Florence is home of the Renaissance and is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Situated in Tuscany, she rests in the shadows of tourism heavyweight – Rome, who steals much of the spotlight in this part of the world. She also must compete for time and attention with the likes of Milan and Venice amongst other popular Italian destinations. Yet she thrives and remains a prized place to visit for those who love art, architecture, history and food. This is Florence and she deserves your time.
Florence is Compact
Many travellers, visiting Florence for the first time, are surprised to discover how small the city is compared to peer destinations. You can explore the Historic Centre in about 10 to 15 minutes and will find few motor vehicles, city buses and no city metro system. This makes Florence one of the world’s most walkable cities. But within this small geographical area lies a high concentration of excellent sightseeing, so be prepared for a lot of beauty and a lot of walking.
Florence is Beautiful
Keep your camera ready and your batteries charged! Walking the streets of Florence as a tourist is the equivalent of letting young children loose in a toyshop. Turn a corner and a Renaissance palace or a medieval tower appears, or stumble into a piazza where an elegant church and baptistery or a loggia with sculptures awaits. Cross a river on a bridge fit for storybooks, and gently hike up a hill with city views so stunning to take postcard perfect pictures. This is Florence and she is beautiful. But she’s more than just a pretty face!
Florence has Depth
Florence is packed with world-class museums, palaces, churches and galleries all situated within a quaint layout of narrow streets, cobblestone walkways and open piazzas. There is a treasure trove of culturally important sightseeing that has amassed in Florence over the centuries. This is where you find Fra Angelico’s ‘Annunciation’, Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Brunelleschi’s Dome and the iconic Ponte Vecchio. And there’s more beyond the famous names. For example, TripAdvisor lists over 120 landmarks to visit in Florence and the city is reputed for having over 70 museums to explore.
How Long Should I Stay in Florence?
Many visitors only spend a day or two in Florence, barely enough time to cover the basics before moving on to other places in Italy. Short stays mean scratching the surface and missing out on many wonderful attractions beyond the usual list of must-sees. It also means having to compete with the masses of fellow tourists, all trying to tick off the same combination of boxes on their sightseeing itinerary.
Sadly, this greatly contributes to long queues and crowded viewing conditions commonly found at places like Uffizi, Duomo, Academia and Ponte Vecchio. Meanwhile, other fantastic but less famous attractions such as San Marco, Santa Croce, Bargello, Brancacci and Pitti Palace have the quite the opposite situation, receiving far fewer visitors and offering much more enjoyable sightseeing environment for travellers.
Give Florence three to four days
If at all possible, I strongly encourage travellers to give three to four days to Florence in order to enjoy this fascinating city. Having more time allows you to spread out your visits to the top attractions, while filling your schedule with other rewarding places that are too often skipped by day-trippers and those making short stays.
As an extra reward, longer stays mean more opportunities to indulge in the very good food and dining scene in Florence. And best of all, it means more chances to enjoy local gelato, just one more thing that Florence does better than perhaps anywhere else in the world.
To learn more about what you can do and see in Florence make sure to spend time browsing through a good travel guide. I like the DK Eyewitness Series full version and Top Ten version for Florence. There are also lots of good tips and suggestions on the TripAdvisor Florence Travel Forum. I always spend time researching here before our visits to Florence.
Are you in love with Florence yet? Well, here are more things to see.
Looking for adventure in Europe? The Jungfrau train is a bucket list experience just across the border from Italy.
Read our Canadian museum review for ideas on where to go in Canada.