You only have one day in Florence Italy and you’re wondering what you should do. While I will always argue that Florence deserves more than one day, this tends to be a common question. It can be hard to decide how to spend your time in Italy. There’s no shortage of destinations fighting for your attention. Between the big cities like Rome to the smaller sun-soaked villages of Cinque Terre, from the north of Italy to the south the country has a lot to discover.
You won’t be able to see everything the Tuscan capital has to offer in one day, this one-day guide to Florence Italy will help you make the best of your time, giving you a touch of touristic sightseeing and a glimpse into the laidback flair of Firenze.
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Breakfast at Mercato Centrale:
Rise and shine, you’re in the Tuscan capital, there’s no time to waste. Get an early start by heading to Mercato Centrale, Florence’s central market. You can browse the local vendors selling fruit, veggies, truffle oils, and other Tuscan delicacies, then head upstairs to grab a cornetto (Italian croissant) and a coffee. (the cornetto ceriale is vegan) The market’s architecture is impressive and was renovated in 2014 by the architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who also designed the Sant’Ambrogio Market in Florence.
Now that you’re well-caffeinated and have some sugar in your belly (that’s the Italian way after all) you should be ready to head out to see some of the many historic landmarks that Florence has to offer.
** If you prefer a bigger breakfast, skip the upstairs of the market and go to a very cute cafe around the corner Le Mengiere that serves pancakes, avocado toast, etc. Then head over to the lower level of the market
The Leather Market
When leaving Mercato Central, you should be greeted by vendors setting up their stands on the streets surrounding the market. This is the San Lorenzo Leather Market that is open daily from 7-5 pm (don’t expect it to be fully open at 7 am on the dot, this is Italian timing).
You’ll be able to find purses, belts, florentine paper notebooks, and other leather goods. While I don’t recommend you buy your souvenirs from here since it’s all mass-produced products. it’s fun to see and if you do find something that you can’t live without, don’t forget to haggle!
Basilica San Lorenzo
Down the street from the market, you will find the San Lorenzo Church, while I don’t recommend you go inside this one since you’re short on time, you should note that the Medicis who ruled over Florence during the heart of the renaissance are buried there in the Cappelle Medicee, which was designed by Michelangelo. If you ever get the chance to visit Florence again this should be on your list of places to see.
Duomo/Giotto’s Bell Tower
Around the corner from Basilica San Lorenzo, you’ll find the Duomo in Piazza Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the piazza with the Duomo in it. The church is free to enter, and if there isn’t a long line you should check it out. However it’s not the most exciting cathedral on the inside, the real beauty is on the outside. Most of the art that was originally in the Duomo has been moved to the Uffizi gallery.
While most people will line up to climb to the top of the duomo, the lines can be pretty long taking upwards of an hour, but don’t fret there’s a better option that takes less time. You can climb the duomo’s bell town to get the same incredible views, with the added bonus that you will also get to see the Duomo up close and personal.
After climbing the belltower head down Via Roma which is one of the main streets in Florence and you’ll quickly stumble upon Piazza Repubblica with the picturesque archway and carrousel. One of my favorite things to do is grab a coffee to go from Gilli and sit in the piazza to watch the street performers and the fashionable people walking by.
Piazza Della Signora - Plazzo Vecchio
After your coffee break, keep heading down the street, and right before you come to the Ponte Vecchio hang a left, you won’t be able to miss it because when you look down you’ll be greeted by the Plazzo Vecchio (old palace). You’ll see the fake statue of David outside of the entrance, an open-air statue museum, and to the left of the Plazzo, there’s the fountain of Neptune which is one of the most impressive fountains in Florence.
I would highly recommend taking an hour to check out the Plazzo, make sure to get the ticket that includes climbing the clock tower for a stunning view of the city. The room of 500 alone is worth the price of the ticket. If you’ve ever seen Dante’s inferno, you’ll recognize a lot of the rooms in the palazzo because it was one of the main locations in the movie.
Panini for Lunch
By now you should be getting hungry, and luckily for you right around the corner from the palazzo is Via Dei Neri which has not one but two of the best panini shops in Florence. You won’t be able to miss the street because of the crowd that gathers outside of All’Antico Vinaio. Rather than waiting for a panini there, keep going a few doors down to one of Florence’s best-kept secrets, La Fettunta. The paninis are just as good, if not better, and the women that run the shop are extremely friendly.
After you enjoy your panini head further down the street to Gelateria Dei Neri for some of the most delicious gelato in Florence. For those looking for vegan options, the ciocolata fondanta is vegan, as well as most of the fruit flavors.
Now it’s time to finally cross the Ponte Vecchio, which is the bridge that has all the houses on it. It’s also known as the bridge of gold because of all the jewelry shops that are on the bridge. If you’ve had your sights set on buying gold jewelry while in Italy, this is the place to do it.
After you’re done shopping you’ll hang a left after the bridge to head up to Florence’s most famous lookout point, Piazzale Michelangelo. On the way up you can see the rose gardens which is a free garden located directly under Piazzale. Once you make it up the hill or the stairs, you can grab a bottle of wine from the vendors and enjoy it while taking in the views. You’ll be able to spot all the places that you’ve been to throughout the day.
Explore the Oltroarno
When you’re done soaking in the views of Florence it’s time to see the more local side of Florence. The Oltroarno neighborhoods of San Niccolo (directly under Piazzale) Santo Spirito and San Frediano are filled with little artisan shops, local bars, and incredible restaurants. I recommend walking down Via di S. Niccolò and peaking into all the little shops as you go.
There’s no shortage of great restaurants on this side of the Arno. However, rather than walking somewhere random, I would recommend going to Quatro Leoni, Santo Bevitore, Osteria Santo Spirito, or Gurdulù Gastronomia.
There’s no saying which is the best because they are all incredibly delicious. I recommend looking at the menus for each and picking which fits your style and taste. I can promise that you can’t go wrong with any of them— they’re the best of the best.
After Dinner Drinks
If you still have energy after dinner and you want to see the local nightlife, wander through piazza Santo Spirito to see where the young, artistic people are hanging out – if you like the vibes, stop and grab a drink at any of the bars in the piazza. However, if you fancy a really nice cocktail keep heading back towards the river to Borgo San Frediano and go to a place called Mad Soul & Spirits for artisanal cocktails that look just as great as they taste. This street is filled with fun little spots to spend an evening in Florence, so even if you don’t want a drink, it’s worth taking a stroll down.
By now you should be exhausted from exploring for one day in Florence Italy, as you head back to your hotel or Airbnb, make sure to walk across the bridge before or after the Ponte Vecchio to give yourself one last picturesque view of the Arno River at night. The way the city lights sparkle on the water around the Ponte Vecchio is a magical sight to see.