I’m sharing our 5 Days in Florence, Italy including our daily itinerary with down time to recharge and explore. I hope this guide will help you plan your trip abroad. I partnered with TripAdvisor to plan some of our excursions. Opinions are all mine.
I’m finally getting a chance to share our 5 days in Florence with you guys. As I’ve mentioned from our trip to New York City and from visiting New Orleans, we don’t like to spend all our time inside buildings or running from tourist attraction to tourist attraction. We prefer to balance our time between must-see attractions and discovering the city on our own.
This trip to Italy was for our family of 4 and included 5 days in Florence and 3 days in Venice. I’ll be sharing the experience in a series of posts so for now I’m going to cover our 5 day itinerary to help you in your planning process. Ready to board?!
First of all, we booked the trip through Costco travel packages which includes airfare, hotel, and ground transfers. We got the 411 about this service from my husband’s uncle and it turned out to be a great decision! The hotels were 4-star, the train ride was first class, and the transfers between hotel and airport were punctual and so convenient. I encourage you to check it out if you’re a member of Costco.
5 Days in Florence, Italy
We arrived in Florence early afternoon so we had plenty of time to relax, settle in, and get our bearings. We checked in to the NH Firenze hotel which has a contemporary design, spacious rooms, and a rooftop pool and bar. It has a beautiful view of the Duomo as you can see in the top photo here. It’s right off the river and about a block from the US Consulate.
The one drawback is that it’s at the outer edge of the historic center so you have to walk about 3/4 of a mile before you get to the Ponte Vecchio. Most everything else stems off of the famous bridge so you can always find your way as long as you find the river.
We took the afternoon to walk along the river, grab some dinner at a small restaurant, and recover from a day of travel.
Day 1 in Florence – Uffizi Gallery
Our first full day was on Thursday and we had tickets to the Uffizi Gallery to see some famous works of art! This is where pre-planning came in very handy. I was fortunate to partner with TripAdvisor to help plan some of our excursions.
I’ve used TripAdvisor before for checking reviews on things, but I’ve never booked an excursion through them so I was excited to give it a try. Booking directly through the website was quick and easy. I did a search for “Florence” and clicked on their “Things to Do” button. I knew I wanted Skip-the-Line passes to the Uffizi Gallery so I clicked on “Museums.”
From there it was just a matter of narrowing down the exact match for us. We chose self-guided skip-the-line tickets with a 4:30pm time of entry. This gave us the entire morning and early afternoon to explore Florence beforehand.
We followed a logical path from our hotel along the river. We crossed at the Ponte Vecchio which is filled with jewelry shop after jewelry shop. It’s extremely tourist-y and I was happy just get to the other side! Once there it was time to explore the Oltrarno quarter. This is the cutest, most quaint neighborhood with shops, restaurants, and beautiful architecture at every turn. This is also where you’ll find Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. We didn’t go inside because there just wasn’t time. You would need a large portion of the day to get through it all.
We spent most of our “unscheduled” time in this neighborhood walking down narrow streets and alleyways. I took lots of photos of doors and bicycles here, and purchased a gorgeous hand-printed picture from an artisan who worked on her craft right in front of us.
Piazza della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio
As time drew closer for our scheduled gallery tour, we headed back across the Ponte Vecchio and towards the Uffizi Gallery. We had just enough time to walk into the city square known as Piazza della Signoria. It’s decorated with famous statues like Hercules and Cacus, Perseus with Head of Medusa, Neptune’s Fountain, and a copy of David. It’s also where the Palazzo Vecchio tower stands.
It was finally time for our tour of the Uffizi Gallery. Our skip the line passes allowed us to move straight into the entrance line which moves quickly. When you buy a skip the line pass you’re simply bypassing the line to PURCHASE tickets, which can get very long and worth the pre-planning to avoid.
As an art lover, this was my happy place. I love seeing great works that I’ve studied in college and seen in documentaries. Artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Botticelli and more are all there. Religion is the predominant theme throughout and it’s interesting to see the transition from the idealic Gothic period to the realism of the Renaissance.
After spending a couple of hours in the art gallery we made our way to see the Duomo in all it’s iconic glory. The massive cathedral is a beautiful! The architecture and the graphic nature of the marble panel facade are just stunning. I could have spent half a day looking at every detail.
Day 2 in Florence – wine tasting in Tuscany
I had scheduled a wine tasting tour in Tuscany for Friday. You can read all about it in the link, but for now I’m just going to say that it was FABULOUS, and skip to day 3.
Day 3 in Florence – Academy Of Florence Art Gallery | Statue of David
For Saturday morning I had purchased skip the line passes through TripAdvisor, for the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the iconic statue of David. This has been on the bucket list for years and I can now say I’ve seen the trifecta of famous artworks: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and now Michelangelo’s David.
The statue is as magnificent as you can imagine and we must have stared at it from every angle for at least half an hour. The art gallery is fairly small and David is near the entry so it was a pretty quick tour of maybe an hour and 15 minutes. There are smaller rooms with paintings and sculptures that we took a quick look at and kept on moving.
After the gallery we covered a lot of territory.
Outdoor Street Market & Indoor Food Market
The outdoor market is a block (or two?) lined with street vendors selling their goods, mostly leather and gifts/souvenirs. Be warned, the workers are very aggressive and you’re pretty much being pandered to the entire time. It’s worth a look though, and you can find some cute “leather” purses to bring home.
Along the way is the indoor food market. As a regular American I would refer to it as a gourmet food market, but in Italy it’s just their normal way of life. The shops are overflowing with meats, and cheeses, and fresh produce, and olive oil, and wine, and… Oh my, I was in heaven.
Piazza della Repubblica
Another pretty city square to stop and rest for a bit is the Piazza della Repubblica which is known for its colorful carousel in the center. There’s also lots of shops and restaurants surrounding the square; great for people watching.
On the way back to the hotel we had to take a stroll down Via de’ Tornabuoni. It’s like the Rodeo Drive of Florence featuring stores like Gucci, Prada, Fendi, BVLGARI, Armani, and others we can’t afford. We did our share of window shopping and even went into a few stores just to see inside.
Day 4 in Florence – Free Time
Sunday was day 4 in Florence and we decided to take it easy and rest. The World Cup Finals were taking place so we watched it in the hotel bar/lounge along with everyone else. It was a nice way to spend the day OFF of our feet. It also gave us a chance to recharge after 3 days of going non-stop.
We also had the chance to head out for some night life finally. We crossed the river into the San Frediano neighborhood where we found an outdoor cabana bar and had a drink and a snack. Next we crossed back over the Arno, and went to the rooftop bar at the Weston hotel. The night views were gorgeous and the Prosecco was molto bene!
Day 5 in Florence – Exploring the Oltrarno Quarter
Our last day in Florence was spent in the Oltrarno Quarter exploring the streets and shops. I highly recommend spending time there as it’s away from most of the tourist attractions. Although there are visitors roaming the streets, it’s definitely less crowded.
This is where we found an endless amount of visual joy and inspiration through street art, architectural details, and artisans. The street art reminded me of Banksy’s work.
Our 5 days in Florence were certainly relaxing and exhausting at the same time. I don’t feel like we were over scheduled, but the walking was exhausting since the hotel was on the outer edge. We were there in mid-July too, so the heat was intense for this ‘central air’ gal.
As you can see we only paid to enter two attractions (the art galleries). If you were so inclined you could spend a small fortune to go inside all the sites. We’d rather spend money and time on experiencing the culture and lifestyle of the city we’re in. Speaking of which, I’ve gotten lots of inspiration for recipes & food for entertaining that I can’t wait to create.
Stay tuned for the next recap coming soon. It will be all about our Wine Tour in Tuscany!