued in time slots so don’t expect to get a ticket and go straight in. You may have to have a wander and go back later.
2. Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
You really can’t miss the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore as you wander around the city. Located in Piazzale del Duomo along with other monuments including the Baptistery; Giotto’s Bell Tower; the Cathedral Museum; Brunelleschi’s Dome (‘cupola’), and the The Crypt of Santa Reparata, together they make up an amazing museum which has become a key tourist spot in the city.
Completed in the 14th century, Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is the third largest church in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul’s in London. I was in awe of its beautiful delicately painted emerald green and dusky pink shell with gold trimming.
You can purchase individual tickets to each monument or purchase a combo ticket which will get you into them all.
3. The tower of Palazzo Vecchio
The Tower of Palazzo Vecchio is great if you’re looking for a view over the city – and also of the famous Cathedral and monuments. Seeing it from the ground is spectacular but from above you see it in all of its glory! It’s the perfect spot.
The tower isn’t just about the view – there’s also the museum. You can choose how you want to spend your time. You can get up to the tower alone or buy a combined ticket to visit the museum as well.
There’s a limited amount of space in the tower so they let people go up as others come down. Due to this policy, you’ll probably find a queue unless you go first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. It can be a very slow process.
I got there 20 minutes before it opened at 10am on a Sunday and there was already queue. I waited 45 minutes before I was able to go up into the tower. There’s 249 steps from where you hand over your ticket and over 400 in total. The queuing before this point actually made it feel like a lot less.
4. Stroll along Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Take a stroll along Florence’s oldest bridge, Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful medieval stone bridge. It crosses the Arno River and immediately boasts a slightly different atmosphere than the streets on either side of it.
Lined not only with jewellery shops, the bridge is also home to the Vasari Corridor which was built to connect Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria to Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace). It was closed at the time I visited and still remains closed.
If you’ve got a bit of money to spend or maybe you want to get a present for that special someone, the shops along here are a good place to start.
Aside from the shopping (spree!) the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is a great spot to look out at the view across the river and other bridges in the city.
5. Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is a square with a fantastic panoramic view over the city of Florence. Located on the other side of the Arno River on a hill, it’s in the Oltrarno district of the city.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a good place for a pit stop especially if you’ve just walked up the stairs or ramp from Piazza Giuseppe Pogg to it. It’s a cool lookout point and if it’s busy you’ll be one of a few trying to get a picture of the view below. From the square you will get a good view of the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore as well as see the Tower Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
6. San Lorenzo Market
Grab a bite to eat, do your grocery shopping or buy yourself some leather at San Lorenzo Market. Not far from Academia, and with indoor and outdoor areas, Market Centrale as it’s also known, has pretty much everything you need in one place.
Leather goods fill the outdoor space and stalls are jam packed with jackets, belts, bags, scarfs, hats, and souvenirs. Owners will call out as you wander through asking to see what they have to offer.
Inside the market is where you’ll find something to eat or enough items for your weekly shop. All you see is colourful stacks of fruit, vegetables and flowers or cabinets and fridges full of cheese and hams. You can also buy fresh fish and chicken too.
7. Santa Croce Christmas Market
Now, as the header suggests this is a Christmas market. its not an all-year-round activity but if you happen to be in Florence between the end of November to late December, you should drop by the Santa Croce Christmas Market.
It’s one of the biggest Christmas markets in the city and you’ll find it in Piazza Santa Croce. You can buy festive decorations or gifts, grab a bite to eat at some of the food stalls or buy sweet treats like candy canes.
8. Go for Aperitivo!
When it Italy you must go for aperitivo! In case you’re not familiar with the term, aperitivo is a tradition in Italy that takes place toward the end of the day. Aperitivo is having a light snack as a way to prepare before dinner. You can also have aperitivo as a way to socialise with friends. The idea is that you purchase a drink at a set price – usually around €10. You can then have unlimited snacks for a set amount of time starting from early evening.
Some places serve aperitivo in different ways. A vast majority of outlets provide a light version with platters of cheeses, hams, olives and salted accompaniments like crackers or grissini (breadsticks). At other bars you’ll get more of a mini meal. This can be anything from pastas, mini pies, vegetables, risotto and mini cakes and ice creams as a desert.
I went to The Soul Kitchen which is near Piazza Santa Croce. It’s aperitif spread is absolutely delicious and it’s a really cool place. I went with another fellow solo traveller who I met in the city. I’ll drop by again when I next visit. Aperitivo is actually a good option for those on a budget since the cost for unlimited food or snacks is pretty good!
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Are you going to Florence soon? Let me know if you plan to visit any of my suggested top picks!
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