If you only have one day to spend in Florence, Italy, you can’t expect to see everything. This amazing city is packed full of beautiful sculptures, ancient architecture, Renaissance art masterpieces and some of the best food in the world. It is easy to spend a week here and not see everything there is to see. But we understand that not everyone has a week to spend touring the city. There is plenty you can fit in during a day trip to Florence. The key is to plan in advance so you can fit in the most desirable attractions and experiences!
What we saw on our day trip to Florence:
- Piazza del Duomo: Duomo, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower
- Lunch at Casa del Vin Santo
- Statues in Piazza della Signoria
- Uffizi Gallery
- The Ponte Vecchio
- Basilica di Santa Croce
- Gelato at Vivoli
- Piazza del Repubblica
Seems like a lot for a day trip to Florence, right? While we weren’t able to actually go into every structure (we had to prioritize the most important ones for times sake), we did feel like we got to experience the best parts of this beautiful city! The two TOP things on our list were the The Baptistry and the Uffizi Museum.
Since we knew these were two things we HAD to make time for, we purchased “skip the line” tickets in advance. Our ticket for the Duomo included the Cathedral, Baptistry, Cupola, Bell Tower & Santa Reparata and was good for 24 hours. The skip the line ticket for the Uffizi Gallery were good for a selected window of time, so you will have to know an exact time you can be available to enter. If you fail to get tickets in advance, you will spend hour(s) in ticket lines. If you are on a day trip to Florence, the last thing you want to do is waste time standing in lines!
Our Itinerary for a Day Trip to Florence:
We began our day trip to Florence in the Piazza del Duomo. The centerpiece of Florence is the Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The cathedral is named for Santa Maria del Fiore and was built upon on the site of a 7th century church (Santa Reparata). You may choose to tour the cathedral or climb the cupola. While beautiful, we only had time to visit one church and we believe that the Baptistery to be a better option. Plus, the line was ridiculously long (there is no ticket~ it is free entry and first come, first served).
Adjacent to the Duomo is Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile). If you have the chance to climb either the cupola or the bell tower, choose the bell tower. You will have the best view of Florence! There is a ticket office inside, or if you have purchased the “Il Grande Museo del Duomo” Pass, you can bypass the ticket line completely.
Directly across from the cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The Baptistery is dedicated to Florence’s patron saint, John. Prior to 2016, there had been beautiful Bronze doors (circa 1330) depicting scenes from St. John’s life and scenes from the Old Testament. These doors have been removed & replaced with replicas. The original doors can now be found at Museum Opera del Duomo.
The interior of the Baptistery is stunning. You will notice the shape of the building is an octagonal and features a cupola in the same shape. The cupola is adorned with mosaic marble design and oriental zodiac symbols.
A short 3 minute walk from Piazza del Duomo toward the Uffizi is the Church and Museum of Orsanmichele. While we did not go inside, there is plenty to see on the outside. The church facade is laced with niches that features patron saints (14th century). What you will see is replicas. The real statues are inside the actual Museum of Orsanmichele. Nevertheless, it is worth walking by on your way to the Uffizi.
Our day trip to Florence began when most things open to the public (10am) so after our time in Piazza del Duomo, we headed to grab lunch. If you head toward Uffizi, you will find plenty of dining options in quaint bistros. We dined at Casa del Vin Santo which was only about a 5 minute walk from the Duomo. The food was amazing and the space was quiet and air-conditioned. I had pasta, my husband has lasagne and the kids split a pizza. You can book a reservation in advance, but we just showed up and were seated immediately.
Wondering what else you should eat while in Florence? Florence is known for much more than just pasta!
After lunch we hit Piazza della Signoria. This plaza is filled with political art that was placed there with a purpose. It was in this space that the Dominican friar Savonarola campaigned against “artistic and social excesses” of the Renaissance that resulted in the destruction of items of vanity (like mirrors, cosmetics, fancy clothing, and musical instruments) with a bonfire. Later condemned as a heretic, he was burned at the stake here in 1498.
You will find a replica of The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo. It was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the tyrannical Medici.
Fountain of Neptune shows Neptune, whose face resembles that of Cosimo I de’ Medici, and was meant to be an allusion to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea.
You will also find an Equestrian Statue of Cosimo I. He was responsible for the creation of the Uffizi.
The Uffizi is just outside of Piazza della Signoria. This museum holds treasures of the Medici. Give yourself hours to explore this wonderful museum. You will find works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci and more. You will also have wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river and of the Duomo.
TIP: The first Sunday of each month is a FREE ENTRANCE day. This means that you will NOT be able to book tickets in advance.
A 10 minute walk from Uffizi is another beautiful church.The Basilica di Santa Croce is the burial place for some popular historical figures like Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei. There is also a memorial to the poet Dante (although not actually buried here).
On the way back from the Basilica di Santa Croce, stop and get gelato at Vivoli. This is my favorite place to grab gelato in all of Florence! It is so popular amongst tourists that Disney World in Florida has a sister store, Vivoli Il Gelato, in Disney Springs.
Now that you have been re-energized with gelato, you will be ready to head over to Piazza della Repubblica. This town square is where you will find stores, street artists and live music. If you are looking to mail off a postcard from your trip, you will also a Post Office, located under the arches of the portico that extends to each side of the Arch of Triumph.
Are you traveling with kids? Be sure to read our post on traveling to Florence with Kids
A day trip to Florence may seem hard to imagine. There is so many wonderful places to explore, that narrowing it down can be difficult. We hope that we were able to give you a glimpse at how much you can fit into a short stay in this amazing city.
Have you had a chance to go to Florence? What are some of your favorite things to do?