The main railway station of Florence is called Firenze Santa Maria Novella. The city is well connected to major destinations in Italy and throughout Europe. For example, if you fly to Pisa, just hop on the 'People mover' that connects the airport with Pisa Centrale and departs every few minutes. From here it takes you less than an hour to reach Florence with a regional train. If, on the other hand, you're coming from Rome, the journey takes you just over one and a half hour with a Frecciarossa high-speed train.
Day 1 – Arrive and enjoy the local cuisine
Florence is known for its excellent regional cuisine and artistic presentation of the dishes. Try to find a place slightly off the beaten path to find some true local gems. Head to the Santa Croce neighbourhood for delicious regional food that won't break the bank. And if you want to try the authentic Florentine pizza, look for the small stalls and taverns around the cathedral.
Here are just a few of the local Tuscan dishes – bistecca alla fiorentina, sirloin steak, is a dish for dedicated carnivores. The meat alone weighs between 500 to 1,500 g – just remember that the price is given for a portion of 100 g, so multiply this by the amount you plan to eat. Local Chianti wine, to accompany this meat feast, is often served as the house wine in a carafe.
You can also find many food carts that serve lampredotto, the local fast-food meal with over 1,000 years of history. A panino con lampredotto (lampredotto sandwich) is made with cow or calf stomach that has been cooked in a herb and vegetable broth, finely sliced and served, with green or spicy sauce, in a bread roll. Florence is also known as one of the best places to taste authentic Italian gelato. Few ice cream parlours are open after dinner time, so it’s best to get your cold treat in the afternoon, just as the locals do. And finally, if you plan to have a picnic, the best place to buy food is Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo area, just a few minutes away from the cathedral.
Day 2 – Discover Florence’s art and culture
Florence's historic centre is very compact, so it’s easy to discover all the sights on foot. Best start at the Duomo, the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, and its square. The Duomo is the third largest Christian church in Europe and its enormous cupola serves as a landmark for the city. The interior is spacious and will fill you with awe. Don't forget to look up to admire the stunning frescos and stained glass windows. Entrance is free, but you need to book your ticket beforehand. After visiting the Duomo, climb Giotto's Tower in the same square for an excellent bird's eye view of the city and the sights you’re about to explore. The 14th and 15th-century bronze doors of the nearby Baptistery and the 13th-century mosaics that decorate its interior are another Florentine highlight for art lovers. And if you’re interested in how the Duomo and the surrounding buildings were designed and built, head to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Duomo), which exhibits original artwork as well as plans and models of the cathedral itself. We recommend you book your ticket in advance from the official Duomo ticket website.
After your lunch break, you should dedicate the rest of Saturday to Florence's most famous art gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi. Deemed by many to be the finest gallery of Renaissance, it’s housed in a 16th-century palace and the art collection was started by the famous Medici family. Here you can admire world-famous paintings such as the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, Caravaggio's Medusa as well as works by Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt and Raphael among others. Also take time to just sit in the square and watch the street performers putting on their show before the Uffizi, as this is part of authentic Florence street life. The best time to see them is in the early evening. After so much culture, it’s a good idea to simply wander through the streets of the historic centre or walk along the river Arno to enjoy the magic of Florence in the evening. We suggest ending the day in a true Florentine institution, the Caffè Rivoire, with its scenic view over one of the most beautiful squares in Florence.
Day 3 – Explore a different side of Florence
Start the day by visiting the Great Synagogue, which houses the Museum of Hebraic Art and Culture, where the guides will show you how influential the Jewish population of the city was for its cultural development. You can find this little-known gem just 10 minutes east of the Duomo in Via Farini.
Head down towards River Arno until you reach Piazza dei Giudici, where you'll find Museo Galileo. Dedicated to perhaps the greatest scientist of the Renaissance, Galileo Galilei, it shows the evolution of scientific instruments as well as some of those he used personally and an outstanding collection of ancient maps and models.
Cross the bridge Ponte Vecchio over River Arno. This is the oldest medieval bridge in the city which still has shops built on top of it and from here you can head to the Boboli Gardens behind the Pitti Palace. This is where you can have an excellent view of Florence, as well as admire the many statues that adorn it. The café at the top of the hill makes for an excellent spot for a quick lunch break.
Cross the river again and visit the Church Santa Croce (Holy Cross) to see the magnificent tombs of Galileo, Rossini, Michelangelo and many other titans of the Renaissance. The Pazzi Chapel, close by and included in the admission price, is an excellent example of perfectly symmetrical, neo-classical Renaissance architecture.
And to end the day on a more solemn note, join the community at Badia Fiorentina on Via del Proconsolo for singing Vespers and Mass. Despite its central location and proximity to the Dante Museum, it’s still very peaceful and mainly frequented by locals.
Visiting Florence by train for a weekend break is the most comfortable option. Your train will bring you directly to the city centre and you can start exploring right away. The train journey from Siena to Florence takes about an hour and goes through the beautiful Tuscan landscapes. And on the train journey from Rome to Florence, you can see the gentle landscape of Lazio region from your window.