This post was updated in November 2018
Who does not dream of visiting the Italian city of Florence? With its wonderful architecture, stunning artworks and fascinating history no trip to Italy would be complete without spending time in the city that was the birthplace of the Renaissance.
If you are visiting Florence as part of your Italian travel itinerary but are short on time it is possible to see a lot in 48 hours. You just have to plan and prepare in advance.
First thing to do is to identify exactly what you want to see and do. To help you with this I have produced a list of recommendations if you only have 2 days in Florence.
The second step I would strongly suggest is to book tickets and tours well in advance if you are visiting Florence during the busy summer period. It may cost extra but you will not regret walking past others who will be queuing for hours in the Italian heat.
We visited Florence during an 18 day train trip through Italy from Rome to Milan (including stops in Florence, Venice and Verona). Our itinerary is coming soon!
Il Duomo di Firenze is the main church of Florence and it pretty much dominates the city.
Construction of the Duomo began at the end of the 13th century with the beautiful dome designed by Brunelleschi added in 1420. Giotto’s Bell Tower was completed in 1359.
The exterior of the church with its mix of pink, green and white marble is simply stunning. The inside however is not so beautiful after it was painted over during the Reformation in Europe!
No trip to Florence would be complete without visiting the Duomo.
Tips for visiting Florence Cathedral
- Entrance to the Cathedral is free but if you want to see Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry of San Giovanni or the Crypt of Santa Reparata you will require a combined ticket which can be purchased for €18 from the Duomo website.
- The views of Florence from Giotto’s Bell Tower are stunning and well worth the climb. There are a total of 414 steps to the top but you can stop for a break on each of the three middle floors. I do not recommend this climb if you suffer from claustrophobia as the steps are narrow and it is the only way up – and down – to the tower.
- Do visit the Baptistry of St John. It is across from the Duomo and it is where the entire Medici family were baptised.
- If you are visiting in summer it will be busy so try to go earlier in the day or later in the afternoon.
- Cover your knees and shoulders.
- Don’t miss the famous doors by Ghiberti which adorn the Baptistry. Unfortunately the originals were severely damaged in the floods of 1966.
Recommended tours to the Duomo
Accademia Gallery (for Michelangelo’s David)
I can’t describe the awe you feel when you see this statue. It is perfection. It was craved out of one piece of white marble between 1501 and 1504 by the genius that was Michelangelo. The 14 foot statue depicts the Biblical David about to slay the giant Goliath.
Do yourself a favour if you are going to Florence and go and see David at the Accademia.
There are more of Michelangelo’s statues in the Accademia. His slaves or prisoners show how he created his sculptures with the figures seemingly freeing themselves from the marble. ”Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” (Michelangelo)
Last but not least in in the Accademia there is Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabine Women”. This is the plaster model he made before carving the statue out of marble. The marble statue stands in the Piazza della Signoria beside the copy of David.
Tips for visiting the Accademia
- Book tickets in advance. Do not turn up on the day in summer or you will spend most of it queuing in the hot sun waiting to get in. Numbers allowed into the Accademia are limited. Even with an advance booking and tickets we had a 30 minute wait.
- Do not skip seeing David! I know there is a copy in the but it really is not the same. There will be a million people in the piazza and you will get no where near. Why see a copy when you have spent all that money getting to Florence!
- Read The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo before you go. It will really make you appreciate his genius even more.
Recommended tours to the Accademia
Seriously buy your tickets now. It will make life so much easier!
The Uffizi was built in 1581 by the Granduca Francisco de’Medici. Designed by Vasari the Uffizi were initially offices.
Today it houses an amazing art collection and is the most visited museum in Italy. Everyone wants to see the great art works of the Renaissance including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
We took a tour which was a great way to learn about the artworks. It also meant we were able to see all the key pieces.
Tips for visiting the Uffizi
- On the first Sunday of every month all state museums are free in Italy. If you are lucky enough to be there on a free day be sure to go as early as possible.
- Don’t try to see everything – there is simply too much. Identify the key pieces you want to see before you go and head for them.
- Book a tour with a guide – we had an art professor show us around and we learnt lots about the art.
Recommended tours to the Uffizi
4. Walk the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is unmistakable. The medieval bridge over the River Arno is the only bridge that survived World War 2.
In medieval times butcher’s shops lined the bridge. In 1593 however Ferdinand 1 decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers could have shops on the bridge.
The famous Vasari corridor also runs along the bridge above the goldsmiths shops.
Tips for visiting the Ponte Vecchio
- If you want to walk the Vasari corridor you have to book a private tour.
- The view from the bridge is beautiful so prepare for some selfies! If you don’t want a million other people in you photo you need to head to the bridge early in the morning.
- Be careful of pickpockets. Keep your valuables out of sight and if possible use an anti-pickpocket bag.
Recommended tours of the Vasari Corridor
The Palazzo Medici
The palace was built for the Medici family between 1444 and 1484. It is also where Michelangelo moved to in 1489 aged 14 when he was sponsored by Lorenzo de Medici.
Visiting the palace will help develop an understanding of just how influential and powerful (and rich) the Medici family were in Florence.
Tips for visiting the Palazzo Medici
- Admire the architecture of the palace from outside. Don’t miss the famous kneeling windows which were designed by Michelangelo.
- You can find the palace on the via Cavour near the Church of San Lorenzo.
Recommended tours of the Medici Palace
The Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. The L shaped square contains a copy of David as well as other statues(Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women is here and can be seen in the above video)
The square also leads onto the Uffizi so I am sure you will find yourself here during any visit to Florence.
If all this walking and sightseeing is making you hungry it may be time to try some of the great places to eat in Florence.
Tips for visiting the Piazza della Signoria
- The piazza can be very busy in summer. Take care of any belongings as this is an ideal area for pickpockets.
- If you are visiting in summer wear a hat, drink plenty of water and use sun screen.
Recommended walking tours of Florence
Rub the nose of Il Porcellino
Il Porellino is the Florentine nickname for the bronze statue of a boar that can be found in the Piazza del Mercato Nuovo. The statue was sculpted and cast by Pietro Tacca in 1634. The present statue is a copy.
Tradition holds that if you rub its nose you will return to Florence. I rubbed its nose!
I am sure you will too.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To find out more about it check out the listing on their site HERE!
PIN FOR LATER – 2 days in Florence
Tracy is your expert expat!
She has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!