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What to see in Florence in a weekend: advice from a local

Florence cradle of the Italian language and is known all over the world for its artistic masterpieces. I lived there for 3 years and here I leave some of my suggestions.

History of the city

Fiesole was the ancient city, but after its destruction in battle, the inhabitants settled in the valley below which the Romans had just reclaimed and where they had created the fortified village of Florentia, the "city that flourishes".

In the Middle Ages it became one of the most important Communes (free city-states) in Italy and internal battles began between the Guelphs (supporters of the Papacy) and Ghibellines (of the Empire) which would also involve Dante Alighieri and lead to exile. The city is rich and the merchants mint the gold florin which became the reference currency in international exchanges for two centuries. In 1400 the Medici family came to power of which Lorenzo the Magnificent was to be the most famous exponent, and standard bearer of Humanism and the Italian Renaissance which saw Leonardo and Botticelli and later Michelangelo and Nicolò Macchiavelli in the city.

After the interlude of the republic of Savonarola (famous for burning books) and the annexation to the Kingdom of France, in 1859 it joined the newborn Kingdom of Italy, later becoming the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871 and seat of the first Parliament of the nation in Palazzo Vecchio. During the Second World War, the city's bridges were torn down and only the Ponte Vecchio managed to survive. In 1966 the great flood disaster of the Arno river, of which you can find the plates around the city that remind you of the level reached by the water.

Main Monuments

On foot in the places of the Renaissance

Here is the list of monuments not to be missed. By following the itinerary on the map, you can visit them without getting too tired:

  • Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with Brunelleschi's dome (still the largest ever built in masonry), the Baptistery of San Giovanni and Giotto's bell tower

  • Ponte Vecchio on the Arno River with the glittering and ancient goldsmiths' shops; at Christmas, light effects are projected onto the walls towards the river.

  • Uffizi Gallery and the Vasari Corridor (which connects with Palazzo Pitti) with works by Raphael and Botticelli, Giotto, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci and many others.

  • Piazza della Signoria with the fountain of Neptune, the statue of Perseus and Medusa, the reproduction of Michelangelo's David and Palazzo Vecchio which is worth a visit (Room of Geographical Maps and Salone del Cinquecento).

  • Piazzale Michelangelo, Giardino delle Rose and Giardini dell'Iris (with the right season they are two wonderful gardens).

  • Galleria dell'Accademia exhibits numerous statues by Michelangelo including the original David.

  • Basilica of Santa Croce

  • Palazzo Pitti, former royal residence, with the Boboli Gardens a real open-air museum among flowers, statues and fountains.

  • Piazza della Repubblica and the nearby Palazzo Strozzi, where the most beautiful modern art exhibitions are held. Nearby was also the Odeon Cinema, the most beautiful in Italy with giltwood, red velvet and a dome of colored glass which unfortunately had to close its doors to make way for a shopping mall.

  • Medici Chapels with the tombs of the Grand Dukes and Michelangelo's famous statues of 'Day and Night' and 'Twilight and Dawn'.

  • Mercato Nuovo with the Fontana del Porcellino, whose nose you have to rub to have luck on your side.

  • Dante Alighieri's House

  • Brancacci Chapel inside Santa Maria del Carmine with frescoes by Masaccio.

Particular neighborhoods and unusual places in Florence

Firenze unusual

Florence is invaded by tourists at any time of the year, but there are unusual and off-the-beaten-track places that show what it's like to live in the city:

  • Biblioteca delle Oblate, you can enter for free without a card or checks and you have to go up to the cafeteria to have a crazy and close view of the Dome.

  • Santo Spirito and San Frediano are the most typical neighborhoods with narrow streets, cafes and shops. In Piazza Santo Spirito one Sunday a month there is also the vintage market.

  • Horticultural Gardens with a huge 19th century iron greenhouse called the Tepidarium del Roster; in the summer garden there is a beautiful outdoor café where you can drink and have an aperitif. Just above are the Orti del Parnassus where you can admire the view of Florence and the large snake that represents the myth of the Python of Delphi. In the same area also the beautiful Russian Orthodox Church.

  • Central Market where you can buy products (expensive prices) and eat upstairs where everyone can order what they prefer.

  • Sant'Ambrogio, via Pietrapiana and via Gioberti with small shops, bakeries, typical bars and Art Nouveau houses together with the nearby Jewish Synagogue which lights up blue at night.

  • Ospedale degli Innocenti, an Italian and European reference point for the treatment of children's rights

  • Parco delle Cascine for a bike ride or a dip in the pool at Le Pavoniere. Nearby there is also the Manifattura Tabacchi, a former fascist-style tobacco factory which has now been converted originally and a place for events.

  • Abbey of San Miniato al Monte (it takes a good walk to get there); from here starts Viale Galileo and Macchiavelli which are beautiful to travel even by car or motorbike.

  • Parco San Salvi where the San Salvi psychiatric hospital was located from 1891 to 1978; today it is possible to trace the history of the buildings and feel the suffering of those who were marginalized inside.

  • Walk along the Arno near the Tuscany Hall area.

Unique and unforgettable experiences

Aperitifs and evenings in Florence

Florence is beautiful and in the evening it becomes magical:

  • Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo with street artists and a beer or bottle of wine to bring from home.

  • "Schiacciata" to the Antico Vinaio, the line will be very long during the day but when you get to the counter to order, your eyes and belly scream with happiness. If there's space, you can also grab a glass of wine and eat on the benches inside.

  • Evening view from Ponte a San Niccolò to see Florence and the Arno illuminated by splendid street lamps along its banks.

  • In summer Florence comes alive on the banks of the Arno with the small beach and clubs at Porta di San Niccolò and on the opposite bank between Ponte San Niccolò and Ponte Giovanni da Verazzano.

  • Visit the CLET Studio in via dell'Olmo to discover the irreverent artist who decorates the city's road signs.

  • The Student Hotel Florence Lavagnini is an eclectic hostel with art installations, picture-perfect swings, and a café (take a tour of the lobby!).

  • Stazione Leopolda where the artistic installations and the most interesting events take place.

  • Florence is the city of the Speak Easy, the most incredible is the Rasputin in Santo Spirito. To find it where to sharpen the view, the door is hidden in a votive chapel in the entrance hall of a building. Someone will open the door for you and take you down the stairs to a magical place with delicious and special cocktails.

  • Aperitif at Le Murate Caffe Letterario in the courtyard of the old women's prison and going towards the pizzeria you can see the corridor with the various rooms.

Out of the City

Sea, lakes, castles and good food

Around Florence you can spend a day in:

  • To enjoy the view over the city and admire the Roman and Etruscan villas and excavations, you have to go up to Fiesole, a small jewel on the hill of Florence.

  • Fattoria di Maiano, a very good restaurant inside the ancient castle with a large park where they often organize picnics and themed events.

  • Villa Demidoff, on the ashes of Villa Medicea di Pratolino with a beautiful English park adorned with incredible statues.

  • Charterhouse of Florence, a hilltop monastery.

  • For those who love wine, the Marquis di Frescobaldi's headquarters are located a few kilometers from Florence and you can taste wine and good food (at high prices) at the Quartino and at the Castello di Nipozzano.

From Florence you can visit the most beautiful towns and cities of Tuscany. Find out about Tuscany here.

Useful tips:


In Florence you can get around well on foot and even better by bicycle. There is also the Enjoy car sharing service and taxis which are expensive.


If you arrive in Florence by car, you have to pay attention to the parking lots because there are no free ones in Florence. The white stripes are reserved for residents only, while the blue ones are paid and expensive. The fines always arrive and you also risk having your car taken away with the tow truck. There are several covered paid parking lots in the city or the Villa Costanza one on the Autostrada (which is the cheapest) and is connected to the city via the Tramway.

Firenze Card

The official museum pass of the city of Florence. The card costs €85 and is valid for 72 hours (extendable for another 48h). It allows access to the city's museums (all the most important ones) to both permanent collections and temporary exhibitions.


The best neighborhoods for sleeping are obviously close to the centre: from Piazza Santa Maria Novella to Piazza della Libertà and Via Gioberti (Piazza Cesare Beccaria). Avoid the area of Porta al Prato and San Jacopino (to the left of the station).

Eat and drink

Florence, like all of Tuscany, is famous for good food. On the map below all the best restaurants, bars and clubs.

Symbols of the city are Perseus, Buca Mario and the Latini for the Florentine women. While for the Schiacciate and Coccoli (fried pizza dough stuffed with prosciutto and stracchino) there is the famous Antico Vinaio but also other good shops such as Da' Vinattieri and Panificio Pugi. Il Santo Bevitore for the best liver terrine (I don't like liver, but this one is very good). And you can't leave Florence without trying the ribollita (bread soup) and for the bravest the lamprey (the best is Il Pollini in Sant'Ambrogio). Finally, for those who want something different, there is Koto Ramen.

For a good ice cream, the Gelateria La Carraia is the most famous. The most beautiful bars are in Piazza della Repubblica together with the Caffè Rivoire in Piazza della Signoria where the Negroni was born.


In Florence there are countless places for an aperitif, some of my favorites as a local: Caffè Letterario le Murate, Caffè Sant'Ambrogio (basically but with an excellent spritz), Amblè near Piazza della Repubblica, Tamerò and Volume in Santo Spirito, Caffè Dogali (outside the center), the Kitsch for an aperitif with lots of food.


In Florence there are beautiful panoramic terraces where you can have an aperitif: at the Grand Hotel Baglioni, Sesto on Arno at The Westin Excelsior, La Terrazza Rooftop Bar at the Hotel Continentale, Angel Roofbar & Dining at the Hotel Calimala, the Divina Terrace at the Grand Hotel Cavour, Golden View Firenze and the Picteau Bistrot & Cocktail Bar overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, The Social Hub terrace of the Student Hotel hostel, ToscaNino in the Rinascente building which acts as a cafeteria and restaurant.


There are clubs everywhere, but the most vibrant areas in the evening are Piazza di Santo Spirito surrounded by simple and alternative clubs such as Volume, San Frediano with more particular cafés, Piazza Santa Croce and Via dei Benci where there are clubs for young people, tourists Americans and gay street. Sant'Ambrogio between the Macci and the Murate.

Among the favorite venues: Manifattura for the best cocktails in Florence, the Ménagére, a beautiful and very sophisticated location, the Antico Caffè del Moro - Art Bar Firenze for a unique experience, Volume and Rasputin in Santo Spirito, Eby's for shots and empanadas in Santa Croce, near the Rex Cafè for drinking and dancing, the Quelo in the gay street with delicious cocktails, the Fabbrica della Pedavena. In summer Florence is filled with clubs along the Arno from Ponte San Niccolò, the Gardens of the Fortezza da Basso, the Gardens of Mars (the Light), the Gardens of Horticulture.

While for dancing: the Ostello Tasso (it is hidden behind a door and is inside an old theater of a hostel), the BUH, Combo Social Club, the Otel (outside the center and a real disco), the Tenax for house music, the Flò in the summer in Piazzale Michelangelo.

Shopping and local markets

Florence is famous for the tanners and the precious leathers, around the Central Market there are every day the stalls and shops of the artisans who sell bags, jackets, leather gloves.

Via dei Calzaiuoli and the parallel via Roma, luxury shopping in Via dei Tornabuoni.

The ancient Perfume-Pharmaceutical Workshop of Santa Maria Novella is beautiful and historic.


Bike ride along the Arno, Sunset from Piazza Michelangelo, happy hour in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Itinerary in map:

Click here to see the map and using during the trip:



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