One of the greatest parts of my job is the ability to travel to foreign places on a whim. The downfall, however, is that I often have to take these adventures in one day. So how do you spend 24 hours in a place like Florence or Pisa? I’ve got you covered.
9am: We began our day by immediately going to theLeaning Tower of Pisa. The admission is free, and you pay the price of entry to go into the museums or climb to the top. 17 euros to guarantee you’ll climb the tower that day or 15 euro if you buy that day and wait. Entry is every 30 minutes, and it’s about 300 stairs to the top. If you are not trying to get a major exercise in on your vacation, one of the best parts of Pisa is the lawn in front of it. Here you will find tourists gathered taking the infamous tower photos. It is quite entertaining to watch people pretend to hold the tower up and see the clever poses people come up with.
10am: After enjoying some people watching and taking some posed photos of our own we headed off to the Florence, but not before grabbing a quick cafe and brioche at a local coffee shop on the street. In Italy, there are many bars that open throughout the day offering cafes, cappucinos, lattes, and tea. They also sell croissants, brioches, pastries, and a wide variety of sandwiches. It’s important that you eat when places are open because many restaurants close during the day and don’t re-open until dinner at around 7pm.
11:30am: We drove to Florence and found parking near the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Here is where we started our adventure in this magical city. (NOTE: parking is very rare to find so if you find so if you find something a little further away from your starting location, take it.)
The bridge is breathtaking from afar and you will notice it as soon as you come across it. It holds little shops all along the walkway. Colorfully painted on the outside with windows, it looks as if it is out of a fairytale. Walking along the street you will find excellent shopping and galleries with most of it being tax free. In the center of the bridge is a love lock gate surrounding the statue of Benvenuto Cellini.
12pm: After admiring the gorgeous artwork we headed towards Palazzo Vecchio Museum and Tower. To get in it is 10 euro/8 euro students for just the tower, and for both the tower and museum it is 15 euro/12 euro student. We decided to just see the tower and it was well worth it. The view from the top offers a panoramic look of Florence and the architect of the Tower in itself is really stunning.
12:45pm: Next stop on our tour was to the Florence Cathedral. About a 10-minute walk which isn’t so bad because there’s incredible shopping in Florence! This cathedral is the most famous site in Florence and is massive in structure. We were fortunate enough to be there during Christmas time which included a beautiful tree, set up in the middle of the square, along with a nativity scene and array of lights. To enter the Cathedral it is no cost, and you can walk around admiring the architect and detailed paintings of the church. The best part of the Cathedral is the duomo or dome at the top. If you buy a single ticket of 15 euros, you can climb the top. Note: the ticket also gets you into the Baptistry, Crypt, Opera Museum, and Giotto’s Bell Tower right next door.
1:15pm: CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE DUOMO. I put this in caps because in my opinion, it is a must see. I’m afraid of heights, but the view at the top was absolutely breathtaking. It’s about 500 steps to the top and yes, I was out of breath and panting even as a professional athlete. But when you first step through to the outside you quickly forget you’ll need to start doing more cardio.
A little gloomy but still beautiful. Worth the workout. Plus you can now eat as much gelato as you want!
2pm: So after we made our way down another 500 steps, food was necessary. A great place to eat that is only open until 2:30 and then again at 7:30pm is about a five minute walk from the duomo. Located down a side street Ristorante Natalino gives you the authentic Italian cuisine you’re craving on a budget. Not to expensive, but the food is outstanding.
Quick Tip: Never eat anywhere in Italy with pictures on the menu… it might be good, but it’s not the real deal.
3:30pm: Now that our bellies are full and minds reenergized, we walked about five minutes to the Basilica di Santa Croce where they hold a Christmas market, german style. Offering local crafts and food vendors, it’s a great place to wander around and enjoy the different smells.
4:30pm: One of the best parts about Florence and why it’s so loved by all is that it offers both history and great shopping. We spent the rest of the day going to all the high end shops and local galleries from Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry, to Chanel and so on. It’s fun to window shop or go in… whatever you’re feeling. The streets during Christmas time are decorated with lights and wreaths. Every part of Florence just makes you want to get lost for a while and discover what’s around the corner.
We finished our trip with some gelato and then made our way back to Venice. Some notable places worth going include:
Piazzale Michelangelo- on the top of the hill offers stunning views of Florence. We didn’t have too clear of a day which is why we didn’t make our way there.
Boboli Gardens- my teammate recommended this to me. During the spring or summer it’s gorgeous to walk around in and just spend some time there.
Accademia Gallery Florence- this is really one of the top reasons you come to Florence. While we didn’t make our way there due to the lack of energy, it holds the statue of David by Michelangelo. Yes the REAL DEAL. It also holds other pieces, but it is known for this single masterpiece. Closed on mondays it’s about 13 euro to get in. Get your tickets ahead of time or you’ll be waiting in a long line. Or, there will be people selling fast passes on the street. The tickets will cost more, but you’ll get some time back to explore Florence!
Il Latini- a restaurant near the train station, it is a great local place to eat. Order the bistecca alla florentina and you’ll heart will be full and happy, as well as your belly.
Quick Tip: For anyone who loves history and art, I recommend exploring or traveling during the winter months from November to February. While it might be colder, the lines are very short. You can see way more in one day than in the other months. You also will get better deals on group tours.
The websites I use to decide which form of transportation I will take are extremely helpful! They can help with time and/or money depending on what you are most concerned with.
- Rome2Rio.com- this is a great choice if you are looking to see all forms (fly, train, car) of transportation compared to one another
- SkyScanner.com-perfect if you are planning to fly and looking for your best option on any airline
- TrenItalia.com- if you are living or visiting in Italy, this website can help you book your train route anywhere in the country
- Tripomatic- website/app that allows you to see which sites are most popular and how much time you will spend at each. It also gives you information on tours, guides, and a complete itinerary with the places you want to go and the distance in between.
Navigating Your Trip
Whether it’s by train, car, or flying there are multiple options on how to get from your location to Florence or Pisa. Here are a couple mapped out.
We took the trip by car from Venice, Italy. Using the autostrada it takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes to arrive in Pisa. We drove to Pisa the night before and reserved an AirBnB for the evening.
You can take the train into Florence or Pisa from whatever city you like. From Venice, it is a 2 hour and 30-minute train ride using a speed train. A good reference to look at is TrenItalia as mentioned above. Typically the prices range during different seasons anywhere as low as 25 euro to 150 euro.
Flying is another option depending on how far away you are. There is an airport in both Pisa and Florence. Quick trips can be taken on airlines such as RyanAir or AliItalia. Again prices vary.
What’s your favorite part of Florence?