This blog post was originally shared fall of 2014:
What to do in Florence with only three days is a tough decision, but if you’re willing to rise early and put your walking shoes on. You can see a lot more than you would probably expect and still have time for a GELATO break (or two)!
For starters it’s important to have an ideal location in Florence to make use of your short time in this magical city. I highly suggest using AIRBNB to find a local flat as I did, that was less than 5 minutes from the train station and had a lovely private garden in the back, plus I was less than 30 minutes walking distance from almost any major attraction. Including Piazza Michelangelo, and that says a lot since it’s a hike up hill, but worth it for one of the best views of Florence only second to the top of Florence’s Duomo (to each their own on which is their favorite view ;).
After you have an ideal location, it’s time to make use of the location by waking up before or at sunrise. Now I know a lot of you are saying, “yeah right”, but if you truly want to see Florence in its most magical state when only the locals are awake and are headed to work, opening their shops, or some just making their way home. Waking up to see Florence at sunrise was my favorite time to see the city so silent without hoards of tourist. This is HIGHLY recommended during the peak summer months as Florence can slightly turn into a zoo. Now in the winter months like November when I went it’s not necessary, but it is still truly an experience. Even if you only do it one of your three days.
For a morning view as I mentioned Piazza Michelangelo is beautiful for sunrise and sunset, and then you can see a lesser known church, Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte just behind Piazza Michelangelo that has an equally stunning view and graveyard worth checking out, but take note it doesn’t open until 8am. Once you’re done taking in Florence from above, it’s time to head down. Since you’re already on the “cool” side of Florence, you can wander down through where the locals live. I say “cool” because the north bank with Florence’s Duomo is heavily touristic and the south side has more of a local charm that is sometimes bypassed. Places to visit are: Volume library cafe for coffee, Gusta Pizza for pizza, and just on the south side of Ponte Santa Trinita for an ancient water fountain. After checking those spots out it’s time to make your way back over to the north bank across the must see Ponte Vecchio bridge. On the north side there is much to see including most museums, Basilica of Santa Croce church, and of course shopping down Via Roma and Via de Tornabuoni.
Now if you were able to fit all that into one day, for your next two days you have to see Florence’s Duomo and go to the top, I recommend going in the morning to avoid long queues and wasting time. You can visit one of the must see museums: Museo Galileo, and have to try a few of Florence’s delicious restaurants such as: Mosotodolce pizza and beer, La Carraia gelato, Brac locals spot for lunch, and Caffe degl’Innocenti for authentic inexpensive Italian breakfast.
Lastly, incase you’re an Instagram addict like I am. I recommend following my friend Tiana, @TIANAPIX ON INSTAGRAM for beautiful images of Florence that’ll have you counting down the days until your trip. And for your copy and paste convenience, below is a cliff notes version to-go.
AIRBNB in city center Visit:
Florence’s Duomo (inside and atop)
Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte church
Basilica of Santa Croce church
Piazza della Signoria outdoor museum
Ponte Vecchio bridge and Ponte Santa Trinita bridge
MOSOTODOLCE pizza and beer
LA CARRAIA gelato
BRAC for lunch
Caffe degl’Innocenti authentic inexpensive breakfast
Have a wonderful time in Florence! I’ll look forward to hearing about your time in one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. :)