• Meghan Bartok

How to have the best day in Florence, Italy!

Updated: Jul 23

Back in 2016, I had the opportunity to visit Florence for just ONE day. Everyone I knew who had visited Florence had absolutely loved it, so I couldn't pass up visiting. I knew I had to make the most of it, so I packed in as much as I could. I ended up having an amazing time. If you have the opportunity to spend one day in Florence, please, take it! Florence is a pretty compact city and easily explored on foot. One day is enough time to see the highlights; and to plan for your return trip, because trust me, you will leave Florence already dreaming of your next trip back!


Florence's airport is quite small and easy to navigate. When I was there, it didn't take too long to get through immigration and figure out how to get into the city center. When I visited (Spring 2016) the bus was the quickest way to get into Florence. You can still take the bus - tickets are €6 one way and the journey is around 20 minutes. You can buy tickets onboard but make sure to have exact change as the bus driver does not give change.


However, as of 2019, there is now a tram that takes you from the airport to the city center in 15 minutes. This is now what I would recommend! Tram tickets are only €1.50, although if you have big suitcases, you will also need to purchase a ticket for them. Make sure to validate the ticket in the yellow readers located near the doors as soon as you board, otherwise you can be fined.

Once you've made it to Florence, I would highly suggest making a stop for gelato one of the first things you do. It wouldn't be a good trip to Italy without gelato!


After arriving at my hostel, I immediately set off to find some gelato. Luckily there was a shop right down the road from my hostel - you'll definitely be able to find one close to your accommodation pretty easily!


My favorite flavor is the stracciatella. It was recommended to me by my friend Bridget while I was in Rome. Stracciatella is just cream-based gelato with chocolate shavings mixed in, but it is oh so good. I always get a scoop of this and then try another new flavor – you can never go wrong!


One of the most memorable parts about my trip to Florence was seeing the Duomo for the first time - seeing it at night without swarms of tourists was priceless. I poignantly remember hearing a street musician playing classical Italian music as I was staring up at the Duomo, and that was just such a “wow, I’m really in Italy” moment. When you come to Florence, you should definitely try to see the Duomo early in the morning before all the day-trippers get there, or at night once everyone goes home. Trust me, it is a much different experience than seeing it during the day! After seeing the Duomo, I headed back to my hostel to rest up for the only full day I had in the city.

I had three main things I wanted to accomplish whilst I was in Florence, so the first thing the next morning I was off the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David. Despite getting there incredibly early, I still had to wait for over an hour, which was made a bit better by the presence of the sun – not too hot yet in March! David was definitely worth it though – so much larger than I expected, and something I’m definitely glad I took the time to do. If you have no real interest in seeing the real statue, there is a replica in the Piazza Della Signoria that comes without the long lines!

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Il Duomo


The next item on the Florence ‘bucket list’ was to try panini con lampradetto, which I had heard was traditional Florentine street food. Overall, not too bad – slightly reminiscent of beef on weck, except made with calf stomach. Just don’t think about it, trust me. In an effort to conserve time, I chose not to climb to the top of the Duomo, and instead admired it in the daylight while eating my lunch. The rest of my afternoon was spent wandering around and just enjoying the sun and the fact that I was in Italy. I also got mistaken for being Italian several times, which is always comforting to know you don’t immediately stick out as a tourist.

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View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo


The last thing to do was to watch the sunset from the Piazzale Michelangelo. This was such a trek, but 100% worth it, especially with a slice of pizza for fuel as you walk (if you’re wanting to conserve your energy, there is a bus that runs up the hill to the Piazzale). If you know one thing about me, it’s that I live for sunsets, and this one definitely ranks in the top 10 best sunsets I’ve seen. The view over Florence is incredible, and seeing the sunset as all the lights twinkle on is absolutely magical – definitely putting this one on the list of dream places to be proposed to, so future spouse, take note!


I ended my night with nothing other than another cup of gelato – my personal rule for Italy is that you must not waste a day without getting gelato! Florence was incredibly beautiful, and my 37 hours there were definitely not enough, although, with the compactness of the city, I do feel it is the perfect place for a weekend getaway!


My trip

My stop in Florence was part of a two-week trip through Europe with my sister Allison. On this trip, we visited Venice, Munich, Salzburg, & Budapest, before ending our trip with a trip to the Harry Potter Studios in London. I decided to add a stop of my own beforehand in Florence. The flight was cheap, and I could easily get a train to Venice to meet Allison.


Practical advice

Getting there:

By Air: Florence's airport is quite small and easy to navigate. When I was there, it didn't take too long to get through immigration and figure out how to get into the city center. When I visited (Spring 2016) the bus was the quickest way to get into Florence. You can still take the bus - tickets are €6 one way and the journey is around 20 minutes. You can buy tickets onboard but make sure to have exact change as the bus driver does not give change.


However, as of 2019, there is now a tram that takes you from the airport to the city center in 15 minutes. This is now what I would recommend! Tram tickets are only €1.50, although if you have big suitcases, you will also need to purchase a ticket for them. Make sure to validate the ticket in the yellow readers located near the doors as soon as you board, otherwise you can be fined.


Accommodation:

I stayed at the Ostello Archi Rossi, which was great! It was around €20 a night for a bed in a dorm room. Private rooms start at around €65 per night. All stays include free breakfast (a real breakfast, not just cereal and toast!), and it's in a great location about 10 minutes from the Duomo and the museums, and about 5 minutes from the Santa Maria Novella train station. My favorite part was the outdoor terrace, which was a great place to enjoy a glass of wine (sold right at the front desk!) and a book. I would definitely stay here again on a return trip to Florence.


If you would rather stay in a hotel, you can find a nice one for around €120 per night. Airbnbs are also a great option while you are visiting Florence. For a private room in someone's house, expect to pay around €60, and for an entire apartment, rates average at €100.


Safety:

.One of my favorite parts about traveling in Italy is that there are still people out eating, walking, and socializing at 10 pm. I felt perfectly safe walking alone as a female, but as always, it's important to be aware of your surroundings.

Check out the Italy page for more inspiration, and let me know what your favorite gelato flavor in the comments!

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