Packed full of art, culture, shopping and food, Florence has everything you could want in a European city. Known as the cradle of the Renaissance, the historic Tuscan town is eminently walkable, easy to explore and centrally located so that you can hop over to another country without missing a beat.
But, as with any adventure, planning is key to making sure that you hit the highlights and skip the tourist traps. Here’s how we’d spend two days in Florence.
When you arrive via plane or train, you’ll be on the outskirts of the city. Driving in Florence’s historic center is prohibited, except by special license, so your best bet is to take some sort of public transport or taxi into town. It’s also important to remember that you’ll be walking almost everywhere, so you’ll want to forgo heels or any other similar footwear as well.
Florence offers some fantastic stays. Check into Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Hotel Savoy, a Rocco Forte Hotel for this quick trip. The 88-room gem is just off the central Piazza della Repubblica, which puts you within a stone’s throw of most attractions. (Note: the stylish space is closed for a renovation, but will reopen its doors with a brand-new look in April.)
The hotel’s 14 suites were updated in 2016, and many boast magnificent views of the Duomo, one of the city’s most famed destinations. The property is both historic and playful, with cheeky touches like paintings that make a modern play on classic Ferragamo shoe designs in the hallways, and a mélange of colorful fabrics by C&C Milano. Herringbone-patterned wood floors and Carrera marble bathrooms make the hotel feel both classically luxurious and au courant at the same time.
After you drop your bags, head back out to explore. The Via de’ Tornabuoni is the heart of the city’s luxury fashion scene, where massive flagships for designers both Italian and international are located. From Fendi and Gucci to Valentino and Pucci, you’ll surely find a souvenir or two of your time in Florence.
By the time you place your credit card back into your wallet, you will have worked up an appetite. Our favorite spot for lunch on the go is All’Antico Vinaio (on the Via Neri just moments from the Uffizi Gallery and Piazza della Signoria), where a tiny menu of sandwiches has inspired a cult following since 1991.
These plate-sized bites are stuffed with everything from prosciutto and capocollo to truffle cream and fresh mozzarella on giant slices of Tuscan bread. While you wait in the line — trust us, it’s worth it — relax with a glass of the popular restaurant’s self-serve wine.
Take the sandwiches to go and head to a local park or square to admire the view — the Santa Croce, a beautiful Franciscan chapel, is a few blocks away.
Once you finish lunch, work your way back toward the Uffizi Gallery. If you’re aiming to museum hop, we’d suggest investing in the Firenzecard, a pass that allows access to 72 different sites and museums within the city for 72 hours, including the aforementioned famed art attraction, the Santa Maria Novella, the Accademia Gallery and the Boboli Gardens.
For those who prefer a deeper dive into only one or two places, skip the line with a guide — the team at Florencetown offers excellent small group tours of top sites like the Uffizi, Accademia and Vasari Corridor.
When the tours wrap up, go for traditional Tuscan fare at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, a short walk from the Uffizi. We love that there isn’t the usual fare, like pizza or bistecca alla fiorentina (overpriced Florentine steak), on this menu. Instead, you’re given the chance to indulge in dishes like saffron pasta with zucchini flowers and cream or rolled, stuffed pork.
As you walk back to your sumptuous stay, stop for a Florentine must-have — gelato. Gelateria Perché No is one of our favorites, and it’s around the corner from the hotel. Since 1939, the shop has been dishing out the traditional treat in flavors ranging from basic to seasonal lavender, rose and ginger. If you have allergies, no problem; the shop also sells versions of the creamy sweet made with soy and rice milk.
Get up early to snag one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes and pedal your way through the city before the crowds emerge. Stop and snap your delightful morning photos by the Duomo, or ride over the Ponte Vecchio, once one of the finest streets in the world for goldsmiths.
Afterward, grab a caffé and a pastry at the hotel, or pause for a more decadent meal at Irene, the property’s onsite bistro.
Today, you’ll bypass some of the more touristic landmarks for a dose of high fashion. Choose between the Ferragamo or Gucci museums, where you’ll get a great history of each of the iconic brands, but also enjoy onsite boutiques, each of which stocks special merchandise exclusive to the stores. Pause for lunch at The Gucci Garden, where celebrity chef Massimo Bottura has opened a new restaurant.
Another of our go-to spots is the Palazzo Pitti, just over the Arno river from the hotel. The former home of the wealthy Medici family (and also onetime residence of Napoleon), this massive mansion is now the city’s largest museum complex.
It maintains a gorgeous costume gallery with outfits dating from the 18th century to present day, as well as a wide array of Renaissance art in the attached 28-room Palatine Gallery, featuring works by Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio and more. Plan to wander the halls for at least two hours and, should weather permit, be sure to stroll through the attached Boboli Gardens.
By now, you’ve earned a memorable evening meal. Try Gurdulù in the trendy Santo Spirito neighborhood, where chef Gabriele Andreoni serves up some of the city’s best modern Italian cuisine.
Before or after dinner, grab a drink in the attached bar and cocktail lounge, where you can enjoy a luscious Via De Neri (an updated take on a gin martini) or the Do You Remember Last Night? (vodka, lemon juice and turmeric alongside a tasty snack, like butter and anchovy crostini).
Whatever order you choose to do things at the restaurant, be sure to sit back, relax and enjoy the fact that you just made the most of your two days in Florence.