Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is one of Italy’s top destinations for overseas tourists, expats and locals alike. Best known for long, relaxed summer vacations, Florence is also a fantastic choice for a shorter weekend break.
Astounding museums, galleries and some of the most beautiful architecture in Italy; Florence has a good range of accommodation, excellent transport links and so many unique things to see and do during your stay.
Ideally, you should arrange to arrive on Friday evening so that you’ll have time to refresh yourself, take a stroll along the River Arno and have dinner before returning to your hotel to get a good night’s sleep.
How Do You Get To Florence?
Florence is a well-connected modern city so it’s easy to get there from overseas as well as from within Italy and the European Union. If you’re traveling to Florence by plane, the nearest place to land is the Florence Airport although the Pisa International Airport is only 100 km away from the capital of Tuscany.
NOTE: In my experience, it is very expensive to fly from the Northeast United States to Florence. I have never been able to find a direct flight from Philadelphia (PHL), Newark (EWR) or New York (JFK). So I always prefer to fly directly to Rome or Milan and taking the train to Florence. The express train ride from both cities to Florence is only about 90 minutes and costs about 35 Euros. Rome is ideal because from the Rome Fiumicino airport (FCO) you can take the Leonardo Express and reach Roma Termini in about 30 minutes. You can then take the express trains to Florence.
However, if you’re traveling from within Italy, then it’s a better idea to catch the train. This will drop you off at Florence’s central station, the Santa Maria Novella station, from where you can make your way to your hotel.
There are both high-speed and regional trains that you can take to get to Florence; and although the high-speed option is more expensive, it will save you valuable time and has more onboard facilities. You can usually get cheaper tickets if you book your seats online in advance.
Of course, you can also drive to Florence but it is worth remembering that the ancient city was not designed with cars in mind! The narrow streets are difficult to find your way around and there is certainly very little free parking within the historic city center; in fact, if you park illegally within Florence you’ll face some very heavy fines.
The Best Place For A Weekend Stay In Florence.
For a weekend city break in Florence you should stay in a central location. This means that all the major attractions will be right on your doorstep and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out.
The historic center of Florence is actually surprisingly small so you can get around on foot without any problems. Actually, the center of town is so small that you can walk from one side to the other in under 30 minutes, even at a leisurely pace!
The ideal location to stay for your weekend break in Florence is near the Santa Maria Novella station, the Ponte Vecchio or the Duomo; all of which are next to all the major attractions, restaurants, monuments and stores.
The Hotel Pitti Palace Al Ponte Vecchio is located right in the heart of Florence, overlooking the River Arno next to the famous Ponte Vecchio. You’re also only a stone’s throw away from some of the city’s top attractions, including the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo and the Palazzo Pitti, after which the hotel is named.
This gorgeously elegant hotel is comfortable and relaxed. There is free Wi-Fi, free breakfast each morning and even on-site bicycle hire. The hotel allows you to bring your pets along with you and provides babysitting services, which can be helpful for couples with young children.
The hotel has several lovely terraces where you can enjoy views across the River Arno and is ideally situated for your weekend break in Florence.
If you are traveling on a tight budget, as most people do, you can consider Hotel Panorama Artinside, La Residenza del Proconsolo and the Prestigia Rooms among others.
Where Should You Eat In Florence?
Florence is famous for its culinary heritage and so it can be quite daunting to choose the right restaurant to eat in; and while you’ll find great food everywhere there are a few places that stand out from the rest.
If you’re looking for a superb breakfast in Florence then Le Vespe Cafe on Via Ghibellina is quite unique! The restaurant was founded by two chefs, one from Florence and one from Canada. Together, they have created an amazing fusion breakfast menu that contains everything from Canadian classics such as pancakes and syrup to yogurt with fresh fruit, from breakfast wraps to more Mediterranean dishes such as marinated salmon with avocados and side dishes.
When it’s time for lunch the B-Roof restaurant on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Baglioni has 360-degree views across the city and offers a stylish experience for all its guests. The restaurant serves food throughout the day but during lunchtime it’s quieter than at night; making it ideal for refueling halfway through your adventures in the Florentine center. The views are stunning!!
Combining the traditional elements of Tuscan cuisine with modern innovative twists, the menu at B-Roof is exciting and varied; including seafood, Mediterranean, Tuscan, vegan and vegetarian options. Located just a few hundred feet from the Church of Santa Maria you can stop by for lunch without losing too much time during your sightseeing.
In the evening the Michelin Starred Ristorante Borgo San Jacopo overlooks the River Arno in a wonderfully romantic setting with unforgettable views and atmosphere. The restaurant is stylish, classy, has excellent service, a great selection of wine and a lovely menu. The chef, Claudio Mengoni, brings together the authentic tastes of Tuscany using only the very best ingredients to create food that keeps his regulars coming back for more.
Some of the menu’s highlights include porcini mushroom ice cream, fig molasses, sea urchins, anchovies and fennel Frisella. Of course, the restaurant also serves more traditional Italian dishes including pasta, seafood and finger-licking starters.
What Should You Do In Florence?
The following are some of my favorite things to do in Florence.
Duomo Di Firenze.
Usually referred to simply as the Duomo, this is one of the most iconic symbols of the city. Famous for its impressive domed roof which was the largest in the world until the late 19th Century, the cathedral is absolutely astounding. While you’re at the Duomo you can also climb up to the roof to enjoy the spectacular views of the city – although do be aware that it’s 463 steps to the top! Once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with a view of Florence from the highest point in the entire city, so don’t forget to bring your camera.
The Uffizi Gallery.
Florence is renowned for its artistic heritage and one of the main storehouses of its most valuable masterpieces is the Uffizi Gallery. Full to the brim with treasures from the Renaissance, there’s an awful lot to see including Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’. To properly explore the gallery you should probably set aside at least 2 hours to take in all the superb works of art.
Home to Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture, the statue of David, the Galleria dell’Accademia is a must-see site during your weekend in Florence. The incredible sculpture of David was carved from a single block of marble around 500 years ago and became one of the premier examples of the master craftsmanship that epitomized the Italian Renaissance.
There’s also a lot of other wonderful art to appreciate in the Galleria dell’Accademia. If you really want to delve into the gallery and learn all about the works on display you can join a 3 hour walking tour with an expert art historian guide.
To get the best panoramic view of Florence you can make your way up to the Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset before you head back into town for dinner. Once you reach the piazza you’ll have unbeatable views across the city which include the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery and the Arnolfo Tower to name just a few of the landmarks on display. You’ll also be able to sample the souvenir stores and listen to the street musicians while you’re taking in the scenery.
Although the central Duomo usually steals the limelight the Cappelle Medici, near the Santa Maria Novella station, has the second largest dome in the city and an equally impressive interior. Decorated from floor to ceiling with jewels, frescoes and artwork, the church is a stunning example of the wealth that was generated during the Italian Renaissance. As well as the main structure, if you head to the back of the Cappelle Medici, into the smaller chapel, you can see one of Florence’s best-kept secrets – an amazing collection of statues that were carved by Michelangelo himself!
Shopping In Florence – Don’t Forget The Markets!
Even though there are a lot of artisan boutiques and souvenir stores you can often have more fun by exploring one of Florence’s main markets. Here you’ll find a huge range of stalls with vendors selling everything from everyday household items to leatherware, jewelry, food and local produce!
One of Florence’s best markets is the Mercato Centrale. This is every food lover’s heaven and is situated in a lovely 19th Century iron structure. On the ground floor of the market you’ll see stalls selling Tuscan wines, fresh fruit, fish, oil, spices and cheeses. If you go upstairs you’ll find a food court that has eateries selling pasta, pizza, fish dishes, cold cuts of meat, burgers and, of course, gelato!
The Mercato Centrale is located on the Piazza del Mercato Centrale and is just a short walk from the Galleria dell’Accademia and other main attractions in central Florence.
Every Visit To Florence Should Include Dropping Into Vivoli Gelato!
As one of the oldest and best-loved gelato shops in Florence, no visit to the city would be complete without a quick stop at Vivoli Gelato! Vivoli Gelato opened its doors in the 1930s and originally had to ship ice down from the Apennine mountains in large blocks to use in their store!
Of course, today things are a little easier and the taste of the gelato has only gotten better. The family-run store has been a favorite among tourists and locals for 4 generations now, so make sure you taste their legendary gelato during your time in Florence.
Florence – The Perfect City For A Weekend In The Heart Of Tuscany.
Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Italy and with so much on offer you’re bound to have a wonderful weekend in Tuscany. The city is famous for its galleries, museums, picturesque scenery and iconic landmarks; as well as its superb restaurants and culinary heritage.
Visiting Florence is something that you’ll never forget. Once you’ve visited Florence you’re bound to want to go back as soon as you can; so if you’re planning a trip to this iconic city, get ready to have the best weekend of your life!