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
A visit to the cupola of the Florence Duomo is a must-do, but with it comes big crowds and long lines. Skip the line with your guide, climb to the top, and soak up the spectacular views of the city. It’s the perfect way to see Florence.
Meet your guide and climb to the top, courtesy of your priority entrance. Hear how the construction of the duomo began at the end of the 13th century and took 2 centuries to complete. Marvel at the marble floors but don’t forget to look up – the frescos above are just as immense.
After your tour of the dome, feel free to explore the rest of the 5 sites – your ticket is valid for 3 days.
Wherever in the world you travel, the landmarks worth seeing have one aspect in common: crowds of travelers eager to visit them. Florence riddled with Renaissance masterpieces is not an exception. Its Duomo, along with the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries, is one of the most popular sights in Florence and long queues of impatient visitors are a daily occurrence. Getting into the Duomo quickly is particularly tricky due to tightened security.
After validation upon your first visit, your ticket remains valid for 72 hours, allowing for sufficient time to take in the history and artistry of the cathedral complex. Enjoy access to the entire complex, without having to waste any of your precious vacation time finding tickets.
Save precious time with a fast-track entry ticket to Florence Duomo and get more time to see the sights of the cathedral complex with an expert guide.
Marvel at the marble monuments of the historic site, including the freestanding campanile of Giotto’s Bell Tower. Climb up the dome for panoramic city views. Ask as many questions as you like and avail of a complimentary Wi-Fi headset to make sure you don’t miss any of your guide’s commentary.
Learn more about the monument, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Historic Centre of Florence, and hear how construction began at the end of 13th century and took 2 centuries to complete.
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 Accademia Gallery is particularly famous for its sculptures by Michelangelo: the Prisoners, the St.Matthew and, especially, the statue of David.
Admire the 5.17-meter marble statue representing the Biblical hero David, a favored subject in Florentine art. The statue soon came to symbolize the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Republic of Florence, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family.
In the adjacent rooms, which were part of two former convents, important works of art are collected here from the Academy of Design, the Academy of Fine Arts and from suppressed convents.
Recently the Gallery has been further enriched by the important collection of old musical instruments from the Cherubini Conservatory, the Department of Musical Instruments.
On the tour, you will receive much more than just fast-track access to the artistic gems that come with the tickets. The tour will allow you to discover and understand the motives and circumstances that led to their creation. You could find out these details with an audio guide or a guidebook but the monotone voice or lengthy texts in the tiny font are not that fun.
The expert guide will highlight the most interesting information while answering all your questions. The Accademia museum is a place of artistic splendors. Joining the Accademia Gallery tour will help you get the most out of your visit in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Enter the Accademia Gallery in Florence and journey through the art of Michelangelo, one of the masters of the Italian Renaissance. Skip the long lines to the popular museum, and prepare for a truly unforgettable experience.
Discover the secrets of the Accademia Gallery from your personal guide. Earphones will be provided for larger groups so that you can hear clearly. Marvel at some of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, including his original statue of “David.” Learn about the powerful statues of “I Prigioni” (“Prisoners” or “Slaves”) and the marble statue of “San Mateo” (“St. Matthew”).
Get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand in front of “David.” Then, admire other art works, such as the museum’s collection of Renaissance paintings. You are free to stay in the museum for as long as you want at the end of your guided tour.
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
Visit the Uffizi Gallery through a priority entrance and immerse yourself in the art and history of the Renaissance. Learn the history of works by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and others from your expert guide.
In a group of 14 people or fewer, see masterpieces like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” Caravaggio’s “”Medusa,”” and Michelangelo’s only remaining wooden painting. Learn about the history and people behind the art, including lesser-known works that visitors often miss.
A headset will make sure you can hear the guide clearly. After the tour, explore the museum on your own for as long as you like. Visit the bookshop or enjoy refreshments in the café overlooking the piazza.
Discover masterpieces of art at one of Italy (and the world’s) greatest art museums, and enjoy priority entrance at the world-famous Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
Marvel at Italian Renaissance art by some of the greatest artists of all times. See paintings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raffaello, Giotto, Cimabue, Masaccio, and others. Go to the gallery’s most renowned room to see the stunning collection by Botticelli. Admire his “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus,” and reflect upon his representation of the birth of the goddess as she emerges from the sea foam.
Escape the hassle and hurry of organized group tours, and explore at your own pace. You are free to stay inside the museum for as long as you like. Your timed entrance ticket gives you fast track entrance once collected, avoiding the Uffizi’s legendary lines!
Explore one of the world’s greatest art galleries with this skip-the-line ticket to the Uffizi Gallery in central Florence. The ticket gets you express entry to the impressive gallery, located inside the handsome 16th-century building designed by Giorgio Vasari, just a few feet from the banks of the River Arno.
After entering the museum, your expert guide will show you some of the world’s most renowned works of art by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raffaello, Giotto, Cimabue, Masaccio, and more. See Botticelli’s famous masterpieces “Primavera” and the “Birth of Venus.”
The latter painting is the icon of the museum, representing the allegory of the birth of Venus as the goddess emerged from the sea. It symbolizes the ideal of beauty as an expression of purity and spiritual quality, and is a masterful expression of the Renaissance Neo-Platonic aesthetics you will discover on this exclusive tour.
Explore the Uffizi Gallery with skip-the-line access and see some of the Italian masters’ most notable works with your guide!
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
Trace the fascinating history of the Medici dynasty on a 2-hour walking tour of Florence and learn how they used their wealth and power to patronize the arts and lay the foundations of the Italian Renaissance.
Hear anecdotes about their intrigue, power struggles, betrayals and incredible foresight. Admire their former palaces and visit streets and squares where members of the family lived. Walk the same narrow streets they used to walk along to landmark monuments such as the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in the San Lorenzo district. Take a look at the church where they worshipped and built their mausoleum at the Medici Chapels in the Basilica di San Lorenzo. Marvel at Brunelleschi’s stunning dome.
Continue to the Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria, where Cosimo I de’ Medici moved his official seat in May 1540, signaling the security of Medici power. Follow the route of the Vasari Corridor from the outside and learn more about the elevated passageway that allowed the Grand Dukes to move between the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti without being seen by the citizens.
Arrive at the Palazzo Pitti and its magnificent Boboli Gardens for a look at the last residence of the Medici family at the end of your tour.
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
Discover the beautiful city of Florence through the eyes of a local on a private, customized walking tour. Meet your friendly local host at your hotel or Airbnb, or arrange a central meeting point in the Cradle of the Renaissance to start your adventure.
Get familiar with the neighborhood where you are staying to learn where the best places to buy groceries or eat out are located. Your local guide is passionate about their city and eager to share all the tips and tricks to help you make the most of your stay.
Learn about the easiest ways to get around and the top things to see and do. Chat with them about life in the city and exchange cultural differences. Feel more comfortable navigating the city on your own, confident that you have all the information you need to make the most of your stay.
On this visit to Florence’s historic center, get to know the city’s origins and more than 2,000 years of Florentine history. You’ll be fascinated by what you see and hear as you walk through the city of Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and other important figures.
At the Piazza della Repubblica your guide will tell you about the city’s Roman origins before you head toward the religious center, where you’ll see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery of St. John, and Giotto’s Campanile.
You’ll walk past an ancient oratory that’s situated adjacent to the house of Dante Alighieri, and then walk through some of the less crowded streets of Florence towards the Ponte Vecchio.
Finally, you’ll enter the Piazza Signoria through the Uffizi courtyard. In this main piazza and civic center, you’ll come upon the impressive Palazzo Vecchio and see close-up the famous statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi.
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.
Why not add a trip to Pisa from Florence into your itinerary? It is an easy day trip from Florence!
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!
Tracy 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!