Against a backdrop of vineyards, cypress trees, and rolling hills, few destinations offer a more tranquil summer setting than Tuscany. And while it can be hard to resist the allure of a hammock or a sparkling swimming pool on a hot summer day, a saturday in Florence spent exploring the many Renaissance treasures is an unforgettable experience.
Whether you prefer to drive or hop on the local train, Florence can be reached in under 2 hours from most destinations in Tuscany and Umbria. With regular service from Chiusi, Pisa and Siena, to name a few, the train will also take you right into Florence’s city center – just a 10-minute walk from the Duomo. Prefer to drive? The large parking lots that ring the city are a good bed if you want to avoid the roaring vespas and complicated no-traffic zones (and subsequent traffic tickets) of the city center.
Start your day by visiting one of Florence’s most iconic attractions: the Duomo. The first stone was laid for this spectacular structure in the 13th Century, but the building was not finished for a further two centuries! The cathedral’s elaborate exterior is constructed from white, pink and green marble. Head upstairs for a closer look at the dramatic Last Judgement frescoes that decorate the dome’s interior. And while the interior is extremely impressive, the Duomo’s best vantage point looks outwards rather than in. Make the steep and winding climb up the 463 steps to the top of the cupola and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Florence’s red tiled roofs in every direction.
After the morning’s travels and a hard-working climb, you deserve a break! Head off of the main tourist squares towards the smaller side streets and select a tempting trattoria for a simple lunch and a glass of wine. Look for a spot frequented by locals as well as tourists and you’ll increase your odds of a delicious meal (steer clear of restaurants with large menu turisticos and photos of their dishes posted outside).
Walking from the Duomo towards the Uffizi gallery, pause outside the Palazzo Vecchio at the Piazza Della Signoria – Florence’s main public square, and a filming location for A Room with a View. The square is home to several priceless statues, including the Fountain of Neptune, Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and a reproduction of Michaleangelo’s David. Ready for more culture? While the Uffizi gallery is worthy of a day trip of its own, private guided tours or the Firenze pass make it possible to see a few highlights in an afternoon.
If it’s too beautiful a day to spend indoors, continue past the gallery towards the Arno River, and make your way towards the Ponte Vecchio, or “old bridge.” Lined with jewelry stores selling gold and gemstones, the bridge is as much a Florentine icon as the Duomo, and leads to Oltrarno quarter, Florence’s south bank. Walk west along the water and stop for a gelato at Gelateria La Carraia, one of Florence’s best loved ice cream parlours, located just next to the Carraia bridge.
If you feel like taking it easy for a while, you’re not far from the Boboli Gardens here – a peaceful oasis in the heart of Florence. Kick up your feet under the shade of the cypress trees, and listen to the sound of the fountains… Feeling peckish? It must be almost apperitivo hour, so head back into the narrow streets of Oltrarno and enjoy a refreshing glass of prosecco. If time allows, this neighborhood is also home to some of Florence’s most authentic local restaurants. If not, head back to the train station for the journey back to your villa and a delicious homecooked meal.
Where to stay in Florence