Florence Highlights – Things to do in Florence

Florence Highlights - Things to do in Florence

I only had 5 days in Florence, but I really fell in love with the city. There’s so much to see, and the food is delicious. Furthermore, the city is very walkable, and if you’re staying in the city center, most attractions are within walking distance. There are a lot of tourists in Florence, but the city takes good care of its visitors, and the locals we met were all very friendly and helpful. If you’re in Europe, Florence is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway, and if you’re visiting Italy from the US, make sure you put Florence on your itinerary. Here are some of the things I would recommend that you experience in Florence:

Watching the sunrise from Piazzale Michelangelo

One of the days we got up really early to go and see the sunrise from Piazzale Michelangelo. Piazzale Michelangelo is a famous square in Florence, located on the hillside south of the Arno river. From there, you have the most gorgeous, panoramic views of the city, including prominent landmarks including the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio. The square itself features a large terrace with copies of Michelangelo’s sculptures, including a replica of his renowned David statue.

Eat lots of gelato

Florence has a lot of great gelaterias, and I had gelato every day. Compared to ice cream, gelato is churned more slowly to incorporate less air, which makes it denser. Gelato is also served at a slightly warmer temperature, enhancing its taste. I had the best gelato at Vivoli, which is considered the oldest gelateria in Florence. The gelateria is family-run and has a nice, old-school feel that I really liked. Furthermore, the staff was super friendly and showed a lot of patience while I was trying to decide between all the delicious flavors available. I ended up having Caramelized Pear, Zabaione, Peach and Pistachio. Best gelato I’ve ever had.

Grab a schiacciata at All’Antico Vinaio

The original branch of the famous Italian sandwich shop is located in the historic center of Florence, just a short walk from Palazzo Vecchio. The shop is known for traditional Tuscan schiacciata which are sandwiches are made with freshly baked schiacciata bread. The schiacciata are filled with a variety of delicious ingredients such as prosciutto, finocchiona (a Tuscan salami), pecorino cheese, fresh vegetables, and sauces, and they’re delicious. I first tried All’Antico Vinaio in New York City and I love the place, so it was fun to visit the original shop in Florence.

Eating Florentine steak

Florentine steak, bistecca alla Fiorentina, is a thick-cut T-bone or porterhouse steak, sourced from the local Chianina cattle, which is renowned for its delicious flavor and tenderness. The steak is traditionally cooked rare (though one of the Florentine steaks we had was more to the medium side) and the smallest ones are 1kg, so bring a big appetite or some friends to share with.

Enjoy the view from the top of the Duomo

Don’t miss climbing to the top of the Duomo. The ascent involves 463 steps through some rather narrow, winding, passages, but the reward is a breathtaking panoramic view of Florence with the signature red-tiled rooftops, the Arno River, and the Tuscan hills.

The Duomo in Florence, formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is a Renaissance masterpiece and one of the most famous landmarks of the city. The most striking feature of the cathedral is the massive dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior has intricate marble panels in shades of green, pink, and white, while the interior is decorated with beautiful frescoes.

Go see David

You can’t really visit Florence without seeing Michelangelo’s David. David is located inside the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, and the Renaissance art masterpiece is a truly amazing sight.

Get wine from a wine window

Wine windows, or “buchette del vino,” are found throughout Florence. They date back to the 17th century and were originally used by Florentine noble families and wine producers during the plague epidemics to safely sell wine without direct contact. Customers could approach the window, place their coins on a metal dish, and receive a glass of wine poured directly from the seller’s cellar inside. Nowadays, many of the historic wine windows in Florence have been sealed shut, but some of the original wine windows have been preserved and restored, and you can walk up and order a a glass of wine to enjoy while strolling through the streets of Florence.

Ponte Vecchio

It wasn’t love at first sight between me and Ponte Vecchio. The first time around, all I saw was an old, rather unusual, bridge, and to be honest, I wasn’t too impressed. But then we came back the following evening, in that magical golden hour before sunset, when everything is bathed in warm, golden colors, and I finally fell in love. A glass of pink Prosecco in one hand, Steve right next to me, and a street musician singing Volare on repeat; this was a perfect afternoon.

Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks. Spanning the Arno River, Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence. What distinguishes Ponte Vecchio are the shops and houses built directly on the bridge. Originally occupied by butchers and fish mongers, the shops today mostly house jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers. While Ponte Vecchio itself does not provide a direct view of the sunset over the horizon due to its orientation across the Arno River, it’s a great place from where to witness the illuminated sky and the changing colors reflecting on the water.

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