3 Days in Florence Italy
We had 3 days in Florence, Italy. In that short time, we covered the highlights (the tourist “must see’s”) and also took an interesting tour that might interest readers.
Here’s a quick recap per day…
Day 1 – arrived in the morning, did some sightseeing in the afternoon
The Duomo: Wow, magnificent from the outside, it is the focal point of Florence. We saw it flying into the city and were blown away by it’s sheer size. What is most surprising however about the Duomo is that it is rather bland on the inside (nothing like the stupendous Duomo in Siena). The ceiling is the highlight. The Duomo has a tower that can be climbed. But instead, I’d recommend that you climb the Campanile which has the better views (see below).
The Campanile: the tower right next to the dome is really worth climbing for great views. The views are more impressive than those from the Duomo (because you can look out over the Duomo from the campanile). It is also a more pleasant experience – less people, larger passageways, airier. You can get to the top in half the time it takes to climb up the Duomo. A must-do in Florence for the fantastic views.
Note: starting at the end of 2022, nationals of many countries will require a Visa to enter Italy. It won’t be expensive (the estimated cost will be 7 Euros) but it does require more paperwork than at present. Find your ETIAS application form here.
I just summarized in 2 short paragraphs what took an entire afternoon to line up for and climb. My opinion: if your time is limited skip the Duomo and the Dome climb. You’ll see tons of tours promoting these. The Duomo is most spectacular from the outside. BUT climb the Campanile, it really is worth it.
Related: The Most Beautiful City in the World? Our candidates…and winner
Day 2 – Food and wine tour, more city highlights
We had a food tour the next day. We met up with our guide Christina at the St. Lorenzo church. We spent the first 2 hours exploring the St. Lorenzo market where we sampled Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Christina explained everything; the processes involved, the various denominations of quality, the strict controls of the Italian food industry, the marketing of Italian products overseas. We always knew Italians loved their food and wine, but it is amazing to what point the Italian authorities go to control quality. Let’s face it, Italians are known to have a very relaxed attitude about things; they park their cars on sidewalks (sometimes facing the opposite way from which they came), they don’t care so much about cleanliness or organization (see Italian trains for perfect examples of both these points). But when it comes to food and wine everything is regulated and monitored to an incredible degree.
After 2 hours at the St. Lorenzo market, we continued on to a Gelato shop close to the duomo where we sampled 5 different kinds of gelato. Then the highlight: wine tasting. Again, Christina explained the different wine making regions of Italy and the various denominations. More here if you’re interested in this food tour.
It was a beautiful day and we took advantage to see the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old bridge (described as “Europe’s oldest wholly-stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge”).
Day 3 – Museums…and yet more city highlights
I had saved the museums for the last full day in Florence. I don’t particularly like going to museums (too many people). But you can’t visit Florence without visiting its famous museums.
I had pre-bought tickets (you can pre-buy your Academia tickets here) at both the Academia (where Michelangelo’s David is) and the Uffizi (you can pre-buy your Uffizi tickets here) which is one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world. As expected, there were hordes of people, so pre-buying was a good idea. I can sum up our museum day in a couple of short lines. 1. The Academia. Statue of David is impressive, bigger in person then I imagined. The detail is very impressive, his hands and feet seem a little large in relation. There were a lot of other sculptures in the museum but a lot just looked like discarded heads, bodies, and arms. A bit like the leftovers after eating a bucket of KFC. 2. The Uffizi. Incredible art but we found it thoroughly unenjoyable. Just too many people for us. It felt claustrophobic.
As I say, we just don’t like going to museums, mostly because there are just too many people. If you go, make sure to pre-buy those tickets.
We walked up to Piazza Michelangelo for great views over the city (the first photo on this post was taken there as are some below). Lots of stairs, but the views are so worth it.
More views from around the city
We did a lot of walking that last day. Florence really is an incredibly gorgeous city. I recommend a 90-minute Walking Tour. If you want a more in-depth tour, this 2-6 hour customized tour will cover Florence in details.
We splurged and stayed at the “Hotel Orto de’ Medici”. Beautiful hotel. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5. But it’s expensive (rooms around 190 Euros/night). Florence gets a lot of tourists and hotel prices are high. Have a look at the Deals Finder below for the hottest current deals.
We also broke all the rules. After 3 weeks of Italian food we just wanted an evening of veging out and watching tv. That’s how we ended up picking something up at McDonald’s.
Related: Why you should Visit Siena, Italy
Related: Under the Tuscan Sun in Cortona (our favorite Italian town)
Related: Forget everything you’ve read because Rome is Incredible
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This post was helpful, and I liked how it recommended not doing too much in the short amount.of time. I have been to both of the museums listed…and they are musts for people. They both feature amazing works of art. Maybe for people who are not as into art they are not as exciting, but if anyone has any interest in history or art, they are amazing treasure troves. If you can, buy tickets ahead of time to cut down on the time in line. Thanks for sharing the info!
Why in the world would you eat McDonald’s in Florence?
I’m just saying.
After 3 weeks in Italy getting fat on pizza and pasta sometimes you just want to get something quick and cheap to bring back to your room to eat in peace. It’s like eating cake everyday. Would you want to still eat cake every day? After a while even really good cake gets boring 🙂
If it makes you feel better I think I’ve eaten McDonalds twice in 10 years. The other time was after a month in Mexico eating tacos, enchiladas, fajitas…
Hi, I went to Italy in November 2013, with my daughter. If you really don’t want the hordes of people, then a week after the high tourist season ends is the time to go! The weather in Florence was a little less predictable than Rome,( which was high 70’s), we had a pretty severe storm go through Florence the afternoon that we got there. The temps were in the 50’s, low 60’s, easily comfortable with all the walking you do. The Pitti Palace is another place to visit, but really, only if you like museums, there’s like three in there, and the Boboli Gardens are behind the palace. I really loved walking those hilly streets on the Palace side of the river, it’s more homes, less touristy. Didn’t you love the street art on the signs?
Hi Linda! Yes, I think Italy is best seen in shoulder seasons. We visited Florence a few years back but just spent a month in the region (using Padova as a base to explore Venice, Verona, Bologna, we even went to Rome). We were there in April and although there were still a lot of tourists (especially Rome) we weren’t suffering from the heat.
You’re right that’s its much quieter on the Palace side. I don’t remember the street art though…maybe I somehow missed that.
Some great insights on how to see Florence – will put this to good use on my trip there 🙂
I am aching to visit Italy but I am waiting until we can do it right, a minimum of 3 months. The last photo just cracks me up. We are currently road tripping across the U.S.A. and I swear there is a McDonald’s on each and every highway on/off ramp. Those arches are everywhere!!
Beautiful pictures 🙂 I absolutely loved Florence, and indeed we have similar pictures, especially the one from Piazzale Michelangelo!
Great photos of Florence. If you make it back, you might also enjoy the viewpoint from the Boboli Gardens.
Wonderful post – and amazing photos too! I’ve never been to Florence, but it is on my list of places I want to see:)
Thank you Lori, yes, it is a place definitely worth seeing!
I would love to forward this to my daughter who is coming with us but all I can do is save to Pinterest
How about just sending her the link in an email? https://bbqboy.net/photos-and-tips-on-what-to-see-and-do-in-florence-italy/ That’s the link, you just cut and paste it into an email 😉
Jessica J. Hill
Gorgeous post! I loved Florence and also found it to be really photogenic. It’s a wonderful but tiring city to do so much walking!