Dreaming of a trip to Florence and want to get a head start on planning? We can’t blame you since the city is one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Europe. Here are the top things to do in and around Florence!
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Top 21 Things to do in Florence, Italy in 2022
You’ll find this list useful since it links out to other useful content that will not only inspire you but help you plan and reserve tickets and activities for your visit. A good mix of fun activities will make improve your experience in Florence and lead to long-term shared memories with your travel companions.
Planning structured activities is what we believe makes trips really memorable. Sometimes those activities are in the form of some tours and other times it is having a general list of “spots” you want to visit. This list should help and we’ll also suggest some great activities that travelers have left great feedback for like vineyard tours in Tuscany! Five years from now you will likely remember a farm-to-table lunch on a sprawling vineyard!
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21. Breath in the Air at Giardino Bardini (Bardini Gardens)
Oltrarno is the Florentine equivalent to Rome’s Trastevere which is a sort of bohemian district. Admittedly less bohemian than Trastevere but similarly quiet due to its location. The word Oltrarno means “the other side of the Arno river” which keeps things quite literal!
It is home to some really cool viewpoints of Florence including the Bardini Gardens. The Bardini Gardens are a Florence attraction that very few people venture to see which makes it a real treasure.
The gardens are part of a renaissance villa of the Bardini family. These curated gardens are home to phenomenal views of Florence. The gardens are famous for two main attractions. First, a wisteria tunnel best viewed during the summer bloom starting in April and ending towards October. And second, a long medieval staircase that carries you to one of the best views of the city.
Address: Costa San Giorgio 2
Admission: 10€ adults | Free 17 and under
20. Ride a VESPA!
The Vespa is as synonymous with Italy as pizza, Michelangelo, and Gondolas which means you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by not riding one. There are two ways to achieve this. First, get picked up by an Italian player with a Vespa or join a Vespa tour. We recommend the Vespa tour!
Luckily Florence is a really cool but small town. You won’t realize until you get there, but one second you are in the middle of what feels like a bustling town, and the next minute you’re surrounded by vineyards. One of our partners in Florence runs a super-memorable tour that not only allows you to cruise around quite backroads on a Vespa, but also stops at vineyards and small towns along the way!
19. Rub the Boar’s Nose (Il Porcellino)
Il Porcellino in Mercato Nuovo is a bronze copy of a bronze copy of a Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze statue of wild boar. Hard to digest? Let me explain.
The Greeks like creating statues out of bronze and were undoubtedly superior “creators” of art over the Romans. When the Romans conquered Greece, Romans were superior warriors, they underwent Hellenization which basically means acting like the sophisticated and artistic Greeks. They would make marble statue copies of the greek bronze statues and often melt the marble to make weapons.
The Medici Family procured the Roman marble copy in the 17th century and they or another family commissioned Pietro Tacca to create a bronze copy of the statue and turn it into a fountain.
The fountain was very popular and like many fountains, it has been surrounded by superstition. For such a small monument it is hard to believe, but amongst locals this is a top Florence attraction. I’ve read significantly online and many writers cover the superstition incorrectly. Luckily, I am Italian and know this very well.
Rubbing the boar’s nose has very little to do with the tradition but is now almost compulsory to get the boar ready for what is next. You should put a coin in the boar’s mouth and let it roll off its tongue into the water below. There is a very fine grate over the water system and if the coin falls through it brings good fortune.
Address: Piazza del Mercato Nuovo
18. Plan a Trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a beautiful structure that would likely be famous even if the foundation had been poured correctly, but the fact that it was built incorrectly makes it a must-see.
The tower leans 5.5 degrees, or about 15 feet according to Britannica.com, and thanks to some restoration projects in 1999, it may never fall.
The tower takes its name after its hometown, Pisa, which is just over an hour from Florence by train and car. If you are just going ot the tower, the train works and you can take a taxi from the train station to the tower.
You’ll have to reserve tickets a few weeks in advance if you want to climb the tower which is something I recommend doing. If you want to streamline the day, we have a great day trip from Florence to Pisa that includes transportation and tickets.
Pisa is only a 4 hour stop so our trip includes a stop in Vinci. Yes, the hometown of Leonardo da Vinci. “Da” means “from” so you could call him Leonardo from Vinci if you want. The stop includes admission to the Da Vinci Museums and finally a stop in Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view of Florence.
17. Go to Cinque Terre for the Day, or More!
Cinque Terre, one of Italy’s most celebrated and no longer hidden “hidden-treasures” is just about a 2.5-hour journey from Florence. This makes it a great day-trip option although we recommend spending a night or two there. That said, vacation time has its limits and Italy has many things you will want to see.
If you are unfamiliar, Cinque Terre consists of 5 principal towns and a few extra smaller towns that are connected by one road, a train, and lots of hiking trails. The area is quaint, colorful, and as all-natural as it gets. Italy has abundant laws protecting the area to preserve its original charm which is why so many people want to come and visit. It is a blast from the past.
16. Eat & Hang Out in Santo Spirito
Santo Spirito is a lively district of Florence which is home to shops, restaurants, and some pretty cool places to wet your beak. No trip to Florence is complete without visiting this area especially since it is home to the famed palace of the Medici dynasty.
While this is definitely a bucket list item for Florence, this cheeky little bullet point is all about getting a meal and drinks while in the area. I highly recommend Gurdulu Gastronomia for a meal if you want unique dishes and Osteria Cinghiale Bianco for the classics.
I also would heavily recommend reserving in advance at La Loggia Rooftop Bar for some refreshing libations.
15. Absorb the Brancacci Chapel
While it is definitely not a museum, the Brancacci Chapel is one of those places you walk into and immediately understand you are somewhere important. A silk merchant financially responsible for its creation, Felice Brancacci, lends his name to the chapel.
If the chapel was located inside the Vatican Museums, it would likely see millions of visitors per year to the likes of the Sistine Chapel. It is actually referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of the Early Renaissance”. While it is not a Florence Museum it is influential, important, and on the top of our list of recommendations.
While Brancacci is credited for the chapel’s existence, the artist responsible is known simply by the name Masaccio. A painter that would not be mentioned in conversation today but the likes of Michelangelo and DaVinci would have mentioned on a daily basis.
Masaccio started on the chapel underneath Masolino da Panciale but eventually, the student would become the teacher, and Masaccio is credited for most of the chapel.
Why is it special?
It is the first great work of art of the quattrocento (the 1400s). The chapel elaborated on a style Giotto started a hundred years prior with the Scrovegni Chapel and other works. Basically, artists started to consider the perspective of the viewer and other Earthly elements such as light coming in while painting. Something the Romans were doing as early as the 1st century AD with the Arch of Titus but was lost in time when Europe went into darkness after barbarians took over.
The Chapel shows scenes from the old testament and new testament in glorious color. Pay close attention to the faces and general energy each individual figure carries. Prior to this, figures acted as groups and in Masaccio’s work, they feel and look as individuals. You may see one figure show signs of anger next to another with signs of grief.
Hours: 10 am – 5 pm | Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday/Saturday
Address: Piazza del Carmine 14
14. Eat Pappardelle al Ragù di Cinghiale
Papparedelle are long thin noodles normally of an egg base. They are hearty and filling. A popular Florentine and Tuscan dish is the Ragù di Cinghiale which is made from wild boar (pork).
Easily one of my favorite dishes in Italy, this is a hearty pasta dish that is full of the types of flavor that only wild game can bring. It is a must-try dish while visiting Florence.
What is a ragù?
Beef, pork, onion, carrot, celery and tomato are the main ingredients of a ragù, which is a popular Italian recipe with different versions throughout the peninsula. A ragù is not a jarred tomato sauce brand. In Italy, the only tomato sauce that comes from a jar is something called polpa or passata. This is basically tomatoes that are already broken down into their liquid form so they can then be cooked accompanied by other ingredients. No self-respecting Italian would purchase pre-made tomato sauce.
Where to get it: Osteria Cinghiale Bianco
13. Sunset in Piazzale Michelangelo
Have you ever seen one of those incredible pictures of Florence and the Duomo and wonder where it came from? The answer is Piazzale Michelangelo. Named after the famed Renaissance sculptor himself with a replica of David out of Bronze in the center.
You can enjoy the view during the day or ideally at night. If the conditions are right you’ll see one of the world’s best sunsets.
Location: Piazzale Michelangelo
12. Try Vernaccia di San Gimignano on a Tuscan Vineyard
Vernaccia is named after the grape it is produced from. It is grown and produced most commonly near San Gimignano in Tuscany since the Renaissance.
Vernaccia is normally a strong wine with a bouquet of saffron, flower and honey. It is a powerful grape with a distinctive flavor that locals love.
Where to get it: Just about any restaurant in Florence but we have a small group day trip to Chianti that goes to Siena, San Gimignano and a vineyard in Chianti for lunch. Vernaccia is on the menu!
11. Check out the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte
This is one of those sites that most people overlook when they visit Florence. It is perched up on one of the highest points of the city so the views are amazing. If you are going to visit Piazzale Michelangelo for an awesome view, I highly recommend you go up a bit higher and see this amazing Abbey.
The legend about San Miniato is pretty cool, so I will give you a brief summary here. Minas ( Later San Miniato) was an Armenian prince that was serving under the Emperor Decius ( Emperor 249-251). Once the Emperor heard he was a Christian he had him executed by beheading and supposedly after the fact Minas picked up his head an walked to where his hermitage was where the present day church is.
Location: Via delle Porte Sante, 34 (Cemetery of Porte Sante)
10. Walk Through the Garden of the Iris
If you happen to be in Florence from April 25th to May 20th, this is a must. The crest of Florence is known as the Giglio and the Giglio is inspired by the Iris, which is abundant in Florence.
This garden is magical and an extremely local thing to do in Florence. The Iris are beautiful flowers that live cohesively with an olive grove. There is a beautiful view of Florence and wonderful aromas. You won’t find many tourists here!
Location: Viale Michelangiolo, 82
9. Devour a Bistecca Fiorentina on a Food Tour
The Bistecca Fiorentina is what it sounds like – a Florentine Steak. The cut of meat can be veal or from a heifer cattle which is a cow that has not birthed a calf yet. Furthermore, it must be taken from a Chianina breed of cattle that have origins in Siena. Before ordering this steak you should know it is commonly served rare.
Like most Italian recipes, there is no fancy marinade to bring flavor to the dish. The flavor comes from the high-quality cut of meat and salt brings that flavor-forward. That said, salt or pepper cannot be added until after it is cooked.
To be a “Fiorentina” it must be grilled over hot coals. The steak is bone-in and comparative to the American T-Bone. You obviously must place it on the grill at room temperature so take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
In my research, I have seen an article from Eataly and other English language websites recommending to cook this with rosemary and sage which may be a tasty recipe but it is not the authentic Florentine recipe. You can use rosemary to the plate as a garnish but do not let it touch the steak.
If you search “ricetta bistecca alla fiorentina” you’ll get all the Italian recipes for this dish. They may be difficult to read but they contain 4 ingredients. The steak, salt (sale), pepper (pepe), and EVOO (olio).
Where to get it: We run a food tour in Florence that includes the Bistecca Fiorentina which is an amazing experience. We make updates and changes to our food tours annually to make sure they are the highest quality.
8. Try Lampredotto & Trippa
Do you consider yourself daring? If so, find a great Lampredotto stand and have a sandwich prepared out of the fourth stomach of a cow.
How would anyone even think up this dish? Imagine you are a poor farmer and you want to provide for your family. You’ve invested in a cow and want to get the most from it. Being the marketing-genius farmer you are, you start experimenting with dishes using less desirable parts of the animal to increase your yield per animal. The result is Lampredotto.
It may not have happened exactly like that but you get the point. Lampredotto is likely the product of trying to get the most out of each animal to feed the general population in times where wealth and food were not in abundance.
Today, it is a local favorite and definite street food. Commonly served as a sandwich, some say Lampredotto is delicious and others cringe at the sight. You’ll only know if you try it!
Where to get it: Chiosco del Lampredotto.
7. Visit the Giardino delle Rose
The Rose Garden in Florence was created as part of a late-19th century commission to develop the left bank of the Arno river also referred to as oltrarno. It was designed by an architect named Giuseppe Poggi in 1865 and is home to over 400 species of roses.
It is free to enter and features a wonderful view of Florence. A place you could easily walk through on your way to or from Piazzale Michelangelo, a must-see viewpoint in Florence.
Location: Viale Giuseppe Poggi, 2
6. Dine at Mercato Centrale
Mercato Centrale, as you may have guessed, is the central market of Florence. It is a mix-mash of things from panino places to butchers and even beeswax. The complex is two floors which are night and day in appearance!
First Floor: Traditional Italian-style stahl vendors. Here is where you’ll find all types of Italian produce, meats, and even Osteria-style restaurants.
Second Floor: You’ll go from the 16th century Medici to the 21st century by going up the escalator to the 2nd floor. Welcome to the types of places our current Italian youth enjoys – modern and cool. Yes, it is great for westerns to go to Italy and feel a connection to the past but trust me, Italians appreciate modern touches.
The second floor is really cool. Filled with hyper-focused restaurants that serve a particular style of food. Its cafeteria-style. You grab food, sit down, eat, and clean up after yourself.
Surrounding Mercato Centrale are the covered markets which are really touristy and cheap. While there are some decent items in these markets, I mostly look to avoid them.
That said, if you’ve never been to a European outdoor market it is a cool experience you should check out but keep your wallet safe in every sense of the word.
Sean’s Recommendation: I would personally eat downstairs at Da Nerbone since it is a quintessential part of eating in Florence. Then, go upstairs to grab your coffee and consider it for lunch the next day if you are in town.
5. See the Duomo & Brunelleschi’s Dome
The Florence Cathedral is a must-see attraction and it would be very difficult to miss if you are visiting. It is located in the center of town and visible from much of the city. It is named the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore which translates to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower. One could assume that the name refers to the Giglio or Red Lily/Iris – the flower and symbol of Florence.
The name Santa Maria del Fiore is seldom used in Italy however. Most would simply refer to it as Il Duomo. The Duomo is designed in a very Tuscan/Florentine style. Green and white marble that brings life to its facade and surfaces. It differs greatly from the Basilica of Rome in many ways. One is that it is completely detached from other buildings so you can walk 360 degrees around it.
The dome, its literal crowning jewel, was the first of its magnitude since the Pantheon. Many thought it was unable to be done but the Medici family pressed on and Filippo Brunelleschi brought it to realization.
By far the most famous moment in this cathedrals history was the murder of Giuliano dè Medici on Sunday April 26 1478 by the Pazzi family who attempted to dethrone the Medici from power. The idea was to murder both Giuliano and Lorenzo the Great but they failed to kill Lorenzo and were banished from Florence.
Address: Piazza del Duomo
4. The Gates of Paradise (Bronze Doors)
You’ll find the famous Baptistry Doors of Florence attached to the Baptistry of St. John in Florence. The baptistry is directly in front of the Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo). It is so close to the Cathedral and has such a similar design that it appears to be the same structure but it is a church of its own and considered a minor Basilica.
The structure is one of the oldest in Florence dating back to the late 11th century. The building is famous for its bronze doors designed and constructed by Lorenzo Ghiberti over 27 years.
Michelangelo described the doors as the Gates of Paradise which is what the doors are known as today. Vasari, one of Florence’s greatest artists and art critics described them in his book Lives of the Artists as, “undeniably perfect in every way and must rank as the finest masterpiece ever created.”
undeniably perfect in every way and must rank as the finest masterpiece ever created – Giorgio Vasari
Why did everyone make such a big deal? Ghiberti innovated with new uses of space that brought life to the doors and its characters. They are considered a masterpieice that helped define the Renaissance and draw many visitors today.
Location: Piazza San Giovanni
3. Walk Across the Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is an excellent example of a medieval bridge and what an impressive structure it is! The construction is completely from stone archways that support the weight of the bridge, its visitors, and shops! The shops built on either side of the bridge add to its uniqueness but few realize that their is a secret passage for the Medici built on top known as the Vasari corridor!
The Vasari Corridor is an incredible structure if you think about it. The Medici, who practically ruled the Republic of Florence, built a hallway to connect their home, Palazzo Pitti, with the town hall, Palazzo Vecchio.
The bridge is occupied by jewelers and generally overrun by visitors looking to purchase something from “on top of Ponte Vecchio in Florence,” which I admit is pretty cool to say.
The jewelers are not there by accident either. This bridge used to be inhabited by farmers of all sorts but the Medici propagated the idea that these types of shops make the bridge and city look fit for peasants. The farmers were forced out which eventually turned into a decree in 1595 excluding them.
Our tour of Accademia, also featured below, includes a visit to the Ponte Vecchio if you want to hear it’s history.
Location: Ponte Vecchio
2. Take a Tour of the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is Florence’s premier art gallery and one of the greatest collections of Italian Renaissance artwork on Earth. Built in the 16th century as an office building for the Medici and formerly declared a museum open to the public in 1865. Over 4 million visitors enter the Uffizi each year which makes it the most ticketed attraction in Florence. Why?
The Renaissance by definition gave birth to a new era of art, architecture, and culture. Florence was the epicenter and it spread throughout Italy and Europe. Florence birthed the Renaissance and much of that artwork is in the galleries of the Uffizi.
The structure, designed by Giorgio Vasari, saw its completion in 1581 for the Medici Family. The name Uffizi translates to “offices” which was its original purpose!
Today, you can see some of the world’s greatest artworks including the Birth of Venus and la Primavera by Sandro Botticelli. This is a must-visit site for visitors to Florence and we recommend a guided tour of the Uffizi to bring the museum to life. If that is not in the budget definitely check our museum guides below
- Guided Tour Options
- Tickets, Hours, Tours, & More!
- Top Things to See Inside the Uffizi Gallery (Self Guided Itinerary)
- Best Places to Eat Near the Uffizi
1. See the Greatest Sculpture on Earth
Known officially as Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, Accademia is a small art museum with Michelangelo’s David as its focal point. Unlike its rival the Uffizi Gallery, Accademia is smaller and has a very small collection of works which makes it unique.
Michelangelo sculpted David from a block of marble abandoned by other artists describing it as, “Un-usable”. Michelangelo not only was able to work with it but sculpted what is arguably his masterpiece.
He famously described David as “trapped” in the marble. It is a humble way to describe sculpting. David always existed inside that block of marble and it was Michelangelo’s mission to get him out.
You can also see four unfinished statues by Michelangelo which sort of frame the corridor that leads up to David. There are also works by other artists in Accademia including Sandro Boticelli. Getting tickets can be difficult. We offer a guided tour of Florence that includes a stop into Accademia to see David and visits many of the main sites in Florence led by a local English-speaking guide.
- Guided tours of Accademia and Michelangelo’s David
- Where is Michelangelo’s David in Florence
- Best Places to Eat Near Accademia
Admission: 8€ adult | 2€ reduced
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9 am – 6:45 pm
Address: Via Ricasoli, 58/60