A Florence Vacation Guide, Plus Italy Cruise Advice
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A city that is drenched in history and reflects the genius of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is an extraordinary city to visit. Iconic artists built the city and the architectural beauty is still an incredible sight to see. Countless restaurants and shops that offer fine Tuscan delights, from Italian cuisine to brand name shoes. Here’s some of the top things to know whether you visit by cruise or land so you can get the most out of your Florence vacation…
When to Go to Florence
Here’s a look at when the weather is at its best and when popular tourism seasons take place to help you decide on the best time to visit.
Best Weather in May, June, and July
May through early July gets the best weather in Florence, when it does not have as many peak 92° heat days under the Tuscany sun as August (visit in late July and August for the hottest temperatures). It is sunny, mild, and beautifully scenic in early Summer.
May Through September are the Most Popular Months
Pristine weather makes this an ideal time to visit, but both peak and shoulder season bring plenty of notable traditions to Florence that reoccur every year. Here’s a few of the most notable occasions to add to your calendar…
- January 6 – Epiphany Day – A commemorative, centuries-old Christian tradition in which a huge parade takes place that features over 700 people dressed in silk as they ride horses through the city. This parade is a re-enactment of the ride of the Magi, or Cavalcade of the Magi.
- April – Easter Sunday – Every year for Easter there is a huge ceremony called Scoppio del Carro, meaning ‘Explosion of the Cart’. A large decorated wagon is pulled by oxen to the central square where an exciting firework show commences.
- June 24 – The Feast of St John – A public holiday in celebration of the patron saint, John the Baptist. This is another epic parade that ends with a firework show over the Arno River.
- September 7 – La Festa delle Rificolone (Festival of the Paper Lanterns) – On the eve of the Virgin Mary’s birthday, locals and travelers pay homage to the tradition started by farmers who pilgrimaged here using paper lanterns on the end of sticks to make their way through the streets. Today the tradition continues and is a beautiful sight to see when the lanterns are released into the sky.
Best Things to Do in Florence
#1 Visit Il Duomo, the Stunning Florence Cathedral
This is one of the main landmarks that has drawn in countless travelers from around the world to this Tuscan city. Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, this beautiful work of architecture is the third largest church in the world and is home to many famous museums and venues near and within the structure. You can’t visit Florence without stopping here and checking out the paintings, sculptures, and the massive dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, but access to the dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Opera Museum, and other fascinating elements of the Duomo require the purchase of an admission ticket. This is a popular site that tons of visitors come to see, so if you don’t want to get stuck waiting in long lines, consider buying a skip the line ticket for easy access to all the best parts of Il Duomo.
Check out some more amazing cathedrals to explore when in Florence…
- Basilica di Santa Croce – A must see church. This is the burial place of iconic Florentines such as Dante, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli. This is another Brunelleschi masterpiece oozing with history, artistic treasures, and beautiful stained glass windows.
- Church of Santa Maria Novella – Another beautiful church with a popular Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit that showcases his love for botany. Plus, this church is two blocks away from the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy that once served treatment for the Black Death and is lesser-known attraction today.
#2 Explore Mercato Centrale and San Lorenzo Central Market
Stroll through this popular area that is a combined indoor and outdoor marketplace. Inside the Mercato Centrale you can buy some of the most delicious and authentic Italian foods and fresh ingredients like pizza, pasta sauce, cheeses, gelato, gnocchi, charcuterie, and pastries. This is the perfect place to wander around for a food tour to get a sense of the flavors of Florence.
TIP: A few of the best food stalls to look out for while here are Angelo and Emanuele Campomaggiore Dairy, for buffalo mozzarella and caprese salad, La Pizzaria Sud, for perfectly cooked-crust, sauce, and vegan pizza options, and Pasta Fresca, for high quality past dishes at a reasonable price.
The outdoor portion of the market is connected to the Mercato Centrale and is called San Lorenzo Market. You can find amazing leather goods, clothing, custom pottery, and other Tuscan souvenirs. Part of the fun is negotiating prices with the vendors on your favorite items.
#3 Revel in the Italian Renaissance at Uffizi Gallery (Gallerie Degli Uffizi)
Another historic stopping point that features some of the world’s finest works of art. The Tondo Doni Holy Family by Michelangelo, the Medusa and Bacchus by Caravaggio, and Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael are some of the painting that are displayed here that show off the brilliance of the Italian Renaissance. Take a guided tour through Uffizi Gallery for insights into every iconic piece of art.
TIP: Visit Leonardo’s Room dedicated to the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci (room 15). Here you can see some of Da Vinci’s early works like The Baptism of Christ and the Adoration of the Magi.
This is another venue where skip the line tickets are available. It is a good idea to get to the gallery early because it is a popular museum. For the most in-depth and VIP experience look into a tour option which are led by art historians and sometimes have skip the line privileges!
More Local Landmarks and Things to Do
Indulge in Italian Food and Culinary Landmarks
Whether you are taking a cooking class at a Tuscan farmhouse or restaurant hopping through Florence sampling the best cuisine, you are sure to get your share of delicious dishes in Florence. Italy is one of the best countries in the world to visit for foodies and Florence is full of great restaurants that make it a top food city. Top places to try are I' Girone De' Ghiotti for sandwiches that are popular with the locals, and wine and beer, Panini Toscani or Sandwichic for freshly-made paninis, or for a fun, hands-on experience with one of the regions notable exports visit the Florence School of Olive Oil where you can cook up your own specialties! Here’s a few more places to stop for a bite to eat…
- Pizzeria O' Vesuvio, I'Pizzacchiere, and Gustapizza – These places all have great pizza plus happy hours and wine bars.
- For a romantic dinner and unforgettable seafood reserve a table at Il Santo Bevitore.
- Perseus, Trattoria 4 Leoni, L'Osteria di Giovanni and Fuoco Matto are all great places to stop for a savory Florentine steak with red wine.
- La Bottega del Buon Caffè – This is a high-end Michelin star venue with farm to table ingredients that will leave you satisfied. It’s fine dining like you imagined it.
- Looking for the best Gelato in Florence? With flavors like Amalfi lemon, lavender, hazelnut, and more, start at Gelateria Perchè No.
Purchase a Firenze Card for the Best Museum Experience
For the most convenient way to see all the main museums is to purchase the Firenze Card. This pass gives you priority access to 72 museums with 3-day passes available. Here’s some of the top museums you’ll visit…
Galleria dell'Accademia (same location as Il Duomo)
Most famous for the Statue of David by Michelangelo, and many other stunning pieces by the great Renaissance artist.
Nearby Ponte Vecchio bridge, this was a Medici family palace and was home to many ruling families in Tuscany. Today it is the largest museum in Florence that features the beautiful Boboli Gardens.
Palazzo Vecchio: Dan Brown’s Inferno Themed Tours
Take a tour through this museum to reminisce on the Dan Brown books that were adapted into feature films starring Tom Hanks as you walk the same grounds seen in the films. Discover secret passages and enriching works of art on this wonderful tour.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
A gem museum nearby Il Duomo featuring one of Donatello’s most stunning pieces, the life-size Mary Magdalane sculpture.
Shop Salvator Ferragamo and More Italian Brands
The The Mall Firenze is a great place to shop for Gucci, Prada, Givenchy, or Roberto Cavalli if you are an avid shopper. Check out Salvatore Ferragamo for luxury shoes and see some of the history of this iconic fashion venue in Florence.
Stroll Through Piazza della Signoria
The beating heart and center of Florence is the perfect place for a walk. Take in the beautiful fountain of Neptune and sculptures as you get a feel for the bustling area of the city.
Visit Ponte Vecchio, the Oldest Bridge in Florence
This is a very well-known tourist landmark, that gets crowded and features many shops and is perfect for those looking for another place to stroll and sightsee.
Cinque Terre, Chianti Wine Region, and Siena are Nearby Gems
Take in the Mediterranean Sea from the beautiful Cinque Terre coastline that is truly postcard worthy. The colorful seaside city is a trending destination because of its dreamy coastal views.
The rolling hills of Tuscany are also home the Chianti Wine Region where beautiful wineries are aplenty. This area is commonly referred to as the ‘Bordeaux of Italy’ because of the high-end Chianti that is produced here and exported to the world.
Siena is home to the Siena Cathedaral which is now UNESCO World Heritage Site that is very much worth a visit if you are staying in nearby Florence. This historic cathedral is one to add to your bucket-list if you are a history buff.
More Things to Know About Florence
Florence is a destination that showers you in historical enrichment. The magnitude of the city feels important and the delicacies that you can pick up along the way make the exploration a delight. This is the perfect destination for museum goers, shoppers, foodies, and Renaissance art lovers.
Tip: The currency in Florence is the Euro and the main language spoken is Italian.
If you are interested in seeing Florence, plus nearby regions in Italy and other Mediterranean hotspots, check out these top cruise itineraries that showcase multiple destinations on one trip…
- 7-night Celebrity Cruises sailing starting at $1,559*
- 7-night Regent Seven Seas Cruises sailing starting at $5,299*
- 10-night Oceania Cruises sailing starting at $3,299*
- 12-night Royal Caribbean sailing starting at $1,319*
*All prices are estimates and subject to change.