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Florence Itinerary: Planning Your Time

Florence, Italy
Even on a short trip to Florence, take time to explore its back streets between visits to art-history treasures.
By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw

So much to see, so little time. To help you plan your sightseeing, I've listed my ideal itineraries for Florence, whether you're going for one day, two days, or more.

Florence deserves at least one well-organized day: see the Accademia (David), tour the Uffizi Gallery (Renaissance art), visit the Duomo Museum (original bronze Baptistery doors) or the underrated Bargello (best statues), and do my guidebooks' self-guided "Renaissance Walk" (also available as a free audio tour). Art lovers will want to chisel out another day of their itinerary for the many other Florentine cultural treasures. Shoppers and ice-cream lovers may need to do the same.

Set up a good itinerary in advance. Get the latest opening hours from the tourist information office. Check your guidebook (or online, to be extra sure) to see which sights are open on which days. In general, Sundays and Mondays are not ideal for sightseeing in Florence, as many places are either closed or have shorter hours. Sights may also have shorter hours off-season. From October through March, on the first Sunday of the month, the state museums are free (Uffizi, Accademia, Bargello, Medici Chapels, Pitti Palace and surrounding gardens). On these free days, the Uffizi and Accademia are particularly crowded (and it's not possible to book an admission time on free days).

Most importantly, use my strategies to avoid wasting hours in long lines. This is especially true for peak season (April–Oct), holidays and weekends, and for the two biggest attractions: the Uffizi and Accademia, where you should make reservations well in advance.

The following day plans are jam-packed but doable if you're well-organized. With more time, spread out these priorities to give yourself some breathing room. However you plan your visit, unless you're here for only one day, do my Renaissance Walk either in the morning or late afternoon to avoid heat and crowds.

Florence in One Brutal Day

8:15   Uffizi Gallery (finest paintings) — with a reservation.

11:00   Bargello (great statues) or explore and shop San Lorenzo/Mercato Centrale area, lunch.

13:00   Follow my self-guided Renaissance Walk through the heart of the old town.

15:00   Duomo Museum (great bronze work).

17:30   Accademia (David) — with a reservation.

19:30   Cross Ponte Vecchio for dinner and take my guidebooks' self-guided Oltrarno Walk.

Florence in Two Days

Day 1

8:30   Accademia — with a reservation.

10:00   Museum of San Marco (art by Fra Angelico).

12:00   Explore Mercato Centrale and have lunch nearby.

14:00   Tour Church of Santa Maria Novella for its art.

16:00   Free time (or tour Palazzo Vecchio).

18:00   Follow my self-guided Renaissance Walk through the heart of the old town.

20:00   Dinner in the old center or tour Palazzo Vecchio (open late many evenings).

Day 2

9:00   Bargello.

10:30  Duomo Museum (statues by Donatello and Michelangelo), or Galileo Science Museum (if art's not your thing).

12:30   Lunch, then wander and shop.

14:00   Take a bike or walking tour.

16:30   Uffizi — with a reservation.

19:00   Cross Ponte Vecchio for dinner and take my guidebooks' self-guided Oltrarno Walk.

Florence in Three (or More) Days

Day 1

8:30   Accademia — with a reservation.

10:00   Museum of San Marco.

12:00   Medici Chapels (Michelangelo) or explore San Lorenzo Market area, have lunch near Mercato Centrale.

14:00   Basilica of San Lorenzo.

16:00   Free time or Baptistery and Duomo interior, or climb the dome (reservation required) or Campanile.

18:00   Follow my self-guided Renaissance Walk through the heart of the old town.

20:00   Dinner in the old center.

Day 2

9:00   Bargello.

11:00   Duomo Museum or Galileo Science Museum.

13:00   Lunch, then wander and shop.

15:30   Uffizi — with a reservation.

18:00   Cross Ponte Vecchio for dinner and take my guidebooks' self-guided Oltrarno Walk.

Day 3

9:00   Tour Church of Santa Maria Novella.

11:00   Free time for shopping and wandering.

13:00   Lunch.

14:00   Pitti Palace and gardens.

17:00   Tour Palazzo Vecchio or taxi to San Miniato Church and Piazzale Michelangelo (city views), walk back into town.

Day 4

Side-trip to Siena (sights open daily; 1.5 hours away by bus or train).

 


Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany guidebook.