Favorites of Firenze: A Guide to Florence, Italy

Travel advisor Hollie Grantham sits near a white dog on a mountain trail
Curated By

Hollie Grantham

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  • Florence

  • Italy

  • Arts & Culture

  • Boutique Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • History

  • Foodie

  • Hidden Gems

Florence is a city in Italy celebrated for its stunning art, architecture, and historical significance.
Curator’s statement

Florence was a city that took me by surprise. I knew of the historical significance and the five star reputation of the local food and wine, but I never imagined just how much there was to see or eat! I spent four days in Florence and while I was able to immerse myself in the museums and visit the countryside, there are still many things I wish to see and experience. The people of Florence are warm and inviting and while I was traveling solo I never found myself lonely. It was easy to make friends over dinner or coffee and the locals were more than happy to tell you their favorite hidden gems or where to find the best pasta. If you are traveling to Florence for the first time, this guide highlights my favorite food, museums, and the best day trips!

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Where to stay in Florence Italy

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Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

An oasis in the city center, home to an Old World style, a Michelin-starred restaurant and Florence’s largest private garden.

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Hotel Savoy Florence

In a prized location next to the Duomo, Florence’s grande dame is a bucket-list treat of designer interiors, world-class cuisine and exceptional service.

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Grand Hotel Minerva

Trendy hotel in Florence with a sun terrace and a seasonal outdoor rooftop pool.

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  • Welcome treat in room on arrival.

  • Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.

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Things to do in Florence Italy

The Uffizi Gallery is a renowned art museum in Florence.

Visit the Museums

This is probably one of the number one reasons people flock to Florence. Pro tip: Book skip-the-line tickets ahead of time. I saw a lot of people waiting in lines that wrapped around buildings just to purchase tickets. There are many ways to access tickets online or through your Travel Advisor that allow you to meet a guide, grab your ticket, and use a “VIP” entrance for little to no extra cost. Even with those skip-the-line tickets, the museums in Florence are some of the world’s most famous and can be crowded. If you are a morning person I recommend getting the earliest entry possible.

Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery is stunning architecturally and has two floors of art to see. With the artworks of Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael, and then some, it is easy to see why this is a can’t-miss trip to Florence.

Galleria dell'Accademia

The Accademia Gallery is best known for being home to Michelangelo’s David. I had never seen the statue before and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. After seeing the towering statue made out of a solid piece of marble, I can say it is definitely worth a visit.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio sits right in the middle of Piazza della Signoria and is hard to miss with its large clock tower and the Fountain of Neptune right out front. With everything going on in the Piazza, it is easy to get distracted, but you don’t want to miss going into this historical 13th century palazzo. The courtyards along with the rest of the architecture are stunning.

Palazzo Pitti

I will be the first to admit that this wasn’t high on my list of museums to see in Florence but on my four-day trip, I was having a good time and decided after my walk in Boboli Gardens (a must-see for me) that I would check it out since it is on the same grounds. I am so glad I did! The rooms of the former Medici palace are breathtaking and I loved reading about what each room’s purpose was. Definitely add this to your list when visiting Florence.

Spend an afternoon in Boboli Gardens

I love a gorgeous city park and when I learned that these gardens were the first of its kind and inspired The Gardens of Versailles, visiting was a no brainer. I got lost in these expansive gardens for a few hours, but if you are short on time, some of my highlights were Grotta di Madama al Giardino di Boboli, Ghiacciaia, and Fontana delle Scimmie which provided stunning views of the surrounding hillside. Don’t forget to hydrate by drinking from one of the park's natural fountains.

Explore the architecture of the churches

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Being the architectural icon that everyone thinks of when speaking of Florence, Sanata Maria del Fiore speaks for itself. Standing outside and just looking at this marvelous and gigantic structure was impressive, but I highly recommend going inside and taking a tour. This is right up there with the Galleria dell'Accademia and Uffizi Gallery for tourists, so book ahead!

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

This beautiful church sits on Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and is right next door to the Grand Hotel Minerva. While the basilica is something to be seen at any time, I particularly liked visiting and seeing it lit up in the evening. In the evening the square has musical performers and people of all ages enjoying gelato. Sitting on a bench and just looking at the architecture was a nice way to unwind.

Eat your way through Mercato Centrale

Who doesn’t love a place that consolidates all of the best food under one roof? Whether you are on an extended stay and want to stock up your fridge, or you want to bring some Italian delicacies home, this historic market is the perfect stop. There are vendors with gourmet meats, cheeses, olive oils, wines, etc. Can’t decide where to have lunch? Eat your way around the market and try a little bit of everything.

Officina Profumo-Pharmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

For a historical experience mixed with luxury shopping, this is the perfect activity. This apothecary was founded as a convent in 1221 and is now home to a luxury perfume and cosmetics store. The pharmacy is considered one of the oldest in the world and keeps its history alive with its architecture and practices. Spend time trying the different scents at the perfume counter and you will find the original fragrance Acqua della Regina.

Shop at the leather markets and stores

Italy is known for its luxurious leather creations. We all love a designer handbag or shoe with the words “made in Italy” but luxury without the designer price tag is always a nice treat. Walking around Florence you will come across a few different marketplaces selling leather. The two largest ones I found were outside of Mercato Centrale and right off of Piazza della Signoria. These markets have leather goods that will compete with the quality of some of the finest luxury goods you find in your favorite department store and they are a fraction of the price. Don’t skip local leather stores either if you want edgier looks for a better price. I found a gorgeous leather jacket at a boutique that would have cost a small fortune back in New York.

Walk across Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is another one of Florence’s architectural icons. On the covered medieval bridge, there are little shops you can look into but my personal favorite is viewing the bridge itself from the outside. You can do this by crossing over and viewing the bridge from the walkway alongside the River Arno or the absolute best views of the bridge in my opinion are from the bridge to its left, Ponte Santa Trinita. This will give you the most picturesque view perfect for the perfect camera shot.

Day trips


Siena is a gorgeous and intriguing destination in itself. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon in town and would have easily stayed a night or two. Siena is split up into 17 different districts (contrade) who race horses in the town square annually. You can see the different contrada flags all over the city displaying its local history and traditions. With many restaurants, shops, and stunning local architecture this is the perfect town to spend time in the Italian countryside.

San Gimignano

The view of San Gimignano set into the hills of the Tuscan hills is stunning. The medieval town is a walled city with many stone towers that make it stand out. Aside from walking the cobblestone streets and taking in the views, you can get some of the best gelato in the world in San Gimignano. In the city center, Gelateria Dondoli is easy to spot with a line that runs halfway through the square. Amongst many other awards this gelateria is a two time winner of the Ice Cream World Championship.

Wine Tour through Tuscany

In Florence, you will be served top-notch local wines in all the restaurants, why not get out into the local wine region and see how they are made? You can book a tour that will plan and arrange what vineyards and wineries to take you to, or hire a driver and pick your favorites. Either route you take, you won’t regret sipping Chianti or a Montepulciano with the backdrop of the Tuscan Hills.

If you are short on time, you can do a day tour from Florence combining all three of these destinations. I did this and I wish I could have more time dedicated to each place. If you are spending extended time in Florence I would consider a full day dedicated to each. Or perhaps extending your trip to stay in Siena and Tuscany.

Places to eat & drink in Florence Italy

La Giostra is an Italian restaurant with Tuscan dishes like Florentine T-bone steak, plus a big wine list, under 16th-century brick vaults.


Cafe Gilli

Elegant and grand interior where you can have coffee, biscotti, etc. This is known as the oldest cafe in Florence.

Melaleuca bakery + bistrot

Modern feel where you can get avocado toast, pancakes, and matcha lattes. A great change up from the more traditional places you find throughout Florence.



I am always highly suspect of restaurants in an overcrowded tourist area but this one took me by surprise. I walked up to their patio after touring all morning and I had the best plate of cacio e pepe that I had on my entire two-week trip to Italy. Their fresh prosciutto and melon were also fresh and the perfect first course.

Il Santo Bevitore

Rustic and charming with welcoming staff. Get the special! I had seafood pasta that was the dish of the day and it was perfect with a glass of Chianti.


La Giostra

This may be the gem of Florence. It is highly sought out so you will need a reservation. The atmosphere is top notch along with the food.

Pensavo Peggio

I found this restaurant on a walk back to my hotel one night and it felt like I was being welcomed by a family upon arrival. I had a fresh salad, and cinghiale (Pappardelle with ragu and wild boar sauce). Topped everything with a slice of chocolate cake and a complimentary limoncello.

Trattoria Marione

This is where I finally tried the famous Florentine steak along with steamed potatoes and salad. While my steak was delicious, the table next to me would not stop raving about the ravioli!

Gelato (The most important part)

Gelateria Artigianale La Sorbettiera | Santa Maria Novella

The creamiest pistachio gelato that I had multiple times over my stay.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, 2 Days in Milan: The Best Restaurants and Museums.

Travel advisor Hollie Grantham sits near a white dog on a mountain trail

Travel Advisor

Hollie Grantham

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Florence.