The Ultimate 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
What to See in Two Days – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
Let’s discover what to see in Florence in two days with the following itinerary. Florence is an art city that is always worth rediscovering and never disappoints. That’s why I returned after several years, curious to see its unique Renaissance masterpieces again. The desire to visit is undoubtedly even more vital when you add to that its lively atmosphere and delicious culinary specialties.
My itinerary in Florence took place over three days, although it felt like two. I arrived on Friday at noon and departed on Sunday at 2 p.m.
By booking in advance, I visited the city’s leading museums and monuments, saving myself from queues and wasting time.
Considering the time spent on visits, the itinerary was quite packed. To achieve my goals, I ended up walking over 55 kilometers.
Choosing a hotel just a few steps away from Florence’s central station was bright, especially for the convenience on the last day when I left my backpack in storage.
PART ONE: WHAT TO SEE IN FLORENCE – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
ARRIVAL IN FLORENCE
My journey began with a fast regional train that took me to Mestre. Then, I hopped on the Frecciarossa train at 9:40 a.m. and arrived at my destination. The two-hour journey flew by thanks to the Trenitalia app, which offers free access to newspapers, magazines, movies, TV series, music, and online games.
In no time, I found myself at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella central station. Despite being 1 October, I was welcomed by scorching temperatures of over 25 degrees Celsius and blinding sunlight.
I immediately noticed many tourists from various nationalities crowding the streets, especially young people. It was a testament to the city’s charm.
Since the hotel check-in was at 2:00 p.m., I decided to start my sightseeing, and, despite being early, they let me in.
BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA NOVELLA: 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella was the first paid attraction I visited. Access is also available from the square in front of the train station, so you find yourself in the Cloister of the Dead. Not exactly a pleasant start to the trip. This place was a cemetery before the basilica was built, hence its name. Thank goodness I didn’t feel like I was in Dante‘s “Divine Comedy“.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, belonging to the Dominican order, dates back to the late 13th century. However, the facade was completed in the mid-15th century in a Tuscan Romanesque style characterized by polychrome marbles with geometric designs. Inside, you can see Gothic-Florentine architecture dominated by slender pillars and ribbed vaults. Among the many masterpieces, there is a wealth of frescoes, with Masaccio’s “Trinity” standing out.
But undoubtedly, the most prestigious work is Giotto‘s large crucifix hanging in the central nave. Another important crucifix is that of Giambologna, located in the main chapel behind the altar, which is also adorned with frescoes by Ghirlandaio. Along the transept, you’ll find beautiful chapels dedicated to important Florentine families of that period.
Upon exiting the basilica, you find yourself in the green abbey, where the Spanish Chapel, covered in frescoes depicting the history of the Dominicans and their fight against heresies, overlooks. My tour of the Santa Maria Novella concluded in the large cloister, surrounded by wall paintings.
HOTEL ALINARI IN FLORENCE
Time flew by, so when I left the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, I immediately headed to Hotel Alinari. It felt like being back in Tokyo because the hotel is not on the ground floor but on the fourth floor of a building that houses other hotels.
After completing check-in, I went to my reserved room to drop off my backpack and only took what I needed. I was pleased to see that the room matched the description on the booking website. It had all the amenities, was clean, and the furniture was new, with all the desired extras. Before leaving, the hotel staff showed me the breakfast room since I had also booked breakfast. Satisfied with my choice, I hurried to the Uffizi Gallery because my entrance was scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
GALLERY OF THE UFFIZI IN FLORENCE
Florence is not a sprawling metropolis, so there was little distance to cover from the hotel to the Uffizi Gallery. However, being a newcomer, I still needed to orient myself. Fortunately, I had a detailed map, so after a moment of confusion, I found my way and arrived at the scheduled time.
There was a queue to enter, but for those with reservations, the access was faster. Even though I had visited the Uffizi Gallery in the past, I only remembered a little, so rediscovering its treasures was a delightful surprise.
HISTORY OF THE UFFIZI GALLERY
Let’s start with the palace that houses the Uffizi Gallery, commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici in the mid-16th century. Designed by Giorgio Vasari, the building has a distinctive “U” shape and also includes the famous Vasari Corridor. This corridor connects Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno River.
The octagonal Tribuna room houses the core artistic collection of the Uffizi Gallery. Roman statues, many of which are copies, adorn the long corridors with grotesque ceilings featuring mythological scenes.
This museum holds the most important works of Italian Renaissance art, which began in Florence in the 15th century. Cosimo I de Medici and Lorenzo the Magnificent were the most prominent bankers and patrons who financed Florence’s significant masterpieces.
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VISITING THE UFFIZI GALLERY
The visit to the Uffizi Gallery begins with the staircase that leads to the upper floors. Journeying through the rooms, you travel through time, encountering the works of 13th-century artists such as Giotto, Cimabue, Lorenzetti, Lippi, Piero della Francesca, and Masaccio. The journey continues with Sandro Botticelli’s masterpieces like “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus.“
The room dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci displays his “Baptism of Christ,” “Annunciation,” and the unfinished painting “Adoration of the Magi.” Works by Raphael, such as the “Madonna of the Goldfinch,” and by Titian, such as the “Venus of Urbino,” can also be admired, along with pieces by Rosso Fiorentino and Vasari.
The halls dedicated to Caravaggio are particularly striking, showcasing “The Head of Medusa” painted on a wooden shield, the “Young Bacchus,” and the “Sacrifice of Isaac.”
Completing the visit to the Uffizi Gallery are the panoramic views from the corridors overlooking the Arno River and towards the Ponte Vecchio, where the Vasari Corridor is visible.
PALAZZO VECCHIO IN FLORENCE
My exploration of Florence continued with the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, also known as the Palazzo della Signoria. This building has been the political heart of Florence since the 14th century when the government was in the hands of the priors, representatives of various guilds. Initially, the palace resembled a fortress, but it was modified and expanded under Cosimo I de Medici.
MICHELOZZO’S COURTYARD OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
As soon as you pass through the main entrance, you find yourself in Michelozzo’s courtyard, surrounded by a loggia adorned with frescoes by Giorgio Vasari. The scenes depict cities of the Habsburg Empire as a tribute to Joanna of Austria, the future wife of Francesco I de Medici.In the center, there is a beautiful fountain with a bronze replica of Verrocchio’s putto. Looking up, you get an unusual view of Arnolfo‘s tower.
This building acquired the name “Palazzo Vecchio” when the Medici family moved to the larger, more comfortable Palazzo Pitti across the Arno River.
SALONE DEI CINQUECENTO OF PALAZZO VECCHIO
One of the most spectacular rooms in Palazzo Vecchio is the Salone dei Cinquecento, boasting exceptional dimensions of 54 meters in length and 18 meters in height. Detailed representations of the battles fought by Florence against Pisa and Siena are depicted on the two longer walls facing each other.
Initially, Michelangelo Buonarroti‘s Battle of Cascina and Leonardo da Vinci‘s Battle of Anghiari were supposed to be displayed, but they were never completed due to delays and technical difficulties.
Continuing the visit, you pass through the private apartments and those designated for guests, while from the Saturn Terrace, you can enjoy a splendid view of the city.
Equally impressive are the Sala delle Udienze (Hall of Audience) and the Sala dei Gigli (Hall of Lilies), adorned with fleur-de-lis emblems. In addition to housing a large globe, the Sala delle Carte (Hall of Maps) displays precious geographical maps along its walls, reproducing the borders of nations from that period.
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA IN FLORENCE
When I exited Palazzo Vecchio at the end of the visit, the sun was setting, casting a warm light on the buildings and monuments.
The equestrian monument of Cosimo I de’ Medici commemorates the magnificence of this wealthy Florentine lord, who is also depicted as “Neptune” in the nearby fountain.
In a Gothic-Renaissance style, the scenic Loggia dei Lanzi hosted ceremonies and public assemblies and displayed statues, which have increased over time.
Among all the sculptures, the bronze statue of Benvenuto Cellini’s “Perseus,” with the head of Medusa in hand, stands out. The figure is also famous for containing the hidden self-portrait of its author, visible when viewing the work from behind, between the helmet and the head.
In addition to this sculpture, the loggia, where you can stroll, showcases Giambologna‘s “The Rape of the Sabine Women” and “Hercules and the Centaur.” There are also Roman statues such as “Patroclus and Menelaus” and others from more recent eras.
You can also ascend to the panoramic terrace above the loggia, where the café of the Uffizi Gallery is located.
EVENING IN FLORENCE: 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
Free from scheduled visits, I wandered around the historic center of Florence, trying to get an idea of what I would see the next day in daylight. First, I reached the long Arno River, where people had gathered to enjoy the last rays of sunset.
I headed to the crowded Ponte Vecchio, filled with jewelry shops, and continued to the Santo Spirito neighborhood. Retracing my steps, I walked along the long Via dei Calzaiuoli, dedicated to shopping, until I reached the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore with the Baptistry in front.
Given the time, I started looking around for a place to have dinner, overwhelmed by the choice of Florentine restaurants and culinary offerings. I decided to approach the area near Hotel Alinari, close to the central market of Florence.
Without hesitation, I indulged in an appetizer of bread with Tuscan olive oil and the typical tomato pappa. Satisfied with this first part of my trip to Florence, I headed to the hotel, closing the long day.
SECOND PART: WHAT TO SEE 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
BREAKFAST AT HOTEL ALINARI
The following day, around seven o’clock, I arrived at the breakfast room, where I found myself practically alone at that hour. The hosts made sure I got everything. In addition to the rich buffet, they brought me freshly baked tarts and much more.
Their friendliness made me so embarrassed, hoping other hotel guests would arrive soon. But only some were in a hurry like me, and they took it easy and relaxed.
However, my sightseeing schedule for this second day in Florence was quite packed, so I was already on the streets by eight o’clock…
Central Market (Mercato Centrale Firenze) WHAT TO SEE
Due to its proximity, I couldn’t miss visiting the large San Lorenzo Market in Florence, which is spread over two floors. The fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, and cheese stalls are located on the structure’s ground floor.
At that time, the vendors were completing their setups to attract customers. So, I took advantage of the few people around to take photos peacefully, ensuring I wasn’t in anyone’s way.
Outside the central market, while heading towards the Basilica of San Lorenzo, there are also stalls, but this time they offer various leather articles in different colors and styles. If you want to buy jackets, bags, notebooks, belts, and souvenirs, there’s something for every taste. Naturally, the prices vary depending on whether they are made of Italian leather or not or are made in Florence or imported.
MEDICI CHAPELS IN FLORENCE
Heading towards the cathedral, I passed by the Medici Chapels, part of the San Lorenzo complex. This is practically the mausoleum of the Medici family. The Chapel of the Princes, whose dome is the second largest in Florence, houses the remains of Cosimo I and relics of Lorenzo the Magnificent, among other things.
This chapel is covered in marble and decorations, but the nearby New Sacristy also offers many emotions. Michelangelo used his genius to build it and began some statues representing the allegories of Time, Day, and Night.
FLORENCE CATHEDRAL (DUOMO)
VISITING THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL (DUOMO)
The visit to the Florence Cathedral began with the ascent to the majestic Dome. At the scheduled time, I went to the Porta della Mandorla, and along with about a hundred people, I climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the interior of Brunelleschi’s dome.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE CUPOLA OF THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL
Walking along the inner circular terrace provides an excellent view of the underlying hierarchy with its beautiful marble floors. But the most prominent feature visible at close range is Giorgio Vasari’s “Last Judgment,” which completely covers the dome.
The adventure in the Florence Cathedral‘s dome continued because I followed additional winding corridors and climbed even higher. Scaling the dome, I emerged outside next to the so-called lantern of the cathedral, which culminates in a large golden sphere.
Given the project’s complexity, a competition was held for the dome’s construction, which Filippo Brunelleschi won, although he initially received assistance from Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The dome of the cathedral, partly inspired by the octagonal shape of the baptistery‘s dome, consists of two separate domes with an interstitial space. This is precisely the area where I climbed the steep stairs. The thought of the immense void below made me quite nervous… after all, several centuries had passed since the completion of the construction.
VIEW FROM THE FLORENCE CATHEDRAL DOME – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
The panoramic view from the top of the dome, encompassing the entire city of Florence, was truly awe-inspiring. There were endless things to see. Trying to spot the city’s landmarks was a delightful game, as was observing the roofs of the houses, tightly packed together.
It was incredible to spot Florence’s main churches and palaces and understand their location within the city context. From that vantage point, it was also evident that Florence is nestled in a basin surrounded by hills.
HISTORY OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE IN FLORENCE
Construction on the Florence Cathedral began in 1296 on the site of the former Santa Reparata church. The expansion of Florence’s power drove the desire to build a larger church. The Church of San Lorenzo, previously used for this purpose, was no longer sufficient.
Many artists and architects, including Arnolfo di Cambio, Filippo Brunelleschi (especially for the dome), and Giotto (for the 82-meter-tall bell tower), worked on this project. However, as he passed away, Giotto never saw its completion before, and Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti finished it.
The inauguration of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral took place in 1436, although the façade was not yet completed. It was only finished in 1887, in a completely different style from the original design.
OPERA DEL DUOMO MUSEUM
After descending from the dome, I retraced the 463 steps I had climbed and continued with the scheduled visit to the nearby Opera del Duomo Museum. In this building, where Michelangelo sculpted his “David” in the past, one can admire masterpieces by great artists of that period.
In the grand hall, a life-sized reproduction of the unfinished first façade of the cathedral is displayed, along with the corresponding statues and original architectural elements. Along the route, one can observe models of the façade and the dome and the various details that compose them.
The museum is significant because it houses the original doors of the baptistery and the unfinished “Pietà Bandini” by Leonardo da Vinci. The artist intended to use it for his tomb but died in France. Also very touching is the wooden sculpture of the “Penitent Magdalene” by Donatello, depicted with a hollowed face and dressed only in her long hair.
The baptistery, which I visited with the same ticket as the Opera del Duomo Museum, is built in the Florentine Romanesque style and predates the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. It is also adorned with white and green marble.
This structure is dedicated to St. John, the patron saint of Florence, and has an octagonal shape with three entrance doors. Andrea Pisano created one of these portals, while Lorenzo Ghiberti crafted the other two, including the famous “Gates of Paradise.”
Inaugurated in 1425, the “Gates of Paradise” are considered a true masterpiece for their intricate details and depicted scenes. As mentioned before, the original doors are located in the Opera del Duomo Museum to preserve them from pollution and the ravages of time.
The interior of the baptistery features an abundance of marble, while the dome is covered with golden mosaics, with the main image of the great Christ Pantocrator.
SANTA CROCE IN FLORENCE – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
At precisely noon, it was time to visit Santa Croce. It is a Franciscan church from the 13th century, initially located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Today, this Church is known for housing tombs and mausoleums of famous historical figures.
There are many treasures to be seen inside, including works by renowned artists such as Giotto and Donatello. Over the centuries, the Church was renovated several times until Cosimo de Medici, with the help of Giorgio Vasari, transformed it into one of the most beautiful Renaissance churches in Florence. However, the current façade dates back to the mid-19th century and features white, green, and pink geometric marble designs.
CHAPELS AND SCULPTURES IN SANTA CROCE, FLORENCE
The chapels in the Church of Santa Croce represent only a part of the masterpieces to discover. They are all located in the transept and were commissioned by critical Florentine families.
The Bardi Chapel, belonging to the wealthy bankers of that time, contains a series of frescoes by Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi. In this case, the artist portrayed the characters with more expressive and realistic faces than in previous works.
Like the Bardi Chapel, the Peruzzi Chapel also features Giotto‘s frescoes, this time depicting St. John the Baptist. However, in this case, the artist used the technique of dry fresco, resulting in less well-preserved scenes.
Donatello, another critical Renaissance sculptor who influenced other artists, including Michelangelo, created the “Saint Louis of Toulouse.” This sculpture, once placed on the façade of the Church, is now preserved in the Santa Croce Museum.
Another expressive sculpture by Donatello is the Annunciation, in which the astonishment on the face of the Virgin Mary at the moment of the news delivered by the Archangel Gabriel stands out.
The wooden crucifix by Donatello, located in the Bardi Chapel, was not appreciated by his friend Brunelleschi. To prove his skill, Brunelleschi sculpted another crucifix, which can be seen at the Santa Maria Novella church.
TOMBS AND MAUSOLEUMS IN SANTA CROCE, FLORENCE
Santa Croce is particularly renowned for the multitude of tombs and mausoleums housed within its walls. Including the floor tombstones, there are over 300.
Of course, among the main ones, we cannot forget the tomb of Michelangelo, designed by Vasari with allegories of sculpture, architecture, and painting.
Another vital tomb is that of Galileo Galilei, although the astronomer was interred here in 1737, nearly a century after his death.
The mausoleum of Dante Alighieri, adorned with allegories of poetry and Italy, does not contain his body as the artist died in Ravenna, where he was in exile.
PAZZI CHAPEL IN SANTA CROCE, FLORENCE
Upon exiting the Church, you find yourself in the large green cloister adjacent to the Pazzi Chapel, possibly designed by Brunelleschi. The Pazzi family was an influential Florentine family that attempted to eradicate the Medici family, even conspiring to murder them. However, Lorenzo the Magnificent, who managed to survive an assassination attempt, forced them into exile.
OPERA DEL DUOMO MUSEUM IN SANTA CROCE
The final part of the visit is the Opera del Duomo Museum, located in the refectory. Among its numerous masterpieces, you can find the crucifix by Cimabue, which inspired Giotto’s work. Unfortunately, during the flood of 1966, the water reached such a height that significant damage occurred.
Other exciting works include Taddeo Gaddi’s “The Last Supper” and “The Tree of Life,” who was a student of Giotto.
PONTE VECCHIO, FLORENCE
During this itinerary in Florence, I also visited the Oltrarno district, as the Florentines call it, crossing the scenic Ponte Vecchio. It is called “Vecchio” (old) because it was the first bridge in Florence.
The Romans were the first to build it in wood, although it was in a different location. Over time, numerous floods of the Arno River have destroyed and damaged it. The current stone bridge dates back to 1345 and consists of three arches. Initially, four towers were at each end, but only one remains. For a certain period, butcher shops were located on the bridge, but due to its beauty, goldsmith shops were constructed, expanding the structure with wooden supports.
The Ponte Vecchio has often been threatened by floods, even in recent times, but during World War II, it faced the risk of being bombed by the Germans. Despite these unfortunate events, the Ponte Vecchio has survived to this day, shining in all its splendor.
Punctual according to my schedule, I arrived at the entrance of Palazzo Pitti to embark on another exciting visit to this vast building. The Pitti family initiated the construction of this grand complex in 1473 but left it unfinished due to financial problems. Cosimo I de’ Medici acquired it, expanding it and adding the magnificent Boboli Gardens.
Palazzo Pitti also served as the residence of King Vittorio Emanuele II from 1865 to 1871, when Florence became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Today, it houses various museums and art collections and serves as a venue for Florentine fashion shows.
MUSEUMS IN PALAZZO PITTI, FLORENCE – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
The Palatine Gallery houses collections of paintings from the 16th to the 17th century, where you can admire works by Raphael, Titian, and many other Renaissance artists. Beyond the royal apartments, with their period furnishings, you can explore the Gallery of Modern Art. It showcases artistic works from the 18th to the 20th century, including collections of the Macchiaioli movement, Tuscan landscapes, and neoclassical sculptures.
On the ground floor, the Treasury of the Grand Dukes, or the Silver Museum, displays crystal vases, semi-precious stones, and artistic objects made of ivory and silver.
After concluding the visit inside Palazzo Pitti, I crossed the Ammannati Courtyard, passing by the Moses Grotto. Through a gate, I entered the Boboli Gardens.
BOBOLI GARDENS IN FLORENCE
The Italian-style Boboli Gardens are an essential stop during a visit to Florence. It is a place that truly deserves to be discovered and appreciated calmly in every corner. The park is so vast and diverse that exploring it entirely would require at least two or three hours.
There are four entrances to the park, but they are only sometimes all open, so it is advisable to inquire beforehand, especially considering its extensive size, as it’s easy to get disoriented. Having visited Palazzo Pitti, I entered through the passage beneath the Fountain of Artichoke, positioned above a terrace closed to the public. I faced the amphitheater that sprawls across the hill, from where trails and walks lead in every direction. In my case, I ventured through the maze of paths amidst the vegetation until I reached the Chestnut Lawn.
At this point, like others, I laid down to lazily observe the coming and going of people and the colossal bronze sculpture by Igor Mitoraj, “Cracked Tindaro.”
I resumed my exploration of the Boboli Gardens, following the Viottolone, a steep downhill avenue lined with cypress trees. Once again, paths among the trees led to other fantastic spots, such as the upper botanical garden.
BOBOLI BOTANICAL GARDENS – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
First, I reached the statue of Pegasus and then the lower botanical garden with the lemon house. The magnificent island basin and the Fountain of the Ocean occupy the lowest part of the park. I reached the farthest point occupied by the Garden of the Two Columns.
Retracing my steps, I passed through dense woodland until I reached the Viale dei Mostaccini, with its corresponding fountain, following along the ancient walls and the perimeter towers. Passing through the Viale della Cerchiata Grande, characterized by the tree branches forming a gallery, I ascended to the Garden of the Cavalier, which housed the Museum of Porcelain.
Descending toward Palazzo Pitti, I saw the giant statue of Abundance and the Fountain of Neptune. Venturing once again along winding paths, I arrived at the base of the Belvedere Fort outside the park to admire the panorama and the neoclassical Kaffeehaus.
Heading towards the exit, I followed other spectacular scenic points until I reached the Buontalenti Grotto with the statues of Ceres and Apollo. Satisfied yet exhausted, even though it was already 6 p.m., I did not let go, as I wanted to reach other panoramic spots in Florence.
PANORAMIC SPOTS IN FLORENCE – 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
After exiting the Boboli Gardens, I found myself on the large sloping square along the facade of Palazzo Pitti, characterized by its massive rusticated stone. Returning almost to the Ponte Vecchio, I took Piazza Santa Felicita and the steep San Giorgio Hill, passing by Galileo Galilei‘s house and Villa Bardini.
I would have liked to visit Villa Bardini and its beautiful park, but I needed more time, promising myself to do it on another occasion. After a steep ascent, I reached the Forte di Belvedere, where admission was free. I limited myself to walking along the grand ramparts, enjoying a beautiful panorama of Florence and the hilly landscapes.
Continuing on my way, I hurriedly walked along Via Belvedere, which had a steep incline, flanked by the towering walls of Florence, until I reached the Gate of San Miniato.
PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO IN FLORENCE – WHAT TO SEE
I found myself facing another steep climb, made with particular haste. I wanted to reach Piazzale Michelangelo in time to see the sunset over the city, an idea thousands of others shared. The view was incredible, and the light was fantastic for capturing Florence from this vantage point.
SAN MINIATO AL MONTE ABBEY IN FLORENCE – WHAT TO SEE
Having achieved that goal, I ascended further to visit the Church of San Salvatore al Monte and the beautiful San Miniato al Monte Abbey since I had already made it that far.
The latter is easily visible even from the center of Florence, as its architecture resembles that of the churches of San Lorenzo and Santa Croce.
In addition to the crypt and the Chapel of the Crucifix, inside the complex, surrounded by fortified walls, is a sizeable monumental cemetery. Among the tombs of famous figures from every era, you can find the grave of the author of Pinocchio, Carlo Lorenzini, better known as Collodi.
Returning to Piazzale Michelangelo, I walked along the so-called “ramps,” a winding path through a hilly park that leads to Piazza Poggi. Along the way are fountains, pools with water features, caves, and artificial waterfalls. Near the Arno River, a tall tower stands, which was once the Gate of San Niccolò.
To return to the historic center of Florence, I walked along Lungarno Serristori, flanked by the beach and the Third Garden. From the Ponte delle Grazie, I admired the spectacular view of the moonlit Ponte Vecchio and its surrounding lights. Like the previous evening, I retraced crowded streets and squares until I found another excellent restaurant. The day I ended with another delicious tomato bruschetta and a Florentine ribollita soup.
THIRD PART: FLORENCE 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
On my last day of visiting Florence, I followed a somewhat convoluted itinerary. Initially, I reached slightly more decentralized places, less frequented by tourists. As it was Sunday morning, there weren’t many people on the streets at 8 a.m., allowing me to enjoy the city more leisurely. I first reached the Fortezza da Basso, commissioned by the Medici and now used for fairs and conferences.
Reaching Piazza dell’Indipendenza, named after the 1859 insurrection that led to the annexation of the Kingdom
From Tuscany to the Kingdom of Sardinia and then to Italy, I arrived at Piazza della Libertà. On the latter square stands a grand triumphal arch, built for the arrival of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1739. The Porta San Gallo, dating back to 1285, was the northernmost access point to the city for those from Bologna.
Heading towards Piazza San Marco, I passed by the Giardino dei Semplici, the botanical garden of the nearby University of Florence. In the square’s center is a statue of General Manfredo Fanti, who fought during the Wars of Independence.
CHURCH OF SAN MARCO IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
The Church of San Marco is the Church of the Dominicans, decorated with frescoes and paintings. The golden mosaic of the Virgin was initially located in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Particularly notable is the black marble statue of Savonarola, the Dominican friar who spoke out against the corruption of the Church and social customs during the Renaissance. This act led to his death by burning at the stake. Next to the Church is the San Marco Museum, which houses many religious works, including those by Fra Angelico.
ACCADEMIA GALLERY IN FLORENCE
As always, punctually at nine o’clock, I went to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where hundreds of people were already in line. Fortunately, entry was based on reservation time, so I was inside in no time to begin my visit.
The star of this museum is Michelangelo’s David, the original one, as the one located in front of Palazzo Vecchio is a copy.
Initially, the Accademia building served as both a hospital and a convent. Later, a gallery was added to house sculpture models for art students.
As in Venice, with the advent of Napoleon, many churches and convents were suppressed, and paintings and sculptures found a place in this gallery. Therefore, you can admire works by Cimabue, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Angelico, and Verrocchio.
MICHELANGELO’S DAVID AT THE ACCADEMIA
Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted his David between 1501 and 1504 to place it outside the Florence Cathedral (Duomo). Due to its perfection and symbolism, it was ultimately positioned near Palazzo Vecchio, then called the Palazzo dei Priori, to emphasize Florence’s power against its enemies.
The statue depicts David, the biblical king, slinging a stone at the giant Goliath, who terrorized the Jews. Since 1873, this masterpiece has been located at the Accademia, in a beautiful position under a glass dome. It is possible to walk around it to admire every detail and refinement.
Also by Michelangelo, at the Accademia Gallery, you can see four of the six incomplete statues called “Prigioni,” two of which are located at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The artist’s idea was to place them on the tomb of Pope Julius II, along with the “Moses” statue in Rome, in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli.
PIAZZA SS. ANNUNZIATA IN FLORENCE -2 Days in Florence Itinerary
The morning it was continued, with some haste, considering the few hours left to visit Florence, as I headed towards Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. Considered a Renaissance masterpiece, thanks to Brunelleschi‘s harmonious portico, it presents many curiosities.
At the base of the equestrian statue of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando I de Medici, there is a strange bronze slab. It depicts 90 bees arranged in a circle around the queen bee, an apparent reference to the policies of this sovereign and Florentine society.
There are also two bronze fountains with mythological marine figures, originally intended to be placed in the port of Livorno. A copy of both can also be found in Rome, in the garden of Villa Doria Pamphilj.
CHURCH OF SS. ANNUNZIATA IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
The Church of SS. Annunziata, from which the square takes its name, is also preceded by An entrance that recalls the style of the other two perpendicular sides.
After passing through the atrium, you find yourself in the Cloister of the Vows, with Corinthian columns and frescoes depicting the life of the Madonna. The interior of the Church is the most precious part, preserving countless artistic masterpieces, especially in its chapels, such as frescoes, statues, and wooden decorations.
The beautiful Chapel of SS. Annunziata houses “The Annunciation” by Fra Bartolomeo, considered holy and miraculous. It is said that the painter, unable to reproduce the face of the Madonna satisfactorily, had become so tired that he fell asleep. When he woke up, the painting was finished, and its beauty and perfection have been deemed the work of an angel, although subsequent studies attribute it to another artist.
INNOCENTI HOSPITAL IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
The Innocenti Hospital was built in the 1400s to address the increasing issue of infant abandonment. Brunelleschi designed the structure with a long loggia, cloisters, and a church. It still houses nurseries, a school, and foster care homes for children today.
The associated museum collects essential works by artists such as Sandro Botticelli and Ghirlandaio.
SAN MARCO CHURCH IN FLORENCE 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
The Renaissance loggia on the front side also inspired the Church of San Marco in Florence. The same goes for the Loggia dei Servi, the building in front. Blue background medallions and sculptures with swaddled cherubs characterize the entrance of the Spedale degli Innocenti.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE (MAF)
On the same side as the Spedale degli Innocenti, you will find the Archaeological Museum of Florence (MAF), which is very interesting and engaging. It is one of the oldest museums of its kind in Italy and covers the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman periods. Its extensive Egyptian collection ranks second in importance and completeness after the one in Turin.
In the unique garden of the necropolises, original burial mounds and other tombs are preserved, immersed in vegetation.
SAN LORENZO CENTRAL MARKET UPPER FLOOR
Heading towards the Florence Cathedral, I returned to the San Lorenzo Central Market to explore the upper floor. I had arrived too early in the morning the last time, so it was still closed.
Being Sunday and brunch time, this was a great place to grab a snack with real food from Tuscan gastronomy and from all over Italy. There are many stalls and small restaurants where you can enjoy delicious delicacies at affordable prices, all in a relaxed atmosphere with background music. It’s also the perfect place for an aperitivo or snacks or to spend an evening with friends, as it closes every night at midnight. There is also a cooking school in one area of this floor where classes and other events are held.
Interestingly, this structure, made of cast iron, glass, and iron, was created by the same architect who designed the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.
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SAN LORENZO BASILICA IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
Before the construction of the Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), the city’s cathedral was the Basilica of San Lorenzo. As evidenced by the Medici Chapels at the rear, the Medici family chose it as their preferred Church.
The façade of the Church, designed by Michelangelo, appears unfinished due to delays in the construction process and lack of funds. The interior, however, is sober and linear, with early examples of proportional architecture and the use of classical elements, evident in the Old Sacristy.
During the visit, you also see the large cloister with two-story loggias, the museum that houses many liturgical objects, and the crypt. In this place, you will find Donatello‘s tombstone and the unique tomb of Cosimo de’ Medici, surmounted by a mighty pillar.
One of the treasures of the San Lorenzo complex is the Laurentian Library, also designed by Michelangelo in the Mannerist style. A particular staircase of pietra serena stone leads to the reading room, with rows of benches and lecterns where manuscripts were kept.
It was from the pulpit of the Church of San Lorenzo that Savonarola used to deliver his sermons, which eventually led to his execution by burning at the stake.
PALAZZO STROZZI WHAT TO SEE
Continuing my visit to Florence, I strolled through the streets of the most exclusive shopping district, such as Via dei Tornabuoni, dotted with prestigious boutiques, jewelry stores, and noble palaces.
I also entered Palazzo Strozzi, which belonged to a wealthy Florentine family and was an enemy of the Medici family, to admire the internal courtyard. This magnificent Renaissance palace houses several institutions, including a foundation for modern art exhibitions. At that time, the “Shine” exhibition by Jeff Koons had just been inaugurated, and I would have liked to see it. Jeff Koons is an icon of the neo-pop genre, and his works often criticize consumerism. Quite controversial, Jeff Koons is considered one of the most influential artists of our time, following in the footsteps of Andy Warhol.
PIAZZA DELLA REPUBBLICA IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
The spacious Piazza della Repubblica, which I reached by passing under the sizeable triumphal arch nestled between two palaces, was created in 1865 when Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Initially, it corresponded to the heart of the Roman city, and the Column of Abundance, located at the intersection of the Cardo and the Decumanus, bears witness to its ancient origins.
During the Middle Ages, there were many narrow streets and artisan dwellings, and trade and negotiations occurred here. Piazza della Repubblica is bordered by grand historic buildings, cafes, and prestigious hotels.
The city’s market used to be held here for a long time, but it was later relocated with the construction of the San Lorenzo Central Market. The charming, slightly retro carousel with horses offers another unique view of this square, crossed by thousands of people throughout the day.
PORCELLINO MARKET IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
Continuing on Via Calimala, you come across another historic market under the Mercato Nuovo’s loggia. The bronze sculpture of the little pig is practically its symbol, although it represents more of a wild boar.
Nevertheless, it is a copy of a Roman marble statue donated to Cosimo de’ Medici. He had a bronze version made to place in front of his palace, but later he modified it into a fountain. It was placed near the market loggia so that the merchants of delicate fabrics could use it.
The original bronze statue is currently preserved in the Bardini Museum, although many copies exist worldwide, such as in Munich and Sydney.
A tradition is to touch the snout of the “porcellino” for good luck, perhaps by inserting a coin into its mouth so that it falls into a slot.
ORSANMICHELE IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
Not far from the Mercato Nuovo, the Palazzo dell’Arte della Lana stands out with its clear medieval lines, characterized by typical towers and battlements. This was the headquarters of one of the main artisan guilds in Florence. A suspended passage connects the building to the nearby Church of Orsanmichele, the Church of all the artisan associations of that time.
The complex was initially used as a grain market. Subsequently, the ground floor was transformed into the Church of Orsanmichele. That’s why it appears as a Gothic palace on the outside, with large windows that house copies of the original statues preserved inside the museum.
House of Dante (Museo Casa di Dante) ALIGHIERI IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
The house of Dante Alighieri should be one of the destinations on a trip to Florence. However, this is a reconstruction from the early 20th century, probably created on the same site as the original.
The poet and writer Dante Alighieri was born here in 1265, and the museum pays tribute to him by remembering his life, works, and exile in Ravenna, where he later died. He was also a politician, and his ideas clashed with the powerful Florentines.
BARGELLO MUSEUM IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
On the side street Via del Proconsolo, you will notice the large Palazzo dei Podestà, now the Bargello Museum, which houses essential Renaissance sculpture collections. The Palazzo del Podestà, built before the Palazzo della Signoria or Palazzo Vecchio, had the function of control and law enforcement. Trials and even capital executions took place in this location.
The Bargello Museum is now a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces by essential figures such as Donatello and Michelangelo. The beautiful Chapel of the Podestà, frescoed with scenes of the Last Judgment, was crossed by the condemned as they went to the gallows.
BADIA FIORENTINA IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
On the opposite side of the street, facing the Bargello, you will find the Badia Fiorentina, the Abbey of Santa Maria Assunta, one of the oldest in Florence.
It was once part of the city walls, but its architecture has changed considerably over the centuries. In addition to the Church, which features frescoes by essential artists such as Masaccio and Giotto, the complex includes the Cloister of the Oranges, surrounded by a two-story loggia.
The hexagonal bell tower, standing 70 meters tall, is quite distinctive compared to the other bell towers in the city. This could be the Church where Dante and Beatrice first met.
PIAZZA SAN FIRENZE WHAT TO SEE
This irregular space is named after San Fiorenzo, and the Church of San Filippo Neri later replaced the Church dedicated to him. This Church is part of a grand Baroque building that used to be a courthouse but now houses the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation, which showcases the works of this Florentine director and set designer.
As you walk towards the Arno River, you come across the Loggia del Grano, built after the transformation of Orsanmichele into a church. It still hosts many stalls and is lively, mainly as it is located behind the Palazzo della Signoria.
OLTRARNO IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
With time running out, after passing the Galileo Museum and crossing the Ponte Vecchio again, I took a stroll through the streets of the Oltrarno district, as the Florentines call it.
This area comprises various neighborhoods, including San Frediano and Santo Spirito, which have an alternative and more authentic and traditional atmosphere. Taking the first street on the right after the Ponte Vecchio, towards the Ponte della Trinita, you will notice various medieval towers, such as the Angiolieri, Barbadori, and Marsili towers.
The area was initially located outside the city walls but was incorporated and occupied by the lower classes as the city expanded. Later on, wealthy families built splendid residences here, seeking a healthier environment, as the Medici did with the Pitti Palace.
SANTO SPIRITO IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
At the intersection of the road that leads to the St Trinity Bridge (Ponte Santa Trinita), composed of three elegant arches and four statues representing the seasons at each end, you will find the Fontana dello Sprone (The Fountain dello Sprone). Positioned on the corner of a building, the fountain features a striking mask on the wall from which water springs and falls into the shell-shaped basin.
Next, I reached the lively Piazza Santo Spirito, often used for local markets, with an octagonal fountain in the center. This is a popular spot for the younger crowd, thanks to its numerous bars and restaurants open late.
Michelangelo initially designed the Church of Santo Spirito, but other architects completed it, preserving only part of the original design. The exterior is simple and unadorned, while the interior is characterized by the white and gray colors of the pietra serena (a local stone), creating a harmonious ensemble.
In this place, Michelangelo conducted his anatomical studies on cadavers from the adjacent hospital during his youth. As a sign of gratitude, the artist sculpted a crucifix now preserved in the Church’s sacristy.
Santo Spirito was also the scene of clashes between two great preachers of the time, Savonarola and Mariano da Genazzano.
SANTA MARIA DEL CARMINE CHURCH IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
Another Florentine church with an unfinished façade is the Santa Maria del Carmine. Nevertheless, it has many artistic treasures, such as the Corsini Chapel and the famous Brancacci Chapel.
The Brancacci family, who were wealthy fabric merchants, commissioned the construction of a chapel and initially entrusted the work to Masolino da Panicale. They were later succeeded by Masaccio and Filippino Lippi, who inspired Renaissance painters of the time, including Michelangelo, with their innovative painting techniques.
SANTA MARIA NOVELLA SQUARE IN FLORENCE WHAT TO SEE
Once again, I crossed the Arno River via the Ponte alla Carraia, considered the second bridge of Florence after the Ponte Vecchio. However, it is a reconstruction because the Germans bombed it during World War II.
The bridge is named after it used to carry goods-laden carts. After one last look at the Arno and the other distant bridges, I passed through Piazza Santa Maria Novella, a square I visited upon my arrival.
It is an ample pedestrian space adorned with beautiful flowerbeds and benches, bustling with activity. Since medieval times, it has been used for events, fairs, markets, and even sports tournaments. The two obelisks, supported by four turtles and topped with the Florentine lilies, symbols of Florence, were used as signals during medieval games.
On the opposite side of the square, the Museum of the 20th Century focuses on contemporary art. It is located in the Hospital of San Paolo, recognizable by the beautiful loggia adorned with terracotta roundels by Andrea della Robbia, similar to those in the Loggia del’ Ospedale degli Innocenti.
My visit to Florence ended, and satisfied, I quickly returned to the hotel to collect my backpack. I was back at the Santa Maria Novella train station in ten minutes, waiting for the Frecciarossa that took me back home.
CONCLUSION OF 2 Days in Florence Itinerary
Undoubtedly, Florence deserves much more time to be discovered and appreciated. Countless attractions of all kinds make it a unique place in the world. where getting lost is always a pleasure that leaves you enchanted and amazed.
In addition to the famous tourist sites, there are dozens of other enchanting places, precisely these hidden gems that surprise even more. The city’s architecture evokes emotions and transports your mind to the medieval and Renaissance eras.