How to spend a weekend in Florence and what to see?

A weekend in Florence? Fantastic idea! What about seeing Florence in a weekend in the footsteps of one of the most important Italian artists, Michelangelo Buonarroti?

There is nothing better than a weekend break in Florence, so you will find here a complete itinerary for a weekend in Florence dedicated to life and work of the famous artist.

According to this weekend itinerary of Florence your arrival to the city is scheduled for Friday afternoon with the departure on Sunday after lunch.

A weekend in Florence in search of Michelangelo’s art will take you to some of the most famous museums in the city, such as the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. There you will admire the original David sculpted by the young artist. At the same time you will get to know less famous museums, very often forgotten by visitors, such as the Casa Buonarroti and the Bargello. These collections will allow you to learn more about Michelangelo’s life, his ambitions and plans for the future. The itinerary will also allow you to better understand Michelangelo’s relationship with the Medici family thanks to the Medici Chapels, where Michelangelo designed a funerary chapel. Finally, you can pay homage to the artist at his tomb inside Santa Croce Basilica.

So, do you want to spend a city break to Florence? I will give you some suggestions on how to organize a weekend in Florence.

Come with me! Let’s discover Michelangelo’s life together during a weekend in Florence!

Florence in a weekend: Tracing the footsteps of Michelangelo

There are a lot of things to do in Florence in a weekend. But where to start your weekend in Florence? If you have decided to follow Michelangelo’s footsteps in town, there is no a better place where to begin your adventure than the famous Piazzale Michelangelo.

The Florentine Piazzale Michelangelo is a panoramic terrace designed by Giuseppe Poggi in the 1860s. The square is part of the project of the so-called Viale dei Colli, conceived by Poggi as “the most beautiful promenade in the world”. The avenue runs through the hills south of Florence joining the Porta Romana with the Arno River. The Piazzale was dedicated to the most famous Florentine artist. In fact, Poggi wanted to place copies of the Michelangelo’s works in the loggia on the Piazzale, changing the square into an open-air museum.

The Loggia now houses a coffee bar and the only copies of Michelangelo’s works located in the Piazzale are the David and the copies of the four allegories of Night, Day, Dawn and Dusk from the funerary monuments of the Medici Dukes in the New Sacristy.

Today Piazzale Michelangelo is the most popular panoramic point. From here you can take wonderful pictures of the centre of Florence.

Day 1: Bargello

Saturday morning you can start your adventure with Michelangelo’s art at the Bargello.

The Museo del Bargello hosts the statue Bacchus, a work from the early years of the artist’s activity made in 1497 during the artist’s first stay in Rome. Michelangelo’s first stay in Rome is linked with the figure of Cardinal Riario,  the most important collector of antiquities active at that time in Italy. Riario felled victim of a fraud arranged by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, cousin of Lawrence the Magnificent.

Michelangelo’s statue representing a Sleeping Cupid was first buried underground, then “miraculously” discovered and pass off as a Roman original. Cardinal Riario bought the statue without any suspects. The excellence of Michelangelo’s art managed to confuse his expert eye. However, with the passing of time he was reached by the gossip of a possible fraud. Truly upset, the Cardinal decided to meet with the artist whose art deceived him. Michelangelo left Florence for Rome for the first time in his life. During his stay in the Eternal City he sculpted the Vatican Pietà and the Bacchus.

The statue of Bacchus represents Michelangelo’s first attempt to imitate the Roman models of statues representing the classical deities. The god of wine Bacchus is represented as a young man, completely naked, standing in a pose that imitates the classical contrapposto. This composition was used in the Classical art and features a standing figure, with the weight on one of the leg, the opposite knee moved forward and the whole body in rotation. The composition of Bacchus will be a starting point for Michelangelo’s following project, the statue of David.

The collection of the Bargello includes other masterpieces by Michelangelo like the Tondo Piti, the unfinished David-Apollo and the portrait of Brutus.

The museum houses also:

  • the Bust of Costanza Bonarelli by Bernini
  • the Perseus by Giambologna
  • the bronze David by Donatello
  • Saint George by Donatello
  • the David by Verrocchio
  • the Lady with the Flowers by Verrocchio
weekend in Florence, Italy
Michelangelo, Bacchus, 1497, Bargello Museum, Florence.

Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Via del Proconsolo, 4
Opening hours:
08:15 – 13:50 (Monday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday; and the 1st,3rd and 5th Sunday of every month)
08:15 – 18:50  (Saturday)
CLOSED: Tuesdays, 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month, 25 December
Tickets:
Adults: 9 euro
EU youths 18-25 years old: 2 euro
under 18 years old: free

Galleria dell’Accademia

After the visit at the Bargello you can go to the Galleria dell’Academia to see the original statue of David and Michelangelo’s Prisoners.

Michelangelo’s David doesn’t need an introduction. This is the most iconic work ever made by the artist. The statue of David was commissioned by the Cathedral authorities and the statue was supposed to decorate the most important church of Florence. This commission prospected a true breakthrough in the artist’s career. Michelangelo worked at David for three years, between 1501 and 1504.  When he revealed the statue to the public, the Florentine people simply fell in love with it. The allegory of young David winning against the powerful enemy Goliath became for Florence an allegory of their political struggle with the Medici family. This was the reason why the people of Florence decided to place David in Piazza della Signoria as the symbol of the Republican virtue.

At the Galleria dell’Accademia you will also see the four Prisoners by Michelangelo. These are his unfinished works designed probably for the tomb of the Pope Julius II. The funerary monument for Julius II probably was Michelangelo’s most troubled project. It was commissioned in 1505. The pope wanted to be commemorated by a monumental monument to be placed inside Saint Peter’s Basilica. Initially he asked the artist to design an independent architectonical structure decorated with 40 statues distributed all around the four facades on the three levels of the monument.

Michelangelo worked at this project for 40 years. In the meantime this very ambitious design was being reduced. In the end a much more sober monument was placed in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome. Because of the reduction of the number of statues needed for the tomb, many figures were left unfinished. The four Prisoners today displayed at the Academia were found after Michelangelo’s death in his deposit of marbles here in Florence. They were donated by Michelangelo’s family to the Medici and the Dukes placed them inside Buonatellenti’s Grotto at the Boboli Gardens.

what to see in a weekend in Florence
Michelangelo Buonarroti, David (copy), Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Galleria dell’Accademia
Via Ricasoli, 58/60
Opening hours:
Tuesday-Sunday 8:15 am-6:50 pm
Closed every Monday, on 1 January and on 25 December
Tickets:
adults: 12 euro + 4 euro booking fee
EU youths 18-25 years old: 2 euro + 4 euro booking fee
under 18 years old: free + 4 euro booking fee

Book your guided tour at the Galleria dell’Accademia:

After the visit at the Galleria dell’Accademia you can stop for the lunch.

Casa Buonarroti

After lunch you can discover Santa Croce neighbourhood where Michelangelo’s family used to live. Here, in fact, you can visit the Casa Buonarroti.

Here in fact you will find the Casa Buonarroti, Buonarotti’s house, a Palace built already after Michelangelo’s death of Michelangelo, in part thanks to the money he earned during his life. It was Michelangelo’s nephew to inherit his uncle’s money after the death of the artist in 1564.

The construction of the Palace which stands here today started in 1612. This new magnificent residence for the Buonarroti family was supposed to glorify the memory of their illustrious ancestor. This is why the main room of the palace was decorated with the scenes representing Michelangelo’s life.  This decoration was made by the best artists active at that time in Florence: Artemisia Gentileschi, Domenico Passignano, Cristofano Allori and others.

The collection of the museum includes some of the artworks from the very first years of Michelangelo’s artistic activity. At the museum you will find his Madonna of the Stairs and the Battle of the Centaurs, both works sculpted by a very young sculptor who exercised by copying Donatello and the Roman sarcophagi.

things to see in a weekend in Florence
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Battle of the Centaurs, ca. 1492, Casa Buonarroti, Florence.

Casa Buonarroti
Via Ghibellina 70
Opening hours:
Wednesday-Monday: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Closed on Tuesdays, 1 January, Easter Sunday, 15 August, 25 December
Casa Buonarroti tickets:
Adult: 8 euro
Reduced: 5 euro

Santa Croce

You can end this day at Santa Croce rendering homage to Michelangelo at his tomb.

Michelangelo died in Rome on the 18th of February 1564. The artists wanted to be buried in Rome because Florence, ruled by the Medici family since 1530, wasn’t his home anymore. Yet, Cosimo I, the Duke of Tuscany, had a different idea! He wanted to use Michelangelo’s death for the promotion of his own position and power. He managed to convince Michelangelo’s nephew to bring the body of the artist to Florence. The Medici organized the artist’s funeral at San Lorenzo Basilica, the centre of the Medici’s power in the city.  It was a funeral worthy of a prince. The celebrations lasted two days but the body of the artist was then buried at Santa Croce, in Buonarroti’s parish church.  

Michelangelo’s tomb was designed by the most important artist in service of the Medici family, Giorgio Vasari. The decoration of the tomb unites the three arts in which Michelangelo exceeded all the other artists: painting with the painted drapery on the wall; architecture: with the architectonic background for the statues; sculpture: with Michelangelo’s bust and the three allegories sitting below the sarcophagus. The three allegories represent in fact, those three arts, Painting, Sculpture and Architecture who cry the loss of the master.

At Santa Croce Basilica you can also see:

  • tombs of Galileo, Macchiavelli, Gioachino Rossini
  • the Bardi and the Peruzzi chapels frescoed by Giotto
  • the wooden crucifix by Donatello
  • the Cavalcanti Annunciation by Donatello
  • the Baroncelli chapel frescoed by Taddeo Gaddi
  • the painted crucifix by Cimabue hardly damaged by the flood of 1966
  • the Pazzi Chapel
  • the refectory with the Last Supper by Taddeo Gaddi

Basilica di Santa Croce
Piazza Santa Croce, 16
Opening hours:
Monday-Saturday: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm
Sunday and religious festivities: 12:30 pm – 5:45 pm
Tickets:
Adults: 8 euro
Reduced: 6 euro
Free: children under 11 years old

Day 2: A Sunday in Florence starting with the visit of the Medici Chapels

What to do in Florence on Sunday? The things to do in Florence on Sunday are a lot.

On your Sunday in Florence, the second day of your weekend in Florence, you can continue your adventure with Michelangelo’s art at the Medici Chapels.

The Medici chapels are a funerary complex of the Ducal family located at San Lorenzo Basilica. One of the funerary chapels there, the so-called New Sacristy, was designed by Michelangelo for the two popes from the Medici family, Leo X and Clement VII.  The two popes were Michelangelo’s friends. Michelangelo, Giovanni de’ Medici (pope Leo X) and Giulio de’ Medici (pope Clement VII) met as teenagers, when Michelangelo was beginning his artistic career with the support of Giovanni’s father, Lawrence the Magnificent. As he also belonged to a patrician family, he soon became friend with the two younger members of the Medici family. Giovanni became pope in 1513, Giulio in 1523.

The idea of a new funerary chapel for the Medici was born during Giovanni’s pontificate. Leo X wanted to glorify the memory of the two members of the family who were the first ones to receive the Ducal titles: Lorenzo Duke of Urbino and Giuliano Duke of Nemours.  

Michelangelo designed the architecture of the chapel and the two tombs, which reflect the different characters of the two Dukes. Lorenzo, full of thoughts, sits above his sarcophagus and below him the Dawn is waking up while the Dusk falls asleep. On the other side Giuliano is ready to get up from his stall, set to lead another battle. On his sarcophagus the Night and the Day reflect the clear and decided attitude of the Duke.

The New Sacristy is one of Michelangelo’s most interesting projects that unites sculpture and architecture in one coherent design.

Cappelle Medicee
Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini, 6
Opening hours:
Wednesday-Saturday and Monday: 8:15 am – 6:50 pm
Sunday: 8:15 am – 1:50 pm
Closed on Tuesdays and 25 December
Tickets:
Adults: 9 euro (+ 3 euro for the booking fee)
EU youths 18-25 years old: 2 euro (+ 3 euro booking fee)
under 18 years old: free

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

After the visit at the Medici Chapels you can continue your Sunday in Florence and meet with Michelangelo inside of the Cathedral Museum, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

The museum holds one of the last sculptures made by Michelangelo, his Bandini Pietà. Michelangelo started to work on this statue thinking about his own tomb. In fact, this Pietà was supposed to decorate Michelangelo’s funerary monument.  This is why this is one of the most personal works ever made by the sculptor.

Because the statue had to express Michelangelo’s faith and his own feelings, he decided to place his self-portrait in the face of Nicodemus who gives Jesus’ dead body to the Virgin. This way he represented himself as a faithful follower of Jesus, full of love and compassion.

Unfortunately the marble chosen for this work resulted to be very hard and Michelangelo had difficulties in actually working in it. One day he simply took a hammer and full of frustration started to destroy the sculpture. The statue was bought by Francesco Bandini, a sculptor and architect.

Bandini hired young  Tiberio Calcagni who restored the statue and added the figure of Mary Magdalene holding Jesus’ body.

The Pietà was bought from Bandini’s descendants by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo III and placed inside the Florentine Cathedral. From there it reached the collection of the museum in 1981.

At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo you will also find:

  • the bronze doors from the Baptistery
  • Mary Magdalene by Donatello
  • the silver altar dedicated to Saint John the Baptist
  • the sculptural decoration of the bell tower
  • the cantorie by Luca della Robbia and by Donatello
what to do in a weekend in florence
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Bandini Pietà, ca. 1547-1555, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence.

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo, 9
Opening hours:
Monday-Sunday: 8:30 am – 7:45 pm
Closed on the first Tuesday of the month.
Tickets:
cumulative tickets for the Duomo Complex: Ghiberti Pass 15 euro per person, Giotto Pass 20 euro per person, Brunelleschi Pass 30 euro per person
Reduction for youths and children.

After your lunch break and a bit of shopping you can conclude your weekend in Florence!

How to spend a weekend in Florence?

What to do in Florence in a weekend during your free time from the museum visits?
First of all, you have to do some shopping! Florence is famous for its leather workshops, jewellery shops and artisan activities.
During your weekend gateway in Florence, don’t forget to try some of the typical Tuscan dishes while you’re in Florence, pasta with wild boar souce, the lampredotto or the famous Florentine T-bone steak. If you spend a weekend in Florence in the winter you will have a chance to try the dense vegetable soup called ribolita. In the summer instead you can enjoy the fresh tomato served as pappa al pomodoro, thick tomato cream soup.

For your aperitivo you can try the Negroni. It’s a typically Florentine drink created for the first time at Caffè Casoni in via de’ Tornabuoni for the Count Camillo Negroni. Count Negroni used to order his americano with gin instead of traditional Selz and this is how he created a new drink!

During a Florence weekend you have to try also our ice-cream! But which are the best ice-cream places? Here is your guide for the best ice-cream in Florence!

Weekends in Florence: Itinerary with a MAP

A weekend in Florence: Costs and average Florence prices

The prices of a stay in Florence vary throughout the year. November, December, January, February and March are undoubtedly the cheapest months. Spring and summer are the most expensive seasons.

In winter, a double room in a 3-star hotel costs around 100 euros. In June the same hotel can cost 150 euros per night.

For cheap food in Florence, you can have a lunch in a trattoria with an appetizer and a first course. It costs about 25 euros per person. For a 3-course dinner in a restaurant in the centre you have to budget around 40-45 euros per person.

Do you want to follow Michelangelo’s footsteps and learn about the life and art of this exceptional artist?

Do you want to visit Florence in a weekend without missing out on the best of the city in company of an expert tour guide?

Contact me for your guided tours in Florence!