Best things to do in Florence, Italy over 2 days
If you’re looking for a beautiful and historically rich place to visit in Italy, look no further than Florence. This city is packed with things to do and see, so it’s best to plan your visit ahead of time. In this travel guide, we’ll give you the best tips on how to make the most of your 2 days in Florence!
- Best things to do in Florence, Italy over 2 days
- Best time to visit Florence
- How to get to Florence?
- Where to stay in Florence?
- How many days in Florence?
- 2 days in Florence: Itinerary
- Where to eat in Florence?
- Best day trips from Florence
- 2 days in Florence: Conclusion
Best time to visit Florence
The perfect time to visit Florence is from April to June and from September to October. The weather is pleasant during these months, and you’ll be able to enjoy all the city has to offer without having to worry about extreme heat or cold.
However, you should know that Florence is also a good winter destination, especially if you’re a history or an art buff. That’s because, with so many museums to choose from, you won’t spend a lot of time outside in the cold anyway.
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How to get to Florence?
To get to Florence, you can fly directly into the Florence Airport (FLR) or take a train or bus from Bologna, Milan, or any other nearby city. Once you’re there, it’s easy to get around on foot or by public transportation.
Both Bologna and Milan are big low-cost hubs, so you might find cheaper plane tickets to these cities, than to Florence. However, if you want to transfer by fast train, make sure to book your tickets ahead of time!
Their rapid trains are called Frecciarossa and they’re pretty awesome (spoiler alert: I kinda like trains.. a lot!). You can travel between Milan and Florence in just 2h (by car it usually takes between 3 and 4 and a half hours depending on traffic), while the journey from Bologna to Florence takes 40 minutes (1h 20m – 2h 10m by car).
And it seems that they’re ranked 8th among the fastest trains in the world. But here’s the catch: they’re pretty expensive! Especially if you buy the ticket last minute.
A few years ago, when I planned my first visit to Florence, there weren’t many direct flights (and not a single low-cost one) between my hometown and the capital of Tuscany, but there were really cheap options for Bologna. So I just flew there and took the bus from the airport to Florence.
The second time, there were many connections to choose from between either Florence or Pisa and my hometown, but because we decided to do this trip spontaneously, the tickets were very expensive. In a bid to work around that, we opted to fly into Milano and fly out of Bologna, while also spending a day in the city, since the first time I didn’t even see it.
We had planned on transferring by train between cities, but it turned out that the ticket prices for the fast trains varied depending upon when you purchased them. We didn’t know this until after buying our ticket to Bologna, at the train station, and noticed that the price was a few euros higher than what was advertised online less than half an hour before.
Where to stay in Florence?
When visiting Florence, there are a few great places to stay depending on your budget and preferences. If you want to be in the center of all the action, I recommend staying near the Duomo or Santa Maria Novella train station.
These areas are home to some of the city’s most famous sights, and they’re also within walking distance of many great restaurants and shops.
The apartments are in a prime location, just a few minutes away from the Duomo, the decor is lovely and they’re a really good value for your money. Be warned that the stairs are pretty narrow and steep though (it’s an old, historic building after all).
I really recommend the suite on the 4th floor (where I stayed during my second visit) as it has a spacious terrace from where you can see the Duomo over the other rooftops. You can check the tour of the apartment on my Instagram, linked below.
Other good accommodation options in the city center are:
- B&B La Terrazza Sul Duomo: beautifully decorated rooms; the rooftop terrace has an impressive and photo-worthy view of the Duomo
- B&B Residenza Giotto: some of the rooms have a view of the Duomo and the free breakfast is served on a terrace overlooking the cathedral as well
- Hotel Duomo Firenze: comfortable hotel right near the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral
- Eco Urban B&B: modern and environmentally-friendly property near the train station
- Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo: luxury accommodation featuring suites, double rooms, and an amazing spa-bath suite overlooking the Duomo. Breakfast is included in the room rate.
- Signoria Apartment with a View: beautiful apartment overlooking Piazza Della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, consider staying in one of the neighborhoods just outside the city center, like San Niccolo or Oltrarno. These areas are still close to all the action but are typically a bit cheaper than hotels and apartments in the city center.
Accommodation recommendation in San Niccolo:
- A Postcard View in a Vintage Apartment: vintage, 2-bedroom apartment (accommodates up to 4 persons), close to Michelangelo’s Square
- Casa Santa Caterina: modern and affordable apartment for three people
- La Torre: modern apartment, close to Michelangelo’s Square
Accommodation recommendations in Oltrarno:
- Toscanelli Residenza d’Epoca: affordable rooms near Pitti palace
- Sweet Home Ponte Vecchio: beautiful, modern apartment for 4 people
- Casa Laura: chic apartment for up to 5 persons
How many days in Florence?
Spending 2 full days in Florence is the perfect amount to get a taste of what the city has to offer in my opinion. But you will need to carefully plan your itinerary to make sure you make the most out of your time. Also, it may be a good idea to opt for skip-the-line tickets when possible because many sights in Florence usually have long waiting lines.
However, if you like to explore destinations at a slower pace or you are a big art and history buff and you intend to spend a lot of time exploring the museums, then it could be a good idea to add a 3rd day to your vacation. Or you could use the extra day to take a day trip to one of the nearby towns. I list some of the best options at the end of this blog post.
2 days in Florence: Itinerary
1 day in Florence: Top things to do
Start your day by exploring the historic center of Florence. Head to Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral first and climb to the top of its dome for some amazing views of the city.
With a diameter of 45.5 meters and a height of more than 116 meters, Brunelleschi’s Dome is the largest masonry vault in the world and it’s the symbol of both Florence and the Renaissance. The architect’s revolutionary design was to build it without any supporting structure and it actually consists of two different domes: an inner one, more than 2m thick with a steeper angle, and an external one, covered by terracotta tiles.
While you can see the interior of the cathedral for free, you will need a ticket to climb on top of the Dome. The pass is valid for 3 days and it includes the following monuments: Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Baptistery, Opera del Duomo Museum, and Santa Reparata.
But I should warn you that the climb is pretty strenuous, especially the last part when you walk right on top of the inner dome. Also, you shouldn’t attempt to do this if you’re claustrophobic.
You can also choose a guided tour to explore the Duomo complex. It includes the same attractions, skip-the-line ticket, and a live guide.
If you don’t have enough time to see all of the aforementioned sights, then I’d recommend prioritizing Brunelleschi’s Dome, the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Tower, and the Baptistery.
My suggestion is to save the Bell Tower for the next day at sunset – I can tell you from experience that it’s better to spread the two climbs (The Dome and the Bell Tower) over different days and visit the interior of the cathedral and the Baptistery now. If you want to save time or simply don’t want to wait in the long lines outside Santa Maria del Fiore, you can purchase a skip-the-line ticket with a tour guide from here.
Next, head to Piazza Della Repubblica where once the Roman Forum was located. From there, turn left on Via Calimala and walk until it crosses paths with Piazza del Mercato Nuovo street.
On your right, you will see the statue of a bronze wild boar, water dripping from its mouth. It’s called Fontana del Porcellino and it is said that if you rub the pig’s nose, you will return to Florence. For this very reason, the snout of the beast is exceptionally shiny compared to its body.
Another tradition says to think of a wish and then put a coin in the boar’s mouth. If the coin falls directly through the grates on the first try, your wish will come true.
After that, walk to the Piazza Della Signoria, home to some of Florence’s most famous sculptures. Most of the statues are located in Loggia dei Lanzi, an outdoor gallery right next to Palazzo Vecchio and they’re free to visit, while right outside the palace you can find a replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia). The beautiful Fontana del Nettuno is also located in this square.
Next on the list is Palazzo Vecchio: while the spacious courtyard is open to the public free of charge, you need a ticket for everything else. There are different options to choose from:
- Skip the line tickets to Palazzo Vecchio Museum
- Palazzo Vecchio: Arnolfo Tower, Museum & Video Guide (+skip the line)
- Palazzo Vecchio Secret Passages Guided Tour: Skip The Line
By now you probably got a bit hungry, so it’s time to sample the most famous sandwich in Florence at All’antico Vinaio, located on Via dei Neri. Don’t get scared by the queues you see outside the stores, they go pretty fast. However, if you don’t want to wait at all, you can go to Antico Salumificio Anzuini, next door to All’antico. I didn’t eat there, but many people say their sandwiches are very good as well.
Now, if you do decide to queue at All’antico Vinaio, then I’d recommend you order the Favolosa sandwich (it costs 7 euros), which is their most popular choice.
It’s time to continue towards Ponte Vecchio, the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence over the Arno river (its name actually translates to “Old bridge”). This medieval bridge is lined with jewelry stores, art sellers, and souvenir shops and offers some incredible views of the Arno River.
TIP: if you want to get a good view of the bridge itself, then head to St Trinity Bridge (Ponte Santa Trinita).
After you cross the bridge, turn left and walk towards Michelangelo square, from where you will witness the sun setting over Florence’s skyline. If you have enough time, I’d recommend you stop on the way to Giardino delle Rose, for lovely views of the city and if you’re visiting during the right season, lots of roses. The entrance is about halfway up the steps to the square.
After you leave the garden, I’d suggest making a small detour to see Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte. The small church is really beautiful and it also offers an excellent viewpoint over Florence, from a slightly different angle than the one you get in Piazzale Michelangelo, located below.
Now you can go down to the square and watch the sunset over Florence from there. TIP: Bring some snacks and something to drink with you and make an impromptu picnic on the steps going down to Vista Panoramica di Firenze.
To recap, during your first day in Florence you will:
- climb on top of Brunelleschi’s Dome
- visit the interior of Florence’s cathedral
- see the Baptistery
- see Piazza Della Repubblica
- make a wish at Fontana del Porcellino
- admire Piazza Della Signoria and its statues
- visit Palazzo Vecchio
- eat the most famous sandwich in Florence
- stroll along Ponte Vecchio
- stop to rest at Giardino Delle Rose
- visit Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte
- admire the sunset from Michelangelo Square
2 days in Florence: Top things to do
You will start your second day in Florence with a visit to Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Since most of the time, there are huge lines for the museum, I’d recommend booking your ticket online, even though it costs 4 euros extra (pre-booking fee). You can also opt for a guided tour with skip the line if you want.
You should also know that on the first Sunday of every month between October and March the admission is free for everyone (the date cannot be booked online).
Next on the list is a visit to Uffizi Galleries, one of the most visited and most important museums in Italy. You should set aside at least 3h for this and I highly recommend you buy your ticket online, ahead of time. Or if you prefer a guided tour, you can book it here.
And because the Uffizi is so vast that it can become overwhelming, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most important masterpieces, that you shouldn’t miss during your visit:
- Birth of Venus by Botticelli
- Venus of Urbino by Titian
- Madonna with the long neck by Parmigianino
- Madonna of the Goldfinch by Rafael
- Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
- Primavera by Botticelli
- Bacchus by Caravaggio
- Madonna with Child and two angels by Filippo Lippi
- The Holy Family (Doni Tondo) by Michelangelo
- Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto
- The Duke and Duchess by Urbino Piero della Francesca
After you leave Uffizi, head towards Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. You can visit both or just one of them.
Once the home of the Medici family, the palace is now home to 4 museums: the Treasury of the Grand Dukes (ground floor), the Palatine Gallery and the Imperial and Royal Apartments (first floor), the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Museum of Costume and Fashion (second floor), while the gardens are home to a number of sculptures and fountains, and they are the perfect place to relax and take in the sights of Florence.
You can get tickets for both attractions from here. You can also book guided tours if you prefer: Pitti palace tour, Boboli Garden tour, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and Palatina Gallery tour.
The second to last stop of the day is the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce, located in the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 meters southeast of the Duomo. The Franciscan church contains the tombs of many famous Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, and Machiavelli. You can buy tickets from either here or here.
For a perfect ending to your trip return to Piazza del Duomo and climb Giotto’s Bell Tower to get one last panoramic look over Florence. My advice is to time your visit to the sunset, in order to see the city lighting up as the day turns into night.
To recap, during your second day in Florence you will:
- see Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia
- admire some of the most magnificent art pieces at Ufizzi Galleries
- visit Palazzo Pitti
- stroll through Boboli Gardens
- visit Basilica of Santa Croce
- watch as Florence lights up from Giotto’s Bell Tower
Where to eat in Florence?
Florence is well known for good food, so you’ll be able to find all sorts of delicious dishes here. From pizza to steak, there’s something for everyone. And of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without some delicious gelato. Here are some of the best places in Florence to get your food fix:
- All’antico Vinaio: As I already mentioned, this sandwich shop is a local favorite, and for good reason. The sandwiches here are massive and packed with flavor.
- Pizza Napoli 1955: This pizzeria serves up some of the best pizzas in town in my opinion. You can either eat there or take away, which is what we did as we preferred to eat on our apartment’s terrace from where we could see the illuminated Duomo at night. If you can’t decide what to get, I’d recommend the Bufala: it’s simple but very tasty. PS: They also make heart-shaped pizzas.
- Florence is also is famous for its signature T-bone steak (called Bistecca alla fiorentina). Some very good places where you can try this dish are Trattoria dall’Oste Chianineria, I’Tuscani 2 or La Cocotte.
- Gelateria Santa Trinita, Gelateria La Carraia, Mordilatte: these gelato shops are the perfect places to cool down after a long day of exploring.
You can also take a food tour or class to learn more about the local cuisine. Here are some great ones available:
- Handmade Pasta and Dessert Cooking Class with Dinner
- Florence Food Tour
- Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class at a Farmhouse in Tuscany
- Pizza & Gelato Preparation Class in Florence
- Florence Street Food Tour
- Tuscany Beef Experience: Learn to Cook a Perfect Bistecca
Best day trips from Florence
If you have more time in Florence, or if you’re looking for some day trips to take while you’re there, here are a few ideas:
Best known for its world-famous Leaning Tower, Pisa is a popular one-day destination for tourists visiting Tuscany. You can either check out my guide on how to visit the city on a day trip from Florence or book a tour like this one: Pisa Half-Day Trip with Cathedral and Tower Entry.
Lucca is located about an hour and 20 minutes away from Florence. It’s well worth a visit if you have the time, as it’s home to some beautiful churches and squares. The best way to see the city is on foot, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
If you want to visit both Pisa and Lucca, you might want to check out this 9h long tour from Florence: Pisa & Lucca Day Tour with Buccellato Tasting.
Siena is a beautiful medieval city located about 1h and 15 minutes south of Florence making it a great place to spend a day exploring. One of the must-see sights in Siena is the Duomo, which is a cathedral that was built in the 13th century.
You can visit Siena on your own by either train or car or you can book a tour. Here are two great ones:
- Siena, San Gimignano & Monteriggioni Tour
- Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti Wine Tasting Full-Day Trip with Lunch
I want to make one thing clear: a day trip from Florence isn’t the best way to visit Cinque Terre. I believe that these five beautiful villages deserve more time and attention, so they should be seen for at least 2 days. However, if you are set on visiting them from Florence, then I’d suggest booking a tour to cut down on travel time as much as possible. Here are a few:
- Cinque Terre Day Trip with Optional Hike and Lunch
- Cinque Terre Full-Day Trip
- Cinque Terre Small-Group Guided Tour from Florence
Wine tasting tour in the countryside
With its rolling hills and vineyards, Tuscany is a perfect place for tourists who want to enjoy scenic views paired with Italy’s favorite drink. But unless somebody is willing to sacrifice himself or herself to be the designated driver, then this day trip is only possible by joining a tour. Here are some good options:
- Chianti Wine Tasting Day Trip with Food
- Tuscany Wine & Food Tour with Guide
- Cheese and Wine Tasting Tour from Florence
2 days in Florence: Conclusion
If you’re looking for a city break that will wow you, Florence is the place to go. With its stunning architecture and amazing culture, you’ll be able to fill your days and nights with plenty of activities and sights to see. Just make sure to pack your walking shoes- you’ll definitely need them!
I hope this 2-day itinerary will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful city. And don’t forget to check my post on the 20 most Instagrammable spots in Florence for the best photo-worthy places in the city!
Also, if you have any additional questions just let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to help to the best of my abilities.
Enjoy your trip!