48 Hours: Florence transports visitors to Renaissance through its art, architecture

Posted October 6, 2023


FLORENCE, Italy – From the wise words of Gustave Flaubert, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” And this is what it feels like to walk through the cobblestone streets of Florence, the beautiful country where one will find themselves transported to a time when art, architecture, and innovation thrived during the Renaissance. The magnificence of Michelangelo’s David and the intricacies of Brunelleschi’s dome are living testaments to human creativity. By talking to locals, you can learn how passionate Italians are about enjoying the simple things in life, like sipping espresso in a café or having lively talks with animated hand gestures. These 48 hours in Florence will teach you a very important lesson: national identity isn’t just about keeping the past alive; it’s also about loving the present with all your heart.

Florence Cathedral, or the Duomo, is one of the architectural highlights of Florence (Photos by Vivianne Martell).


Experience Florence from the Top of the Duomo — 12 p.m.

Start your Florence adventure by visiting the beautiful Florence Cathedral, commonly referred to as the Duomo. This architectural masterpiece features an iconic dome that dominates the city’s skyline, and its intricately detailed marble façade is a sight to behold.

However, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes because, to experience the interior of the dome up close and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of Florence it offers, you’ll need to climb 463 steps, as there is no elevator available.

As you make your way up, you’ll have the unique chance to explore the inside of the dome and admire Giorgio Vasari’s magnificent frescoes depicting the Last Judgment.

Once you reach the top of the Duomo, take this opportunity to embrace the beautiful 360-degree view of Florence, revealing its historic beauty. You’ll see the red-tiled roofs of centuries-old buildings, narrow winding streets, and the stunning architectural landmarks that define the city. The Duomo’s vantage point allows you to appreciate iconic landmarks such as the Florence Cathedral itself, Giotto’s Campanile (the bell tower), and the Baptistry of St. John, all set against the backdrop of the Tuscan hills.

The interior of the Florence’s Duomo offers Renaissance art for visitors.

As you walk along the top of the Duomo, the serpentine Arno River flows through Florence, and you’ll have a clear view of its meandering path, with charming bridges like the Ponte Vecchio spanning its width.

The view from the top of the Florence Cathedral’s Duomo is a remarkable experience and one not to be rushed, offering a glimpse into the rich history and stunning beauty of this Italian Renaissance city. It’s a view that captures the essence of Florence and its timeless charm. To fully enjoy this experience, it’s advisable to allocate approximately two hours, including the climb, exploration, and any potential waiting time in line to start your ascent.

Savoring Italian Artistry — 2 p.m. 

After ascending the Duomo’s stairs, take a moment to unwind and savor the flavors of Italy at the highly acclaimed ‘Du Pizzeria,’ a charming hidden gem. At Du Pizzeria, you can indulge in a delectable selection of pizzas and pasta dishes. This culinary gem is conveniently located just a short six-minute stroll from the Duomo. In many European cities, you’ll find yourself walking more than the average American, making a hearty meal essential to maximize your few hours in Florence. Remember, good food fuels great adventures!

Exploring Florence’s Artistic Treasures — 4 p.m.

After a delicious Italian meal, embark on a quick nine-minute walk to The Uffizi Gallery.

Arriving at the gallery at this point is crucial because it’s when the gallery is less busy, providing you with the perfect two-hour window needed to fully appreciate the beautiful artwork before the museum closes at 6:30 p.m.

“The Birth of Venus” by the Italian painter Sandro Botticelli, probably completed in the mid 1480s, is a highlight of the Uffizi Gallery.

The Uffizi Gallery, home to one of the world’s most impressive art collections, encompasses Greek and Roman statues and drawings. Its organized layout ensures easy exploration, with the Italian Renaissance section standing out as the highlight.

Here, you’ll encounter masterpieces by renowned artists such as Botticelli (“The Birth of Venus” and “La Primavera”), Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, all of which pay homage to Florence’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. To enhance your experience and avoid lengthy queues, consider purchasing a Firenze Card. This card grants access to various museums for 72 hours, and it’s worth noting that booking with your Firenze card is required only for the Uffizi Gallery. As such, it’s recommended that the Uffizi be your first museum to visit. Arrive at Door 3 of the Uffizi 15 minutes before your scheduled time to ensure a smooth entry.

An Evening of Cocktails and Music — 7 p.m.

Before heading to dinner, take a moment to pause and savor the beauty of Florence. Visit Caffe Concerto Paszkowski, located in the Piazza della Repubblica, just a six-minute walk from the Uffizi Gallery. Here, you can enjoy a unique cocktail experience, such as their twist on classic Italian cocktails like the Negroni, all while immersing yourself in the ambiance of live Italian music.

A Late-Night Italian Feast — 9 p.m.

Italy is known for its tradition of late meals, and dinner is no exception; it can be as late as 11 p.m., depending on the season. This stems from the desire for family members to wait for each other to return from work and enjoy a meal together. To cap off your busy day in Florence, indulge in the amazing food at Trattoria Za Za. This charmingly named restaurant not only offers delightful Italian cuisine but also iconic dishes featuring truffles, such as truffle chicken and truffle pasta. Embrace the Italian way of dining by savoring your meal without haste; relish the pasta, sip on fine wine, and order the delightful Italian dessert specialties like Tiramisu that Za Za has to offer. Given its popularity, it’s recommended to call ahead and reserve a table to avoid the lengthy line of tourists hoping for a seat at any time of the day, because yes, it’s that good.


Michelangelo’s David and Renaissance Art — 9 a.m.

Start your day bright and early with a stroll to the Accademia Gallery. Along the way, stop at one of the local bakeries to get a quick pastry and a cup of coffee to keep you going on your morning trip. Consider getting there around 9 a.m. to avoid crowds and get the most out of your visit.

A residential neighborhood of Florence.

If you possess a Firenze Card, make sure to utilize it for entry. Begin your journey with a profound encounter in front of Michelangelo’s David, a masterpiece that exudes awe and invites you to immerse yourself in its intricate details. Take your time to appreciate the artistry of this renowned sculpture.

As you explore further, dive into the extensive collection of Renaissance art that graces the gallery’s halls, including an array of paintings, sculptures, and musical instruments.

Don’t miss the dedicated section showcasing historical musical instruments, providing a unique window into Florence’s cultural heritage. Take a moment to unwind in the serene courtyard, and if you’re interested in souvenirs or art-related items, explore the gallery’s gift shop.

Hands-On Pasta-Making Adventure – 12 p.m.

Where better in the world to immerse yourself in the art of pasta-making than in the heart of Italy itself?

Florence boasts a variety of cooking classes that offer you the chance to truly connect with the culinary traditions of the region. Embrace the spirit of Italy’s home cooks, including the wise Italian nonnas, by rolling up your sleeves and getting hands-on with the ingredients.

These three-hour cooking classes will transform you into a pasta-making maestro, guiding you through the creation of two delectable pasta dishes and even indulging in the magic of crafting gelato.

And, of course, the culmination of your efforts is a delicious feast where you get to savor the fruits of your labor. Located near the Florence Central Market, Florencetown Cooking School is your gateway to this authentic culinary adventure.

A Vista of Florence – 3 p.m.

After your pasta-making class, take a leisurely stroll to Piazzale Michelangelo, a destination that promises a captivating experience for visitors seeking panoramic views of Florence’s historic cityscape. As you climb to this hilltop square, the reward is nothing short of a breathtaking vista that embraces Florence’s architectural marvels, including the majestic Florence Cathedral (Duomo), the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge, and the graceful Arno River meandering through the city’s heart. While you may have already had the chance to see the real David earlier in the morning, the square’s centerpiece—a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David—stands as a testament to Florence’s rich artistic heritage. Take a moment to soak in the scenery and capture memorable photographs against the backdrop of this captivating cityscape. You can even choose to sit and enjoy the view for a while, staying to watch the beautiful sunset that usually takes place at around 7 p.m. With its tranquil park, proximity to attractions like the San Miniato al Monte Basilica, and the charm of its surrounding cafes, Piazzale Michelangelo is undoubtedly a must-visit destination in Florence.

One of the artist dishes served at Acqua Al 2 in Florence.

Steak and Surprises – 9 p.m. 

After a fulfilling day filled with iconic art, the joy of learning a new pasta-making skill and witnessing one of Florence’s most captivating sunsets at Piazzale Michelangelo, it’s time to enjoy your final dinner in Florence.

Acqua Al 2 awaits you with a classic Italian menu that boasts unique dishes, including their renowned blueberry steak. While traveling, embracing culinary adventures is essential, so consider stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring different items on the menu.

Dare to take the risk and order the steak sampler, which features the tantalizing blueberry steak, a flavorful balsamic steak, and a classic Florentine steak. Acqua Al 2 embodies the essence of Italian cuisine, offering you a fitting and memorable farewell dinner in Florence. And don’t forget to stop by Gelateria La Carraia for some late-night gelato to sweeten your evening further.


Exploring the Iconic Ponte Vecchio — 9 a.m.

The world-famous Ponte Veccio crosses the river in Florence.
The world-famous Ponte Vecchio, a national landmark, crosses the Arno River.

Begin your final hours in Florence with a walk along Ponte Vecchio, one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks. This historic bridge is famous for its shops, particularly jewelry stores.

Enjoy the serene morning atmosphere and take in the views of the Arno River, its tranquil waters mirroring the bridge’s graceful arches.

From here, you can appreciate the city’s picturesque skyline. While strolling along Ponte Vecchio, take a moment to admire the craftsmanship displayed in the jewelry boutiques that line its sides.

These shops, steeped in tradition, showcase finely cut gemstones and exquisite goldsmithing, offering a glimpse into Florence’s rich jewelry-making heritage.

Discovering Florence’s Historic Town Hall — 11 a.m.

Head to the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s historic town hall, where you can embark on a captivating exploration. Inside, you’ll discover art-filled rooms that transport you through the city’s rich history. Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the tower, which rewards you with panoramic views of Florence’s stunning cityscape. As you enter Palazzo Vecchio, take a moment to admire the sculptures of Adam and Eve, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David, and the impressive Hercules and Cacus. The square surrounding Palazzo Vecchio is equally magical, featuring the Loggia dei Lanzi, the Fountain of Neptune, and the grand equestrian statue of Cosimo I. This vibrant area is also home to unique shops, offering a glimpse into the diverse shopping experiences that Florence has to offer.

Savoring the Last Moments in Florence’s Charm — 12 p.m.

As noon approaches, you’re bound to work up quite an appetite. While your time in Florence is ending, there’s one culinary experience you simply can’t miss: savoring a delicious panini from the renowned All’Antico Vinaio. As you relish your final moments in the enchanting city of Florence, seize the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the moment and appreciate all the beauty it has to offer.

If You Go

  • Caffe Concerto Paszkowski, location: Piazza della Repubblica, Florence.
  • Trattoria Za Za, location: Florence.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo, location: Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence.
  • Gelateria La Carraia, location: Florence.
  • Ponte Vecchio, location: Ponte Vecchio, Florence.
  • All’Antico Vinaio, location: Florence.