48 Hours: Florence’s magic dominates in its many museums, cathedrals, piazzas

Posted November 17, 2022


FLORENCE, Italy — Ah, Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance, located in the heart of Tuscany. Florence is known to be one of the most magical cities in the world, attracting tourists every year for its romantic art, breathtaking architecture, rich history, incredible food, delicious wine, and one-of-a-kind leather. Its unique, classical artistry is prominent on every wall, corner, and piazza with notes of romanticism filling every narrow street. Let the sporadic live music set the stage as this dated city sweeps its visitors off their feet, like a real-life romantic movie.

The architectural beauty of Florence has made it a world-class tourist and study abroad destination (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Korner).

Friday Afternoon

Experience the beauty of Florence’s crowned jewel, the exquisite Duomo located in the city’s center. Walk through Piazza della Republica to enjoy live music in the square, watch children play on the merry-go-round, and participate in some impromptu dancing.

Head through Piazza della Signoria and let the timeless Renaissance sculptures take your breath away. The Fountain of Neptune, the replica of The David, and many more quintessential Florentine sculptures are displayed under the arches of Loggia Dei Lanzi.

Friday Evening

Cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and window shop at the glistening jewelry on the way to Piazza Michelangelo for sunset. Stop in any Conad for a cheap bottle of wine to sip during the sunset. If you ask, the clerk will remove the cork at the register.

The Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence (Photo courtesy of Ansgar Sheffold).

Enjoy the emerging nightlife on a walk along the glistening Arno to arrive at La Buchetta for an Italian-style late dinner. This cozy Florentine restaurant is known for its Gnocchi Angeli e Demoni and 16th-century wine window. The gnocchi is a must-have! Pro tip: make a reservation in advance on their website, labuchetta.com

Luckily, the best gelato in Florence is right around the corner. Stop by Gelateria Di Neri to pick up the best $3 dessert you’ll ever have. Pro tip: take your gelato for a walk down Via Dei Neri for some amusing late-night people-watching.

A gelato is a popular way to enhance an evening stroll in Florence (Photo courtesy of Juliana Malta).

Saturday Morning

Start the morning Italian-style with an espresso and croissant from John Borno. This classic cafe draws both locals and tourists for its outdoor seating, friendly bartenders and delicious pastries. Their pistachio croissants and cinnamon coffee are crowd favorites. Don’t forget to say, Buon Giorno!

Walk down Via Pietrapiana to appreciate some local Florentine stomping grounds. Mercado di Sant’Ambrogio is approximately a seven-minute walk from John Borno and is always bustling with life on Saturday mornings.

Enjoy incredible thrifting, cheap Italian-made basics, beautiful jewelry, fresh fruits and vegetables, and not a word of English!

The most authentic outdoor market in Florence offers shopping and groceries outside and little restaurants and specialized food counters on the inside.

From the market, walk towards the Arno until the beautiful Santa Croce Church comes into view. It’s easy to recognize, as the colors are the same as the Duomo in the center. Enjoy a tour of the oldest church in Florence and be sure to people-watch on the benches surrounding the piazza.

Saturday Afternoon

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most prominent art museums in the world. Leave plenty of time to wander the endless gold-brimmed hallways and rooms filled with glistening jewels, jaw-dropping sculptures, and mesmerizing paintings. Pro tip: grab an espresso e spuntino at a cafe before you go– a bit of caffeine with a small snack to sustain your tour.

About a block away from the Uffizi is the home of the best panini in Florence, All’antico Vinaio. The fresh focaccia bread that comes straight from the oven just before the panini is made makes waiting in the semi-obnoxious line worthwhile. Pro tip: spicy salami (optional for vegetarians), potato spread, sweet onion, stracciatella cheese, truffle spread, spicy eggplant, arugula, and drizzled honey– in that order.

Saturday Evening

Aperitivo is a classic Italian rite of passage, a pre-dinner drink to whet your appetite. Head to View On Art, a rooftop bar overlooking the Duomo for an array of cocktails, wines, peanuts, good music, and an unbeatable view.

Visitors gather to watch a sunset in Florence (Photo courtesy of Heidi Kaden).

Head back over to the locals stomping grounds for the best spaghetti al pomodoro in town at Il Giova. Married couple Lucilla and Roberto have owned their hole-in-the-wall trattoria for years and the family-run kitchen is always bustling. Waiting for a table? The street is packed with six bars that bring crowds of Italians to congregate in the streets. Grab a beer and enjoy Florence like a true local.

Sunday Morning

Start the walk over to the Pitti Palace, the official residence of the Medici family during the 16th century. The magical Boboli Gardens and breathtaking views of the city are sure to inspire wild perceptions of life as a Medici during the Florence Renaissance. Be sure to explore the winding paths, fountains and hidden spots amongst this vast landscape.

Continue walking along the edges of Florence through the Rose Garden and up the stone stairs towards the surrounding churches. Stop by the koi pond on your way up and take time to walk through the Porte Sante cemetery and Porte Sante garden. Both are particularly stunning.

Finish off the Florentine experience with the best pizza in the city. Guilio Bistrot and Wine Bar is a classic spot for locals and tourists alike, with friendly staff who are always having fun. If that’s not enough, the wine bar just so happens to be a mere 25 feet from the Duomo. Pro tip: The best-selling Diablo Pizzais a must-have.

If You Go

  • The major cathedrals, landmarks, and piazzas are their own address, simply type the full name of any cathedral, landmark, or piazza into Google Maps or Apple Maps.
  • Piazza del Duomo
  • Piazza della Republica
  • Piazza della Signoria
  • Ponte Vecchio
  • Piazza Michelangelo
  • La Buchetta — Via De’ Benci, 3/3a
  • Gelateria Dei Neri — Via Dei Neri, 9/11R – closes at 12 a.m.
  • John Borno — Via Guiseppe Verde, 73/75r – opens daily at 7 a.m.
  • Mercado di Sant’Ambrogio — Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti – open 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. every day except Sunday
  • Santa Croce Church — Piazza di Santa Croce, 16 – Tickets are available at the ticket office of the monumental complex or online for 8 dollars with discounts for children, families, journalists, disabilities, and religious affiliates. Radio guides are available to rent.
  • Ufitzi Gallery — Piazzale delgi Ufitzi, 6
  • All’antico Vinallo — Via dei Neri, 65r
  • View On Art — Via dei Medici, 6
  • Il Giova — Borgo la Croce, 73R
  • Pitti Palace — Piazza de’Pitti, 1
  • Rose Garden — Viale Guiseppe Poggi, 2
  • Porte Sante — Via Delle Porte Sante, 34
  • Guilio Bistrot and Wine Bar — Piazza del Duomo, 35r