With spring just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to explore Florence in a weekend. I loved Florence and I must admit that I stayed for longer than 2 days. Fortunately, the historic part of the city is compact and it is very easy to walk to most of the sights. Walking through the cobbled roads and little lanes for me was a magical experience. The city oozes charm and around every corner is an Instagramable shot. It’s hard not to fall in love with it.

I stayed in an apartment in the heart of the old city, about a 5 min walk to the Uffizi gallery. I could not have asked for a better location as all the main sights we easily accessible.

 

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The Arno River

This is not an itinerary as such, but just a list of the place that I think you will be able to visit over the course 2 days.

 

How to explore Florence in a weekend

 

Mercato Nuvo (Mercato Porcellino)

If you are a foodie then you can very easily overindulge. I really did not have a bad meal and only had one average meal during my stay.

I had to start with this market because it was about 100 m from where I was staying. I walked past it so many times that the vendors started greeting me like a local. It is called the New Market so that it is not confused with the Old Market. It was built between 1547 and 1551 and originally it sold silk.

Now you can find all kinds of leather items as well as souvenirs, but what I liked most was the piglet fountain that is actually a wild bronze boar (Il Porcellino). Legend has it that if you rub its nose and drop a coin in its mouth at the same time, you will return to Florence.

 

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Il Porcellino

 

Central Market (Mercato Centrale)

This market was heaven for me. It was built in the 19th century using iron and glass. On the ground floor, you can find outstanding quality produce from meat to vegetables, cheese, olive oil and all the other market-related produce. There are a number of excellent restaurants in the immediate surrounds whose chefs arrive as the market opens eager to get the best ingredients available.

On the second floor is a super stylish food court. I use this term loosely because when I think of other food courts I have visited in different countries there is no comparison. It’s designed to be a gourmet food court and it had me salivating. I tried a number of different things while I enjoyed a glass of Tuscan wine. It was so good that I went back a second time for dinner to try yet more delicious food.

 

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Parmesan cheese in the market

 

San Lorenzo Market

The market sprawls through the San Lorenzo district around the area where the Central Market is. Originally this market sold leather goods and it still does today. I also saw scarves, ties and souvenirs.

You have to be careful with what you buy and remember that not everything is real leather although you might have difficulty spotting the difference. You also have to haggle relentlessly. I preferred to shop in the more reputable stores to be sure that what I was buying was, in fact, good quality. This area is also known for pickpockets so be vigilant.

 

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Leather Handbags

 

Gelato

I had to include this because I discovered the most amazing shop in the road that I was staying in. I was in there every day trying some new flavour and I learnt quite a bit about what makes a good gelato. If you want to know how to tell the good from the bad then my post on how to find the best gelato in Italy explains it.

 

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Gelato

 

The Uffizi Gallery

If you like art then you can happily lose yourself in the gallery. There is so much to see, but if you are pressed for time the gallery website has a selection of itineraries to follow that vary in length. They recommend 2 hours to see the masterpieces or 3-4 hours at a leisurely pace. It really depends on your personal preferences.

I recommend booking tickets online in advance. They only allow a certain number of people in and allocate time slots. That way you won’t waste any time and you will be guaranteed entrance.

Here’s more about the highlights at the Uffizi

 

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Uffizi Gallery

 

Piazza della Signoria

This pretty piazza has been the centre of life in Florence for centuries and a wonderful place to chill and watch the world go by. It is lined with cafes, sculptures and the Fountain of Neptune. Michelangelo said that the fountain was “a waste of good marble”, but I rather liked it. There is also a statue of David there, but it is not the original which is in the Galleria dell’Accademia.

 

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Piazza della Signoria

 

Loggia dei Lanzia

As you look across the Piazza della Signoria you will notice an outdoor gallery. This contains some interesting sculptures and it is worth spending a couple of minutes admiring them.

 

Palazzo Vecchio

Just on the edge of the Piazza della Signoria is an old Medici palace and the home of Cosimo Medici I. I loved the architecture and the design detail of the interior. The view from the bell tower is said to be one of the best in Florence, but I did not climb to the top.

 

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Clock Tower at Palazzo Vecchio

 

Galleria dell’Accademia

If you want to see the original statue of David then this is where it is housed. There are also some incomplete sculptures of Michelangelo’s on display. It’s not a large gallery so you can easily see it in about 90 minutes. Once again I suggest that you book your tickets in advance to save time.

 

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Michelangelo’s statue of David

 

Ponte Vecchio

 It’s hard not to like this iconic landmark. It’s also a great spot to get the perfect shot of the river. The bridge crosses the Arno at its narrowest point. A bridge has been on this spot since the days of the Ancient Romans.

This one dates from 1354 and has housed gold and silversmiths since the 16th century. Before that butcher shops lined the bridge, but Fernando I evicted them. There is a private passageway that was built for the Medicis (Vasari Corridor) from the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace that runs overhead. He hated the smell that drifted up from below so naturally, things had to change.

I walked over the bridge quite a few times at different times of the day. As the light changes, the mood seems to change as well. It can also be packed, although it wasn’t that busy in the early morning but later in the day it was heaving with people.

 

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Ponte Vecchio

 

Santa Croce Church

 Santa Croce was rebuilt for the Franciscans in 1294. The original structure is from 1212 when St. Francis of Assisi visited Florence and choose the site for a church. The exterior of the church is all marble and the interior is even more ornate than the Duomo.

It is the resting place of Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and Galileo and has a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty because he is actually buried in Ravenna.

 

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Santa Croce

 

The Duomo

I took a bus from the train station to my accommodation. Initially, there was not too much to see and then we came around a corner and the Duomo was in front of us. I was stunned at its beauty. I have never seen anything quite like it. Not only is it iconic, but it is a fascinating place to visit. I spent quite a bit of time photographing it, walking past it, and simply just admiring it from all sides.

Its correct name is Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. After the impressive façade, the interior of the church appears quite minimalist as most of the treasures have been removed over the centuries and many can be seen in the museum.

Entrance to the Duomo is free, but entrance to the museums ( the bell tower, cupola, baptistery and crypt) all need a ticket. Combined tickets can be purchased at an office directly behind the Duomo.

If you are planning to climb up the cupola you will need to climb 463 steps to the top. These corridors were used by the workmen for maintenance purposes and the access is tight and steep. You will also have to reserve your place in advance and once you book a time slot it cannot be changed.

If you want a great view you could climb the bell tower instead, which also has a stunning view of the cupola.

The time of day you want to visit makes a difference so get there early or later in the afternoon.

 

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The Duomo

 

Il Battiserio di San Giovanni

The baptistery is adjacent to the Duomo. The origins are unclear but it is thought to have been built over an old Roman Temple, dedicated to Mars, in the 4th-5th centuries. It was consecrated in 1128 and is the oldest religious monument in Florence.

It is dedicated to Florence’s patron saint John the Baptist The octagonal shape is clad with marble on the outside.

 

Campanile di Giotto

This has the reputation of being the most beautiful campanile in Italy. It is 84.7 metres tall and 15 metres in breadth and has 7 bells. If you are feeling energetic climb the 414 steps to the top and your efforts will be rewarded.

 

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Group of Duomo Buildings

 

Piazzale Michelangelo

You should not miss visiting the Piazzale Michaelangelo perched on a hill above the city. For many years none of the buildings was allowed to be higher than the cupola of the Duomo. This is the picture postcard view of Florence. The first visit I made was in the morning, but it was really spectacular at sunset.

 

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Sunset in Florence

 

Street Art

Don’t be surprised if you see some wacky street signs as you wander around the city. They are the work of a French artist, Clet Abraham. He decided to take the existing signs and make them humorous in a pop art style. The material he uses is removable so no damage is done to the signs. You can also visit his studio which is not far from the Piazzale Michaelangelo.

 

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Clet Abraham Street sign

After you have seen the sights in Florence in a weekend I am certain that like me, you will want to return. It is like nowhere else I have been in my travels. I know that I just scratched the surface and that there is so much more just waiting to be discovered.  Luckily I gave the wild bronze boar a coin so I am sure that I will go back to dig a little deeper on my next visit.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic first timers guide to this beautiful city. I been to Florence before and fell in love with the place (when its not full of tourists in the summer) and the region of Tuscany. Hoping to be back there again soon and see the beautiful cathedrals.

  2. Gorgeous, its been too long since I last visited this city so this was magical. I love all the views from the water and above looking down into Florence from the hills and I forgot the name of that famous park on the other side of the Arno.

    • Are you thinking of the Boboli gardens? I didn’t include it as I thought that it was probably a bridge too far for 2 days, but it is pretty.I am so glad that you enjoyed the read.

  3. I love, love Florence! I’ve visited three times and am going again this summer. I just can’t get enough of the food, wine, and architecture. I can’t imagine only having a weekend, but your itinerary is a good start. So much to discover in Florence.

  4. How lovely! I can so relate to walking along those magical cobbled roads and little lanes you enjoyed so much. Nice list you have here, and what a great fortune to have the accommodation so close to all these fascinating sites.
    I should book me another trip to Italy soon, I miss it every time I see the post like this. I mean, it’s easy to see that you had some great time in Florence, it shows all the way through the post! 🙂
    Would have to remember about booking tickets online for the Uffizi Gallery. It would be such a pity to miss it again!

    • I had a wonderful time in Florence and I am so glad that it came across in the post. I hope that people reading it, who have never been to Florence, will be inspired to go and check it out for themselves. Having accommodation right in the centre of things meant that I really enjoyed walking around the city and almost everything was a short walk away. I always love walking in a city as I think that it is the best way of seeing the real side and not just the beauty.

  5. We love Italy but despite several visits to various regions we still haven’t visited Florence. It does look wonderful and of course, the fabulous food. How busy was it? we’re afraid that when we do get there it will be packed with disinterested teenagers on school trips.

    • It was not busy at all. The only kids I saw was at the Uffizi, but even that wasn’t busy because of the fact that they control the number of people that they allow in. I think that you probably have to pick your time and stay away summer holidays. Maybe I was lucky 🙂

  6. Reading your delicious post takes me back to my first weekend in Florence. All that glorious food. The gelatos…wow!!You are right, there is a lot to do in just two days and you’ve captured the necessary highlights. Uffizi gallery alone can take a couple of days for an immersive experience. Great Clet Abraham signs!!

    • When there is so much history and beauty in a city it is really tough to see it all and it is even more difficult to decide what not to see. I could also spend days in the Uffizi, but then I have an excuse to come back. I find that I can’t absorb it all on my first visit as there is just too much to see.

  7. We were there for only a day so we got to just half: the Piazza del Michelangelo, San Croce, Duomo, Pointe Vecchio, and L’Academia. Too bad we were not able to go to Uffizi!

  8. Florence is one of my favourite cities in Italy and I have visited several times. Your post, however, has showed even me some places I did not know of yet, like the Gelateria dei neri. I have also seen art from Clet Abraham in Rome last year and was wondering who the artist was. Thanks for sharing!

    • Pleasure! I must keep a lookout for the art when I am next in Rome. I am glad that you found something new. If you visit Florence again make the gelateria your number 1 stop and I am sure that like me, you will be back every day 🙂

  9. I’ve been to Florence twice but unfortunately only for a day. I would love to explore Florence in a weekend and take a better look at the Duomo and the Campanile di Giotto. It would also be nice to have time to stroll through the San Lorenzo and Central Markets.

  10. The Duomo is Florence is still one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever explored. It’s so beautiful, and the accessibility of all the areas is almost unmatched for something like it.

  11. Great description of a quick 2-day tour of Firenze. I spent a semester of college in Rome, and we had Eurail passes, so we were in Florence regularly. It is absolutely a place you will want to return to once you’ve been there. Try to stay for a week and unwind – as in all Italian cities and towns, the slower you go, the more you’ll enjoy it!

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