In honor of my good friends making a short trip to Florence next month, I thought I would throw it back to my Florence days and write a comprehensive guide for how to spend 2 days in the OG Renaissance city! I’ve combined all the best spots to eat, relax, and discover…while also planning for the most efficient way to see as much as possible in the short amount of time.
Day 1-Wandering in Oltrarno
12PM – Pick up a Pino’s Panino (Salumi Verdi) and picnic in the Boboli Gardens/Bardini Gardens. Located on the Oltrarno side of the river, Boboli is a huge garden behind the Pitti Palace, filled with statues, fountains, and gorgeous greenery, while Bardini is a smaller garden but with much better views of the city and a villa! (Both are near each other, so you can definitely visit both during the same day.)
After having lunch in the gardens make your way up to San Miniato al Monte. It’s a beautiful walk up the hill (and workout) and has amazing views overlooking the city from the church. It has free admission, stunning interiors and exteriors, and if you catch it at the right time you can hear the Gregorian chants of the monks.
Sunset in March is around 6:30PM, so after your done visiting San Miniato and getting lost in the Boboli/Bardini Gardens, all you have to do is walk back down and eventually you will hit Piazalle Michelangelo – the PERFECT spot to watch the sunset, listen to local musicians, snap a few pics for Instagram, and take it all in. After sunset walk back down into San Niccolo, the neighborhood below Piazalle Michelangelo. Maybe visit a few shops. One of my favorites is the Clet Abraham Studio, the popular and famous Florentine street artist, or the Alessandro Dari jewelry shop. Eventually you will hit Ponte alla Grazie and cross over to the Duomo side of the city. Right off the bridge on Via de Benci you’ll find La Buchetta– the absolute BEST spot for an amazing dinner. (You can make reservations online before you go, I would recommend making one because it’s a popular place. Florentines usually have dinner from 7-9PM.)
Take your time, enjoy a nice bottle of Chianti, a delicious charcuterie board and chat with the super friendly owner, Maurizio and server, Ledio. After dinner, it’s a short stroll back to the Arno River. Walk along the river past the Ponte Vecchio to Ponte Santa Trinita where you will find the bright and colorful Gelateria Santa Trinita on the corner. Grab a cone or a cup to go and then go sit on the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge while admiring the shimmering Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Vecchio tower.
Continue your nighttime walk home through Piazza Signorina to hear the charming guitarist playing Andrea Bocelli and you will absolutely fall in love with Florence.
Day 2 – Duomo Day!
8AM– Start your second day early! I highly recommend going to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, The David. Lines can get soooooo incredibly long for this museum that they stretch down the whole street. I ALWAYS go first thing in the morning right when it opens and always buy tickets online in advance. If you do buy tickets in advance you must visit the ticket office across the street to obtain your hard copy and then you will be admitted ahead of the line. (Also if you go early in the morning, there are physically less people crowding the observation area. You’ll be able to admire in peace, and trust me I sat there for an hour my first visit, mesmerized.)
Since you will be over by the Accademia, which is in the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Florence, you must visit News Cafe. You can visit either before or after seeing The David, but just be sure to stop by. Buy a fresh morning croissant and a espresso or cappuccino. I would recommend getting a cappuccino (as long as it’s not after 11AM) because the owner and barista gets wicked artsy and paints scenes of Florence with chocolate and coffee into your drink. If you have something in mind you want, you can always politely ask. I usually ask for a “Piazza Duomo”!
After a quick breakfast, it’s about a 5 minute walk to the Duomo! There is free admission into the church so definitely check it out and wander about inside. But if you want to visit the baptistry, climb the dome or the bell tower, then you will have to purchase a ticket. Climbing the dome is so fun and it’s so interesting to see the architecture of the interior, and plus the view up top isn’t bad either. The bell tower is a much easier climb, and your view at the top will have the famous and iconic dome in it, so either way I would recommend climbing at least one of them. (Should only take about an hour for each.)
After exploring the area surrounding the Duomo and maybe even walking down to see Piazza della Repubblica or the famous fashion streets (Via Roma and Via dei Calzaiuoli) where you can window shop and look at the gorgeous visual designs, make your way over to lunch at Trattoria Mario in the San Lorzeno neighborhood. There is usually a couple people waiting outside for it to open and the front windows are covered in achievement stickers, newspaper clippings, and signs for the Fiorentina soccer team. I would say a good time to aim for would be between 11:45AM-1PM. Mario’s is only open for lunch and gets packed! It’s a family restaurant, that’s also family style, so don’t be surprised if you are sharing a table with another couple. It’s a loud, bustling place, where you can see all the action happening, it’s amazing. The menu changes everyday, and it’s cash only. If there is ragù on the menu, GET IT! Hands down best I’ve ever had.
While your in the neighborhood after lunch, some options would be visiting Mercato Centrale across the street from Mario’s or to Massimo’s Leather Shop on Borgo La Noce to try on leather jackets or shop for a nice leather bag to take home.
A awesome pit stop in the afternoon would be to Hotel Baglioni’s rooftop terrace. This is by far the largest terrace, and most spectacular panoramic view you can find in Florence. While the rooftop restaurant doesn’t open up for lunch/dinner until June, the hotel allows you to visit and take as many pictures as you want. They will even let you purchase a bottle of wine from their cellar, and let you enjoy it at one of the many tables. I can’t express how much I love this place, I could spend hours here!
The rest of the afternoon could be spent visiting Santa Croce Church (where Galileo and Michelangelo are buried) and its famous Leather School (highly recommended), or Santa Maria Novella’s massive church and museum, or visiting the courtyard at Basilica de San Lorenzo. Get lost in the beauty and wander into the small original side streets surrounding the Duomo. For dinner, journey back across the river to Gusta Pizza to enjoy the most wonderful authentic pizza. You can’t go wrong with the classic Calabrese, you just can’t.
Well I am officially out of breath after jamming all of that stuff into two days. Yes, I left some space open on each day so you may fill in as you please, but for the most part these are my recommendations. See the shared Google map below for other places I think are worthy of giving a try. You can never have too much wine or gelato while in Firenze!
Have fun Meghan and Ricky! xoxo