What to see in Florence in one day. Walking itinerary from Santa Maria Novella to Santa Croce, through the most characteristic neighborhoods of the Tuscan capital.
Florence has always been one of my favorite Italian cities of art. Elegant, rich in history and culture, lively. A city that was the cradle of the Renaissance and which gave birth to great artists, from Dante to Boccaccio, from Michelangelo to Brunelleschi to Leonardo da Vinci. A city that step by step makes you dream of returning to the glories of the Medici era. A city on a human scale, where you can stroll without haste and get lost in the less crowded alleys.
The historic center of Florence is a real bonbonnière and can be easily visited even with little time available, because the various attractions are quite close to each other and easily reachable on foot. Today I therefore recommend a one-day itinerary that touches all the main points of the city.
Florence in one day: what to do and what to see
1. Church of Santa Maria Novella
The first stop on our itinerary to discover Florence in one day can only be the Church of Santa Maria Novella, just a few steps from the railway station of the same name. The facade in my opinion is one of the most beautiful in the city, with a Romanesque style and decorated with white and green marbles that draw geometric shapes. And the interior is no exception, between the Giotto cross on display and the very green cloister. Think that Michelangelo, speaking of this church, used the name “my bride” to emphasize its beauty.
2. Discover the San Lorenzo district
San Lorenzo is one of my favorite neighborhoods. Here you can breathe the Florence of the Medici, the merchants and the people. Take your time to browse the Central Market and to shop among the stalls selling items in leather and leather jackets. And walk with your nose up so as not to miss a detail of the elegant Renaissance palaces, from Palazzo Medici Ricciardi to the Medici Chapels to the Basilica of San Lorenzo, which in the past was the cathedral of the city and which today is very recognizable due to its unfinished façade. .
3. The Renaissance complex of Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo is an open-air museum. A triumph of Renaissance majesty and beauty. From the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Opera Museum to the Baptistery of San Giovanni to Giotto’s Bell Tower. All collected in a few steps. There is not one element that predominates over the others and the buildings are in perfect harmony. The façade of the Cathedral is richly decorated in every part, from the rose windows to the entrance portal, while the interior in my opinion is a bit disappointing, it lacks that warmth and those soft colors that I would expect from a sacred place.
The Baptistery, on the other hand, is simply beautiful both inside and out, and it is no coincidence that one of the entrance portals is known as the “gateway to Paradise”. The interior is a triumph of mosaics and frescoes in golden shades, which almost seem to shine with their own light.
And finally, Giotto’s Bell Tower, considered the most beautiful in Italy. Almost 85 meters high and 15 meters wide, white, red and green marble for a geometrically perfect construction
If you want to see Florence from above, you can choose between the Brunelleschi Dome of the Duomo, the largest dome in the world, and Giotto’s Bell Tower. I opted for the first option and, despite the effort and the almost crawling climb in the last meters to accommodate the slope of the dome, I must admit that the view is crazy. Obviously, do it only if you are not afraid of the over 450 steps and if you are not claustrophobic.
4. Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
Piazza della Signoria is the heart of historic Florence, where hundreds of tourists flock to every hour of the day and evening. An L-shaped square overlooked by one of the city’s symbolic buildings: Palazzo Vecchio. Built in the fourteenth century, today it is the seat of the administrative power of Florence and can also be visited inside, where the imposing Salone dei Cinquecento is located. In front of Palazzo Vecchio you can also admire the Fountain of Neptune and the perfect copy of Michelangelo’s David (the original is kept in the Accademia Gallery), while on the side you can see the Loggia dei Lanzi which houses other splendid statues such as the bronze Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini.
5. Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most important art museums in Italy and in the world and it is unthinkable to go to Florence without visiting it. Founded by Francesco I de ‘Medici in 1581, today it houses a collection of works by painters from the twelfth to the eighteenth century, from Giotto to Botticelli, from Raffello to Michelangelo and many others. A visit that can leave even the most insensitive ones speechless. My favorite rooms? Those dedicated to Botticelli, in which there are “The Birth of Venus” and “The Spring”, two of my absolute favorite masterpieces. And the room with geographical maps and the mathematics room, where various scientific instruments of the time are exhibited, are also quite interesting, as well as curious.
The only drawback of the Uffizi Gallery? The endless queue every day and at any time, but to overcome this problem I will give you some advice later.
6. Ponte Vecchio
From the Uffizi we continue our one-day itinerary in Florence with another must see: the very famous Ponte Vecchio, which connects the two banks of the Arno and which is the undisputed symbol of the city in the world. This is the first bridge built with a structure with lowered arches, a solution that made it possible to have only three spans but much wider than usual, so as to preserve the bridge itself from debris carried by any floods.
Ponte Vecchio is undoubtedly one of the most romantic places in Florence, where you can stroll gently hand in hand, stopping from time to time to admire the shop windows and observe the flowing river.
7. Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
Crossing Ponte Vecchio you arrive on the left bank of the Arno, in the so-called Oltrarno area, perhaps one of the most authentic and authentic in Florence. With a few steps you are immediately in front of Palazzo Pitti which, despite its name, is a huge museum complex. In fact, it includes the Palatine Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery and the Costume Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Carriage Museum and the Porcelain Museum and finally the rooms of the Royal Apartments. You understand, therefore, that in a one-day itinerary it is unfortunately not feasible to think of visiting the interiors, unless you remove other stages or focus only on some sections. By organizing well, however, it is possible to take a nice walk in the Boboli Gardens, the green heart of Florence, a wonderful example of an Italian garden, commissioned by the Medici and then completed over the centuries by the Lorraine and Savoy families. Elegant and refined, embellished with statues, fountains and caves, the garden rises along the Boboli hill to offer an unmissable view of the city from above. Since 2013 it has also been registered as a World Heritage Site.
8. Neighborhood of Santa Croce
The Santa Croce district was the most pleasant discovery of my second time in Florence and therefore I decided to include it right on this itinerary. The central point is the square overlooked by the Basilica of Santa Croce which, if you have time, I recommend you visit. Inside, in fact, there are frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of the likes of Michelangelo and Machiavelli. And that’s not all. In fact, the church belongs to the complex of the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce, which also includes the Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi. Therefore, consider at least a couple of hours for a complete visit.
Then stroll through the streets, full of excellent trattorias and artisan shops that recall the trades of the past (framers, antique dealers). Here time really seems to have stopped and you will see that it will be very pleasant to browse here and there without being surrounded by too many tourists.
Here we are at the end of this itinerary to visit Florence in one day. With more time available, you can also visit the other districts without haste, enter all the attractions I mentioned and discover for example little little known gems such as the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (which I personally love!), But also a just one day is enough to fall madly in love with the city. I think I’ll be back shortly for the third time in a few years. I leave you now some practical information.