3 days in Florence

Florence in 3 days: here is what you must see if you want to explore the lesser known attractions of the city!

What to see in 3 days in Florence while avoiding the crowds? Every year Florence attracts a large number of tourists, crowding its streets and its most famous museums, The Uffizi Gallery and the Academy. For many, these crowds can be a deterrent for visiting the city.

But did you know that it was possible to visit Florence, avoid the crowds and at the same time discover its artistic masterpieces? The rich cultural heritage of this city allows you to learn about its history without necessarily standing in long lines in museums. Here you will find a ready itinerary for your 3 days in Florence while avoiding the crowds?

A 3-day visit to Florence: the complete itinerary

Do you want to spend 3 days in Florence but you are put off by the crowds? Here is an itinerary for you that is both peaceful and quiet.

  1. On the first day you can start your first day in the Santa Maria Novella quarter, Oltrarno, and explore Pitti Palace with its beautiful Boboli Gardens.
  2. The second day you can visit the Museum of San Marco and the Bargello Museum, and finally relax in the Bardini Garden and the Rose Garden.
  3. The third day you can spend visiting the Florentine basilicas: Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella.

This itinerary has you arriving in Florence on the morning of the first day and departing on the afternoon of the third day.

A 3-days trip to Florence

Upon your arrival in Florence you will have time to freshen up. For a relaxing and gourmet break it’s worth heading to one of the historic cafes: Scudieri in Piazza DuomoGilli in Piazza della Repubblica or Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria.

After a coffee break you can start your tour of the Santa Maria quarter. May your 3 days in Florence begin!

Day 1: Santa Maria Novella neighbourhood, Oltrarno and Palazzo Pitti

In Santa Maria Novella neighbourhood you will find many hidden treasures such as the Officina Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in via della Scala and the Church of Ognissanti.

The Officina Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is considered one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. It originates from the time of the arrival of the Dominican friars who established themselves in Santa Maria Novella in 1221. The friars became famous for their know-how as apothecaries. In 1553 Renato Bianco, one of the apothecaries who grew up with the Dominican friars, followed Caterina de’ Medici on her travels to France. According to legend, this is how the “Water of the Queen” was created, a fragrance that represents elegance and royalty. By visiting this historic pharmacy you can delve into the world of perfumes and fragrances, filled with history and charm.

From the pharmacy you can walk down via Porcellana, where Sandro Botticelli’s thriving workshop was located in the 1480s. In fact Botticelli lived in this neighborhood, and today his tomb can be found in the Church of Ognissanti.

Things to do in 3 days in Florence
The Church of Ognissanti, Florence.

The church is open to the public, and within its walls you can admire many artistic treasures. On the side of the aisles you will find two fifteenth-century frescoes: Saint Jerome painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Saint Ambrose by Botticelli. Ghirlandaio is also the creator of the decoration of the Vespucci Chapel, in the right nave. The chapel belongs to the family of Amerigo Vespucci, the famous cartographer, after whom the newly discovered Americas were named. You can admire a crucifix painted by Giotto around 1315 on  the left transept of the church. The painting has been recently restored and the intensity of the ultramarine blue used to decorate the cross and the garment worn by the Madonna of San Giovanni Battista is striking. In Ognissanti you can also visit the tomb of Sandro Botticelli who was buried in his parish.


After visiting the Basilica, you can head towards the Oltrarno neighbourhood. Crossing to the other side of the Arno River you can discover the lesser known parts of Florence (and undoubtedly less touristy). Here you can visit the magnificent Brancacci Chapel, decorated during the fifteenth century by Masolino, Masaccio, and Filippino Lippi

NOTE: The chapel is currently under restoration. The monument is open to visitors Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. It is necessary to book your visit; click here to book.

After visiting the Brancacci Chapel, you can head towards the Basilica of Santo Spirito. Santo Spirito is the most important church in the Oltrarno. It was built during the second half of the fifteenth century based on the project of Flippo Brunelleschi. The uniqueness of the design consists in the presence of semicircular chapels that surround the perimeter of the building. To this day the chapels enjoy the patronage of the most important Florentine families who have commissioned the greatest masters to decorate them.

Activities for 3 days in Florence
Santo Spirito Basilica in Florence

In the Nerli Chapel you can see Filippino Lippi’s Pala Nerli. The scene depicts the Virgin and Child and Saint John the Baptist with Saint Martin and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The two commissioners, Tanai Nerli and Nanna Capponi are kneeling on the side in the painting. Behind the loggia, where the figures are placed, a beautiful view opens up onto Porta Romana, the southern city  gate of Florence. Before the gate you can see Palazzo Nerli and in front the merchant saying good-bye to his wife before leaving on one of his many business trips.

The most valuable treasure kept in the Basilica of Santo Spirito is the wooden crucifix of Michelangelo, sculpted by the artist when he was only 18 years old. Today the crucifix is kept in the sacristy of the church. The work surprises with the tenderness of the representation of the body of Christ. Christ is shown as a young man, completely naked, and despite his suffering, his face is both peaceful and tranquil. The artist gave this extraordinary work as a gift to the Augustinian Friars of Santo Spirito in thanks for their hospitality and welcome. In fact, Michelangelo benefited from the support of the friars in performing his anatomical dissections on bodies of people who died in anonymity and poverty in the hospital run by the Agostinians.

After visiting the Basilica you can stop for a lunch break.

Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

After lunch you will be ready to explore the private residence of the Medici Grand Dukes,  the splendid Pitti Palace with its Boboli Gardens. The residence was purchased by Eleonora di Toledo and Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1550. Over the centuries, the palace was expanded several times and the garden behind it became a space for entertainment for the Medici court, while at the same time maintaining its agricultural functions.

Three days in Florence
Pitti Palace, Florence

On the first floor of the palace you can visit the Palatine Galleries which house numerous masterpieces of European painting. This collection once belonged to the Medici family and to the members of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty. Among the most significant paintings you will find Raffaello’s The Madonna of the Chair and La Velata, Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid and Rubens’s The Consequences of War.

Day 2: San Marco, Bargello, Bardini Garden and Rose Garden

The second day you can start your visit with the convent of the Museum of San Marco. San Marco is one of the most beautiful museums in all of Florence; nevertheless, it remains a place few tourists visit.

The museum preserves the spaces of the Dominican convent, which was completely restored in the first half of the fifteenth century by the architect Michelozzo thanks to the considerable funds made available by Cosimo the Elder de’ Medici. Once the new convent was built, the Dominicans entrusted the decoration of the interior to a fellow monk, the painter Fra Angelico. The artist decorated the friars’ cells with frescoes. He painted a beautiful Annunciation at the entrance of the dormitory and embellished the Chapter House with a scene from the Crucifixion.

What to do in three days in Florence
Fra Angelico, Lamentation over dead Christ, San Marco, Florence.

The Bargello

Another art historical gem that is a must see is the Bargello Museum. It is one of the most important museums of sculpture in the world and is housed in the palace, built by the captain of the people between the  thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and subsequently by the chief magistrate of Florence; it was also used as a prison over the centuries. Some of the most famous sculptures of the Renaissance are housed in the museum. You can’t miss the Bacco sculpted by a young Michelangelo and  the Bust of Brutus and Tondo Pitti also by Michelangelo. In the same room on the ground floor, you will find the poignant Bust of Costanza Bonarelli by Bernini and Mercury by Giambologna.

The hall of the fifteenth century is on the first floor and houses the most important works from the Florentine Renaissance. Here you can find Donatello’s bronze David and his Saint George created for the church of Orsanmichele. Next to the tabernacle of Saint George, you can see the two panels depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac created by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi in 1401 for the famous contest for the northern door of the Baptistery of the cathedral of Florence. Don’t forget to visit the second floor to admire The Lady with the Flowers by Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo’s teacher.

After a lunch break, you can cross the Arno River and spend the afternoon exploring two of Florence’s most beautiful gardens.

Bardini Garden and Rose Garden

The Bardini Gardens can be found on a hill between the Boboli Gardens and Piazzale Michelangelo. They were transformed from a vegetable garden into an English garden in the nineteenth century; at that time a spectacular slope was built with a baroque staircase and a view onto the city. The owner of the gardens and the villa was the famous Stefano Bardini, an important antique collector and art dealer who was active in Florence at the end of the nineteenth century.

I recommend that you take a walk in this garden for the stunning view it provides and to spend a little time surrounded by nature. If you are in Florence in the springtime, don’t miss the unique experience of walking under the wisteria-covered  trellis.

Towards evening you can go up to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the spectacular sunset over the Arno and the rooftops of Florence. I suggest walking through the Rose Garden on your way up. This garden was designed during the period when Florence became the capital of Italy; it is a terraced garden and it is unique not only for its breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding hills but also for its large variety of roses. Piazzale Michelangelo is just a couple of minutes further up.

What to see in 3 days in Florence
The view on Florence from the Rose Garden

Day 3: Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella

I suggest visiting two of Florence’s most important churches on the third day before your departure.

You can dedicate this day to discovering the churches founded by the two most important mendicant orders to arrive in Florence during the Middle Ages.

The Santa Croce neighborhood is dominated by the square of the same name and the Basilica of Santa Croce, founded by the Franciscan Friars at the end of the thirteenth century. This neighborhood was home to poor workers employed in the processing of wool but also to merchants and bankers.

Florence in 3 days
Santa Croce Basilica in Florence.

During the Middle Ages the decoration of the church chapels was commissioned and financed by the wealthiest families of the neighborhood and employed the most important artists of the period. For example, we have the chapel of the Bardi family and the Peruzzi family decorated with frescoes by Giotto and the Baroncelli Chapel decorated by Giotto’s pupil Taddeo Gaddi.

Over the centuries, the church became the place where the most notable people were buried and whose graves were decorated with the most important sculptures and art works: take a look at the tombs of the Renaissance sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, Leonardo Bruni’s, humanist and politician, and the tombs of Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei. In the nineteenth century the church became the burial place for many important Italians, Italy’s Pantheon: remember the tomb of Vittorio Alfieri, created by Antonio Canova, the tomb of Gioachino Rossini or Dante’s cenotaph. During your tour, you can admire the large crucifix by Cimabue, restored after it was damaged in the flood of 1966.

The last stop on the tour is Santa Maria Novella. Already in 1211, the Dominicans began designing the construction of the current basilica in an area that was outside the city walls. The construction lasted centuries, until the design and creation of the facade in the middle of the fifteenth century, by Leon Battista Alberti, which was financed by the rich merchant Giovanni di Paolo Ruccellai.

Things to see in 3 days in Florence
Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Alberti’s facade is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. The architect used rational and geometric models of classical art to create a new and original composition based on the harmony of shapes and colors. I suggest that you enter the church to see the other masterpieces of Florentine art. In fact, inside you can find Giotto’s large, painted crucifix, the Tornabuoni Chapel completely frescoed with Stories of the Virgin by Ghirlandaio, the Strozzi Chapel with frescoes by Filippino Lippi, and the Strozzi Chapel of Mantova with a fresco by Nando di Cione which depicts  scenes from hell inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Masaccio’s fresco of the Trinity deserves special attention, where the artist puts the invention of Brunelleschi’s perspective into practice in his work. Also, don’t miss the various cloisters and chapels of the church convent where you can see other frescoes and richly decorated rooms from the Middle Ages.

How much will I spend in 3 days in Florence?

The high season in Florence, when prices are the highest, is spring and summer. Prices vary depending on the season: a room in a three star hotel during high season can cost as much as 250 Euro. Prices in fall and winter are considerably lower.

Concerning meals, lunch in an average restaurant costs 25-30 Euro a person and dinner 35-40 Euro.

Do you want to visit Florence in 3 days? If you are looking for a licensed tour guide you are in the right place. Contact us to book a tour!