- It’s important to get a map and to check the opening and closing times of all of the attractions you want to see.
- Fortunately, a lot of destinations were within walking distance of each other.
- In under 24 hours, I saw the Duomo, Palazzo Pitti, Accademia Gallery, and more.
Florence has been a must-see destination for me since I learned about the Renaissance and the cultural influence this Italian city had on the world. From Dante and the Medici Family to Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, there has been no shortage of historical figures living in Firenze.
With so much history and beautiful sights to see, 24 hours is not nearly enough time to fully appreciate all this city has to offer.
But, with a tight schedule and a determination, here’s how my boyfriend and I managed to see as much of Florence and its popular attractions as we could in just 24 hours.
Buying tickets to the Duomo in advance can save you a lot of time.
Before exploring, be sure to get a map. The old town in Florence (also known as Firenze), is divided into four quarters: Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce, and Santo Spirito. And before you arrive in Firenze, make sure you check the schedule for the sites you want to visit. Opening and closing times can vary depending on the day and attraction.
First things first, we headed to Museo del Duomo to buy our tickets for the cathedral and museum. The ticket is good for 72 hours after its first use, which means you can take your time viewing the museum, bell tower, crypt, and baptistery.
We purchased these tickets the day of and had to make a next-day reservation to climb the Duomo for 8:30 am. The earliest reservation is typically 8 a.m., but I recommend waiting in line prior to your designated time slot as people with other time reservations will show up and try to get in before you. If you’re on a tight schedule like we were, don’t wait until 8 a.m. on the dot to arrive at the Duomo
Total time: 15 minutes
The Accademia Gallery is in the quarter of San Giovanni.
After our tickets for the Duomo were secured, we headed over to Accademia Gallery in the quarter of San Giovanni. As a tip, buying your tickets prior to your visit will save you a lot of time because you get to enter through a special entrance that minimizes how long you must wait in security lines.
Accademia Gallery is where you’ll find Michaelangelo’s famed David statue among many other famous sculptures and paintings from greats like Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci. The museum is relatively small and we saw most of it in an hour because it wasn’t too crowded on the inside.
Total time: 1.5 hours, including the time we spent waiting on the security line
The Basilica S.S. Annunziata and the Basilica San Marco are both within five minutes of Accademia.
Since we were already in the vicinity, we took 15 minutes to tour the Basilica S.S. Annunziata, which was lavishly decorated by High Renaissance painters.
With stunning frescos, intricate gold work and a breathtaking dome, this ancient church is stunning. There are also several famed Renaissance artists buried here, including Andrea del Sarto and Giambologna.
If we had more time, we also would have visited the nearby Basilica San Marco.
Total time: 15 minutes
There are a lot of stairs in the Giotto Bell Tower.
After finishing up at the basilica, we made our way back down to the Duomo. After taking photos in front of the Renaissance-decorated building, we made our way inside the Baptistry, which we didn’t spend very long viewing
After craning our necks to see the golden-coloured ceiling, we climbed the Giotto Bell Tower, not knowing how many flights of stairs there were. As a side note, I do not recommend climbing this staircase (or that of the Duomo) if you hate dark, crowded spaces.
On our way up to the top, we had to continually stop and squish ourselves against the wall to allow other tourists to come down. There were about three different levels to climb before we reached the very top. Of course, we were absolutely out of breath after climbing about 400 steps, but the view was worth it.
Total time: An hour
You can walk through the foyer of the Palazzo Vecchio or pay for entry into the museum.
Finished with the San Giovanni quarter, we made our way into the quarter of Santa Croce. Instead of paying for the actual museum, we opted to walk through the free foyer area in the Palazzo Vecchio. If we had more time, we likely would have checked out the exhibits.
Next to the Palazzo Vecchio is an open-air sculpture museum called Loggia dei Lanzi. This attraction is free and boasts works from the likes of Cellini, Giambologna, and other famed sculptors.
Quick tip, if there are too many tourists here during the day, visit the sculpture museum at night when the statues are illuminated and still just as beautiful. We saw this gallery during the day and the night and both felt it was even more magical at nighttime.
Total time: 20 minutes
We stopped for lunch at Firenze All’antico Vinaio, a popular sandwich shop in Italy.
From here, we could’ve easily made it to the famed Uffizi Museum, but it was lunchtime and we still hadn’t eaten breakfast, so we made our way to Firenze All’antico Vinaio, a hugely popular sandwich shop that has nearly 25,000 reviews on Trip Advisor. There were at least three of these sandwich shops side by side with lines stretching out the door. We waited about 30 minutes to get our sandwiches.
If you’re vegetarian like me, politely request one of their sandwiches be made “senza carne.” You’ll still pay full price, but you’ll be able to enjoy the crispy Tuscan sandwich experience.
Total time: 30 minutes
There’s a lot to see at Basilica di S. Croce.
Taking our sandwiches to go, we made our way over to Piazza S. Croce where we finished our sandwiches and headed into the Basilica di S. Croce. Personally, this is my favourite building in Florence and is not one to miss.
Built in the 13th century, this basilica is the resting place of some of the most famous people in the world, including artist Michelangelo, composer Rossini, politician Machiavelli, and astronomer Galileo. There is also a tribute to the famed poet Dante.
We took our time in Santa Croce since there was a lot to see, including an impressive enclosed garden and several stunning chapels. There are also free bathrooms here, which will save the weary traveller a few euros.
Total time: 45 minutes
Take a few moments when crossing Ponte Vecchio to marvel at the architecture.
After exploring the S. Croce area, we walked down to Lungarno della Grazie and followed the street west to Ponte Vecchio. Along the way, we had a great view of the Santa Spirito quarter. If you’re running behind schedule you can always cross at Ponte alle Grazie for easy access to Piazzale Michelangelo.
We took a few moments when crossing Ponte Vecchio to marvel at the architecture. Across the entirety of the bridge are gold shops aplenty, many of which look as though they have been there since the time of the Medici dynasty. Speaking of Medicis, there’s a hidden passageway above the gold shops that was used by the Medici family to cross from one side of Florence to the other without being seen.
Total time: 30 minutes (upward of an hour if you’re taking your time to admire the gold shops)
The Palazzo Pitti is definitely worth seeing, even though we couldn’t spend much time there.
Once across the bridge, we made our way to the Palazzo Pitti. If you have time, you can pay to enter the palace, which was once the home of the Medici family, the Lorraine-Hapsburgs, and members of the House of Savoy. Nowadays, Palazzo Pitti is divided into four museums. Here, you can also enter the Boboli Gardens.
Sadly, we didn’t have time to see either of these attractions. In hindsight, I probably would have spent our last few hours of daylight exploring this area. Sometimes, to see a city in a day, you have to sacrifice certain experiences, which is perhaps one argument to stay in any city at least two or three days.
Total time: 10 minutes (a few hours if you tour the palace and gardens)
A lot of people try to see the view from the Piazzale Michelangelo during sunset.
From the Palazzo Pitti, we made our way up the steep hills towards Piazzale Michelangelo. It took us about 45 minutes (including accidental wrong turns) to make it to the Firenze panoramic outlook.
We planned our entire day around making it to this spot to see the sunset. It turns out we weren’t the only ones with this idea, seeing as there were at least a hundred other people squished together taking photos of the sunset. Consider walking partially back down the trail to enjoy the view with fewer people.
Total time: 1.5 hours (including the hike + waiting for the sunset)
Visiting the Uffizi Museum shortly before it closed was a good call.
Post-sunset, we crossed back into the Santa Croce quarter and made our way to the Uffizi Museum. Earlier that day, the line was two and a half hours long. So, we decided to risk it and return to this museum two hours before it closed.
Thankfully, this risk paid off and we were able to get inside and see the whole museum before the museum closed for the night. After a long day of hiking and sightseeing, power walking one of the most famous museums in the world was difficult, to say the least.
Total time: Two hours
The view from the Duomo was phenomenal.
We arrived at the Duomo at exactly 8:30 a.m., only to find a gigantic line filled with people who had 9:30 a.m. reservations. Thankfully, we were able to scoot into the front of the line and make it to the top of the Duomo by 9 a.m. The hike up to the top was strenuous, cramped, and pretty dark, but the view was phenomenal.
When we came down, we skipped the chapel and crypt as both were open later than we’d be able to stay. We also took about an hour to tour the Duomo museum, which is worth exploring for much more time than we were able to.
Total time: Two hours
The Santa Maria Novella district is beautiful to walk around in.
Taking advantage of the hour and a half we had left, we walked around the Santa Maria Novella district, making our way down to the Santa Trinita and the Ognissanti. Surprisingly, inside the Ognissanti is a fresco of The Last Supper by Domenico Ghirlandaio. This artistic creation is older than Da Vinci’s by at least a decade and is delicately tucked away inside the church.
Overall, there’s still so much we wanted to see, but I think we made the most of our 24 hours and saw a lot of what we wanted to see in this gorgeous city.
Total time: An hour
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