Overflowing with history, art and culture, Florence is a city that is very tough to do justice to in a single moment. A visit to the Uffizi museum alone could easily eat a day or two into any itinerary.
If you are lucky enough to visit Florence for the first time, but unfortunate enough to have just a single day to savour the delights of the city, you’ll have to make certain that you have a program.
So let me be your guide for the day and take you on a whistle stop tour of the sights and sounds of Florence. I can not promise you that the Uffizi in a day, but hopefully at the end of the tour you will feel as if you have seen the best of town. Your only problem will be deciding when to return for more!
First thing you will need before you begin your tour is a map of the city. The center of Florence is fairly compact, so the best way to view it, without missing a thing is by foot. If you do not have a map or a guidebook and you are not the kind that loves aimless wandering, make your first stop of the day among those tourist offices where you can get a free map of Florence.
Starting off at the main Piazza, you will easily see the famous Duomo, with its magnificent terracotta colored cupola. If you’re there early enough to prevent the crowds and feel you can face the 463 steps I would recommend beginning your tour by climbing into dome for a spectacular view of the city. The Duomo is most likely the most distinctive feature of Florence’s skyline and is the result of years of work spanning six centuries.
As soon as you’ve taken in the view, catch your breath with a leisurely stroll around the streets surrounding the Duomo, and then have a stroll to the nearby Piazza della Signoria. Here you’ll discover a distinctive outdoor gallery of sculptures, including Neptune’s Fountain and a replica of the famous Statue of David. You will also find the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace) here. This was built in the early 14th century and is still used today for its original purpose, as a Town Hall.
Just beside the Palazzo you will get the Uffizi museum, with its unrivalled collection of Renaissance art. If you are an art lover, you do not want to overlook the Uffizi, but it is not something that can be easily covered in a brief 2-hour visit!
Alongside the Uffizi you will find the River Arno, with its many bridges. If you take a right turn you will arrive at the Ponte Vecchio, the famed bridge which houses a large number of goldsmiths and jewelry stores, with its medieval workshops overhanging the bridge. The bridge itself was built in 1345 and is the only bridge on the Arno that was not destroyed in World War II.
As soon as you’ve crossed the bridge, you are going to arrive in the area named Oltrano, which literally means”Over the Arno”. Here you will find the Palazzo Pitti – a large 16th century palace. The palace was originally home to the Medici family who ruled Florence almost always between 1434 and 1743 and it currently houses several important museums and galleries.
You might choose to complete your day by taking a relaxing stroll in the Boboli gardens, which may be obtained throughout the Palazzo Pitti. These gardens were laid out in 1550 for the Medici a year when they bought the Palazzo Pitti and were opened to the general public in 1766. Many components of the gardens provide stunning vistas over Florence and create a welcome retreat after a day of walking across town.
If you’ve got the time, it is worth returning to see the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, followed by a walk across the bridge after dusk, when the lights on the bridge reflect on the River Arno and everything seems almost magical.
Finally, do not forget to take a break from your holiday – stop for lunch or a drink in a pavement café, take a while to soak up the air and do a spot of people watching.