If you’re planning to spend only 2 days in Florence, Italy you’ll need a good plan in order to see as much as possible.
I’ve been to Florence three times and every time I go I ask myself why I didn’t plan to stay longer. While you can definitely see much of the historic city in a short time with a good Florence itinerary, it really is the sort of place that makes you want to linger awhile. Especially if you love art and gelato!
As the capital of Tuscany, it’s also a great base for seeing the surrounding area by taking day trips from Florence. Or consider combining Florence with a couple of days in Venice for the perfect holiday.
Florence has an interesting and varied past and this historic city is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany. It started as a Roman military commune, had a stint as the capital of Italy, became a center of commerce and banking, and was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It was also home to cultural greats like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Dante, and Galileo and was ruled for generations by the Medici family.
So, it’s no surprise that today the historic center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The center’s fabled cobblestone streets are home to an abundance of impressive architecture, museums full of masterpieces, and of course plenty of beautiful cathedrals and churches. It’s also quite compact making for a great walkable itinerary.
If art and architecture don’t appeal to you there’s also the inspirational scenery of the surrounding olive grove and vineyard-covered hills, the delicious fare at the many cafes and restaurants, as well as some pretty decent shopping.
Suffice it to say that Florence is not only a must on any Italy itinerary, it also stands alone as a top destination.
How to spend 2 days in Florence map
Day 1 Florence Itinerary
7:30 am Breakfast
You’ll want to start your day early to fit in all the following sights and of course, you’ll need sustenance to get you going. We suggest eating an Italian breakfast consisting of delicious coffee and pastries. If you’re pressed on time it’s a good idea to take it to go and enjoy it in line at the Accademia.
Note: In Italy you will usually pay more to sit and enjoy your coffee and pastry so save your money for gelato and do as the Italians do and stand at the bar.
8:15 am Accademia Gallery
The Accademia Gallery is one of the top sights in Florence and is a definite must-see. Of course, this also makes it one of the busiest sights which is why we suggest making it your first stop and arriving as close to the opening time of 8:15 am as possible. You can also pay a little extra and pre-book online to avoid having to wait to buy tickets on-site. Another option is to go with one of the Florence tours which will get you in past the line.
Michelangelo’s statue of David is the big star of the show and he stands in the Tribune at the end of the Hall of Prisoners. You will walk past Michelangelo’s unfinished “Slaves” sculptures along the way.
Seeing “David” in real life is nothing short of mesmerizing and if that’s all you want to see you’ll be in and out in 30 minutes. But, the Accademia is quite small and well worth the hour it takes to get a taste of all there is on offer. Of note are Francesco Salviati’s “Madonna and Child”, Giambologna’s “Rape of the Sabines”, Lo Scheggia’s “Casone Adimari”, and the “Coronation of the Virgin” by Jacopo di Cione.
Note: The Accademia is closed on Mondays
10:00 am San Marco Museum
Just a 2-minute walk from Accademia is the San Marco Museum. This stop doesn’t necessarily make the list of “must-sees” if you’re short on time but we think it’s worth fitting in for the architecture alone. The museum is housed in a former Dominican convent which was restored and added to by the Medici’s in the 14th century.
Aside from the lovely building itself, you can also admire the beautiful art and decor by Fra’ Angelico. This monk turned Prior was responsible for creating the incredible frescoes and panel paintings including the “Crucifixion”, “Annunciation”, and “Last Judgement” There’s also a frescoed version of “The Last Supper” by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Note: Mon-Fri the museum closes at 1:50 pm but is open all day on the weekend
11:30 am Mercado Centrale & Mercato di San Lorenzo
If you’re ready for a break from museums it’s a good time for some shopping and eating! The outdoor San Lorenzo Market is known for quality leather goods, clothing and souvenirs. The Central Market is indoors and is all about food.
After browsing the stands along the streets of Mercato di San Lorenzo you’re bound to be hungry for lunch. The ground floor of the market is full of fabulous Italian food that you can take home to create your own meals. If you’re not already hungry you will be after seeing all the delectable meat, cheese, olives, bread, fresh produce, and specialty items.
We like to buy items for a picnic lunch but if you’d rather eat indoors at a table just head upstairs to the second floor. Here you’ll find a huge gourmet food court with offerings of freshly made pizza, pasta, sandwiches and a variety of meats and cheeses. Of course, you’ll need to save room for gelato to finish.
Note: San Lorenzo Market is closed on Mondays but the Central Market is open every day.
1:30 pm Piazza del Duomo and Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Now head into the heart of the old town and find the Piazza del Duomo. The terracotta-tiled dome is probably the most iconic image you’ve seen of Florence and it’s even more strikingly beautiful in person.
The exterior is a work of art itself with the intricate Renaissance architecture and rose windows so if you’ve spent too much time shopping at the market and are behind schedule you could just admire the outside.
Entrance into the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is free and you’ll see the lovely mosaic floors and interior of the dome but most of the interior is actually quite plain compared to the colourful exterior. One thing that’s definitely worth doing, and paying for, is climbing the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo for a spectacular view of the city.
Note: If you plan to climb the Duomo we highly recommend purchasing skip the line tickets or a tour far in advance online otherwise you’ll be spending a fair amount of time waiting.
2:30 pm Baptistry of St John (Baptistry of San Giovanni)
Just a few steps from the Duomo is the Baptistry of St John. This is the oldest religious site in Florence and as the name suggests it’s dedicated to St John the Baptist. The octagonal building is clad in white and green marble and is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The most striking thing about this building are the three gilded bronze doors depicting biblical scenes.
If you choose to enter the baptistry you will see detailed geometric mosaic motifs, historical and religious works of art and a number of important tombs.
Note: Entrance to the Baptistry is included with the purchase of a Florence Museum Ticket.
3:00 pm Free time to stroll around the old center
Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the streets of the historic center. If you’re visiting Florence with kids we suggest going to see the gorgeous carousel at Piazza Della Republica, rubbing the nose of the large bronze pig for good luck at Fontana del Porcellino and of course enjoying another gelato…you’ve earned it!
If you’re still in the old center during the “golden hour” (about 1 hour before sunset) it’s worth walking over to Ponte Santa Trinita for a great view of Ponte Vecchio all lit up. Follow up with an Italian aperitivo (pre-dinner cocktail) at a nearby bar or cafe.
Around the old center and in Piazza della Signoria are good areas to have dinner. While it’s true that this is a touristy area there are some very good restaurants and the ambience in the evening is part of the Florence experience. We always try to ask locals for recommendations or simply follow them to the smaller, family-run places that are often tucked off the main streets.
Day 2 Florence Itinerary
If you’re tired from yesterday and you want to sleep in a little or enjoy a leisurely sit down breakfast you may want to consider starting a bit later and skipping Bargello. Or, if you favor museums over gardens, just get a later start and skip Boboli .
8:30 am Bargello National Museum
The museum is housed in the Pallazo del Bargello which dates back to 1255 and is one of the oldest buildings in Florence. This historic building has many stories to tell and it’s worth reading up on the history before going in.
Make sure to look around the huge entrance hall before stepping out into the courtyard, both areas are full of coats of arms adorning the walls. As you wander the palace you’ll see artistic creations from the 13th-17th centuries including sculptures by Michelangelo, Cellini, and Donatello.
10:00 am Piazza Della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio
If you had dinner in Piazza della Signoria then you’ve already seen the massive replica of David, Bandinell’s “Hercules and Cacu”, and the colossal “Fountain of Neptune”. If you didn’t make it here last night then take some time to soak it all in.
The impressive Palazzo Vecchio will be looming over the square and is the next stop on this itinerary. However, once again if you’re tired of art and museums then maybe consider skipping this in favor of more time elsewhere.
If you do decide to visit Palazzo Vecchio you’ll be treated to a mix of Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance. Oh, and one of the coolest things about this museum are the secret passages which played a large role in Dan Brown’s “Inferno”!
11:30 am Basilica of Santa Croce
The original church was built in 1212 when St Francis of Assisi came to Florence. However, the beautiful structure you see today dates back to 1294 and took several years to complete. The marble facade was not actually added until 1863 and was paid for by Sir Francis Sloane.
There’s a lot to admire about this basilica including the architecture, artworks, bell tower and 16 chapels but it’s probably most well-known as the burial place of several very important people in Italy’s history. Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli are all resting eternally here. The exiled poet, Dante has a cenotaph (empty tomb monument) since his indiscretion forbade his return to Florence.
You’ll need to build up some energy by this point and our top pick for lunch in this area is All’antico Vinaino. Known as “One of the best street food in Italy”, the Mazzanti family has been serving up gourmet sandwiches and other gastronomic delights since 1991. If you’ve never had traditional freshly baked Tuscan bread filled with delicious Italian meats and cheeses you haven’t lived.
2:00 pm Uffizi Gallery
Some of the most beautiful and famous works of art in the world are displayed at the Uffizi Gallery making it a top sight to see in Florence. Of course, this also means crowds of tourists and long line ups. This is another museum where it’s highly recommended to book in advance and take advantage of a “skip the line ticket”.
The star here is Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” but there are also mind-blowing works by Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Rafael, Bandinelli, Carravaggio, and many others. True art lovers may want to spend a whole day here but if you only have 2 days in Florence then allow an absolute minimum of 2 hours to just see the highlights.
Note: If you didn’t book in advance we suggest switching this itinerary and making the Uffizi your first stop when the doors open at 8:15 am
4:30 pm Ponte Vecchio
You may have seen Ponte Vecchio on day 1 but now it’s time to walk across it and window shop (unless you have a big jewelry budget to blow). Although there has been a bridge in this spot since the Romans ruled the bridge you see today was erected in 1345 and was the only bridge left intact after WWII.
There have been shops along the bridge span since the 13th century. Traditionally they were a variety of vendors including butchers, tanners, and fishmongers but since 1593 only goldsmiths and jewelers have been allowed on the bridge.
Additional Florence sights
If you skipped any of the churches and museums on today’s itinerary you should have crossed the bridge much earlier allowing for some optional sights.
If you stay on the road leading off Ponte Vecchio you’ll find yourself at Palazzo Pitti. This architectural beauty was built for the Pitti family in 1457 and was later added to by the Medici’s and was considered the most impressive private residence in Florence.
Today it’s a massive complex of galleries and museums and there’s really no way to see it all at this point so you’ll need to decide if it’s a priority on your 2 days in Florence itinerary.
Another option is to visit the gorgeous Boboli Gardens which are on the grounds of Palazzo Pitti but require a separate ticket purchase. As you would expect, the gardens are a beautiful place to wander but they’re also of great historical importance.
This great open-air museum is full of sculptures, fountains, courtyards and stone staircases strategically placed among the perfectly designed and manicured gardens. Top sights include the Fountain of Neptune, the Fountain of Bacchus, the Amphitheatre, and the Buontalenti Grotto.
If you can time it right, watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo is a perfect way to end your second day in Florence. You’ll need to climb some steps but trust us when we say the view is so worth it and it will be a vision of Florence you’ll never forget.
Piazzale Michelangelo looks out over the city’s unique skyline with the iconic Duomo and bell towers with a backdrop of the Tuscan hills.
8:00 pm Dinner in Oltrarno
Either before or after the magical sunset view from Piazzale Michelangelo you’re in the perfect area for a dinner. Oltrarno translates to “on the other side of the Arno” and this side of the river is a lovely, calming contrast to busier central Florence. But that doesn’t mean it’s not full of life.
Explore streets like Via Romana and Piazza Santo Spirito to find plenty of historic sights, artisan studios, and antique shops as well as inviting family-run restaurants, cafes and bars. We suggest going for pizza or a “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” which is a traditional giant steak!
Top Tips for 2 days in Florence:
- With just 2 days in Florence, you really need to plan your trip before arrival. You can’t possibly see it all but you’ll get a good taste by following this 2 day Florence itinerary.
- In order to fit in as much as possible, you should pre-book the tops sights online or take a tour. Definitely consider “skip the line tickets” for popular spots like Uffizi and Accademia.
- Sundays and Mondays are not the best days to tour Florence as some things are closed or have limited opening hours.
- Always check for individual opening times and specials as some places offer free days or restricted entrance during the month and these things often change in off-season.
- Eat as much gelato as possible, it’s some of the best in the world and you’re going to burn off the calories anyway.
- Florence is a great place for wine tasting and cooking classes if you have extra time.
- With only 2 days in Florence, you definitely should plan to get an early start each day not only to fit it all in but also to try and beat some of the crowds, especially in high-season.
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.