Pretty much always included in a classic Italy itinerary, especially for first-time visitors, to explore Florence in a day you need proper planning. To be fair, spending only one day in Florence entails being prepared to sacrifice entering some landmarks and to skip some restaurants that maybe we wanted to try but that happen to be far when it’s meal time.
Florence has so many things to see and do that even two days, three days, or a week is not enough to delve deep into the local history and culture. However, if one day in Florence is all you can afford, we will do our best to get a taste of the art and beauty only the cradle of the Renaissance can show.
What to do in one day in Florence
So you have only 1 day in Florence and would like to see as much as you can without wasting time. We designed this easy Florence one-day itinerary just for this.
The most time-consuming landmarks are also the most popular and it can be difficult to visit them all if you are visiting Florence in one day only. We included all of them in this itinerary as it’s possible to see them all by booking online your skip-the-line ticket or with a private Florence tour. If you prefer to explore the city independently and haven’t pre-planned your trip, you might decide to skip some of them. It all depends on the queue you find at the entrance, which will be longer in the high season.
Start early climbing Santa Maria del Fiore dome
The climb in itself is not too hard and doesn’t require too much time either. With proper planning, you can even include it in your list if you are taking a Rome to Florence day trip.
The hardest part is to find a spot right at the time you need it. Booking the climb to Brunelleschi’s cupola is mandatory and you can do it in front of the cathedral itself in the ticket office or online prior to your arrival.
In general, but especially in the high season, we recommend reserving your spot online before arriving to make sure you can find some space first thing in the morning and then carry on with your Florence 1-day itinerary.
Booking the climb to the bell tower is not mandatory but is also recommended in the high season. However, since you are spending only 1 day in Florence, you might want to choose either the dome or the bell tower. And my choice goes to the dome so you can admire the gorgeous frescoes on the ceiling from close.
The same goes for Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the crypt, and the museum. The cathedral itself inside is pretty empty as most of the artwork was moved to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo after the 1966 flood. Since there is no need for booking, you can visit the other major landmarks first and come back here if you have some time left. Even though, with only one day in Florence, I doubt you can visit here, too.
Head to the Galleria dell’Accademia
6 minutes’ walk from Piazza Duomo
The Galleria dell’Accademia is the museum that displays the original copy of the famous Michelangelo sculpture David. One of the most popular galleries in Florence, you will quickly spot the small entrance thanks to its ever-present line.
This is the museum with the largest number of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, making it a must even if you are exploring Florence for a day only.
Also for this gallery, purchasing a skip-the-line ticket online is the best way to save precious time.
Explore San Lorenzo Basilica and its complex
5 minutes’ walk from Galleria dell’Accademia
Even though San Lorenzo Basilica is an important worship and historic place in Florence, you won’t find a long queue or any queue at all. This was considered the family cathedral by the Medici clan. Visiting also the Tesoro di San Lorenzo in the basilica’s underground you can see the rich donations the Medicis made.
Worth a quick stop is also San Lorenzo Library next to the church and the De’ Medici tombs behind it.
If it’s lunchtime and at the entrance of Trattoria Gozzi there is no line, you can grab a table and order here a delicious traditional meal spending very little. If it’s too busy (it’s only open for lunch), get to the next stop.
Stroll around the alleys of Mercato Centrale
3 minutes’ walk from San Lorenzo Basilica
Mercato Centrale is a picturesque stop where you can take plenty of nice pictures, do great food and souvenir shopping and try Tuscan and other Italian delicacies.
We tried pasta and ravioli dumplings as well as pizza and Sicilian cannoli. Everything was delicious. Mercato Centrale adds color and vibe to your itinerary if you are still wondering what to see in Florence in one day, and is often included in one of the many food tours of Florence.
Santa Maria Novella Basilica and Cloister
5 minutes’ walk from Mercato Centrale
Santa Maria Novella Basilica is a stunning church both inside and outside and includes a fascinating cloister. There is hardly a line to enter, so in this part you will go pretty quick and smooth.
Romanesque and Gothic style, inside the church you can visit its several chapels, the courtyard and the cloister. The paintings, decorations and sculptures are the artwork of artists such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Masaccio among others.
To visit the church and the other areas of the complex, an hour would be enough.
Piazza della Signoria
11 minutes’ walk from Santa Maria Novella Basilica
A beautiful Italian piazza dominated by the view of the historically important Palazzo Vecchio, a stop in Piazza della Signoria is a must and also pretty easy as it’s on the way to several attractions in the city center, including the Uffizi Gallery.
We suggest stopping here to take some pictures. Since it’s close to your next stop, if you think you have an hour, duck into Palazzo Vecchio to see the rooms where much of the municipality decisions have been taken.
3 minutes’ walk from Piazza della Signoria
The tour of the Uffizi Gallery will take you some 3 hours. If you book a private tour, you can make it in about 2 hours and a half as the guide will take you directly to see the most important artwork. If you don’t want to book a private tour, we suggest at least buying a fast-track entrance ticket online as it will save you plenty of time.
Even though it requires a good couple of hours, the Uffizi Gallery is one of those must-visit places you don’t want to miss even if you are trying to make the most of Florence in 1 day.
How to get around Florence
The best way to get around Florence’s historic center is by walking. This is a strict ZTL so forget driving. You can rent a bike to go faster from one landmark to the next and since you have only 1 day in Florence this is a good idea.
If you are staying also one night and your Florence hotel is not in the city center, rely on the local public transport as it’s frequent and very well-organized.
If you are taking the Rome to Florence train, you can purchase the bus tickets directly at Santa Maria Novella station as soon as you arrive. And if you are aiming to go back, I suggest you book your train from Florence to Rome early enough to find a good choice of seats and good prices.
Where to eat in Florence
Among the Florence restaurants for first-time visitors, we suggest Trattoria Gozzi for its traditional dishes and their very affordable fares. It’s right in front of San Lorenzo Basilica in the historic center so easy to reach during your sightseeing. This is also a great spot for meat eaters who want to try the traditional Fiorentina steak.
Another spot where you can eat well in the city center is Mercato Centrale. Plenty of options from both the Tuscan tradition and dishes from other Italian regions.
Where to stay in Florence
If you are staying only one night in Florence, it’s probably wise to stay as close to the historic center as you can. Public transport is very efficient, so if you prefer to save on accommodation and book a budget hotel in Florence, you can still rely on it. But since you are staying only one day in Florence, probably you will want to save as much time as you can.
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