Italy is a so-called ‘bucket list’ destination for many, many people, and lucky are those who can make their holiday dreams come true, because this stunning country delivers on every clichéd description you’ve ever heard. The food, the wine, the history, the culture, the fashion, the architecture, the landscape, the people – oh mamma mia!
But of all the magnificent Italian cities, Florence (or Firenze, for those in the know) is the one that has the ability to captivate your heart and get under your skin, from the moment you arrive to the moment you reluctantly leave. Until next time. Because with Firenze, there must always be a next time…
Fall in Love with Firenze Your Way
When you start to plan a trip to this magnificent city you’ll no doubt be bombarded with advice on where to go, what to see, and the best things to eat and drink. But the city’s true beauty lies in its uncanny knack to appeal to each of us and to charm us all in very different ways. Behind every secret door, back street alley and tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant is a microcosm of Florentine joy just waiting to be discovered.
How you make your own special memories is, of course, up to you, but at Walkabout Florence, what we can do is highlight the places that you really shouldn’t miss and the very best things to do in Florence if you’re a first-time visitor. We can point you in the right direction of those experiences that will paint a picture of the city’s history, art and culture to put in your back pocket and refer to as you fall in love with Firenze – as you undoubtedly will.
Experience the Best of Florence
Even though this is a very small city, in terms of its art and culture it can be pretty overwhelming when you’re trying to squeeze everything in. Because, believe us when we say, you really won’t want to miss a thing. Our guide to the must-see and must-do big ticket items will give you a head start on things to do in Florence – the rest is up to you. Whether you’re here for three days or three weeks (lucky you!) don’t miss these.
Visit the Big Three
When it comes to the vast array of art and architecture on display in the city, the names of these ‘big three’ are probably already familiar to you, because they’re also famous around the world. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, the city is rich beyond compare and there’s an absolute wealth of history and art. The following three places represent the best of the best.
Famous as the permanent home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece of sculpture, the mighty David, a visit to the Accademia is an absolute must for art lovers. Frankly you could sit and gaze at the magnificence of David for an entire day (and go right ahead if you wish), but there are other things to be seen here as well.
Lining the hallway that leads to the statue of David is the Hall of the Prisoners, Michelangelo’s famous collection of unfinished ‘Slaves’ sculptures.
The Musical Instrument Museum is a gallery within a gallery, home to a stunning collection of historical instruments, many used in the courts of the Medicis.
The Hall of the Colossus, which includes sculptures and panel paintings from many great Masters.
There’s enough here to make a half day visit of it, but like we said, there’s also David…
Home to the definitive collection of Italian Renaissance art, the Uffizi contains more than 100,000 works ranging from the medieval period up to the eighteenth century. If you want to see them all, you’d need a couple of months, but you’ll probably have to make do with the most acclaimed highlights, which include (but are definitely not limited to):
- Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
- Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch
- Caravaggio’s Medusa
- Titian’s Venus of Urbino
- Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi
- Lippi’s Madonna and Child
It’s impossible to convey the size and scope of this jaw-dropping gallery and it’s truly incredible to realise this is the collection of one family (the Medicis, of course). The priceless treasures contained within these ancient walls are some of the most significant in history and, as one of the most inspiring things to do in Florence, once seen, you’ll never forget the Uffizi.
The Duomo is an architectural masterpiece that dwarfs everything in its immediate surrounds and Filippo Brunelleschi’s ‘cuppola’ is an iconic symbol of the city. Of all the things to do in Florence, a visit to the Piazza del Duomo to see the Gothic Santa Maria del Fiore with its instantly recognisable dome is among the most popular – and you can hardly miss this massive landmark!
The distinctive pink, white and green marble exterior and breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows make for a truly impressive sight, in total contrast to its sparse, cavernous interiors – but the vast echoing space certainly makes for a very evocative atmosphere. While there are some paintings in the Cathedral, much of the original collection is now housed in the Opera del Duomo Museum, with a host of stunning Renaissance paintings from great masters like Giotto, Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti decorating the walls.
Don’t forget to head down the stairs to visit the underground crypts, which have been excavated to reveal the remains of the original church that stood on the site in the fifteenth century.
Views of Florence can be enjoyed if you have the stamina to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower. And for those who want to get up close and personal with Brunelleschi’s masterful dome, you can reserve a ticket to hike the 463 stairs that run up the inside of the structure. Once you’ve caught your breath from the climb you can expect to lose it again as you gaze at the breath-taking view of the city from the exterior walkway.
Top Tip: While you’re at the Duomo, don’t miss the oldest religious site in the city, the Baptistery, which is located straight opposite the Cathedral entrance in Piazza del Duomo.
Skip the Queues and Get the Walkabout Guide
The thing about the most popular things to do in Florence is that everyone else wants to do them as well! There’s no delicate way of putting it: the ticket queues for these hot ticket items can be horrendous, especially in high season. But we’ve got the solution. Pre-book your tickets through Walkabout Florence and not only will you get to skip the queues, you’ll also get access to our unique, exclusive Walkabout Guide. The customised tablet gives you fingertip access to 200 short videos, with expert English commentary on a host of the city’s history and attractions. This fantastic digital guide really is like having a new Italian best friend in your backpack!
Sample the Pizza and Gelato
Ah, pizza and gelato. Are there two any more Italian sounding words than those? Maybe just one…deliziosa! And that one needs no translation. Sampling the cuisine is one of the absolute joys of a visit to Italy and definitely one of the most enjoyable things to do in Florence. While it’s all good, probably nothing is more iconic than the out-of-this-world gelato and pizza. We all know that when in Rome you’ve got to do as the Romans do, so, when in Firenze…well, you know the rest!
There’s a gelato shop on virtually every corner of the city and an infinite array of flavours to work your way through, but the best advice is to make sure you’re buying from a true artisanal gelato maker. For this you’re going to have to step away from the main tourist sites and look out for words along the lines of ‘Gelato Artigianale’ or ‘Produzione Propria’, meaning it’s made on site – preferably daily and with fresh natural ingredients.
When it comes to pizza, even though it’s not part of the traditional Florentine cuisine, the locals have adapted well! The thin-crust, wood-fired version that originated in Napoli is the slice of choice here, and there are countless restaurants and eateries where you’ll be able to get an absolutely mouth-watering pizza. We wouldn’t want to take away your fun by even starting to make suggestions though…
However, once you’ve sampled your way through the city’s best offerings of pizza and gelato you’re going to have a problem. You’ll be addicted to your daily serving of both! But we’ve got a fantastic idea that will ensure you can cultivate your habit for one the best things to do in Florence once you get home – and impress your friends and family no end.
Learn How to Make Your Own!
Walkabout’s fun-filled and very delicious Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class, held in a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse, gives you the chance to learn the techniques of pizza and gelato making from a professional chef. This very hands-on experience will see you picking your own ingredients from the farmhouse garden, then heading in to the kitchen to make your own gelato and pizza – true Italian style! And the best part? You get to eat your efforts surrounded by new friends and the beautiful scenery of Tuscany.
Almost every scene here is a postcard and simply looking at the view is one of the most wonderful things to do in Florence. So, wherever you are, whatever time of day it is, look up, down, straight ahead or over your shoulder and you’ll find another piece of the city to fall in love with. The only advice we can really give is that if you want to see things at their very best, get up early or stay up late so you can beat the inevitable crowds.
Top Tip: If you want to capture the most spectacular images, while sunset is one of the busiest times at all the best sites, sunrise, not so much! And the light is every bit as stunning…
If you wander along the River Arno, criss-crossing back and forth over to Oltrano (the ‘other’ side), you’ll be able to take in views of (and from) not only the city’s famous bridges, including Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Alle Grazie, Ponte Santa Trinita and Ponte alla Carraia, but also the stunning vision of famous landmarks like the Uffizi Gallery.
The tranquil surrounds of the Boboli Gardens offer lovely views from their gently elevated position. While it’s more a snails-eye vantage than a bird’s, it’s a perspective that really gives you an idea of the sprawl of the city and its position in the encircling bowl of the surrounding Tuscan hills.
If you’ve got a head for heights, the views from the top of the Duomo are simply staggering, but if you’re not up to the challenge of that, the climb to the top of the Campanile (the bell tower) provides a vista nearly as good and a lot more accessible.
Probably the most famous viewpoint in the city is from Piazzale Michelangelo, which affords a sweeping city panorama and a magical snapshot of the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Sante Croce, Fiesole and out to the rolling hills of Tuscany.
Get Out and Explore on a Vespa with Walkabout
Speaking of those rolling hills, if you want to take in the views beyond the city, our fabulous Vespa tours get you out into the surrounding countryside so you can sightsee like a true Italian. This is hands-down the most fun way to explore! We’ll get you used to your vintage Vespa slowly as we travel alongside the river and take in some amazing views from various stops along the way. By the time we leave the city and let out the throttle, you’ll be riding like a pro! Complete with lunch and visits to historical sites, this four-hour tour will go down as one of your most fun-filled memories.
Make Your First Time in Firenze Fabulous
First time visitors to this magical city are in for an absolute treat. Make it even better by joining Walkabout Florence on one of our amazing tours or experiences. We’re passionate about showing you the real heart and soul of the city in a way that’s fun, informative and totally hassle-free. Whether you want to join us on a day trip or take advantage of our pre-booked tickets and Walkabout Guide, we’re here for you. Get in touch with us and you’ll feel at home in no time.
We Are Walkabout Florence
Walkabout Florence is renowned as one of the most trusted and experienced independent tour operators in the industry. We’ve built our reputation on offering fun and authentic day tours and experiences. From Vespa and Fiat 500 tours, to cultural day trips and food and wine experiences, we’re committed to helping you discover the fantastic history, art, food, wine and culture of Italy