There are so many things to do in Florence that it’s impossible to see them all in one day. However, I have often taken a day trip from Rome to Florence and with proper planning, I have managed to see what I wanted.
While I suggest setting more days to visit this important Italian hub, I also understand that sometimes it’s not possible. If you have limited time and don’t want to leave Italy without visiting the birthplace of the Renaissance, here are our tips on how to do it to explore as much as you can in Florence in a day and save time.
Don’t miss our article on the best places to visit near Rome.
Day Trip From Rome To Florence – What To Do And How To Save Time
Start with Santa Maria del Fiore Complex
Santa Maria del Fiore is a large complex that includes several buildings and is one of the first attractions everyone heads to in Florence. On a day trip from Rome to Florence it’s unlikely that you will manage to see them all thoroughly. What I suggest is that you pick maybe one or two to explore well.
For example, if you arrive early on the train from Rome to Florence, you can head directly to Brunelleschi’s dome. If you have booked online the climb, you can join your queue that needs to be there 15 minutes before the start and the whole tour won’t take more than an hour. The ticket includes all the sites, but only for the dome, booking a specific time is mandatory.
In Santa Maria del Fiore complex you can climb also to the top of Giotto’s bell tower, where the booking is not mandatory but possible and recommended if you are in high season and don’t want to skip it. We climbed both, but we spent 5 days in Florence.
The other sites of the complex are Santa Maria del Fiore Basilica, its underground crypt, the Museum where most artworks were moved from the church after the 1966 flood, and the gorgeous Baptistery of St. John. Having visited them all, if you think you want to visit other major places like the Uffizi, the Accademia and Palazzo Pitti, I would probably suggest you skip the interior of the Basilica, for the facade shows the most beautiful decoration, and head directly to the baptistery.
Here, you won’t find too much of a queue and also inside, the tour doesn’t take long. But the building is truly fascinating, the interior marble decoration, the shape and the ceiling make it completely worth trying your best to see it.
Enter the Accademia Gallery for Michelangelo’s David
One of the most famous attractions to include in your list, the sculpture of David attracts thousands of visitors every day. The Accademia Gallery is the museum that holds the highest number of Michelangelo’s artworks in the world, so it’s worth visiting not only for the David.
Once inside, the visit won’t take long, but what can slow you down on your day trip from Rome to Florence is the queue to enter. The ruse to make things faster is always the same: book your fast-track entrance online.
Duck into Santa Maria Novella Basilica
This is a fantastic church in the historic center, the first place I visited in Florence and really one of my favorites. Santa Maria Novella is not only a church but also a cloister of the religious Dominican order. The queue here is not too long but I recommend you don’t limit your visit to the church but take a look around the cloister, too.
A Gothic masterpiece, the facade of the Basilica is the work of Fra Jacopo Talenti and Leon Battista Alberti, while inside you will see the artwork of artists such as Giotto, Masaccio and Ghirlandaio.
Don’t leave before visiting the cloisters and the refectory all decorated with beautiful frescoes.
Visit Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
In a day of sightseeing in Florence’s city center, you will end up in Piazza della Signoria more than once, among all, on your way to the Uffizi.
A historic square heart of civic and social life in medieval times, this gorgeous L-shaped piazza is surrounded by several buildings. The most important palace is the 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio which you can visit inside if you have some spare time on your schedule. It will take about an hour.
The other buildings you can see in Piazza della Signoria are Loggia dei Lanzi, 16th-century Palazzo Uguccioni and Tribunale della Mercanzia built in 1359. Grab a table in one of the coffee shops and relax with a drink before resuming your sightseeing.
Explore the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the main sights, but it would be much easier if you had at least two days in Florence. A tour here is not going to take less than two hours so you might want to consider whether you really want to spend them here or elsewhere.
Some of the world’s biggest artists are exposed here, from Botticelli to Leonardo da Vinci, from Giotto to Michelangelo. If you are an art lover, you can’t possibly miss this museum. But if you would rather visit other places or have different experiences in the only one day you have in Florence, probably you can postpone the Uffizi visit to next time.
How to save time and money on a day trip from Rome to Florence
Since you know you will have limited time, the first thing I suggest is to carefully plan your Florence trip. Draft your itinerary keeping in mind what time you arrive in the morning and what time your train leaves in the evening. This way, you have a better idea about what skip-the-line tickets or tours you can book to speed things up in each attraction, especially the most crowded like the Accademia and the Uffizi.
Online you can purchase either single tickets or tours comprehensive of fast-track entrances. Some Florence tours last as little as one or two hours, just enough to visit a museum. For example, a tour to the Uffizi, whether it’s independent or a private guided one, won’t take less than two hours. Plus, with an expert guide, you will see directly the most important masterpieces without having to look for them.
Where to eat on your Rome to Florence day trip
If it’s your first trip to Florence, chances are you would like to have a traditional meal. Near San Lorenzo Basilica is Trattoria Sergio Gozzi, one of the restaurants in Florence that I always recommend for their delicious, no-frill dishes and very affordable prices.
Famous for their Florentine steak, you can order also the Tuscan traditional fresh pasta known as pici “alla carrettiera”, meaning with a sauce of tomato, garlic, basil and chili, ravioli dumplings as well as several other main courses and side dishes.
If you feel you are short in time and you want to combine lunch with sightseeing, have your meal at one of the stalls of Mercato Centrale. Here, you will find both Tuscan traditional foods and dishes from other Italian regions such as Sicily, Rome and Naples.
How to get to Florence from Rome
The absolute easiest way to get to Florence from Rome is by high-speed train. You take the train from either Roma Termini or Roma Tiburtina and in about an hour and a half you will get off in Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the city’s main train station. Check out Omio for all the prices and schedules of both Trenitalia and Italo Treno.
Firenze Santa Maria Novella is close to all the main landmarks of the historic center so a perfect starting point.
If you are taking a day trip, I recommend you book in advance also your train from Florence to Rome to avoid very expensive rates.
If you decide to rent a car in Italy, you can also drive from Rome to Florence through the A90 (Grande Raccordo Anulare, GRA) and A1 highways. If this is your choice, make sure you check out both Rome and Florence ZTLs (Limited Traffic Zones). If you are already driving in Rome, you are probably staying out of the ZTL, but also Florence’s historic center is a no-driving area so you will need to park outside of it and use local public transport.
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