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Why visit Florence Italy? Off the top of our heads, we can think of lots of reasons: the innumerable paintings and sculptures, the picturesque city streets, the stunning sunsets over terracotta-coloured roofs. We could go and – and indeed will, as that’s sort of the point of this article!
What is Florence famous for if not for being the birthplace of the Renaissance, that transformative time in European history when the continent’s culture and knowledge underwent a seismic change? Thanks to the enormous wealth that flowed through the city, it became almost like a display case for the best that the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries had to offer.
In the article, we’ll tell you what Florence is like, as well as some of the best things to do in the city.
Is Florence Worth Visiting In 2024?
Is Florence worth it? Well, in our view, there are two main reasons to visit Florence. The first is that there are 1️⃣ incredible works of art and stunning examples of innovative (for the time) architecture around almost every corner.
Awe-inspiring religious buildings, including the Duomo, Santa Croce, and Santa Maria Novella, are set alongside spectacular secular edifices, such as the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Vecchio.
You won’t find better art collections almost anywhere in the world than those housed in the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia, which between them contain such masterworks as Michelangelo’s Statue of David, Botticelli’s Primavera, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.
The second main reason to visit Florence is for the 2️⃣ food and wine. Tuscany is the home of chianti, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to sample this delicious red while tucking into plates of pasta, scoops of gelato, and local specialities such as lampredotto (more on that later).
22 Best Things To Do & Activities In Florence
If you’re still asking yourself, is Florence worth visiting? This list of 23 fabulous things to do in the Tuscan capital should help sway your mind.
#1 Ascend The Heavenly Heights Of The Duomo
What is Florence known for if not its iconic Duomo? More properly known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, it’s an iconic structure that is a symbol of the city’s refinement.
The cherry on top of this delicious confection of a building is Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome, a masterpiece of ingenuity that broke new architectural boundaries when it was constructed in the early 1400s. Wonderfully, you can actually still climb up inside this structure – though you will have to ascend 463 steps!
We’re not embarrassed to admit that we found the trip to the cupola a bit of an effort, but it’s worth it for a closer look at the frescoed ceiling of the dome, as well as the panoramic views of the city from the exterior of the lantern: the 21-metre marble tower at the pinnacle of the cupola that’s topped by a golden ball and a cross.
It costs €30 for the Brunelleschi Pass, which includes access to the dome alongside all the other Piazza del Duomo monuments, including Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. Bear in mind you must book your time slot for the ascent beforehand.
#2 Dazzle Your Palate With A Wine Tasting
Is Florence worth visiting just for its wine? The oenophile inside us says yes! You can sample loads of excellent bottles in the city itself or go to the source and take a tour into the surrounding Tuscan region, which is famous for its use of the Sangiovese grape.
There are several companies offering charming trips into the gorgeous vineyards of Tuscany, but we opted to go for one that focused on chianti, which is arguably the region’s most famous wine. We visited two different organic wineries and sampled a total of seven different bottles, accompanied by more rustic snacks of bruschetta and cheese.
Our tour lasted five hours and also included a visit to the medieval village of Greve, but there are both shorter and longer tours out there to suit your tastes.
#3 Hop On A Vespa Tour
Is there any mode of transport more Italian than a Vespa? Bestride one of these gallant mopeds and venture into the Tuscan campagna for the day.
There are several companies that run guided Vespa trips from Florence. The one we chose took us on a six-hour sojourn that began with a quick stop off at one of the city’s most famous viewpoints, Piazzale Michelangelo, before heading into the heart of Chianti country to explore cute villages and sweeping scenery.
For the perfect finish to the ride, we were fed a delicious meal of cheese, salami, and pasta, complemented by a glass of local wine – just one. We still had to ride the Vespa back, after all!
#4 Craft Your Own Pasta
Why go to Florence Italy, and not bring back a few useful skills? Another quintessential local experience is to learn how to make your own pasta.
Guided by a professional chef, you can get hands deep into the art of the pastaio, learning the tricks of the trade before dining on some tasty plates accompanied by – you guessed it – a glass of chianti.
The tour we took taught us how to make three different pasta types: tagliatelle, ravioli, and tortelli, but again, there’s more than one class on offer in Florence, so choose one that suits your own desires.
#5 Follow The Ligurian Coast To Cinque Terre
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre is the stuff of holiday postcard dreams. A series of five villages scattered through coastal hills, are some of Italy’s most scenic villages.
Getting there from Florence involves a combination of car and train (you can drive the whole way, but parking is meant to be an absolute nightmare). We opted for the easy route and joined a tour, which took us part of the way in an air-conditioned coach before we transferred to a train under the watchful eye of the guide, who made sure we didn’t lose anybody on the way!
Our trip included three of the five Cinque Terre, Monterosso, Vernazza and Manarola, as well as some free time on the beach. It’s a full day’s activity, and we got back to the hotel lightly browned and utterly exhausted but very content with the whole trip. In short, we heartily recommend it!
#6 Explore Local Specialities On A Food Tour
If you’re wondering, is it worth visiting Florence for the food, the answer is, again, yes! There’s a lot more than just pasta on offer, from schiacciata (traditional ‘smashed’ Tuscan bread) to lampredotto (tripe served in a panino).
We often sign up for food tours in the cities we visit because we’ve found it’s the best way to really get to grips with the local cuisine, aided by a guide who we can interrogate for more details about the culinary peccadilloes of the locals.
We selected a tour that took us from restaurants to street vendors, wine bars to markets, traversing a fair bit of underexplored Florence over the course of three and a half hours.
#7 Head Up And Away In a Hot Air Balloon
An alternative way to see the Tuscan countryside, hot air balloons take to the skies most of the year from the outskirts of Florence.
Is Florence worth seeing from the air? We’d say so! A bird’s eye view of the rolling hills, immaculate vineyards, and olive groves that fill the campagna is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t soon forget.
Most hot air balloon rides take place quite early in the morning, which is why a fair few of them will throw in some breakfast goodies as part of the deal.
#8 Lean Into Pisa
Pisa is a super convenient day trip from Florence. In fact, you can be there in under an hour if you hop on the fast train from Santa Maria Novella Station.
The city is famous for its Leaning Tower, which has been skewwhiff since it was first constructed in the 12th century, thanks to some very poorly laid foundations. Don’t worry, though; the Italian authorities have since stabilised it so it doesn’t topple over entirely, and you can still ascend to the top of the 57-metre-high monument for €15.
In the same square as the Leaning Tower are a couple of other stunning pieces of architecture: a chunky cathedral with an ornate facade and a striking Romanesque-gothic baptistery.
We found it pretty easy to make our own way to Pisa, but you can also join a tour if you want to be accompanied by a helpful guide and travel by air-conditioned coach.
#9 Cycle The City
Going on a bike tour (or, in our case, an e-bike tour) of Florence is a savvy way to get a good overview of the city before diving deep into the parts that most attract your attention. With the aid of a guide, you can learn some of the key facts about the Tuscan capital before taking more time to explore on your own.
The tour we went on is fairly typical, encompassing such essential landmarks as the Basilica di San Lorenzo, the Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, the Pitti Palace, and the Piazza Della Repubblica.
Just a small word of caution: most bike tours will take you on busy roads, so if you’re a bit nervous cycling through traffic, this may not be the option for you.
#10 Marvel At The Pitti Palace
The Palazzo Pitti is a massive Renaissance residence that has housed the greatest families ever to have lived in Italy, from the powerful Medici to the first Italian monarchs.
Today, this imposing edifice houses five museums, though the collected paintings, furniture, jewels, and apparel are arguably of secondary interest compared to the palace’s interiors, which are extravagantly decorated.
Behind the Palazzo Pitti is the Boboli Gardens, an extensive area of grottoes, foundations, and flowers that’s also a must-see for any horticultural enthusiasts – or just anybody who likes pretty things.
You can get your hands on a combined ticket for both the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens for €23.
#11 Stop To Smell The Flowers In The Giardino Delle Rose
Buying tickets for all the Florentine attractions can quickly add up, but there are also lots of places in the city that we enjoyed that don’t cost a penny to see. One of those places is the Giardino delle Rose (Garden of the Rose), which lives up to its name by showcasing 350 varieties of roses.
Obviously, the best time to visit is in May and June when the roses are in bloom, but even in the other months, it makes for a pretty spot to go for a relaxing stroll and enjoy views of Florence.
#12 Enjoy The Best Panorama In Town From Piazzale Michelangelo
Not far from the Giardino Delle Rose is the Piazzale Michelangelo, a square dominated by a bronze cast of the Statue of David. This is irrefutably the best place to go for panoramic views of the Florentine cityscape. Yes, it was pretty busy when we went, but is Florence worth visiting if you can’t say you’ve seen the city from this perfect vantage point?
While during the day, you can clearly see all of the Tuscan capital from the Piazzale Michelangelo, the square is also one of the most popular places in Florence at night, just as the sun is beginning to set.
#13 Stroll Along The Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio literally means ‘Old Bridge,’ and it certainly lives up to that title with more than 670 years of history under its belt. Once upon a time, the shops lining either side of the bridge were butchers and tanners before a royal decree at the end of the 16th century reserved the spaces for jewellers and goldsmiths.
You can still purchase jewellery on the Ponte Vecchio today, alongside antiques and souvenirs. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything, however, it’s a lovely place to do a bit of window shopping.
#14 Make A Pilgrimage To San Miniato Al Monte
To the southeast of the city, San Miniato al Monte is a medieval basilica that sits atop one of the highest hills surrounding Florence.
While it is a little further out of town than most major attractions, we recommend visiting not just because the building has a stunning Romanesque design but also because you can enjoy fantastic views of Florence from the terrace of the church.
Make sure not to miss the attached Sacred Doors Cemetery, which contains some gorgeous marble statues to memorialise the dear departed.
#15 Explore The Artistic Wealth Of The Uffizi Gallery
Is Florence worth visiting for art lovers? Well, obviously! It does, after all, contain one of the most famous art galleries in the entire world, the Uffizi Gallery.
This institution is bursting with masterpieces by the greatest artists of the Renaissance, from Michelangelo to Raphael, Titian to Botticelli, and home to the exquisite The Birth of Venus painting.
TIP: If your partner is not a big fan of art (like Robin), go by yourself! This is exactly what I did, and enjoyed my “me time”, strolling through corridors filled with masterpieces, unrushed.
Entry is €26, though if you visit during super-off-peak months like January and November, you can get in for just €12.
#16 Gorge On Italian Gelato
A small confession: we didn’t go a single day without having at least one gelato the whole time we were in Italy. That adds up to… Well, a lady never reveals how much gelato she’s eaten! 😂
Not only are there so many flavours to try, but there are also just so many places offering delicious treats to go, almost all of them unimpeachably good.
If we have to play favourites, Gelateria De’ Medici to the east of Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is excellent – if a little out of the way. For something in the heart of the action, we’re partial to the simple charms of Perche No, which has been running since 1939.
#17 Examine The Frescoes Of Brancacci Chapel
Sometimes called the Sistine Chapel of the Early Renaissance, the Brancacci Chapel is worth visiting for its famous frescoes, painted by Masaccio and Masolino. These exquisite artworks mainly focus on the life of St. Peter but also include the temptation and expulsion from Eden of Adam and Eve.
To reach the chapel, you have to walk through Santa Maria del Carmine, a restored baroque church that’s worth a moment or two of your time as well, even if it pales in comparison to the many other basilicas that dot Florence.
Entrance to the Brancacci Chapel is €8 for adults under the age of 25 and €10 for adults over.
#18 Rub the Boar’s Nose (Il Porcellino)
We thought we’d throw this in here as a quirky little thing to do amidst the grander Florentine experiences. Il Porcellino (the Piglet) is a bronze statue of a pig that sits beside the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, not far from Piazza della Signoria.
Legend has it that rubbing this oinker’s snout brings good luck, a tradition that has been going on for at least 350 years. While massaging the nose, you’re also meant to insert a coin in the boar’s mouth. If the coin drops into the grating at the pig’s feet, then you do indeed have good fortune in store, but if not… maybe just try again?
#19 Take A Photo Of The Gates Of Paradise
When you visit the Piazza del Duomo, you’ll notice several striking buildings dotted about the square, including the Duomo itself and Giotto’s Campanile. The third most eye-catching structure on the square is the Baptistery of Saint John, an octagonal edifice in a Romanesque style that has three pairs of bronze doors.
While all three sets are masterpieces of craftsmanship, it’s the east doors that are the most intricately carved, displaying scenes from the Old Testament. It was Michelangelo who gave them their nickname, the Gates of Paradise, a moniker that has stuck to this day.
#20 Promenade Through The Bardini Gardens
If the Boboli Gardens are Florence’s most famous piece of orchestrated nature, then the Bardini Gardens are arguably the city’s best-kept green secret. Only reopened to the public in 2006, it hasn’t yet become a mainstay of the tourist trail, at least partly because it’s a bit further off the beaten track.
We recommend visiting because it’s a beautiful place to enjoy panoramic views of Florence, complete with several distinctively themed areas, including the city’s most spectacular wisteria walkway.
#21 Open Your Eyes To The Garden Of The Iris
A companion piece to the Giardino delle Rose, the Giardino dell’Iris (aka Garden of the Iris) shows its true colours for just a few weeks a year. If you are in Florence sometime between the end of April and the middle of May, however, make sure you don’t miss the colourful floral display.
#22 Dine At Mercato Centrale
The Mercato Centrale is a foodie’s nirvana. On the ground floor, you’ll find all the fresh produce, from fruit and veg to meat and fish, as well as some other goods like salami and cheese.
The first floor, meanwhile, is an excellent place to grab lunch. Here, you’ll find everything from general Italian dishes like pasta and pizza to more regional specialities such as Tuscan schiacciata, Sicilian arancini, and Neapolitan sfogliatella. There’s even a nod to international fare in the form of Chinese dumplings and American barbecue.
Best Places To Stay In Florence
Part of the joy of traveling to Florence Italy is discovering the personality-filled hotels that occupy the city. Here, we’ve picked a trio of options to fit every budget.
Casual Rinascimento Firenze
This art-infused spot is in a prime location for visiting all the attractions. The facilities include a brick-roofed spa with an indoor pool, a sauna, and a fitness area, while the rooms feature Renaissance works with a pop art-y tweak.
Just steps away from the Palazzo Pitto, the Lunaria Suites are a series of smartly outfitted lodgings with wood floors in the bedrooms and spacious tiled bathrooms. Each one is completely unique.
Piccolo Poggio Apartments
Every one of these simply decorated flats comes with a kitchen that’s equipped with a fridge, a stovetop, and a dishwasher. From the terrace, you can gaze out on the charming residential neighbourhood that lies to the north of downtown Florence.
Best Ways Of Getting Around In Florence
As part of deciding is Florence worth visiting, you should also consider how easy it is to get around the city. Here’s a short breakdown of your options.
Is there Uber in Florence?
There is Uber in Florence, but it can only be used to summon an Uber Black. Essentially, the Italian authorities have limited the ride-hailing app to operating a deluxe service rather than its normal range of options. That means you’ll be paying a premium over the everyday metred taxis.
In other words, Uber is still convenient to use in Florence, and it comes with all the usual features (estimated fares, driver ratings, etc.), but you can only order the more expensive tier of car.
Using public transport
Aside from taxis, which can only be taken from specific parking stands (no hailing cabs in the streets, if you please), Florence has a number of public transport options to help whisk you about the city.
While the Tuscan capital may not have a metro system, it does have a robust bus network that covers the majority of the metropolis. There are also two existing tram lines, with more in the works, but they are mostly designed to connect the suburbs with the centre.
Realistically, the only tram route that is useful for tourists is the connection between the airport, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and the Duomo (Line 2).
Tickets for public transport have to be purchased beforehand. The standard single is valid for 90 minutes and costs €1.50. You can purchase these tickets at tobacco shops, but this can sometimes mean wandering about for ages just trying to find the right kind of store. Instead, we found the most convenient way to buy tickets is using the Tabnet app.
Is Florence a walkable city?
Is Florence worth visiting just for its walkability? This is one pretty city to explore on foot, and most of the top attractions are close to one another. In fact, you can stroll from the Accademia Gallery, across the Arno via the Ponte Vecchio, all the way to the Palazzo Pitti in just over 20 minutes,
Is Florence Worth Visiting: FAQ
How many days should you visit Florence?
We’d say three days should give you an ample amount of time to see all the major sights at your own pace, with enough leeway also to take a tour into Tuscan wine country. If you plan to do day trips to Pisa and Cinque Terre, add a day for each.
If you’re staying in another city, is it worth going to Florence for a day? Well, it’s better than not going to Florence at all! Plus, there are also some pretty good transport links to and from the Tuscan capital.
For instance, if you’re staying in Bologna, there’s a very efficient high-speed train connection that takes just 40 minutes and makes it possible to do all the major highlights of Florence in less than 24 hours – just make sure there’s no dillydallying!
Why is Florence Italy so popular?
Mainly because it’s just so darn picturesque! The downtown area is filled with masterpieces of Renaissance architecture, which are complemented by some of the best art collections in all of Europe. For hundreds of years, people have been coming to Florence to immerse themselves in its cultural milieu, and that is still the case today.
Is Florence the nicest city in Italy?
Florence is certainly amongst the nicest cities in Italy, but is Florence Italy worth visiting compared to Rome? Or Milan? Or Venice? Now, that’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. What we can say is that Florence is unrivalled when it comes to its art galleries and its connection to the Renaissance.
What is the best month to visit Florence Italy?
Is Florence worth visiting when it’s raining? Of course, it is, but it does mean more time spent in galleries and less time enjoying idle meanderings through the various charming streets, lush gardens, and rustic vineyards.
Travelling to Florence is best undertaken during the months of April, May, June, September, and October when the weather is warm and dry. The same holds true for July and August, but who wants to compete with the summer holiday crowds if they can avoid it?
Do you tip in Florence?
Our Italian friends almost never tip at a restaurant unless the service has been excellent, in which case they might leave a euro or two. Certainly, no more than 10% should be left behind, even if you want to appear generous, as more likely than not, the locals will just think you’re a bit of a rube.
Is Florence safe?
Travelling to Florence alone is perfectly safe, as long as you behave sensibly and don’t take unnecessary risks, such as wandering down dark alleys in the middle of the night.
There aren’t really any specific places to avoid in Florence, though you should be aware of pickpockets in places where tourists gather en masse.
Is Florence expensive to visit?
Visiting Florence Italy doesn’t have to be expensive, as you can easily find reasonably priced accommodation and food. Yes, the ticket prices to some of the most famous attractions can be steep, but overall, Florence is one of the more affordable cities in the country.
Is Florence Worth Visiting: Final Words
So, is Florence worth visiting? By now, you’ve probably already made up your mind if the Tuscan capital is for you, but in our opinion, it’s one of the finest cities in Italy. While its beauty may attract swarms of tourists, the streets are still as full of enchantment as they were at the height of the Renaissance.
If you’re a culture buff with a voracious appetite for art, architecture, and aperitivo with a view, then Florence is absolutely worth the trip.