Two high-speed hours out of bustling Rome bring the relative tranquility of Tuscany, Italy. The picturesque vistas from the train are amazing enough to make you want to forget about visiting Florence. It’s tempting to rent a car to get out and explore the region’s hills and towns.
Alas, with only 2 days in Florence, the rest of Tuscany will just have to wait for another time.
Before we get into the details of our two-day Florence plan, we need to share a few practical details, like how to get around and where to stay. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can spend the rest of your energy enjoying the sights, smells, and sounds of this fascinating city.
Florence itinerary: what to see and do in 2 days
Florence is one of those cities that just begs for more time. There are just too many things to taste, see, photograph and do here.
It was hard to distill all of Florence into a two-day itinerary, I’ll admit it. Ultimately, we managed to blend the must-see, best things to do in Florence with time to absorb the city’s atmosphere and get a taste of local life.
Okay, two days in Florence could never be enough to explore every single masterpiece of Renaissance art and architecture, or taste every magical flavor of gelato on offer. But after our trip, we can tell you you’ll see all the highlights, as long as you plan your visit before you arrive. If you don’t book your tours or buy skip-the-line tickets ahead of time, you may spend too much of your trip on ticket lines. No one wants to miss out on the chance to see Florence’s top sights, like Michelangelo’s statue of David.
We personally made this 2-Day Florence itinerary for our own use, so we promise it’s doable. So sit back, scroll through, and enjoy. You’ll quickly see that we squeezed the best things to see in Florence, Italy into 2 days.
How to get from Rome to Florence by train
When traveling around Europe, you quickly get used to traveling by trains and buses. That is, unless you’re renting a car and driving to Florence yourself. We really enjoy traveling by train though, especially those high speed ones. All you have to do is make sure you climb into the right car (which can sometimes be a scary thing), sit back and wait as you get taken from A to B.
The fastest way to travel from Rome to Florence is by taking the Le Frecce high-speed train. This fast and luxurious train takes only 1 hour and 30 minutes to get you from Rome to Florence. Check the timetable and book your tickets.
Purchasing tickets online is quick and easy. It also lets you skip ticket lines and ensure you’ll get a seat. Here’s how:
- Select your departure (Rome Termini) and arrival (Florence SMN) destinations,
- Select the day and time of travel, and the number of passengers.
- Book and pay!
- Price includes ticket and seat reservation, and you’ll get e-tickets in PDF format via email. Tickets are only valid on the specific date and train you’ve booked, so double check before booking.
Rome’s main train station, Roma Termini, is conveniently and centrally located. It’s also not far from most major attractions. Keep in mind that the traffic in Rome is often intense, so if taking a taxi or the bus, give yourself plenty of time to get there.
Tip: If you’re on a cruise that stops in Livorno, yes, you can see Florence in one day. You can easily book a round-trip bus transfer on Get Your Guide and see the city on your own terms. Or, get a few cruise mates together for a private shore excursion to Florence from Livorno.
Getting around Florence
If it’s your first time in Florence you’ll be staying in the historical center, which is so small that you can walk pretty much everywhere. That said, here are some other options for getting around:
- Uber. Unlike taxis, Uber tells you what you’ll pay for the ride before you get in the car, and it’s usually cheaper. If you aren’t using the app yet, download it now. Register with the code danb2984 to get up to $5 off your first ride.
- Public transportation. This website will help you plan a route by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
- Hop-on-hop-off bus. For the mobility challenged, these buses stop at the city’s most popular tourist stops and offer a guided commentary along the way. Buy a ticket, get off, sightsee, then hop back onto the next bus that comes along.
Where to stay in Florence
Florence is absolutely amazing and it can get busy during peak season. Do your best to stay somewhere central and close to everything you’ll want to see during your two-day trip. You don’t want to be wasting valuable time traveling there and back again. Besides, if you stay nearby, it’s easy to pop back to your hotel if you need something (like an extra camera battery!).
We got so extremely lucky with the location of our hotel–something that can sometimes go really badly when booking online based on reviews. (Fake reviews are a real thing!) Dan reserved a room at Hotel Berchielli, a recently renovated 4-star hotel that overlooks the Arno River. Being in the center of the old city, I thought it had the most romantic setting. We were both excited to discover that it literally took just a couple of minutes to walk to Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria from the hotel.
If Berchielli doesn’t suit your travel style, no worries. Florence offers everything from apartments to hostels to high end boutique hotels and more, all in a wide range of prices. We recommend using Booking to search. With a wide variety of lodging types, it’s a major time- and money-saver.
Okay, you have all the essential details for making your own travel arrangements. But don’t stop here, read on to the end! We’ve put even more travel planning information at the end of this article.
Day 1 in Florence
Florence’s main station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, is a great example of Italian modernist architecture from the 1930s. The station is right in the city center and if you can’t walk to your hotel, a quick bus, Uber, or taxi ride will have you there in no time at all.
When we arrived at the Florence train station (at lunchtime), we couldn’t find any bus information anywhere. Worse, the Tourist Information office was closed for remodeling. Rather than waste time wandering around, we hailed a cab to take us to our hotel so we could drop off our bags.
Fortunately, Dan had chosen a place that was conveniently situated in the medieval heart of the city. Woo-hoo, we were right next to the Arno River and between the Uffizi Museum and the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge!
Because we only had two days in Florence, we had already mapped out a list of all the must-see sights. Our goal was to make sure we would see most of the city’s major sights by the end of our two days. We figured we could always return to see the rest at another time, and by the end of our first hour in Florence – we knew we’d be back!
Tip: Sundays and Mondays are not ideal for sightseeing. Many places are either closed or have shorter hours. Sights may also have shorter hours during off-season.
A walk through Signoria Square
Let’s start off by saying that no trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the Duomo, Florence’s iconic cathedral. So that’s the first place we headed.
Our route from the hotel took us through Signoria Square, where Michelangelo’s David stands in all his naked glory.
Actually, it’s a copy. The original sculpture stood here for centuries, until curators moved it indoors to protect it from the elements. If you want to see Michelangelo’s original masterpiece, then you’ll have to visit the Ufizzi Museum (Day 2).
You must take a walk through the beautiful Signoria Square, but do it slowly. With limited time in Florence, the sites, sculptures and atmosphere that Signoria Square has to offer is not to be missed! This famous L-shaped square home to the Fountain of Neptune, the Loggia della Signoria, as well as the centuries-old Palace. You’ll see it all standing in the middle of this amazing square.
Our favorite thing on the square was the large loggia – an open, covered porch that adjoins the Uffizi Gallery. This stone building was built in the late 14th century to host public meetings and ceremonies. These days, the Loggia dei Lanzi has been transformed into an open-air sculpture gallery, – with a lot of impressive, larger-than-life statues. Take your time; there’s a lot to see.
Tip: In Florence, fine art can be seen everywhere you turn – keep your eyes peeled!
Visiting Florence’s Duomo
The red-roofed dome of Florence’s cathedral is one of the most photographed sights in the city. We took our turn as well, but what surprised us was the building itself. Not only is it colorful and beautiful all the way around, but fabulous statues adorn its front facade.
The “of course” is because Florence is the one place Renaissance art fans shouldn’t miss.
Back in the 15th and 16th centuries. the city’s richest and most powerful family, the Medicis, spent vast sums to collect art. They were patrons of Bargello, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and other talented artists of the day. All of these famous artists lived in Florence.
The Medici family’s art collection is now on streets and in museums around the city – actually, some of the family’s Florence homes are museums in themselves!
But I digress. Back to the Duomo.
As we said, its unique dome dominates Florence’s skyline. Did you know that it is still the largest masonry dome in the world?
Go ahead and enter; it’s free. Just be aware that you will need to purchase a ticket to climb the bell tower or visit surrounding sites and museums such as the baptistery and the underground ruins.
Combined tickets for all of these museums can be purchased at various tourism offices around Florence, however it’s probably easiest to buy your tickets from the office directly behind the Duomo, or possibly even easier, to buy your museum tickets online.
Tip: The Museum is closed on the first Tuesday of each month.
A visit to the Baptistery
Just a few steps away from the Duomo, you will find the Baptistery. Introducing one of the most amazing things to see in Florence Italy.
Also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, this is the oldest religious site in all of Florence, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style. If you’re a fan of Romanesque architecture, then you will love the geometrically patterned white Carrara and green Prato marble seen in the building’s architecture.
As you can tell by its name, the building’s fame and sole purpose for existence was for performing baptisms. Not anymore, though. It’s now most famous for its detailed bronze front doors that depict stories from the Bible.
Right up until the end of the 19th century, every catholic in Florence was baptized behind these famous doors. Today, young local children can still be baptized here on the first Sunday of every month. However, with limited space and time, only four children can be baptized on such Sundays, meaning one needs to make the request well in advance.
Tip: Purchasing one of the Florence museum tickets includes free entrance into the Baptistery.
Italian pizza for lunch
After that train ride and walking around, your stomach will be demanding some attention. Not wanting to lose valuable sightseeing time with a sit-down lunch, we stopped at a pizzeria for a couple of slices to go. You know… pizza in Italy, right?
Here’s a case where reality doesn’t match the expectation. I got an absolute kick out of being able to use the little Italian I knew, but the food itself was unremarkable. Sigh.
We had much better luck with the Crayola-green, mint-flavored slushies we purchased from a street vendor in the mid-afternoon. Hurray for trying street food!
Roaming the streets of Florence
Rather than rushing around to tick every box on a random “Things to Do in Florence” list, we opted to spend the rest of our first afternoon truly absorbing the city’s ambiance.
Florentine life unfolded all around us as we meandered through the labyrinth of medieval streets around the Basilica di San Lorenzo. Florence is by far one of the most walkable of the main cities in Italy – if there is one place where you can really make two days count, it’s here.
Tip: If you don’t enjoy walking through a new city unguided, you might prefer a private and customized walking tour of Florence with a local guide – just to squeeze that little bit extra out of the experience in the same way we did on Day Two … (Keep reading!)
San Lorenzo market: leather and more
This is where you’ll find the lively San Lorenzo street market, a warren of stalls selling just about everything you might imagine, at insanely good prices. This outdoor market is one of the top areas for shopping in Florence.
In the market for a new leather handbag? Bingo! You’ll find stalls selling various leather goods including bags, belts, wallets and jackets at the San Lorenzo outdoor market.
You’ll be seriously spoiled for choice here – so put your bargaining shoes on!
Tip: Try to hold out on the spending until you’ve made it past the first row of vendors. The last thing you want to do is realize you could have got something way cheaper further on. And remember to bargain!
Sunset on the Ponte Vecchio
As the sun set on our first day in Florence, we took our cameras to the Arno River so we could photograph the old bridge, locally known as Ponte Vecchio.
Built in the early 1300s, it’s said to be the only medieval bridge still standing in Europe. The rest were obliterated when Hitler ordered all bridges destroyed as the Germans retreated in 1944. We have seen two explanations as to why Ponte Vecchio was spared. One is that Hitler was enchanted by the bridge when he visited Florence in 1938 and he issued an order that the bridge be spared. The other possibility is that the German soldiers chose to disobey orders and spare the beautiful Renaissance bridge on their own.
In either case, shops line the length of the ancient bridge’s span, just as most medieval bridges once commonly had. Although butchers initially occupied the shops on Ponte Vecchio, its present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir vendors.
Tip: If you’re looking for another beautiful spot to enjoy the sun setting over this beautiful city, then consider the Piazzale Michelangelo. This is one of the best lookouts for a stunning view of Florence, day or night. Best of all? It’s completely free!
Day 2 in Florence
With only two days in Florence, time is precious. And while museums can fill up a day, two of Florence’s best attractions are the most famous sites in the city: Accademia and the Ufizzi gallery.
The problem is, ticket lines for the Uffizi and Accademia tickets can be incredibly long. This was one of those times when time was more valuable than money, so we splurged on a guided tour of both museums. Money well spent, if you ask me.
A guided tour of the Accademia
The Gallery of the Academy of Florence, locally known as Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, is pretty much known world wide as the Accademia. We started our second day with a trip to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s statue of David.
As far as we knew, that was the one thing that people go there to see. As it turns out, we were wrong.
We had booked a skip-the-line tour that would take us to Florence’s two most iconic museums, the Accademia and the Uffizi. This was the first time we had ever booked a guided tour and it was money well spent.
Of course, we got in without waiting. But we were seriously and very pleasantly surprised at how much our guides knew about art history and history in general. They also guided us directly to where all the most famous works were. (My feet were especially grateful!)
Tip: If you are interested in a skip-the-line guided tour of these museums, book the same tour here.
As we headed to the iconic statue, we were told to look carefully at the paintings along the way. Most of these paintings were done by the very same people who had tutored Michelangelo.
The salon where David stands also has other pieces he created. To me, not all appeared to be finished. Michelangelo believed that every piece of stone had a figure entrapped within it. His goal was to help who- or whatever was trapped in the stone to become exposed.
Aside from the statue of David, we thought the most interesting thing in the museum was a separate room housing plaster sculptures from students. They were incredible!
Afterward, we wandered back through the San Lorenzo street market. It was just as visually overwhelming as it had been the day before.
Mercato Centrale (and lunch)
Food is a huge part of a culture, and we enjoy visiting markets to see what different people like to eat. A bit further on, we came to the bustling Mercato Centrale (Central Market). Here’s how it works. Time to explore.
Open 364 days a year from 8am to midnight, every sort of food imaginable is available, and the ground floor is an expansive food market with many artisan stands. Every store sells its own products, which you can eat immediately or take away with you, paying at each store’s own cash register.
The entire upstairs was remodeled in 2014 to cater for the recent gourmet food market trend. It’s filled with even more stalls where you can take your pick of hundreds of delicious lunch options, from pizzas and meat to fish and pasta. Perfect for people who need to be careful with what they eat (like me).
The norm is to just pick your meal and carry your food to the large common tables – so that’s exactly what we did. It was really delicious, and very good value for money. Don’t expect a relaxing sit down meal, but they do have table service for drinks and such. It was fun to enjoy it amid the hustle and bustle. Kind of similar to eating in a mall’s food court … but kind of not.
Our Uffizi tour wasn’t scheduled for another 45 minutes, so we took our time looking through the downstairs shops. Among our favorites were one that sold dozens and dozens of pastas in unusual shapes, another that offered an amazing selection of olives, and a third which had countless olive oils to choose from. But we have a rule: If you buy it, you carry it. We didn’t want to schlep it to Venice and through Spain, so we left empty-handed.
A guided tour of the Uffizi Galleries
Anyway, our afternoon tour of the Uffizi Galleries was outstanding. The collection of artworks started in the 16th century as that of the Medici family, and has grown to become one of the greatest in the world, comparable to the Louvre, the Prado and the Hermitage.
This one building houses countless paintings by such greats as DaVinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rafael, Titian, and Caravaggio. And that’s just to name a few.
Our tour guide gave us just enough background detail to make it really interesting, but not so much as to make it boring. After she had shown us the highlights, we bid our guide goodbye and spent more time wandering through the museum and enjoying the paintings on our own.
Experiencing Italian wine tasting
No wine lover’s visit to Tuscany would be complete without a visit to an enoteca, a special type of regional wine shop. A genuine enoteca is primarily focused on giving visitors the opportunity to taste the local wines at a reasonable fee and possibly to buy them.
So, Dan and I made our way to one we’d seen and sat down with the sommelier (wine expert), who shared some delicious Tuscan wine samples with us. We can’t remember the name, but we can recommend a nearby restaurant called Mangiafoco.
After our Italian wine tasting, we walked through the narrow streets and soaked up the last little bits of Florentine ambiance that we could. Because bright and early tomorrow morning, we’d be back at the train station and heading to Venice.
Tip: If you’re planning on tasting some great Italian wines, you might enjoy this 2 hour wine tasting of Tuscan wines in Florence. By the end of this tour you’ll know how to order wine in Tuscany, as well as learn how to pair Tuscan wine with the right food! Best part? You’ll get to taste 5 precious local wines, including Brunello and Nobile di Montepulciano.
Things to do with 3 or more days in Florence
We’re fond of the get-in-and-get-out philosophy: See the highlights of a city in a couple of days, and spend the rest of your time exploring the region. However, Florence is a rare exception because there’s so much to see and do, especially if you’re an art lover.
You need to know that Florence offers a tourist card called the Firenzecard. (85 euros). It gives you 72 hours of free, priority entry to museums and landmarks around the city, and there’s even a version that includes unlimited travel on public transportation.
We didn’t buy it because we had booked that skip-the-line Accademia/Ufizzi guided tour combo. With more time in Florence, we’d have scheduled the tours for Day 1, and then used the Firenzecard to visit other attractions over the following 3 days.
Hop-on-hop-off bus tour
There’s a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Florence, too. For people on a budget, it’s a cheaper way to get around Florence than the Firenzecard, but it doesn’t include any museum admissions. If you’re not a museum aficionado, it’s a good option. Plus, the bus has an onboard guide who provides a narrated tour of the city.
Market to table cooking lesson
Who wouldn’t enjoy learning how to cook like an Italian, in Italy? Meet the farmers, bakers and butchers of the central market in Florence, and then on to preparing homemade pasta and sauces.
With one of these cooking lessons, you will learn all kinds of tips and techniques of meat and fish courses, while savoring the fruits of your labor with Italian wines. Can you say “yum?”
Florence from the water
An extra day in Florence would have given us time for a romantic and unique cruise on the Arno river. We found this boat tour, that also includes a guided walk through the city center.
We’ve done it in London, Singapore and Amsterdam. There’s something unique about seeing cities from a completely different point of view – the water. Well worth it!
A Tuscany wine tour from Florence
The enoteca was fun, but that train ride had made us crave more of Tuscany. Naturally, an extra day in Florence would have been a perfect opportunity to take this fun wine tour from Florence.
Just imagine soaking in the Tuscan countryside, sipping and sampling delicious traditional wines … It sounds like time well spent to us.
Tip: Even though we don’t travel with them (heavy and bulky), guidebooks can be a great investment. They are super useful while you’re planning your itinerary and a great way to bone up on what you’re going to see. Plus, they offer lots of in-depth information and tips in a concise format. Some people tear out the relevant pages and bring them along for easy reference on-the-fly. Find a list of Florence travel guides here.
Final words about our 2 days in Florence
We hope that you have a better idea of what to see in Florence, Italy in 2 days. We wanted our Florence itinerary to give you a few things to think about, as well as show you the importance of planning your trip well in advance.
We’ve fallen in love with understated, artistic Florence and want to return. Florence has become our favorite for so many reasons, from its old streets to its delicious foods and the amazing Renaissance art everywhere you turn.
It has whet our appetites for wanting to spend much more time in Tuscany, a part of Italy like no other. Someday, we’ll return and share the beautiful countryside vistas with you.
Florence itinerary links
Here are a few more helpful links and resources to make your trip planning easier. Just prepare yourself for two lists: One will be your “must-see-list” and ther other will go on the list of “we’ll do that one next time!”
- Tourism authority: Florence’s tourism website has many useful trip planning resources.
- The code for Florence Airport, Peretola is FLR.
- Airport to hotel. Taxis are available, as is Uber. Another option is to take the Alba Travel shared shuttle bus. For a bit more money, you can book a private transfer service. They will greet you as you exit the airport, help with your luggage, and escort you to your hotel.
- Project Visa has an easy-to-use tool that will tell you if you are eligible for Visa on Arrival (VOA).
- We use xe.com to calculate currency exchange values.
- Travel insurance. You’d be surprised at how cheap it is and how much it covers. Learn more here.
Book a guided tour
Guided tours can be a great option, whether you want a local to show you around, or you’d
prefer to have someone else manage all the arrangements.
You can take insanely affordable small group tours on all 7 continents, with 100% guaranteed departures, even if you’re the only traveler. Expect local accommodation, cuisine, and transport to connect you with the planet’s people, cultures, landscapes and wildlife. Click here to check out their itineraries.
Day trips and excursions
When we travel, we use Get Your Guide a lot. It’s our go-to for food tours, attractions and activities. Click here to see what’s available in Florence.
- Guide to the best things to see in Vatican City
- Venice is where I found my new travel partner
- Read about the most romantic places we have been to
- Get lost in Venice
- The best things to do on Murano Island, Venice, Italy
- Rick Steves Florence & Tuscany
- Florence: A Walking Guide to Its Architecture
- Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey
Want to see more of this destination? For more sightseeing, check out our Florence photo gallery.