Art and culture galore, discover our recipe for the perfect weekend in Florence.
When you dream of the most wonderful place in the world for your next weekend escape, Florence must surely be at the top of your list. It’s the quintessential essence of Italy—perhaps even more so than Rome. Did you know the modern Italian language itself evolved from a Tuscan dialect?
Of course, it’s also the birthplace of the Renaissance, and no visit to Florence is complete without paying homage to the masters—Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Da Vinci, Donatello, and always Michelangelo.
But don’t pigeonhole Florence as a Renaissance city beautifully encased in amber; it’s a vibrant, creative, cultural center with fabulous restaurants, elegant fashion houses, and cutting-edge contemporary art.
In short, Florence is a city just made for a romantic interlude or weekend away. So if you’ve got a few days to explore this fascinating Tuscan capital, here are the experiences you really can’t miss.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the cupola of the Duomo.
Brunelleschi’s iconic Duomo, so synonymous with the city of Florence, actually began as an engineering problem, and a contest offered by the city’s elders to solve the problem of the gaping hole in the roof of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. The portly goldsmith, Filippo Brunelleschi, won the contest with his secret design for a dome-within-a-dome.
Whether or not you’re a student of architecture or engineering, however, you can’t fail to be moved by the panoramic view of the city and the dome’s interior below from the platform some 460 steps above the ground. You’ll even see Vasari’s Last Judgment frescoes up close along the way. Be sure to reserve your spot in line before you begin your walking tour of Florence so you don’t miss this incredible sight.
Go crazy for Florentine leather.
Florence’s leather shops are almost a cliche—but leather crafts are a centuries old tradition in this Tuscan city. By the early 14th century, there were already more than 1,500 shoemakers here, mostly in the Oltrarno district, which laid the foundation for Florence’s international prominence in leather goods today.
You should definitely browse the shops in the San Lorenzo market, if only for the sheer number and variety of leather goods, but when you’re ready to shop for a quality piece to take home, visit the shops that line Via Pellicceria for gorgeous custom-made sandals, fine leather suitcases, wallets, belts, and gloves.
Enjoy aperitivo like a Florentine.
No one does aperitivo like an Italian, and there is no better place to enjoy this fabulous custom than at one of the bars and cafes that line Piazza Santa Spirito. A Campari, Negroni, or the fragrant Aperol spritz is the perfect start, perhaps with a bite of bruschetta, some cured meats, and a plate of olives.
Don’t confuse aperitivo with the American happy hour—since Italians rarely dine before 9pm, this cocktail hour usually begins around 7. And skip the sweet and creamy drinks you’re used to at home. Be bold and try the bitter liquors, the amari, so favored by the Italians. And if you’re not quite that bold, you can always just sip Prosecco!
Awaken your senses at the Mercato Centrale.
Start your second day in Florence with a trip to the colorful Mercato Centrale in the old-Renaissance San Lorenzo district. Yes, it’s an actual market, so if you want to buy produce and foodstuffs, you’re definitely in luck.
But today, Mercato Centrale is so much more—sample wonderful Florentine cuisine, listen to live music, enjoy a cooking demonstration, or even take a pasta-making class with a local chef. This is definitely the place to try regional specialties like lampredotto and polpette, as well as wood-fired Tuscan pizzas, pastas, and gelato.
Take a Tuscan wine tour.
You absolutely can’t do Florence without indulging in its exquisite wines—winemaking has been a Tuscan specialty for hundreds of years. Is there anything more romantic than traveling the rolling Tuscan countryside sampling classic Chiantis, crisp Orvieto, and earthy Brunello di Montalcino, perhaps the most famous of them all?
The Tuscan Wine Trail is the perfect way to while away your second day in Florence, enjoying the magnificent scenery, sipping your favorite wines, and enjoying the freshest Tuscan cuisine prepared by renowned chefs.
Take a sunset walk along the River Arno to the Piazzale Michelangelo.
The nighttime views of Florence, illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights, are positively spellbinding as you stroll the Lungarno streets along the Arno River—Lungarno Corsini and Della Grazie on the right bank and Lungarno Torrigiani and Serristori on the left.
From Lungarno Serristori, you can meander to the Piazza Poggi and climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo, for panoramic views of Florence at night. The Ponte Vecchio in silhouette, the magnificent Duomo and Campanile, and of course, the replica of David commanding the center of the plaza. Bring your camera—this is a view you’ll want to remember forever.
Dine on bistecca alla fiorentina.
You’ve enjoyed aromatic pastas, crisp pizzas, creamy gelato—but you haven’t experienced Tuscan cuisine until you’ve tasted the bistecca alla fiorentina. Picture a massive T-bone-style steak, 2 or 3 inches thick, weighing as much as 3 pounds, cut from Tuscan Chianina beef.
Perfectly aged and seasoned with fresh herbs, it’s cooked directly over red-hot coals for a perfectly seared crust and juicy rare interior. Served with just a bit of salt and pepper, and shared with someone you love, it’s the ultimate dish for your last evening in Florence.
Commune with the Medicis at the Uffizi.
Save the best for last, and spend your final hours in Florence browsing the masterpieces at the Galleria degli Uffizi. Get acquainted with the Medici dynasty through their portraits and busts before immersing yourself in the masterpieces the gallery is most famous for.
Don’t miss rooms 10 through 14 for Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and The Primavera. Leave plenty of time for room 15 and Da Vinci’s Annunciation, and plan to see Michelangelo’s Tondo and Titian’s Venus of Urbino in rooms 25 and 28.
If your time with David at the Piazzale Michelangelo wasn’t quite enough, take some time to visit the original at the Accademia Gallery, but be sure to book your tickets well in advance.
Ready for your weekend escape?
Looking to fill a free weekend this spring? Why not get in touch to find out how easy it is to spend the ultimate three-day getaway in Florence? And if you’re not ready to lock in a date today, sign up for our free email course to help you learn the insider secrets to planning your next vacation in Italy.