Ah, Florence. This was such a big trip for us. Tom and I have dreamed and schemed about going to Italy for years. We’d originally hoped to hop around to several Italian cities, but eventually realized it made more sense to stay in one place this time. Tom worked most of the trip, so he needed a home-base with good wifi. Settling on Florence was an easy decision.
Florence is only about three hours from Lugano by train. As soon as we stepped off the train, we were smitten. Compared to Milan, which we didn’t much care for, Florence was truly love at first site.
I might have actually squealed with delight as we caught sight of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, a scene that just screams Italian charm.
Where We Stayed
This was the first major trip we’ve taken in a while where we weren’t housesitting (although we did tack it onto our Lugano sit). Spending a lot of money on hotels and accommodations is something we try to avoid, so we looked to Airbnb for an affordable lodging option. And oh, did we do good.
We rented a charming apartment right near the Ponte Vecchio for about $60 US per night. The location was excellent, the view was lovely and the wifi was strong. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Tip: We are notorious for staying places with a lot of stairs or a long climb up from town to our beds. We like the accidental workout. But if you have mobility issues be sure to ask your host if there are stairs or long, hilly walks leading up to the apartment before you book.
What To Do with 5 Days in Florence
Florence is probably one of the most well-traveled destinations we’ve ever visited. So nothing we did really broke the mold of things you’ll see on any Florence Travel Guide. What I will say is that this beautiful city is popular for a reason. And the popular things to do are as well.
Tour and Climb the Florence Cathedra (Duomo di Firenze)
You absolutely can’t go to Florence without spending some time in and around the Duomo. You can’t miss the expansive cathedral with its beautiful pink and green brick facade. There are many ways to experience the Duomo, from climbing the Bell Tower (did that), touring the inside of the cathedral and the crypt below (did that), visiting the Baptistry and climbing the actual Duomo itself (did that too).
The first step is getting a ticket. This can be done at the ticket office or online in advance. Since we were there in the off season we had no issue getting a same-day ticket at the ticket office. Our ticket was good for three days and allowed entrance to the cathedral to tour the crypt and to climb the bell tower. While purchasing the ticket, we also set up a time slot to climb the Duomo the next day.
Our first stop was to go inside the cathedral and the crypt. There was some confusion amongst those we waited in line with over whether or not a ticket was required to enter. Speaking of which, there will be lines for most of the things you want to do at the Duomo. Going early and not during peak travel months will decrease your wait time. We never waited longer than 10 minutes.
Stepping inside the cathedral is a humbling experience. After lighting a candle for our loved ones and marveling over the intricate details all around us, we headed down to check out the crypt.
Below the cathedral, you can tour the archaeological remains of the old basilica of Santa Reparata.
I wasn’t wearing the appropriate footwear to climb the Duomo that day, so we decided to check out the Campanile (Bell Tower) thinking it would be an easier climb. Um, not so much. Fair warning: I actually found this climb to be more of a workout than climbing the dome. It’s also a lot of spiral, twisty staircases that can cause a bit of vertigo.
Luckily my shoes didn’t prove as problematic as I’d originally thought. After many heart-pumping flights of stairs we were rewarded with our first views of Tuscany from above.
The next day we returned looking unapologetically touristy in our sneakers, ready for another climb. As I said, I didn’t find climbing the dome to be as difficult as the bell tower. But it was definitely a lot more crowded and claustrophobic. But you can’t beat the scenery. Along the way, you’re able to take in the frescoes painted on the ceiling of the dome. After arriving at the top, there’s no better view of the city of Florence.
Long story short, definitely plan ample time during your Florence visit for the Duomo. Get a ticket in advance if you’re short on time and be sure to reserve a spot to climb the dome.
See Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
After the Duomo, Michelangelo’s David sculpture is one of the top must-sees in Florence. And like the Duomo, there can be long lines. Visiting in January, we got lucky again and barely had to wait to enter the Accademia Gallery where the David resides. Here, you can also see the Florentine Pietà and other famous Italian artwork.
If you’re in Florence during peak season, I’d definitely recommend purchasing a ticket online in advance.
Marvel at Priceless Art at the Uffizi Gallery
Having filled our first two days in Florence visiting the Duomo and the Accademia, we had one major stop left on our list. The Uffizi Gallery is a stunningly massive collection of priceless art and opulence in Florence dating back to the rule of the Medici family during the Renaissance.
We bought tickets in advance to visit Uffizi, but probably didn’t need to. Again, it depends on the time of year you visit. We dedicated an entire morning to visiting this museum, and didn’t come close to seeing everything. Highlights of the museum include the ornate ceilings and original art by Sandro Botticelli and Leonard da Vinci, just to name a few.
Get a Taste of Tuscany on a Chianti Wine Tour
One of the highlights of our trip was a Tuscan wine tour of the Chianti Classico region. It was so fun to get out of the city, view the rolling hills of the countryside and taste delicious wines. We highly recommend booking a private or small group tour, many of which will pick you up from your hotel or Airbnb. If you don’t have time to get out of the city, check out aFlorence wine tour which will take you around the city to taste different wines.
Obviously, one of the best things to do in any Italian city is eat. We’ve rounded up all the goodness we ate on our trip here.
Have you ever been to Florence? What did we miss?
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