2 days in Florence, Italy: a perfect itinerary

2 days in Florence, Italy | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here’s a quick itinerary for spending 2 days in Florence as a first-time visitor. I’d recommend a longer trip if you want to explore more of the wider Tuscany region, because there’s a wealth of other beautiful places to see like Siena and Lucca. But if you’re focusing just on the city itself, 2 days in Florence is about right to see the main sights and get a feel for the place.

So settle down with a glass of vino (a chianti from Tuscany, preferably) and enjoy picking what you like the look of from this itinerary for getting the most out of 2 days in Florence…

2 days in Florence itinerary: day 1

Go and say hi to Big Dave the Galleria dell’Accademia

If you’re in Florence with the aim of meeting David, this section is for you. 

With only 2 days in Florence to work with, I’d recommend planning your viewing of Big Dave carefully as you don’t want to waste time queuing when Florence is especially busy. You can avoid this by booking skip-the-queue tickets (like this one for about £15 per person) or a private tour with a specialist guide (like this one for just under £60 per person). This is one of those annoying expenses to organise before you go, but worth it so that you don’t miss out or waste valuable holiday time.

The Galleria dell’Accademia is fairly small, you’ll be unlikely to spend more than an hour there unless you’re an enormous art buff.

David is obvs the star of the show but there are also some unfinished works (also by Michaelangelo) that you should have a look at too.

Walk through the leather market (Mercato San Lorenzo)

Florence’s famous outdoor leather market is worth passing through to experience the hustle and bustle and to take some photographs, even if you don’t want to make a purchase. There are rows and rows of leather belts in every colour, leather jackets flapping in the breeze, and stalls selling every size and shape of leather bag imaginable. 

I have absolutely no idea what makes good leather or not (I avoid buying animal products), but apparently San Lorenzo is one of the best places to get a leathery bargain. You’ll need to know what to look out for and be prepared to haggle if you don’t think the price is right, same as any market.

San Lorenzo Market is open Tuesday to Saturday.

Head into the Mercato Centrale for lunch

Right next to the outdoor San Lorenzo Market, you’ll find the Mercato Centrale, a wonderful two-floor indoor market where you can buy food to eat in or to take away. This was one of my favourite things in Florence and it’s worth setting aside a decent chunk of time to browse and eat. It’s geared towards tourists, but isn’t that expensive and the locals do frequent it too.

The ground floor is full of traditional market stalls selling produce that you can take home or buy for a picnic, such as bottles of olive oil, fruit and veg, and charcuterie.

Upstairs on the first floor, you’ll find a hipster food hall with stalls cooking freshly prepared food to order, and long, beer-hall style tables to sit at. Naturally, there are fairy lights and it makes for a lovely setting to photograph to try to capture the atmosphere.

Most of the vendors focus on meat and cheese options – typical Italy – but there are plenty of alternatives available, for once! If you’re struggling to find a variety of vegan or veggie options in Florence, or if you’re a bit tired of eating Italian cuisine and fancy some sushi, this is a good place to go. There’s a wood-fired pizza stall serving veggie options and the burger stall did a nice vegan burger. If you do eat meat, you’ll find Florence’s well-known dish, lampredotto, for a decent price. 

As well as food, there’s a stall serving local wines and beers, and another doing fancy coffee that goes well with one of the delicious cakes or my personal favourite pastry, cannolo

Mercato Centrale is open from 10am till midnight every day.

Take in the tiles at the Duomo (aka Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)

After lunch, it’s time to head to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo as she’s more commonly known.

Florence’s Duomo definitely gives my personal favourite duomo, Milan’s, a run for its money. It’s covered in gorgeous green and white marble, much like an on-trend Pinterest bathroom.

Its whopping terracotta-tiled Renaissance dome towers above the city and makes for a great backdrop to the piazza it sits in. Like with many old buildings, I prefer to exterior to the interior. But if you want to go inside, the Duomo is free to enter. You may have to queue, but it was moving quite quickly when I was there so this isn’t too bad. You have to pay to go into the Duomo’s various museums and rooms, though. This includes the bell tower and the underground ruins beneath the cathedral.

If you’re going to do anything there, I’d recommend tackling the climb (sorry in advance) either up the cupola (the dome itself) for views of the city or up the bell tower for views of both the cupola and the city. What European city break would be complete without knackering yourself out going up a hideously gruelling staircase for a view? You’ll burn enough calories to make up for all the gelato you’re inevitably going to consume…

Have a gelato at Rivareno Gelato

Speaking of gelato, it would be rude not to sample one to reward yourself for all the climbing up the Duomo.

The best gelato I found in Florence was from Rivareno Gelato. They had a surprisingly wide vegan selection and we still talk about the amazing dark chocolate one even now. They even did vegan pistachio, which I normally find really hard to hunt down anywhere. Honestly, I’d write home about this place. Or perhaps mention it on a mildly popular UK-based travel blog. Ahem.

Rub the boar’s nose for luck at the Fontana del Porcellino

The Fontana del Porcellino features a big bronze boar sat casually over the world’s least spectacular fountain (more of a puddle). But who needs a proper fountain when you have a boar to meet?

You’ll notice his nose is very shiny and worn. This is because legend has it that if you rub his nose, you’ll be guaranteed to return to Florence one day. An easier way to guarantee this is going to the EasyJet website, but I do enjoy a local legend and this boar is definitely that.

Head to La Ménagère for evening drinks and meal

As soon as I saw La Ménagère when walking past on our first day, I knew I had to eat there. It’s very unlike me to go off plan from restaurants I’d already researched before a trip but OMG, this place was so pretty it lured me in. After a quick check on TripAdvisor that it wasn’t style over substance, we managed to get a table.

I recommend you go in here with your camera/phone fully charged because EVERYTHING is so gorgeous and photogenic. It’s a ‘concept space’ – it has a shopping area selling homewares, a beautiful bar, a florist, and a stunning restaurant area with tall ceilings decorated with amazing lampshades. The menu is small, but there’s a meaty/pescatarian/veggie/vegan option for each course.

I’m not going to lie, both the food and the cocktails were on the pricy side. But it was good quality and worth it for the experience and atmosphere, which gets livelier later on as it fills up with locals coming for drinks. If you’re going to have a bit of a fancy night in Florence, this is a good bet.

2 days in Florence itinerary: day 2

Spend the morning at the Uffizi Gallery

This is one of the oldest art galleries in the world. Not gonna lie, I’m into modern and contemporary art, whereas the Uffizi collection is almost all older works of art. So it wouldn’t normally be my cup of tea at all, but I thought I’d give it a go.

Even if you’re not into art at all, you’ll recognise one of the most famous pieces that lives in the Uffizi, Botticelli’s masterpiece ‘The birth of Venus’. You know, the one with the naked lass stood in a big shell. Yes, that. It’s a huge painting, so seeing it in real life is the polar opposite experience of seeing the teeny Mona Lisa. Really impressive. It’s worth going just for that.

There’s a lovely rooftop café where you can have a mid-morning drink and a rest from wandering round the art, too.

You can book tickets in advance on the official Uffizi website; 20€ for an adult. Like most things in central Europe, it’s shut on Mondays.

Lunch at Li x Li

For a tasty, quick and cheap lunch, you can’t go wrong with little local haunt Li x Li. Completely unpretentious and down-to-earth, this is the kind of Italian institution I love finding. The owner seemed to know everyone in there by name – a really lovely atmosphere. 

The menu is (from what I recall) pasta or panini, all homemade. I think it was about 8€ each for a drink and a lunch-sized portion of fresh pasta. Lovely stuff.

Browse the jewellery shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge

After lunch, make your way to the nearby Ponte Vecchio. This is the city’s oldest bridge, dating back to Roman times, which is why it’s one of the most photographed sites in Florence (note that you can’t really photograph it well while crossing it because it’s so busy, but more on photo opportunities shortly!).

The Ponte Vecchio has three arches and two wide arcades on each side, crammed full of higgledy-piggledy jewellery shops.

If you’re feeling spendy and want to treat yo’self, this is where you can buy gold. It’s a tourist hotspot, so the jewellery fetches eye-watering prices. But the city only permits 18ct gold and above, so H. Samuel eat your heart out. Just make sure you do loads of research into the jewellery shops to ensure that you’re not wasting your money. If you want a recommendation, the internet seems to suggest that S. Vaggio is meant to be one of the good’uns.

If you’re not up for splashing the cash, the Ponte Vecchio is still a good place to have a mooch and a window shop. I love yellow gold, so I was in my element browsing the windows. So often, jewellery shops are more into white gold and silver, which aren’t my thing at all. The same goes for slim and minimalist pieces… no thanks. There’s very little of that on the Ponte Vecchio; they don’t hold back on multiple stones surrounded by diamonds. More is always more, I say.

Stroll through the Piazza della Repubblica

I love having a people watch in a piazza when in Italy.

Once home to Florence’s Roman Forum, the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica later became a place for artists and intellectuals to meet, as well as a marketplace and commercial centre of the city. Today, it’s a bustling hub with a permanent carousel going and plenty of people milling about. When it’s all lit up at night, it’s a good place to sit with a drink and watch the world go by.

There are restaurants but like any piazza-based restaurant, they’re aimed at tourists and I wouldn’t recommend paying those prices – I’d rather go somewhere a bit more tucked away without the price tag. My other half was also poisoned by one of them in 2006, a story that was relayed multiple times over our time in Florence. If you want to hear it in great detail, drop me an email and I can pass it on to him to get back to you with the full essay.

Have a wine in a hidden rooftop bar with the best views of Florence and the Duomo

This is one of the only places you can enjoy a view of the Duomo close up, of course with a wine in hand too. Not many people seem to know about it and we were the only tourists there when we went. It was full of locals having a wine after shopping, and none of them seemed bothered about getting a table with a front-row view of the Duomo, so I was able to pounce on one.

Here’s how to find this hidden gem. Go into La Rinascente [Google maps link], a posh department store in Piazza della Repubblica. Head up the escalator as far as you can, then up the stairs that look like they could just go to a fire escape. It’s not obvious nor signposted, but bear with me. This isn’t a tragic Debenhams café, I promise.

At the top of the stairs, you’ll find a waiter ready to find you a table in Caffé La Terrazza. If you’re as lucky as I was, you’ll be able to nab one with uninterrupted views of the Duomo.

Note that I’m recommending you have a wine here only. I wouldn’t recommend eating, other than the bread and dips provided, as the reviews seem pretty dire. But just look at that view! The wine was delicious too.

Go to Piazzale Michelangelo for panoramic views of Florence at golden hour 

Across the river from the city centre, Piazzale Michelangelo is the best place for panoramic views of Florence, taking in the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio as well as a sea of terracotta rooftops and to the left, the ruins of the old city walls.

The piazzale is set on a hill above the south bank of the Arno River, which you can easily walk up. It takes about 25 minutes from the city centre. I’d recommend going early evening or whenever just before sunset is, depending on the time of year, for the best photograph opportunities. The piazzale itself is mainly a carpark with a few stalls selling tourist tat; it’s all about the view.

Just below the main viewing point, there’s a restaurant/bar with a terrace, where you could stop for a drink against the best backdrop imaginable. 

Enjoy an evening meal at Enjoy Restaurant

See what I did there? Enjoy. Yes, I’m here all week. 

Enjoy was very close to where we were staying, and it was a good place for our final night so that we could easily get back to the hotel. I wasn’t expecting it to be so good for such good value. Simple, homemade food in a little family-run restaurant slightly out of the way. Bliss. Because it’s quite off the beaten path, we were the only tourists in there and it felt very special.

The pasta dishes were spot on and the cheesecake was perfection, so much so that I forgot to photograph it.

If you want to stay longer than 2 days in Florence…

Well, that’s it for my 2-day Florence itinerary. But you’re staying in Florence longer, you can do some day trips out into the surrounding Tuscan towns and countryside.

I’d really recommend doing a day trip to Siena from Florence, so go and have a look at my post on that.

Lucca is also doable and definitely worth seeing. Have a look at my full blog post on that for more info.

2 days in Florence itinerary – useful information for your trip

How to get there

I travelled to Florence as part of a wider Italian trip, so arrived by train from Venice. Florence is very well served by train if you’re travelling in Europe. You can get to Florence from Paris on the TGV high-speed train, via Nice and Milan or via Switzerland then Milan, changing to the Frecciarossa for the final leg.

If you’re flying, Florence’s airport is well connected. It’s a 15-minute train journey into the centre from there.

Where to stay

Florence isn’t a cheap place to stay, unfortunately. I really struggled to find somewhere under £80 a night. I have a rule that if it’s not a special trip, all I need is a Premier Inn type hotel – clean and simple for a decent price. That seemed hard to find in Florence, which was surprising as I more than managed it in Venice and Lucca on the same trip and they’re just as popular.

Anyway, we ended up in Hotel Orcagna for around £75 a night and it was fine – handily located by the lovely Enjoy Restaurant. But this was literally the only hotel that ticked all the boxes. I’ve just checked again, months later, and still can’t find anything else I’d consider. So there you go. 

If you don’t mind splashing out on a hotel, my ‘treat’ option would be The Market Urban Hotel. It’s around £150 a night, but looks really good.

How to get around

Everything is walkable. The city is well served by buses and trains for getting further out. It’s also got a tram system, but that isn’t for the historic centre.

When to go

I visited in April and the weather was beautiful – not too hot, but warm enough to walk around without a coat. It was busy but not overcrowded. I would not advise going in summer when it’s hot and heaving with tourists.

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4 Comments

  1. Another Florence gem, overlooked by the big tours: Basilica of Santa Croce. A much older, more primitive building than the Duomo, but lovely in it’s simplicity. No lines to get in, free. I wandered in, started looking around at the shrines/tombs along the walls, and suddenly realised that I was standing in front of the tomb of Michelangelo! A bit farther along was Galileo, then some other giants of the Renaissance, like Machiavelli, Rossini, Dante, etc. Goose bumps! If you go towards, the altar, turn right into a small passage, which leads to a nice gift shop, some workshops, and a beautiful courtyard. And, it’s close to that fabulous gelato shop!

    Ciao,

    Joyce

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