June 27, 2023

One Day in Florence, Italy—My 24 Hour “Must See” Itinerary (June 2023)

By Paul William

June 27, 2023

Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links which means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through them.

Having just concluded a magnificent exploration of France, my wife and I made a spontaneous decision to add a four-day detour to Italy, with one day dedicated entirely to Florence.

Now that we’re back home, armed with real world experience, I wanted to put together this quick guide that you can use to plan your own itinerary if you only have one day in Florence, Italy.

In this post we’ll discuss where to stay, what to see, what to eat, and how to get around Florence if you only have a day or two.

There’s no shortage of famous sites and activities in this city, and you could easily spend a week here.

But if you’re tighter on time like we were, check out my itinerary and thoughts below which might help inspire and guide your own Florentine adventure!


Where We Stayed: at Piazza Pitti Palace Hotel

What We Saw: Ponte Vecchio, Duomo, sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo, David Statue

What We Ate: Pizza, Gelato, Panini, Florentine Steak

Tour We Took: Michelangelo’s David – Skip the Line Guided Tour

Transportation: Taxi/Uber

Our Florence Hotel: Piazza Pitti Palace—A Regal Stay

pitti palace hotel florence

To start, our lodging of choice was the Piazza Pitti Palace hotel, a spot we chose for its optimal proximity to Florence’s main attractions.

This boutique hotel, nestled in the city’s historic center, is only a brisk walk away from everything you could need—a 3-minute saunter to Ponte Vecchio (the famous medieval stone bridge) and a 10-20 minute stroll to other key sites like Duomo, Galleria Academia (David statue), and Uffizi Gallery.

There are plenty of restaurants nearby, and you’re only a 20 minute walk to the breath-taking Piazzale Michelangelo (do not skip) which offers the best panoramic and sunset views of Florence. More on this later.

A Golden Hotel Experience

pitti palace hotel bed teddy
They even left a teddy bear on the bed!

The Piazza Pitti Palace was more than just a base for us—it was an integral part of our Florentine experience. Gold mirrors, ceiling murals, and a bucket of wine waiting in the room added a lavish touch that made us feel like we were dwelling in an Italian palace.

I know this sounds like a 5-star hotel, but it was actually quite affordable and we were surprised by how beautiful it was in our room after coming from a closet-sized room in France.

So if you’re planning a trip to Florence and desire a stay that strikes a balance between luxury, location, affordability, and a “coolness” factor, I wholeheartedly recommend this hotel from my own experience.

(Note: if you arrive later at night, there will be no reception, but they will send you self-checkin instructions which worked fine. This is fairly common at boutique European hotels. They’ll just ask you to send a picture of your passport ahead of time then leave the keys for you.)

Airport to Hotel—A Smooth Transition

Navigating foreign transport systems can be daunting, but our journey from the Florence airport to our hotel was surprisingly straightforward.

As we landed at around 11 pm, the convenience of a ready taxi line at the airport was a relief. In just under 18 minutes, we were dropped right at our hotel’s doorstep, without any issue of navigating the city’s Limited Traffic Zones.

I was originally concerned because I heard horror stories of people getting blocked by traffic regulations in the limited traffic zones, but the cab driver laughed off this notion. You should have no issue grabbing a cab to your hotel within the city at any time of day.

Pizza for Breakfast—A Slice of Italian Delight

The next morning, our first stop on the morning of our Florence day was Gustapizza, located a 2 minute walk from the hotel. We were in Italy, after all, the birthplace of pizza. I would have never forgiven myself if I didn’t try a pie.

I couldn’t find the picture I took at Gustapizza, so I’m including this picture from a different pizza shop in Sienna, about an hour south of Florence. All the Italian pizza has a similar style dough and crust to this, so it’s a good representation of what you can expect. Pizza shops often have extensive menus with lots of interesting combinations to try. For example, this one is half bologna, burrata cheese, and pistachio, and half bacon, egg, and potato.They, of course, have all the standard cheese, pepperoni, etc, if you’re craving the classics.

We beat the crowd by ordering take-out and enjoyed our Italian breakfast to go. If you’re visiting, do consider this—it’s a great way to experience authentic Italian cuisine without spending too much time waiting in line.

If you do go to Gustapizza like us, you’ll likely see a long line waiting to be seated. Just stick your head in and let the man behind the counter know you want takeout, and they’ll put you in a separate shorter line or let you just order then. Italians overall were very friendly and accommodating wherever we went.

Pizza in Italy is incredible, and tastes much better and cleaner than American pizza IMO. The ratio of sauce and cheese to dough is more well portioned and they use high quality olive oil.

Ponte Vecchio—The Historic Bridge

Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence italy and river

A few minutes’ walk from our breakfast spot, we reached the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge.

This medieval stone arch bridge is a spectacle to behold, lined with vibrant shops that were once home to butchers, now replaced by jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers.

It’s a fantastic place for photographs and a vibrant start to your sightseeing.

The fun fact is that this was the only bridge in Florence spared from destruction in WW2, which adds to it’s long history.

We took some pictures from the bridge itself, and then walked 5 minutes further along the river to another bridge, which offered a better vantage point for photographing Ponte Vecchio in it’s entirety.

Duomo—A Vision in Marble

From the bridge, we ambled towards the world-renowned Duomo Cathedral, getting pleasantly distracted by the numerous cafes, artists, and musicians along the way (tip the accordion player!).

The cathedral stood majestic and offered incredible photo opportunities and the chance to soak up the city’s rich history.

Be sure to walk all the way around, as each side offers different architectural elements and adornments.

This is one of the central tourist spots in Florence, so expect a bit of a crowd and a good deal of street vendors.

There are also horse drawn carriages available for hire around here. We didn’t have time on our trip, but it’s something to consider that could be cool!

Galleria dell’Accademia—Home of David Statue

David Statue Michelangelo Florence Italy

Our next stop was the Galleria dell’Accademia (“Academia Gallery” in English), renowned for Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David.

The David statue is huge! I always thought it was human sized, but it’s significantly bigger, towering over the people below. The detail in the carving is incredible, and I don’t know if humanity will ever see such a talented artist again.

Not just David

The gallery also hosts an impressive collection of artworks and instruments, including the first-ever upright piano and original Stradivari violins.

And the other unfinished Michelangelo sculptures displayed here gave us an intriguing peek into the artist’s process.

First Upright Piano Florence Italy Academia Gallery
The first upright piano, located in Academia Gallery

We initially really only went to check the “David” statue off our bucket list, but I was equally impressed with the other works of art and instruments from the 1400s and left feeling satisfied and pleasantly surprised by the experience, even as an art history noob.

A Guided Tour—Worth It, IMO

Art in academia gallery in Florence italy

A heads up for fellow travelers, the line to enter the Galleria dell’Accademia can be extremly long.

To save time and soak up more knowledge, we opted for this guided tour via Viator.

Yes, the tour cost about $40-50 per person, but it included the price of the tickets, and the advantages far outweighed the price difference for us personally.

Our guide (a local woman with an impressive art history background), enhanced the experience with the history lessons, and we received tiny wireless earphones which made hearing her historical insights easier amidst the bustling crowd. The tour was in English.

Most importantly, the tour allowed us to skip the intimidating line (queue for you Brits). If you’ve only got one day in Florence, the convenience and time savings might be worth the price alone, so you can move on with your day and see more of what else Florence has for you.

Note: If you’re an art enthusiast, you can also check out the Uffizi gallery, not too far away. We missed this one due to time constraints, but if you can swing it, it’s a world renowned gallery, so probably worth a stop!

Piazzale Michelangelo—The Panoramic Paradise

Piazzale Michelangelo Florence
View from Piazzale Michelangelo as the sun sets. This is only one angle. You’re high up on a hill, so you have views on all sides out over the city.

After seeing the David statue, my wife split off to indulge in some retail therapy, and I embarked on a trek up the hill to scope out the Piazzale Michelangelo, a public square known for its stunning view over Florence. The square also hosts a bronze replica of the David statue.

The panoramic view of Florence from this point is undoubtedly the best in the city, with the terracotta roofs and towering Duomo presenting an unforgettable vista.

As the sun started its descent, the atmosphere took a magical turn. Hundreds of people, including myself, counted down to the sunset and applauded as the golden disk disappeared over the horizon.

A musician strumming his guitar added to the charm, making it an enchanting experience. If you’re in Florence, you gotta go here!

Florentine Food—A Culinary Journey

Walking around all day works up an appetite, and Florence isn’t just about art and history; it’s a culinary paradise.

Throughout the day, we indulged in gelato, paninis, focaccia sandwiches (the salami and cheese ones were awesome), and pizza from countless eateries around the city.

These quick bites were the perfect fuel for our on-the-go sightseeing.

For dinner, we treated ourselves to a meal at Il Palagio, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel.

The restaurant is located a bit farther from the central part of Florence, so a cab ride might be necessary if you’re tired. The prices match the quality of the food, wine and service, so prepare for a splurge (budget $200-300 per person).

We would recommend this place for special occasions, or if you wish to indulge in an exquisite dining experience.

dessert florence italy
One of the many dessert courses of the extensive meal. I think it was an apple tart type thing!

Honestly though, if I had kids or if I was without my wife, I would have just stopped at one of the restaurants in the city center and grabbed some pasta or more simple Italian food.

The Michelin-star places aren’t really good for picky eaters or if you just want a standard meal — you’re paying for the over-the-top experience and preperation. IMO, the cheap street sandwiches are just as delicious and you could get like 80 of them for the same price. Don’t listen to me though, I’m a simpleton 🙂

If you can, be sure to find a restaurant that serves Florentine Steak (more on this below). It is truly a world class steak when prepared correctly and hard to find authentic preparation outside of Italy.

Hitting the Road—Tuscan Adventure/Potential Day Trips

Although the previous night concluded our 24 hours in Florence, I’ll also leave some details about the rest of our trip in case you are staying slightly longer or looking for day trip ideas.

Sienna italy
Sienna, Italy has that old Italian charm. Located about 1 hour drive from Florence. There are plenty of bus tours leaving from and returning to Florence if you’re interested but don’t have a car.

The next morning, we picked up our rental car from the airport to continue our Italian journey.

Given the limited parking and high foot-traffic in Florence, I’d advise picking up the rental car only when you plan to leave the city, as we did. This not only saved us a day’s rental cost but also eliminated unnecessary stress.

The next three days of our trip took us to the towns of Pienza, Sienna, and Pisa—each offering a unique experience. While we stayed overnight near these locations, they are easy day trips as well if you’d rather just return to Florence at night.

There are also many tour busses and guided car tours leaving from Florence if you want to go as part of a group.

In Pienza, we sampled the famed Pecorino de Pienza cheese.

In Sienna, we spent the day exploring the medieval city streets and alleys and then venturing 45 minutes drive to the famous Agriturismo Baccoleno photo spot where my wife made me take pictures for 2 hours against the stunning Tuscan backdrop.

In Pisa, we, of course, saw the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.

 Agriturismo Baccoleno Tuscany italy
The famous Agriturismo Baccoleno photo spot 1.5 hours drive south of Florence

Between visiting Pienza and Sienna, we stopped by the recommended Bindella winery near Montepulciano for a wine tasting session and enjoyed the wine and location quite a bit.

Florentine Steak in Pisa

One of the culinary highlights of this leg of our journey was the Bistecca all Fiorentina, or Florentine Steak, a Tuscan specialty. It was arguably one of the best steaks we’ve ever tasted, and I’d highly recommend trying it if you’re in the region. Given the dishes name, it was someone ironic that I skipped this in Florence, and waited until Pisa, but it was incredible.

I had read online that they only serve Bistecca all Fiorentina rare (which is a huge turnoff for me), but the restaurant I visited explicitly asked “How would you like it prepared? Medium? Well-done? Rare?”

So don’t be afraid to order what you like, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!


Florence is an unforgettable destination, even in just a day. From our regal stay at the Piazza Pitti Palace to the splendid sights and sounds of the city, every moment was a delight. The history seeped into our senses as we walked the city streets, taking in the architectural marvels like the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio.

The panoramic view from Piazzale Michelangelo was a sight to behold, and despite the creeping weariness from a day full of walking and sightseeing, the magical sunset view and the vibe of the Piazzale reenergized us and filled us with a sense of awe.

To conclude, Florence is a city that has much to offer, whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, foodie, or simply a traveler looking for a rich and immersive experience. This itinerary provided us with an incredible day in Florence and laid the groundwork for a successful Tuscan excursion. I wholeheartedly hope this guide will assist you in planning your own memorable Florentine adventure.

Read Next: