We were only in Florence for a day, just a quick stop after our time in the Cinque Terre. It’s such an incredible city with a massively deep history to breeze through in less than 24 hours. Luckily, this was Aaron’s second visit, so he made sure we focused our list of things to do in Florence on the must-sees. We mostly stuck to the highlights, but felt like we packed in all the best spots during our time there. Here is our quick guide for one day in Florence, Italy.
First Stop: The David
I’ve had an obsession with Michelangelo’s David since my Euro history class in high school, so a visit to Galleria dell’Accademia which houses this masterpiece was number one on my list. And it’s number one on a lot of other people’s list, so we knew the best option was to get there early. We were a bit worried because we’d heard of the long lines, and knew we could’ve purchased timed-entry tickets for €12 from the Accademia’s official website if we would’ve booked far enough in advance. We lucked out and arrived early enough that the regular and timed entry ticket lines were about the same length. We were inside in less than half an hour. If you plan to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia without a tour guide that has skip-the-line access, then the best thing you can do is to get there as early as possible (preferably before it opens!).
Seeing Michelangelo’s David is one of those experiences that can almost take your breath away. I think I’m usually pretty emotionally reserved (at least I try to be), but when you turn the corner and see the David standing in all his glory at the end of the gallery, it’s overwhelming. We took our time and studied this amazing piece from every angle. I love viewing famous pieces in person that I’ve seen reproductions of a hundred times; I seem to always notice something new that adds meaning and depth to my interpretation of the artist’s message.
When we exited the Accademia, both lines were about 4 times longer. It seems that even if you purchase a timed entry ticket ahead of time, you’ll still be stuck waiting outside unless you get the 8:15 – 8:30 am slot. In any case, arrive as early as possible.
If you prefer to go on a tour, then we recommend the Best of Florence Walking Tour With David & The Duomo with Walks (previously Walks of Italy, but they’ve expanded to a few new countries!)
The Uffizi Gallery
We made the decision earlier to see the David versus going to the Uffizi Gallery. With so many key pieces from Renaissance masters like Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo and Caravaggio, we didn’t think we’d be able to give the Uffizi the time it deserved when we were trying to do Florence in a day. We wanted to save the Uffizi Gallery for another trip with enough time to appreciate what we were seeing. Advance tickets are €16.50 on the official site. Note that third-party unofficial sites (even ones like uffizi.com, which sound very official) charge booking fees around €6. From talking with others in line at the Accademia who had already been to the Uffizi, the same advice holds to arrive as early as possible for the shortest queue.
Lunch at All’Antico Vinaio
After the Accademia, we headed to All’Antico Vinaio for lunch. We don’t always find Trip Advisor to be the most credible source, but there’s a reason there are over 13,000 rave reviews for this sandwich shop. Huge portions of delicious cured meats and fresh cheeses, oven-warm bread and flavorful sauces prepared on order make for the best sandwiches we’ve ever had. And all for only €5. I’m sure the line gets long, but we got there a bit before noon and had food in hand within a few minutes. There are a lot of delicious places to eat in Florence, but if you only have a day, don’t miss out on All’Antico Vinaio.
A Quick Detour after Lunch
After lunch we took some time to wander. And by wander, I mean walk about 45 minutes along the Arno river to the east end of Parco delle Cascine where the Festa del Grillo, or Cricket Festival, was supposed to be held this year. Good thing, we found the “festival.” Bad thing, it did not fit the typical festival description of music, entertainment, and food with the quirky addendum of crickets sold in cages as promised on the Florence tourism website. We knew it was no longer live crickets, so we weren’t expecting a scene out of Disney’s Mulan. But, we still thought it would be a unique tradition to experience even with paper crickets. I get the feeling that anyone writing about the festival hasn’t actually been to one in years because it felt mostly like a cheap flea market with used clothes (not even pretending to be vintage), random household goods, a few food vendors and absolutely no crickets, real or otherwise.
We quickly headed back into the heart of the city since we were trying to see Florence in a day so we were tight on time, but still managed to see a few cool things along the way.
Our detour worked up an appetite, so of course, it was time for gelato. There is a gelato shop on every corner in Florence. Literally every corner! Some might even have two. I had no idea how we’d narrow it down, but we finally landed at Marco Ottaviano. Trip Advisor did us a solid and delivered again.
A view from above at Il Duomo
Florence is a city of THEs, THE David, and THE Duomo. I was surprised when I first saw the Duomo – it’s green and pink! Every picture I’d seen of Il Duomo di Firenze is zoomed out enough that the façade looks whitewashed. So I was surprised by the colorful marble patterns tiling this magnificent basilica.
Brunelleschi’s engineering of this miracle dome is as technically masterful as it is beautiful, and we enjoyed the views from outside, inside, and up above in Giotto’s bell tower.
Michelangelo Piazza and Pizza
We ended the day with a walk up to Michelangelo Piazza for another view of Firenze from above, this time with Il Duomo in the distance (see, it looks white from here). If we’d had a bit more time, we would’ve continued walking up the hill to San Miniato al Monte, a church, abbey, and cemetery about another 10-minute walk up the hill.
We carb loaded with two large scrummy pizzas (adding British slang to my vocab :)) at I’Pizzacchiere in the Pitti neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. Seriously, three for three from Trip Advisor here. I don’t think carb loading works in reverse, but we needed something to make up for the over 13 miles we’d just walked. We stuffed ourselves so full that as much as we wanted to order the Nutella calzone for dessert, we just couldn’t.
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If you were in Florence for a day, what would you do?