48 hours in: Florence

Beat the summer crowds to the Tuscan capital and you'll have room to appreciate its Renaissance riches and flair for fashion

Click on the image above for an enlarged map

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Tuscany's elegant capital can be one giant crowd in summer, but the winter months offer easier access to its art treasures and glorious galleries – such as the Palazzo Strozzi (1), where a new exhibition, The Springtime of the Renaissance, will look at the grand sculptures of the city's 15th-century Golden Age, from 23 March onwards (€ 12.50).Touch down

Peretola Airport (aeroporto.firenze.it) is four miles north-west of the centre. Cityjet (0871 663 3777; cityjet.com) has the sole direct link from the UK – six flights per week from London City. The ATAF VolaInBus (www.ataf.net) takes 15 minutes to reach Santa Maria Novella (2) railway station, on Piazza della Stazione, at least once an hour from 6am to 11.30pm (€6). Taxis to central hotels are about €20.

Pisa's Galileo Galilei Airport (www.pisa-airport.com), 50 miles west of Florence, is well connected. Options include British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com) from Heathrow; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Bristol and Gatwick; and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted. Trains from the airport station to Florence (with a quick change at Pisa Centrale) take about an hour – single fares €9.30 (00 39 0199 892 021; trenitalia.com). Alternatively, Terravision buses (terravision.eu) depart for Piazza della Stazione (2) 18 times per day (8.48am-12.10am) and take 70 minutes, at a cost of €4.99 one way.

Get your bearings

Pitched prettily amid the gentle hills of Tuscany, Florence lies midway across Italy's upper torso, equidistant between Milan and Rome.The River Arno cuts through it in lovely fashion, cleaving sight-laden northerly districts such as Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella from the leafy spaces of southerly Oltrarno.

The bus and tram network is run by ATAF (Azienda Trasporti Area Fiorentina). Single fares are a set €1.20 (24-hour pass €5) – although the compact centre is very pedestrian-friendly. Transport is covered by the Firenze Card (72 hours, €50, firenzecard.it), which allows access to 50 museums – and, crucially, lets you jump the queues. It can be bought at the tourist office (3) at Piazza della Stazione 4 (00 39 055 212 245; www.comune.fi.it; daily 8.30am-7pm, except Sunday, 8.30am-2pm). More information at firenzeturismo.it.

Check in

Palazzo Galletti (4), with its fresco-daubed rooms arranged around a courtyard at Via Sant'Egidio 12, is a hidden jewel. Doubles here start at €118, with breakfast included (00 39 055 218 046; msnhotels.com).

Torre Guelfa (5), housed in a 13th-century palace at Borgo Santi Apostoli 8 (00 39 055 239 6338; hoteltorreguelfa.com), has doubles from €107, room only.

Hotel Lungarno (6) is a river-view five-star at Borgo San Jacopo 14 in Oltrarno. Part of the Salvatore Ferragamo-founded Lungarno Hotel Collection, it has doubles from €287, room only (00 39 055 2726 4000; hotelungarno.it).

 

Day One

Cultural morning

It makes sense to start early with Florence's museums, as queues build quickly. Ease your progress at the A-list Galleria degli Uffizi (7) on Piazzale degli Uffizi, by booking ahead (00 39 055 294 883; uffizi.firenze.it). The €4 fee, added to €6.50 entry, is worth it, because you just collect your tickets and stroll past the queues. The gallery (daily 8.15am to 6.50pm, closed Monday) – is a Renaissance hot spot, where Botticelli's The Birth of Venus is augmented by the brushstrokes of Da Vinci, Raphael and Titian. A pre-emptive approach is also best for the Gallerie dell'Accademia (8). This hallowed institution at Via Ricasoli 60 (00 39 055 294 883; www.polomuseale.firenze.it), contains the key symbol of the Renaissance – Michelangelo's David rearing 17ft, a marble marvel carved from 1501 to 1504. The gallery echoes the Uffizi's hours and ticket prices.

Palazzo Strozzi (1), deals in temporary shows (00 39 055 264 5155; palazzostrozzi.org). It has two spaces: the Piano Nobile (daily 9am-8pm, Thursdays 9am-11pm), and the modern focus at Centro di Cultura Contemporanea (daily 10am-8pm except Thursday, 10am-11pm. Shut Mondays). Entry varies according to exhibition.

Take a hike

Begin at the heart of Renaissance Florence, in the Piazza della Signoria (9). Admire the splendid façade of the 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio (10) – the town hall and traditional seat of power in the city of the Medici. A replica of Michelangelo's David waits outside. Exit the piazza at its south-west corner, and follow Via Vacchereccia, taking the first left into the shopping strip of Via Por Santa Maria. Head south to the junction with Lungarno degli Acciaiuoli – where the 1345-built Ponte Vecchio (11) bridge spans the Arno in photogenic manner, jewellery shops having long replaced the butchers who originally operated here.

Lunch on the run

Il Ristoro dei Perditempo (12) at Borgo San Jacopo 48R, does a thick beef stew for €9 and views of the bridge from its windows (00 39 055 264 5569; ilristorodeiperditempo.it).

Window shopping

Florence's flair for fashion comes out in the chic outlets dotted along the stylish Via de' Tornabuoni – such as Bulgari (13), at number 56 (00 39 055 239 6786; bulgari.com) – and in boutiques such as Adrimar (14), which has luxury leather goods at Via San Giuseppe 12 (00 39 055 234 5162; adrimar.it). Italian wines and olive oils are sold at L'Antica Cantina del Chianti (15) at Piazza del Duomo 23R (00 39 055 282 489) – and at the Mercato Centrale (16), the vast 19th-century market hall that dominates Piazza del Mercato Centrale (daily 7am-2pm, Saturday until 5pm and closed Sunday).

An aperitif

Peruse the long list of vodka cocktails – from €8 – at Oibo (17), a colourful bar at Borgo dei Greci 1 where the walls are adorned with old vinyl LPs (00 39 055 263 8611; oibo.net).

Dining with the locals

Unobtrusively sited at Via Sant'Egidio 13R, Cantina Barbagianni (18) is a delight, with beef fillet for €19 (00 39 055 248 0508; cantinabarbagianni.it). Il Guscio (19) at Via dell'Orto 49A in Oltrarno, serves seabass with mushrooms for €25 (00 39 055 224 421; il-guscio.it). And Osteria Cocotrippone (20), east of the centre at Via Gioberti 140R (00 39 055 234 7527), is a family eatery with tripe dish lampredotto for €10.

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

Florence is awash with grandstanding churches but two are unmissable. The Basilica di Santa Croce (21) at Piazza Santa Croce 16, houses the tombs of some of Italy's most notable figures – Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Rossini – and is also home to significant artworks, including frescos by Giotto. It is open for visits daily 9.30am-5.30pm (except Sunday, 2-5.30pm). Sunday services are held at 9.30am, 11am, noon and 6pm (00 39 055 246 6105; santacroceopera.it; €6).

At Piazza del Duomo 17, there's the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – better known as The Duomo (22) –the world's third biggest cathedral (after St Peter's in Rome and St Paul's in London). This 13th-century marble feast with a 91m dome is open for visits daily 10am-5pm, except Thursday (10am-4.30pm), Saturday (10am-4.45pm) and Sunday (1.30-4.45pm). Sunday services are at 7.30am, 9am, 10am, 10.30am, noon, 5.15pm, 6pm (00 39 055 215 380; duomofirenze.it; free).

Take a view

The Duomo's astonishing dome (built between 1420 and 1436) is closed to the public on Sundays (open Monday to Friday 8.30am-7pm; Saturday 8.30am-5.40pm; €8). But the adjacent Campanile di Giotto – an ornate 85m bell tower – is accessible daily, 8.30am-7.30pm (€6).

Out to brunch

The semi-concealed Piazza San Pier Maggiore is thronged with unpretentious eateries for a quick bite. Mastro Ciliegia (23) at number 4/5R, has classic pizzas from €8 (00 39 055 248 0444; ristorantepizzeriamastrociliegia.com).

Walk in the park

If you still have an appetite for art, the Palazzo Pitti (24) shelters further treasures on the Arno's south bank. The 15th-century stronghold of the Medicis at Piazza Pitti 1 hosts galleries such as the Galleria Palatina (00 39 055 238 8614; polomuseale.firenze.it; €8.50; Tuesday to Sunday 8.15am-6.50pm, Monday closed). Here, the Medici collection includes works by Caravaggio, Rubens and Raphael. If you have art fatigue, step into the 16th-century palace gardens, the Giardino di Boboli (25) – a manicured expanse of fountains and paths, with epic views.

Icing on the cake

If flying home from Pisa, leave an hour early and see the Leaning Tower (00 39 050 835011; www.opapisa.it; €18) . If lingering in Florence, seek out La Bottega del Gelato (26) at Via Por Santa Maria 33 (00 39 055 239 6550) – where superb fruit ice lollies in melon and kiwi flavours cost €2.50.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent