On multiple previous trips to Italy, I somehow failed to visit Florence.
It turns out this was somewhat of an oversight, because, well, Florence is unbelievably pretty. Like, in your face, over the top, can’t quite believe it’s real pretty.
Suffice to say, if you’re planning a trip to Italy, make sure you include Florence in your plans. Those plans can also include Rome and Venice of course, for a trifecta of Italian goodness, but yes, Florence. Put it on the list.
We recently spent just shy of a week in Florence. We based ourselves in a central Airbnb and explored a lot.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a week. Maybe you’re going to be visiting Florence for a weekend. Maybe you’ve got it scheduled in as part of a longer trip of Italy, and don’t have all too many days to spare.
Fear not. Thanks to the nice people at Walks of Italy, there’s a way you can see the highlights of both Florence, and surrounding Tuscany, in just two days! Here’s how we did that.
Two Days to See the Highlights of Florence and Tuscany
First, like I said, this itinerary was made possible thanks to Walks of Italy. These guys have two excellent tours that will let you see an awful lot in two days. These tours are the Florence in a Day tour, and the Tuscany Day Trip tour, which departs from Florence.
Let’s have a look at the first of these tours, Florence in a Day, and see what it covers, and what makes it a great tour.
Florence in a Day
The Florence in a Day Tour is a full day tour that kicks off at 8.15am and runs through until around 4pm, with time scheduled for you to grab a bite to eat. It aims to cover the essentials of Florence, including Michelangelo’s David statue and the Uffizi Gallery, as well as highlights of the city from the Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio.
The tour met a short walk from the Florence Accademia, home to the David statue. After a little introduction from the guide, we were whisked into the museum. One of the nice things about Walks of Italy tours is that all the tickets are included in the price, and they’re all organised in advance, so there’s no waiting around or prolonged queuing – it’s just straight in. More time experiencing, less time waiting, always a good thing.
Our guide showed us some of the notable installations in the Accademia, but to be honest, the main reason for visiting was the David statue, and it wasn’t long before he appeared at the end of a room filled with a number of other key Michaelangelo pieces that help show his techniques and progression as an artist over his life. Our guide, who knew an insane amount of stuff about Florence, art, and Michaelangelo, brought us up to date on all the pieces in the room, and why they were both important, as well as their relevance to the David statue.
Then we got to spend a good amount of time with David himself. It’s hard to really explain how impressive this statue is up person, and it’s always strange to see something in real life that you’ve seen countless images of before, suffice to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Plus, with the early entrance (basically as soon as the Accademia doors open you’re in!), it wasn’t crowded at all. When we left, and saw the queues down the block to get in, we were extremely relieved that this was on our tour and not something we’d have to battle through lines for!
Following the majesty of David, it was on to another Florentine classic – the Duomo. This unbelievable construction, which features the largest brick dome ever constructed in the world (not bad for something put together in the 13th century), dominates the skyline of the city. It’s not just about the dome either, the building itself is just stunning, with a fabulous marble façade.
Inside, the duomo is a little more austere than it’s exterior would have you believe, but our guide explained the reasoning for this, as well as giving us lots of information as to how that incredible dome was built. It was fascinating stuff, particularly given the age it was built in!
Moving on from the duomo, our tour continue to wind through some of the more interesting streets of Florence, before we wound up at the lovely Ponte Vecchio – one of the few remaining bridges in the world to have shops on the bridge. It’s also fascinating as above the bridge runs a portion of the Vasari Corridor, a mile long private corridor built by the insanely wealthy Medici family, who obviously couldn’t just wander around with the riff raff in the streets below when getting from their residential palace to the palace of government.
At the Ponte Vecchio, our tour paused, and we were free to head off and find lunch at our leisure, before we resumed the tour with a visit to the Uffizi Gallery.
The Uffizi Gallery is easily the most impressive art gallery in Florence. Florence, you must remember, was the birthplace of the Renaissance, and this art gallery is an incredible walk through time of the evolution of art pre, during, and post Renaissance. It’s an absolutely unmissable part of a visit to Florence, and having a guide really adds to the experience, as they can explain so much about what you’re looking at that you would otherwise likely miss.
We saw some of the most famous paintings in the world by masters including Botticelli, Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Da Vinci and more. Paintings that you will have seen countless times over, but are somehow just mesmerising in person. And as I previously mentioned, having a guide to walk us through it all, and explain the evolution of art before, during and after the Renaissance period was really helpful.
Finally, our tour ended, and we were free for the rest of the day, which in our case meant hotfooting it up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view of Florence at sunset.
Of course, Tuscany is more than just Florence, and you’re likely going to want see what else is on offer in this remarkable part of Italy. Fear not, Walks of Italy have you covered with their Tuscany Day Trip, which features some of the highlights of the region, washed down with plenty of wine. Let’s look at what that day looked like.
A Day Trip In Tuscany
This adventure started in the city centre of Tuscany, where our small group of seven met our guide and hopped into a comfortably mini-van. Our driver first took us up to the aforementioned Piazzale Michelangelo, which is definitely one of the best places to get a view of the Florence skyline. We paused here for a short while to take the view in and get some photos, before setting off on the 40 minute drive to Siena.
Generally, when you tell people that you’re going to be visiting Tuscany, they will urge you to visit Siena. And for good reason. This picturesque medieval Tuscan hill town has some fantastic sights, including an intriguingly shaped town square and a swathe of churches, not to mention gastronomical delights and an incredible tradition of art and culture.
Our tour wound us through the city streets, where we sampled local delicacies in some of our guide’s favourite shops, took in the Piazza del Campo, home to the annual traditional medieval horse race, before finally winding up at Siena’s jewel – the Siena Cathedral.
Completed in 1380, I have to admit that it reminded me somewhat of a giant liquorice allsort, although I suspect that probably wasn’t the intended effect. In fact, the comparison should be the other way round. This is a stunning building, constructed from white and green/black marble, and you could probably spend a good amount of time just gawping at it from the outside.
You don’t want to miss a visit inside too though. The interior is also very impressive, in particular the mosaic floors, and since this is included on the tour, is a no-brainer.
From Siena, the tour heads up to lunch. One of the really nice things about this tour is that meals (and wine!) are included, which in my mind made for a really great value tour.
Our lunch stop was the Poggio Amorelli winery in the Chianti region, which as you might imagine, produces Chianti wine. After a tour of the winery itself, we had an excellent lunch of delicious Italian food, all accompanied by a tasting menu of wines, with a backdrop of Tuscan countryside. Not a bad way to spend an hour or two.
I have to admit, it was a little bit of an effort to put together the motivation to continue our explorations after such a fine lunch, but nevertheless, it was time for a bit more adventuring. The next stop on our adventure was the town of San Gimigiano, which, like both Siena and Florence, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Here we had a fair bit of freedom in what we chose to do, with some folks diving into the shops, and others choosing to just wander a little.
I took the opportunity to climb the biggest bell tower in the town, which rewarded me with fantastic views of the surrounding scenery, just as the sun was setting – if you’ve got the energy to do the same, I can highly recommend it.
Finally, our tour finished up with a wine tour and evening appetisers at Fattoria Poggio Alloro. A working farm, as well as a winery, we also were lucky enough to experience the feeding time of the gorgeous white Chianina cows – a famous sight on the Tuscan hills.
After the cows were fed, so were we, with more excellent wine to wash it all down with. This was a lighter, appetiser style meal, but we were all so full from lunch that it was just right. Then, it was time to say farewell to our new friends, as we returned to Florence and the tour ended.
I really enjoyed this tour. It took in a good selection of sights, the tour group was nice and small, our guide was really friendly, and there was plentiful food and wine, with everything included in the up-front price.
Overall, I’m happy to recommend both of these tours if you’re visiting this region of Italy and want to see as much as possible in as hassle-free way as possible. You’ll skip the lines, the guides know their stuff, and the groups are nice and small.
- Walks of Italy walking tours feature small groups, usually 12 or less
- The majority of tours operate year round, with full information on times and availability on the website
- The meeting time for all tours is 15 minutes before the tour starts, with full meeting information sent to your e-mail when you sign up to the tour
- Walks are suitable for all ages
- Walks include all entry and attraction fees, tipping the guide is at your discretion
- If you’re looking for accommodation in Florence, we recommend using HotelsCombined to find the best deals across all the major hotel search engines
- Check out my review of other Walks products, including New York and Rome, for more insights!
What do you think? Are you interested in taking one of these tours? Ever visited this part of Italy? Chime in in the comments below!
Disclaimer – We received complimentary walking tours with Walks of New York in exchange for sharing our honest opinion of the walking tours. For more on how we choose who to work with, see our code of ethics.