Tuscany’s capital is the birthplace of the Renaissance and you’d be hard pressed not to be bowled over by the old masters and intricate frescoes hidden floor-to-ceiling inside some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Top of the list is the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia for Michelangelo’s ‘David and Botticelli’s Venus. The cultural trail continues with ancient bridges, palaces, churches and museums including Ghiberto’s Doors of Paradise, the Bargello and Brunelleschi’s Palazzo Pitti. And if you’ve already climbed the staggering Duomo, find an astonishing new viewpoint from the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower. The city centre is pocket-sized enough to wander around in a day, shops delight with hidden treasures, high street stores and luxury brands and dreamy medieval piazzas beckon for an afternoon of alfresco café dining with an espresso or Prosecco. As the sun goes down, expect show-stopping restaurants, renowned wine cellars and late night gelaterias. Piazzale Michelangelo is a hotspot for outdoor nightlife and panoramic city views, and an after-dark peek of the Duomo is a must for its haunting good looks.
Where is Florence?
The capital and biggest city in north-east Tuscany lies in central Italy about 90 miles northwest of Rome and just an hour by high-speed train from Pisa. It’s compact in size and surrounded by the olive groves and vineyards of the Tuscan countryside.
Florence is delightfully walkable. Its small size means you can walk from one end of the historic city centre to the other in less than an hour, although this doesn’t account for all the gelato shops and architectural gems you’ll want to stop at along the way. There’s no hailing a taxi here, but there are dedicated ranks and hop on/hop off buses to take you to all the major sights. Day trips to Pisa, Lucca and Siena are quick and easy by train from the city centre Santa Maria Novella station.
Food & drink
Authentic Italian gelato artiginale, that famous Florentine Chianina cattle T-bone steak, buttery truffle gnocchi and street-food pizzas… everything is mouth-watering and head-turning whichever way you look. Perhaps not the tripe, but it’s a local specialty that may be worth the try. The Italians are food and wine lovers, so look out for cafes with wood-fire ovens and home-style Tuscan food, restaurants with acclaimed wine cellars and word-of-mouth trattorias and osterias. Expect plenty of canoli and coffee breaks in pretty piazzas, sweet treats and aperitivo on Via Roma and Michelin-starred dining in Renaissance palaces. Go romantic by the Arno River, overlooking the Duomo or in the famed Piazza della Signoria and toast your night with an iconic local Chianti or classic Negroni.
Florence’s medieval streets are flooded with chic boutiques, traditional leather stores, high street fashion and antique jewellers. Via Tornabuoni is famed for its designer stores and the roads off of elegant Piazza della Repubblica have the high street fashion shops. You’ll find plenty of flea markets while wandering, selling everything from souvenirs to traditional leather goods, and high-end antique jewellers along the River Arno. Step back in time inside Santa Maria Novella Perfumery where 17th-Century cabinetry and beautiful frescoed walls are lined with irresistible perfumes, soaps and elixirs, and for an affordable but special souvenir of Florence, head to Il Papiro near Piazza Pitti to pick up exceptional rolls of marbled paper, cards and stationery. Owner Giannini still creates his iconic pieces in the open workshop out the back.
GMT +1 hour
2 hours to Pisa and then a 1-hour road transfer to Florence
Most tourist restaurants are situated around San Lorenzo while some of the finest venues are located close to Santa Croce. Numerous street vendors sell delicious gelato throughout the city – the prefect treat during a busy day of sightseeing.
Florence's shopping opportunities ranges from luxury designer stores and classic high street names to local markets where you can pick up souvenirs, leather goods, jewellery and antiques. The renowned San Lorenzo Market has a simliar feel to London's Covent Garden and features an indoor food market and an outdoor market with stalls selling clothes and sourvenirs.International flights operate into and out of Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport which is located an hour’s drive from Florence. Domestic and European flights operate from Florence’s small Amerigo Vespucci airport, also known as Peretola, which is located just 20 minutes from the city centre and is also within reach of many of Tuscany’s hill towns such as Siena which is an hour’s drive away.
International flights operate into and out of Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport which is located an hour’s drive from Florence. Domestic and European flights operate from Florence’s small Amerigo Vespucci airport, also known as Peretola, which is located just 20 minutes from the city centre and is also within reach of many of Tuscany’s hill towns such as Siena which is an hour’s drive away.
Florence’s main railway station Stazione di Santa Maria Novella is located in the city centre in Piazza della Stazione, just 15 minutes’ walk from Piazza della Signoria. It offers direct services to major cities including Rome, Naples, Venice, Bologna and Milan.
Due to its size and many pedestrianised streets, the centre of Florence is compact and easy to get around on foot. The majority of the city’s sights can be found within a 20-minute walk of each other but be sure to wear appropriate footwear as many of the city’s charming roads are cobbled.
A small number of buses run an efficient service throughout the city and open-top tour buses travel between the major attractions. Taxis can be found at a number of ranks around the city but they cannot usually be flagged down. Women travelling alone late at night (9pm–2am) are entitled to request a 10% discount.