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Nicknamed “The City of Lilies” and “The Birthplace of the Renaissance”, Florence, Italy was instrumental in ushering in the rebirth of art and culture that swept throughout Europe following the Middle Ages. And you will definitely find plenty of art and culture throughout this charming city. But given everything there is to see and do all over Tuscany and Italy in general, what if you find yourself able to spend only a short amount of time here? Well, fear not because Destination Dan has you covered! Just sit back and relax, and let us show you all the highlights you’ll want to cover with 48 hours in Florence, Italy!
Among the MANY things this city has going for it is that it is a compact and extremely walk-able city. Almost all the attractions you’ll want to see are generally within short distances of each other that can easily be covered on foot.
First stop… the Galleria dell’Accademia on Via Ricasoli. This is one of the two most famous museums in Florence (the other being The Uffizi Gallery) and although it also houses an impressive collection of paintings and works by mostly Florentine artists, it is most well-known for being the home of Michelangelo’s spectacular Statue of David.
Incredibly, it’s even more life-like in person. But be sure to buy your tickets in advance and skip the lines to get in!
Next up and close by at Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini (only a 6 minute walk) are the Medici Chapels. These chapels serve as a final burial ground for the Medici Family which ruled Florence throughout the Renaissance and they are as opulent as they are breathtaking to behold.
Looking a bit like a warehouse, nearby Mercato Centrale is located is between via dell’Ariento, via Sant’Antonino, via Panicale and Piazza del Mercato Centrale. The building dates back to 1874 and sits right next to the stalls of the San Lorenzo street market. Inside the Mercato Centrale are vendors selling all forms of local Tuscan cuisine, making it a great place to stop and get lunch.
Energized from lunch, you’re now ready for a physical challenge. Otherwise known as “The Bell Tower”, Giotto’s Campanile stands 278 feet tall and takes exactly 414 steps to climb. It also provides many a photo op! This pastel-colored, free-standing structure is part of a complex of buildings that make up the Florence Cathedral.
Rest assured, there are several platforms along the way on which to stop and get rest. But don’t spend too much time looking down if you’re afraid of heights – you can see all the way down through the grated floors! But not to worry, they’re very secure.
From the top of the Campanile, as well as from the platforms and their gothic-style windows, you are treated to magnificent 360 degree views of Florence.
And actually, given that the Belltower stands immediately adjacent to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore (“The Duomo”), it provides some of the best views around of the Basilica itself.
BAPTISTERY OF SAINT JOHN
The Baptistery of Saint John (also known as the Florence Baptistery) is an impressive octagonal building which stands across from the Florence Cathedral and the Belltower and is designed in the same artistic style as those two buildings. It was constructed between 1059 and 1128 and is therefore one of the oldest buildings in Florence. As it is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, it is also one of the most religiously significant buildings in the city. It’s 3 sets of bronze doors and its gold ceiling are especially impressive.
Finish your first day of sightseeing in Florence with a taxi right up to Piazzale Michelangelo (on the other side of the Arno River) to take in the sunset, the panoramic views, and the live musical acts.
BASILICA OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE (“THE DUOMO”)
Start your second day in Florence at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo’s giant red dome dominates the Florence skyline and is unmistakably the most recognized building in the city. Along with Giotto’s Campanile, it is part of the complex that makes up the Florence Cathedral and as with the Campanile, you can climb to the top of the dome in only 463 steps. That is, so long as you’re not claustrophobic and you don’t mind leaning inwards as you approach the top.
After exploring Florence’s most famous landmark (The Duomo), head further towards the Arno River to take in Florence’s other most famous art museum, the Uffizi Gallery. But as with the Galleria dell’Accademia, be sure to buy your tickets for admission in advance to avoid long lines!
The Uffizi Gallery houses a myriad of some of the most famous works worldwide including some by Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo Da Vinci, just to name a few.
After spending your morning at the Uffizi Gallery, head over to the Piazza della Signoria nearby and have lunch in the open air square in the shadow of the imposing Palazzo Vecchio.
Following a relaxing lunch outside, proceed to the most famous crossing of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio. This colorful, medieval stone segmented arch bridge is known for still being lined with shops, most notably jewelry stores. It’s a tourist trap for sure, but one worth experiencing. Don’t forget to take photos in front of the Arno River!
PALAZZO PITTI AND BOBOLI GARDENS
On the other side of the Ponte Vecchio, proceed up Via de Guicciardini to the Palazzo Pitti, where ambitious Florentine banker Luca Pitti once lived. The present day structure dates back to 1458. The Medici family bought the palace in 1549, after which it became the primary residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Over many generations, its residents amassed a veritable treasure trove of dazzling and opulent artwork, jewelry and other expensive possessions.
Immediately behind the Palazzo Pitti are the beautiful Boboli Gardens, which are a lot of fun to explore.
FORTE DI BELVEDERE
You’ll find many pathways throughout the Boboli Gardens, including one leading up to Forte di Belvedere. It designed and built from 1590 and 1595, by order of the Medici family. It is the second-largest fortification in Florence and was built to strengthen an area of the city’s defenses that were thought to be the most vulnerable at the time. In addition to touring the fort itself, the area makes for another stunning, yet different vantage point from which to take in the next beautiful Tuscan sunset (which, trust us, never gets old).
Hope you enjoyed this article on 48 Hours in Florence, Italy!
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