What to see in Florence in one day?
You’re planning your trip to Florence but you will have very little time? Florence is one of the most important art cities in Italy and to visit it properly you need time, but even in one day, if you make wise choices, you can be captured by the beauty of the city you can visit the most important sights and pass a wonderful day! In this article I will show you what to see in Florence in one day with a walking itinerary and a map.
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Visit in Florence? Here is what you can see in 24 hours!
If you arrive to Florence by train, you will find yourself immediately in the centre of the city. If, instead, your travelling by car, you can park outside of the city, at Villa Costanza parking lot, and arrive to the centre with by tram.
Another option is the parking lot in Piazzale Montelungo, located behind the main train station Santa Maria Novella.
You can start your visit in Piazza Stazione, in front of the train station.
1 stop: Piazza Santa Maria Novella
From the main station Santa Maria Novella you can go to the square with the same name, Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Here you will see the magnificent Dominican Basilica with the same name.
From the outside you can admire the façade of the church designed in the mid-15th century by Leon Battista Alberti. This façade can be considered the first Renaissance façade in the history of European architecture. In his project Alberti used many elements inspired by the Roman architecture. In fact, the upper part of the façade, with the four pilasters supporting the triangular coronation called tympanum, recalls a portico of a Roman temple.
Morever, the decoration of the façade with the geometrical compositions made with the colourful marbles, resembles the Florentine Baptistery, that you will soon see in Piazza Duomo.
2 stop: Santa Maria Maggiore
From Piazza Santa Maria Novella you can start walking towards Piazza Duomo. You can walk along via de’ Banchi and via de’ Cerretani. In via de’ Cerretani you will pass next to Santa Maria Maggiore church, the first church dedicated in Florence to Virgin Mary. This church dates back to the 8th or the 9th century. Inside, at the end of the right nave you can admire a 13th-century icon, a work of Florentine artist Coppo di Marcovaldo. If you see that the church is open, simply walk in!
3 stop: Piazza Duomo
When you arrive in Piazza Duomo you will find yourself surrounded by the most sacred monuments in the city.
The octagonal building in front of the Cathedral is the Baptistery dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. It is one of the most ancient temples of Florence. We don’t even know when it was exactly built but we think it dates back to the 8th or the 9th century. In the following centuries the Baptistery was uplifted and surmounted with a dome. This dome was decorated on the inside starting from the 1230s with the magnificent mosaics representing the Last Judgment and the scenes from the New and the Old Testament.
The three pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery, decorating the south, north and east walls of the Baptistery, were made by the best artists active in Tuscany between the 14th and the 15th centuries. Today the originals are kept at the Cathedral Museum. At the Baptistery you will find the copies.
The south door is the most ancient of the three. It was made during the 1330s by Andrea Pisano. The bas-reliefs decorating the door represent the Life of Saint John the Baptist and the figures of the virtues.
The two other doors were made by Lorenzo Ghiberti. In 1401 the artist started to work on the north door. In his compositions Ghiberti pictured New Testament stories. As soon as this door was ready Ghiberti was immediately commissioned the next pair. 1425 he started to work on the so-called Gates of Paradise, the door inserted on the east side of the Baptistery, in front of the Cathedral. This door one of the major masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance. Ghiberti designed ten big compositions representing the Old Testament stories and each bas-relief pictures multiple episodes.
4 stop: Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
In front of the Baptistery you can admire the monumental Cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Flower, Santa Maria del Fiore. The construction of this immense church started in 1296,when Florence was about to hit the record of its demographic development with hundred thousand inhabitants. The new Cathedral substituted a much smaller church dedicated to Saint Reparata, built in this site already in the 5th century.
The first architect of the new cathedral was Arnolfo di Cambio. After his death the works passed in the hands of the famous painter Giotto, who focused on the construction of the bell tower.
Subsequently, Francesco Talenti, who managed the construction site from 1349, decided to enlarge Arnolfo’s project. His ambition created many problems with the construction of the dome.
IMPORTANT: The entrance to the Cathedral is free. If you visit Florence in the low season, between November and March, you can visit the church without any difficulty. However, if you come to the city between April and October, you will find long queues in front of the Cathedral. DON’T LOSE YOUR TIME! The interior of the church is vast, but almost completely empty! The frescoes painted inside the dome by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari are highly evocative. However, today most of the treasures, which once used to decorate the cathedral, are preserved at the Cathedral Museum! So DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! It is not worth waiting two hours in the queue to see the Cathedral for free.
Is there a better way how to discover the Cathedral and its history? Yes!
5 stop: Climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome
The best way how to discover the complex of the Florentine Cathedral is to climb the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. Remember, however, to book your tickets for the dome in advance once you arrive to the town the tickets will be sold out. You can book the tickets here: https://operaduomofirenze.skiperformance.com/en/store#/en/buy
You have to choose the type of the ticket first. For the climb to the top of the dome you will need the “Brunelleschi pass”. It costs 30 euro per person. Then you select the date of your visit, the time slot for the climb, the number of the ticket and you pay. You will receive the tickets on your email. The bar codes on your tickets will open the turnstiles at the various monuments.
The view from the top of the dome is definitely one of the best views on Florence. This visit allows you also to discover the structure of one of the most impressive European architectures. The dome was designed in 1418 by Filippo Brunelleschi and until today this is the biggest dome in masonry in the world. The constructive solution that Brunelleschi implemented to his dome was completely innovative at that time. Brunelleschi’s dome is a double-shelled structure. It means that there are two domes, one inside of another. The two domes are joined together by a system of internal ribs. Thanks to this solution, Brunelleschi got rid of an internal scaffolding, called centering, which was traditionally used as support of the bricks. The Florentine dome is a self-supporting structure. Thanks to the double-shelled structure the dome could resist against the gravity forces during its constrution, without a support of an internal scaffolding.
The visit to the dome is probably one of the most exciting atractions in Florence!
A little tip: If you didn’t manage to book your tickets for the dome, you can climb the bell tower instead. The ticket for the bell tower is called “Giotto Pass” and it costs 20 euro per person. No booking of a time slot is needed at the bell tower. You can climb it whenever you want.
Important: the tickets to the monuments of the Cathedral complex are valid 3 days from the day or your fist visit. With the ticket for the dome you can also climb the bell tower, visit the Cathedral Museum, the Baptistery and the archaeological site below the Cathedral. To visit the cathedral and the archaological site you enter the church through the door on the south wall, next to the bell tower.
6 stop: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo – the Cathedral Museum
If you arrive to Florence early in the morning, before your lunch break you will be able to visit the Cathedral Museum. The museum is located behind the Cathedral and in Italian it is called the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
It is one of the most interesting museums in Florence. Inside you will find:
- reconstruction of the first façade of the Cathedral
- original bronze doors from the Baptistery, the one by Andrea Pisano and the two Ghiberti’s doors
- silver altar dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, which used to decorate the Florentine Baptistery
- two balconies for the choir, called the cantorie, which used to hang inside of the Cathedral. They were both made during the 15th century by the famous Florentine sculptors. The cantoria with the images of happy children, singing and dancing was made by Luca della Robbia. The second one, which features a crazy parade of the putti is a masterpiece by Donatello.
- Donatello’s Mary Magdalene
- Michelangelo’s Pietà Badini
7 stop: walk in the medieval centre of Florence
After lunch you can lose yourself between the medieval streets in the best preserved medieval part of the centre between Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. If from via del Corso you turn in Via Santa Margherita you will discover Dante Alighieri’s neighbourhood.
Today one of the towers in this neighbourhood hosts Dante’s House Museum. Don’t think that Dante was born or ever lived in this tower. We don’t precisely know which house belonged to Dante. His real house didn’t survive to our times. However, in this little corner of Florence we are surrounded by the places that the poet knew verywell.
In fact, just around the corner there is another tower, the so-called torre della castagna, a place where the priors ruling Florence used to gather and vote. Dante occupied the office of the prior for two terms in his life, thus he visited this tower many times. In front of the tower you can see the small oratory of the Good men of Saint Martin, the Buonuomini di San Martino. This oratory still belongs to a confraternity that provides aid for the poor. Their mission didn’t change since the 15th century.
Via Dante Alighieri will bring you towards Piazza dei Cimatori. If you keep walking straight, you will reach Orsanmichele. Today Orsanmichele is a church, but it has a really strange form. In fact the building was built to host a wheat and flour market. It became a church only during the 14th century. The four façades of the church were decorated with the statues commissioned by the Florentine guilds. The statues represent the patron saints of the Florentine professional corporations called Arti. The statues were made by the most famous artists of the time. The figure of Saint George, for example, was made by Donatello.
Today on the façade of the church you can see the copies of those artworks. The originals are kept in the museum.
8 stop: Piazza della Signoria
Via Calzaioli will bring you directly to Piazza della Signoria. Until today this is the civic centre of Florence. The monumental Palazzo Vecchio is until today our city hall.
The construction of the palace started in 1299. It was built as the seat of the government of the Republic of Florence. Its architect was Arnolfo di Cambio, the same one who designed the new Cathedral for the city.
Next to Palazzo Vecchio stands the so-called Loggia dei Signori or the Loggia dei Lanzi. During the Middle Ages this structure used to host public celebrations.
Today in the square you can admire some of the biggest masterpieces of Renaissance scultpure. The statues displayed in the square are (starting from the figure on the right of the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio):
- Hercules and Cacus by Baccio Bandinelli (original)
- David by Michelangelo Buonarroti (copy)
- Judith and Holofernes by Donatello (copy)
- Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (original)
- Horse monument for Cosimo I de’ Medici by Jean de Boulogne called Giambologna (original)
The statues (all originals) displayed under the Loggia dei Lanzi are (from left to right)
- Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini
- figure of a lion by Flaminio Vacca
- an original Roman statue of a lion
- Rape of the Sabine Women by Jean de Boulogne called Giambologna
- Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi
- Patroclus and Menelaus – a roman work
- Hercules and Nessus by Jean de Boulogne called Giambologna
- Roman female figures called the “Sabines” and the “Defeated Germany“
9 stop: Uffizi Gallery
In the afternoon you will still have time to visit the Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi are the most important museum in town. If you enter to the museum around 3:00 pm, you will have time for a relaxed visit.
The complex of the Uffizi was built as a seat of the government of a new state, Duchy of Tuscany, created by Cosimo I de’ Medici in the mid-16th century after his military victories against Pisa and Siena.
The building was designed by Giorgo Vasari and the works started in 1560.
Already the Medici family started to gather inside of the Uffizi their collections of art. However, it will be the Habsburg Lorraine dynasty to change the destiny of this building. The Habsburgs took over the power in Tuscany in 1737. In 1769 they transformed the Uffizi into a public museum and gathered inside Medici’s collections of art and the artistic treasures transfered here from the religious institutions suppressed by the Ducal family.
During your visit to the Uffizi, remember to find these 15 works:
- La Maestà by Giotto
- Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano
- Portrait of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza by Piero della Francesca
- Primavera by Botticelli
- Birth of Venus by Botticelli
- Calumny by Botticelli
- Sacred Allegory by Giovanni Bellini
- Annunciation by Leonardo
- Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo
- Tondo Doni by Michelangelo
- Madonna with the Goldfinch by Raphael
- Portrait of Eleonora di Toledo by Bronzino
- Venus of Urbino by Tiziano
- Medusa by Caravaggio
- Bacchus by Caravaggio
If you visit Florence in the high season, between April and October, remember to book the tickets for the Uffizi Gallery in advance. The only official webshop of the Florentine state museums is this: https://www.b-ticket.com/b-Ticket/uffizi/
10 stop: Ponte Vecchio
After the visit at the Uffizi you can have a walk on Ponte Vecchio to see the only medieval bridge of Florence which survived World War 2. It’s a 14th-century bridge built as a market bridge. During the Middle Ages the shops on the bridge were butchers. Thanks to the Medici family the destination of the shops changed in 1589. In fact from the late 16th century, until today on the bridge you will find jewelry shops. The Medici built also their private corridor, that runs above the shops on the bridge. The corridor, just like the building of the Uffizi, was designed by Giorgio Vasari. In fact, we call it Vasari’s corridor. This linked the Uffizi with Pitti Palace and the ducal family used it every day to cross the river without being seen.
11 stop: Piazza della Repubblica
On the way to the train station you can stop for a little break, an aperitivo or a snack at Caffè Gigli in Piazza della Repubblica. This square used to be the centre of Roman Florence, as here the Romans located their forum. Unfortunately this area was deeply modified during the 19th century.
12 stop: Palazzo Strozzi
Walking from Piazza della Repubblica towards the station you will pass next to Palazzo Strozzi. This enormous residence was built by Filippo Strozzi. Filippo’s father, Palla Strozzi, was the richest man in Florence at the beginning of the 15th century, and the major political opponent of the banker Cosimo the Elder de’ Medici. Today Palazzo Strozzi hosts numerous cultural institutions, art galleries, libraries and research institutes.
Itinerary for your 1-day visit in Florence [with a MAP]
This is the map for the itinerary for your one-day trip to Florence that I described here.
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How much time you need to visit Florence?
For a proper visit of the most important monuments in Florence you need at least a week. You could even move here for a month and you would always have something new to discover. However, you have only one day you can cover the itinerary art I described here in about 10 hours.
Half-day trip to Florence?
If you want to visit Florence in half a day, then try to follow the same itinerary without entering to the museums. You can discover the centre of Florence walking from Piazza Santa Maria Novella towards Piazza Duomo, then through the medieval centre until Piazza della Signoria, Piazzale degli Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. If you still have time, you can cross the Arno river and see from the outside Pitti Palace, Santo Spirito church and explore the Oltrarno district.
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