Florence

WEEKEND IN FLORENCE -10 MUST

David by Michelangelo - Piazza della Signoria

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, known for its history, art and culture.

If you want to spend a special weekend in Florence, you’re in the right place! Today we’re sharing with you our personal step-by-step itinerary of this city through architecture, literature, history and breathtaking landscapes.

Let’s start with some practical info and then…let’s go! 🙂

How to get there and where to stay

Florence is pretty easy to reach thanks to the good transportation’s services. Here you are a few indications:

By car: Ok, ok. We all have Google Maps 🙂 But it is almost impossible to park in the old town. Our suggestion is to leave the car in the free parkings outside Florence’s old town. There are cheap bus lines that stop in front of Santa Maria Novella’s station.

By train: Trains stop at Santa Maria Novella’s station, right where our itinerary starts.

By plain: When you lean at Amerigo Vespucci’s airport, you’ll find a convenient shuttle service which reaches the old town in about 20 minutes. 

If you are spending a few days in Florence there are several options among which you can choose. From a 5 star hotel to an apartment. From a B&B to an hostel. We chose B&B Le Torri, in Fiesole. It’s not in the old town but the owners were super kind and all the details were amazing. It was definetely worth it.

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

Step 1 – Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

Our weekend in Florence starts just a few minutes away from Santa Maria Novella’s station, where you can find the homonymous church. 

The geometrical facade was partially realized by Leon Battista Alberti and it is the most famous feature of this Basilica. Inside you will see frescoes made by Filippino Lippi and Ghirlandaio. There are also two masterpieces inside the Basilica: the “Trinità” (Trinity) by Masaccio and a Cricifix by Giotto. Also the kiosks located next to the Church deserve a visit.

Santa Maria Novella Church
Santa Maria Novella Church

Step 2 – Piazza Duomo (Duomo Square)

From Santa Maria Novella square, take Via Panzani to reach Santa Maria Maggiore, a simple yet beautiful Romanesque church. Visit this church and then continue on Via De’ Cerretani until you enter Piazza Duomo.

In this square there is Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, famous for its dome (116 meters high) designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. In front of the Cathedral you will find St. Giovanni’s Baptistery and on its right there’s Giotto’s campanile. If you climb its 400 steps you’ll get a view of Florence from 85 meters.

There is a combined ticket to visit all the momuments of Piazza Duomo. Or you can evaluate the FirenzeCard. Here we help you to find out if this option can suit you. If, like us, you are spending only a weekend in Florence, it won’t be that worth it.

Piazza Duomo in Florence
Piazza Duomo in Florence

Step 3 – Quartiere Dantesco (Dante’s neighborhood)

From Giotto’s campanile, take Via dei Calzaiuoli, one of the major shopping streets. Go straight along until you reach Orsamichele’s Church, at the second crossroad. Then go left in Via dei Tavolini until you reach San Martino’s square.

You are now inside the so called “Quartiere Dantesco”. It is the area in Florence where Dante Alighieri was probably born in 1265 and where he lived until the exile. The neighborhood is characterized by tower-houses like Torre della Castagna and Torre dei Cerchi.

In honor of the “sommo poeta” (supreme poet in Italian) the small square of Via Santa Margherita was restructured and opened as a museum of Dante Alighieri. Not far from here you can also visit Santa Margherita dei Cerchi’s Church, the place where they say Dante knew his beloved Beatrice. 

Here’s one of the most famous lines of the Divine Comedy: “l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle” (the love the moves the sun and the other stars).

If you love literature you can’t miss this place during your weekend in Florence!

Dante Alighieri
Dante Alighieri

Step 4 – Lunch and Piazza della Signoria

By now you should be pretty hungry (we were starving!). To have lunch proceed along Via dei Cerchi and reach Piazza delal Signoria.

If you’re looking for a typical restaurant, on this street you’ll find several places that serve Italian dishes. Otherwise, if you have packed-lunch, just continue until you reach the magnificent square, You can have your sandwiches surrounded by amazing sculptures.

Piazza della Signoria is breathtaking. It is our favorite square in Florence so we’re taking a little more to describe you what you can see:

Palazzo Vecchio: Florence’s power

Palazzo Vecchio (litterally “Old Palace”) was built in the XIV century by Arnolfo di Cambio. It was the headquarters of the corporations that governed Florence. When the Republic fell, the Palace became the home and the headquarter of de’ Medici Signorie

In front of the palace you can admire two masterpieces by Donatello: “Giuditta and Oloferne” and “Marzocco”.

To get more info about tours and prices, have a look at our detailed guide.

Palazzo Vecchio - Piazza della Signoria - Florence
Palazzo Vecchio - Piazza della Signoria - Florence

Ercole and Davide: the heroes

At the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio there are two amazing sculptures. Despite the representation of mythological and biblical eposodes, these two works of art aimend to highlight the political power of Florence. They both show the victory of wisdom against tyranny.

The first sculpture is “Ercole and Caco” by Baccio Bandinelli (1533) and the second one is a copy of the beautiful “David” by Michelangelo. The original statue is inside the Galleria dell’Accademia, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit it. It’s on our bucket list 🙂

"Ercole e Caco" by Baccio Brandinelli
"Ercole e Caco" by Baccio Brandinelli

Loggia della Signoria or Loggia dei Lanzi: the open-air gallery

Rising over the square with its flight of steps, there’s the beautiful Loggia della Signoria. It was built between 1370 and 1380. This place was a symbol of Florence’s political life. The lodge housed the official assemblies and ceremonies of the Florentine Republic.

The choice of the statues inside the lodge is not accidental. Each statue has a strong political meaning. In the Loggia dei Lanzi you’ll see some materpieces including a copy of “Il ratto delle Sabine” (the rape of the Sabine women) and “Perseo e Medusa” (Perseus with the head of Medusa) by Benvenuto Cellini.

"Il ratto delle Sabine" by Benvenuto Cellini
"Il ratto delle Sabine" by Benvenuto Cellini

Fountain of Neptune and Cosimo I monument

The fountain of Neptune was built between 1560 and 1565 by Bartolomeo Ammannati. The subject, the Roman god of sea, represents Florence’s maritime supremacy. During our visit, unfortunately, the statue was covered because of maintanance works. 

By now the works are done and you should be able to admire the statue in all its beauty.

On the other side of the square you will see the equestrian monument of Cosimo I de’ Medici. The bronze statue was commissioned by Ferdinand I de’ Medici in memory of his father.

Cosimo I de Medici Statue
Cosimo I de Medici Statue

Step 5 – a bit of luck for our weekend in Florence

Looking for some good luck? Here’s what you have to do 🙂 . 

For all the the superstitious or for those who just want to have a laugh, we recommend a stop at the Fontana del Porcellino. From Piazza della Signoria, take Via Calimaruzza and you will reach the Loggia del Mercato. Here you can find the famous statue of this lucky boar (literal Italian translation is actually “little pig”). There are several superstitions about this statue. They say that it is enough to rub the animal’s nose to get a bit of luck. The bravest ones can challenge their luck by placing a coin in the boar’s mouth. Then you have to cross your fingers and hope that it will fall in the below grate. In any case, good luck!

Fontana del Porcellino - Florence
Fontana del Porcellino - Florence

Step 6 – Museum/attraction 

Needless to say, Florence is a city full of museums and attractions but, both due to timing and economics, it is hard to see all of them in a weekend. In our opinion, the ideal is to choose one/two attractions per day.

Some tips:

– If you stay in Florence more than two days -> double-check weather the FirenzeCard can be a more convenient solution.

– For more details about costs -> have a look at our small guide. Remember to always verify prices prior to your visit since costs can change.

– If you’re travelling with children -> here you can find our top 5 of the attractions ideal for kids.

During our itinerary we chose the Uffizi Gallery and Galileo Museum. In both cases we got tickets there and without any “skip the line” option. We didn’t have to wait for long, though. We waited 30 minutes for the Uffizi and we immediately entered Galileo Museum. Uffizi are the ideal museum for all art lovers and…small tip: in addition to the beautiful paintings and sculptures, remember to have a look at the ceiling. You’ll be amazed!

For those who love science, we highly recommend Galileo Museum which offers many activities also for small children.

Uffizi Ceiling - Weekend in Florence
Uffizi Ceiling - Weekend in Florence

Step 7 – Santa Croce Basilica

After a good rest we’re ready for another day in Florence! Our second day starts from Piazza Santa Croce where you can see the homonymous Basilica. Some of the most famous Florentine people have been buried in this church: Michelangelo, Macchiavelli, Rossin. There are also the spoils of Galilei to whom, because of his revolutionary theories, the Church granted burial only in 1737 (95 years after his death). Then there is a funeral monument dedicated to Dante Alighieri. The tomb is actually empty since Dante, after the exile from Florence, lived and died in Ravenna.

Despite this, in the square, on the left of the Basilica, you can admire the statue of Dante made by Enrico Pazzi in 1865. It was built to celebrate the six hundredth anniversary of Dante’s birth.

Dante Alighieri Statue - Florence
Dante Alighieri Statue - Florence

Step 8 – Piazzale Michelangelo

For those who want to enjoy a wonderful view of the city, a walk to Piazzale Michelangelo is a must. Starting from Santa Croce Basilica, take via Magliabechi and then turn into via Tripoli. You will arrive in front of the Biblioteca Centrale Nazionale di Firenze. From this huge library you have to proceed along the Lungarno and cross Ponte delle Grazie. From the bridge, you will have a perfect view of Ponte Vecchio (on your right).

After crossing Arno, you have to go back along the river until you reach Piazza Poggi. Here you will find a long and rather steep staircase that leads to Michelangelo Square. For those travelling with heavy bags, strollers and so on, no problem! You can easily avoid the stairs by taking one of the two buses that stop at Piazzale Michelangelo: lines 12 and 13. Furthermore, the square can easily be reached by car.

The view from up there is absolutely stunning!

Florence view from Piazzale Michelangelo
Florence view from Piazzale Michelangelo

Step 9 – Boboli’s Gardens

After the long walk, it is time to relax! We recommend you to spend lunch time and afternoon in the wonderful Boboli Gardens. When walking towards Ponte Vecchio, do not go up on the bridge but turn left into Via de’ Guicciardini. After a few minute walk, you will reach the entrance of Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. You can choose whether to visit both places or just to enter the gardens to relax. Click here to see more details concerning costs of these two attractions. Remember that the entrance to the Garden also includes a visit to the porcelain museum and to the Villa Bardini garden.

Giardini di Boboli's fountain
Giardini di Boboli's fountain

Boboli Gardens are a collection of several statues, fountains and architectures that you can discover while playing with your kids or while walking with your partner.

Giardini di Boboli's statue
Giardini di Boboli's statue

Step 10 of our weekend in Florence: Ponte Vecchio

After the stop at Boboli Gardens you can visit Palazzo Pitti, the palace where the dynasties of de’ Medici, the Habsburgs and the Savoy lived. Today the palace houses four museums: the Grand Dukes treasure, the Palatine Gallery and the imperial and royal apartments, the modern art gallery and the museum of fashion and costume.

To conclude our tour of Florence it is a must to cross the famous Ponte Vecchio, one of the most iconic symbols of Florence. The bridge as you see it today was built in 1345 after the ancient bridge was destroyed by a flood. On the sides of the bridge there is a series of goldsmiths where you can browse.

Ponte Vecchio - Florence
Ponte Vecchio - Florence

Our weekend tour of Florence ends here and it’s time to say goodbye to this amazing city, and to its historical, artistic and cultural heritage.

Have a look to our related articles to find out more about this city: FirenzeCard, Florence with kids and guide to Florence’s attractions. And if you’re visiting Italy, don’t miss our posts about Salento and Tremiti Islands.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Sara&Loris _ TravellingMeerkats