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What happens when all you have is one day in Florence,Italy? This amazing city is packed full of beautiful sculptures, ancient architecture, Renaissance art masterpieces and some of the best food in the world. If all you have is 24 hours, you are going to want to take a look at our Florence free walking tour itinerary.
How to Spend One Day in Florence
When we had one day in Florence during a Mediterranean Cruise, we had some specific places we wanted to see and put a plan together that would allow us to spend the bulk of our time seeing the main attractions while also being able to experience some smaller places that were off the beaten path.
Walking Tour Itinerary
- Piazza del Duomo: Duomo, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower
- Piazza del Repubblica
- Lunch at Casa del Vin Santo
- Statues in Piazza della Signoria
- Uffizi Gallery
- The Ponte Vecchio
- Basilica di Santa Croce
- Gelato at Vivoli
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!
Piazza del Duomo
We began our day trip to Florence in the Piazza del Duomo. This is the heart of Florence and the perfect place to begin your walking tour.
Here you will find some of the most important attractions in all of Florence:
- Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Duomo)
- Giotto’s Bell Tower
- Baptistery of St. John
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo)
The centerpiece of Florence is the Renaissance Dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The cathedral is named 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 during our day in Florence 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).
Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile)
Adjacent to the Duomo is Giotto’s Bell Tower (Campanile). With only one day in Florence, most likely you will only have time to climb either the Cupola or the Bell Tower.
Choose the Bell tower. While it is over 400 steps, there is a large terrace at the top that functions as a panoramic roof. It gives some of the best views Florence has to offer.
There is a ticket office inside but the lines can be ridiculously long. The only way to skip the line for the Bell Tower is to purchase the “Il Grande Museo del Duomo” Pass
Baptistery of San Giovanni
Directly across from the cathedral is the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The Baptistery is dedicated to Florence’s patron saint, John.
It was built on the foundations of a Roman building, and is designed in typical Tuscan Romanesque style.
Dating back to the 11th century, the building was used as a place to hold baptisms since it was customary to have very large crowds at baptismal events.
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 Museo 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 striking mosaic scenes show Christ in Judgement along with scenes from the Last Judgement.
If you look carefully, you will also see the stories of St. John the Baptist, Joseph and of the Creation of the World.
At the highest point is the are the Angelic Hosts that gather around toward the center of the dome and appear to be watching over everything below.
Piazza della Repubblica
Piazza della Repubblica is a town square is where you will find stores, street artists and live music. Hard Rock Cafe is also located here if you are looking to purchase a souvenir t-shirt.
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.
Church and Museum of Orsanmichele
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 during your Florence walking tour.
The church facade is laced with niches that features patron saints (14th century). What you see are replicas.
The real statues are inside the actual Museum of Orsanmichele. This doesn’t make them any less interesting to view.
Where to Eat in Florence: Casa del Vin Santo
Our day trip to Florence began when most things open to the public (10am) so by the time we visited the Florence attractions in Piazza del Duomo, and walked to Orsanmichele, we were ready for lunch!
There are plenty of restaurants along the way to the Uffizi but we chose to eat at Casa del Vin Santo (and I am so glad that we did!)
The food was amazing and the space was quiet and air-conditioned. My husband ordered Lasagna and our kids split a pizza. Bread was served for the entire table.
I ordered the Tagliatelle al Pomadoro Ragu which was probably the best pasta I’ve had in my life. While simple, the freshness of the ingredients made the flavors of this pasta stand out.
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!
Piazza della Signoria
After lunch, we continued our Florence walking tour and went to Piazza della Signoria. This is the political square of Florence and filled with some dramatic history….
A fanatical Friar by the name Savonarola was burned at the stake in this square in 1498 after he campaigned against “artistic and social excesses” of the Renaissance during the fall of the Medici (Bonfire of the Vanities).
A political activist of his time, he drew attention to himself by condemning all things the people of Florence enjoyed: popular art, festivals and items deemed extravagances.
Needless to say, both the clergy (who had lots of wealth at the time) and the Florentine’s had enough of his outbursts not only excommunicated him, but set fire to he and two of his fellow friars.
You will find a replica of The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo. David was appropriated by the Medici family as a way of demonstrating their return to power.
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 seas.
You will also find an Equestrian Statue of Duke Cosimo I which stands as a way to honor the man who brought Tuscany under Medici military rule.
Art in Florence is one of the highlights of a trip to this region. The Uffizi is just outside of Piazza della Signoria and 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.
If you don’t get the chance to walk over to see the Ponte Vecchio bridge up close, you can get a beautiful view of it and the Arno river from the Uffizi.
Uffizi 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.
The Basilica di Santa Croce
A 10 minute walk from Uffizi is another beautiful church, the Basilica di Santa Croce. It is the burial place for some popular historical figures like Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei.
There is also a memorial to the poet Dante (although he is not actually buried here).
Best Gelato in Florence: Vivoli
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!
There is something to be said for using fresh ingredients. The end product is simply amazing. Vivoli does not use any additives, preservatives, emulsifiers or dyes in their Gelato and the end product proves that you don’t need that junk to taste great.
Wondering how to decipher the flavors of Gelato when it is written in Italian? Here is a quick list to help you out:
Italian Gelato Flavors:
stracciatella– Chocolate Chip
mandarino– Mandarin orange
frutti di bosco- typically blueberry and blackberry
panna Cotta- Cooked cream
noce di Cocco- Coconut
Please note that Vivoli is CLOSED ON MONDAYS.
While you can do a guided tour of Florence, we really enjoyed doing it on our own.
A self-guided walking tour of Florence allows you to truly experience the city in the way that it was meant to be seen, close up and at your own pace.
When you have to rush from site to site, you are going to miss out on an authentic Italian experience.
You will want to do your research before deciding on the right Florence walking tour itinerary for you.
#1 Florence Tip: Get Your Florence Attraction Tickets in Advance
Two of the attractions on our TOP things to do in Florence list are 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.
The ticket for the Duomo includes skip the line entry to the Cathedral, Baptistry, Cupola, Bell Tower & Santa Reparata.
The skip the line ticket for the Uffizi Gallery is good for a selected window of time, so you will have to know an exact time you can be available to enter in advance of your trip.
If you fail to get tickets for the most popular Florence attractions in advance, you will spend hour(s) in ticket lines. When time is of the essence, the last thing you want to do is waste time standing in lines!
We hope that this one day Florence walking tour gives you a glimpse at how much you can fit into a short stay in this amazing city.
Have you had a chance to visit Florence? What was your favorite part of the city?