Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to one day in Florence. Of course, one day is not enough time to experience all of the wonders and beauty of Italy’s most Renaissance-y city. But it is enough time to chow down on some fabulous food, climb to the heights of the Duomo, come close to robbing a jewelry store, and then dive into even more amazing food. Exciting already? I thought so! Let’s go.
One Day in Florence
Where to Stay?
Florence is jam-packed with amazing attractions, so you’ll want to stay right in the thick of things. That’s why I recommend the Hotel Pendini. It has the perfect location just a few minutes away from places like the Uffizi Gallery and Florence Cathedral. The room was so charming and comfortable, yet still affordable. And best of all, a yummy breakfast was included. I just love when a hotel provides an excellent breakfast so that I can hit the ground running for my day of adventure.
One Day in Florence
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today on our one day in Florence. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Italy is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
One Day in Florence
Morning: Secret Florence Food Tour
Of course any perfect start to your one day in Florence is going to involve food. So why not combine breakfast, lunch, secret information, and fun facts in one delicious tour? I’ve used Secret Food Tours all over the world, and I highly recommend them. Their itineraries are always extremely thoughtfully put together, and it’s wonderful getting a chance to experience the food culture of a city with a local.
There was so much food on this Secret Florence Food Tour that you actually won’t believe me if I show you how much. But show you I shall with…
Approximately Top 5: One Day in Florence Food Tour
Of course it’s not possible to have a real Italian breakfast without an espresso. I know Italians think we New Yorkers are heathens for drinking large coffees while walking down the street at all hours of the day. But it’s only because New Yorkers need enough energy to fight off the Warriors and outrun Pizza Rat. When in Florence, do as the Florentines do and drink espresso in the morning while sitting down.
The espresso was paired with a flawlessly flaky pastry and we had our choice of several flavors. I chose pistachio just because it seemed the most Italian. And pistachio ice cream is delicious, so wouldn’t this be too? (Spoiler alert! It was delicious!)
2) Olive Oil
Of course Italian cuisine would be literally niente without olive oil, so it’s a good thing that we stopped at a store that makes its own kinds. Here you can sample many flavors from regular olive oil to hot pepper oil. (I bought a bottle of the spicy olive oil to take home with me, so you can see I put my money where my mouth is.)
The lady at the store told us there isn’t a big difference between extra virgin and virgin olive oil, which I always suspected was the case. It’s just a conspiracy by the Genco Olive Oil company to mark up prices!
3) Street Meat!
I was so excited that we got to try this special dish on the tour! It is lampredotto, the most famous street food in all Florence, but on this tour you will get to taste perhaps the best version in the city. For the squeamish, this sandwich is made with the fourth stomach of the cow, which means it’s not a tripe sandwich. Don’t let that freak you out though! Think how sustainable it is to eat every part of the cow. And the pungent flesh tastes even better when it’s doused in a fiery pepper sauce.
Everyone on the tour gets to stand in the street and drink wine with the lampredotto, but I got the upgraded drink package, so I had even more wine than they did. At this point the 12-year-old daughter of an American woman in the group started to take an interest in me. Why was I traveling alone? Why did I get the upgraded drink package? Did I like the upgraded drink package? This kid was a peach, but there is no way I’m discussing the pros and cons of day drinking with an adolescent.
4) To Market, To Market
Italians take their produce incredibly seriously, as evidenced by this stunning market. Don’t those zucchini just get all up in your face and scream, “HELLO! IT’S SUMMER!”?
One benefit of taking a food tour is that you get to sample goodies that it would be impossible to try on your own. Sure, you could buy fruit at this market, but it would be a pain to get it back to the hotel room, wash, and prepare it. How much nicer to have the world’s freshest produce plate prepared for you instead! You can enjoy the juices of the perfectly ripe apricot running down your chin instead of wondering how to wash it properly in a hotel bathroom.
5) The Main Event
After all that food it’s finally time to get serious and meet our four-course lunch! You think I’m joking? I never joke in Italy about food. First, we start with a little antipasti of cheese and meat.
Next you need to have the pasta course with homemade pasta only. That’s just science.
And for the main course, a beautiful piece of Florentine steak so brown on the outside, yet so pink you can practically hear the coo mooing in your ear. I believe it’s saying, “I’m delicious! You already ate my fourth stomach, now enjoy the rest of me.”
And for our first dessert–yes, there’s another dessert to come–we have the world-renowned Tuscan cookie, the biscotto. This cookie’s name means twice-baked, which means that something it can be a little hard and dry…
So we need to dip the cookie in a little sweet wine called vin santo. Vin santo actually means holy wine, but don’t worry! I’m pretty sure the guide didn’t rob any priests to bring this to us.
Finally, no Italian food tour can be complete without a little refreshing gelato at the end. You can choose any flavors you want, but I recommend combining a fruit sorbet with a richer flavor of gelato. Everyone knows that hazelnut is the best gelato flavor, so I paired mine with a refreshing strawberry. And a good time was had by me!
At the end of the tour, the curious twelve-year-old asked her mom if they could invite me to their house in Seattle, so she could hear more about my adventures around the world. The answer is no, but keep traveling, small one! I hope to read your blog some day!
One Day in Florence
Afternoon: The Duomo
It’s actually a crime to visit Florence and not see the Duomo, aka Florence’s Cathedral. I mean that quite literally; if you go to Florence and don’t see the Duomo, Lorenzo di Medici’s ghost drags you off to prison. Fortunately with a little preparation you can have a wonderful time visiting Florence’s most famous landmark.
All you have to do is buy your ticket in advance online here. (Believe me, you don’t want to wait on the hideous lines you’ll experience without a ticket.) There are several ticket options; please get one that allows you to see the Baptistery and visit the Duomo.
I can’t possibly convey all the beauty and majesty of the Duomo in one blog post. But I can convey…
Three Fun Facts: The Duomo
1) What Are These Doors?
Before you enter the Duomo, you must enter the famous Baptistery of San Giovanni next door. (Don’t worry, admission is included with the ticket to the Duomo.) There’s always a long line to enter, but it moves pretty quickly and there’s usually entertaining people watching. I myself got into a fight with a Frenchman because I heard him say that Gloria Gaynor was the original singer of “Respect”, and this was an insult to the United States that I simply could not tolerate.
Everyone really wants to see something on the outside of the Baptistery: the famous gilded bronze Doors of Paradise. The depth of the relief on these doors is extraordinary. You almost feel as if the Old Testament characters are going to glide right off the tours and go wandering through the streets of Florence, singing “I Will Survive”.
2) What’s the best feature inside the Duomo?
That’s clearly the interior of the dome for which the Duomo is named. Most of the interior of the Duomo isn’t nearly as elaborate or dramatic as the exterior. But the one exception is the frescoes on the dome called The Last Judgment. You never know when the frescoes will strike, so be sure to look up as you climb the steps of the Duomo!
It was designed by the famous painter Vasari, who also wrote The Lives of the Artists, which is one of the best records humanity has of the great artists of the Renaissance. But sadly Vasari died before he had a chance to paint it, so somebody else finished for him. I wonder how Nameless Dead Guy Who Actually Painted the Thing feels about Vasari getting all the credit.
3) What is the Best Feature Outside the Duomo?
That’s clearly the amazing views of Florence you get when you finally arrive at the top. There’s no elevator, so you need to climb all 463 steps with your own legs. (Question: how did they have the patience to count all 463 steps? I always lose count after 30 or so.)
The closer you get to the top, the slower the line moves, so be patient. This is equally true when you are coming down. It can also be a really tight squeeze and sometimes people get mad at each other, especially if one of them points out that Gloria Gaynor sang “I Will Survive” and not “Respect”. So take as much time as you want at the top and enjoy the hard-earned fruits of your labor!
One Day in Florence
Evening: Dinner at Bottega Del Buon Caffe
You might be thinking that after that luscious food tour in the morning, we couldn’t possibly be up for a lavish dinner. But you would be wrong, Internet Stranger! This is Italy! If you can’t blow an entire paycheck on food here, why did you even come? And there’s no better place to splurge in Florence than Bottega Del Buon Caffe. This restaurant is truly farm to table. Even the amuse bouche looks like something that came out of a little forest!
In fact, I think this whole restaurant should be called forest-to-table instead of farm-to-table. Look at this gorgeous salad! Why, it’s so reminiscent of the forest that I think I can hear Bambi’s mother being shot in the background.
And is this a succulent scallop dish, or are we being plunged into a wintry, snowy wonderland?
This may be the most gorgeous presentation of a foie gras dish that I have ever seen. And while foie gras is often served with fruit, I loved the twist of serving the warm foie gras with a cool fruit sorbet.
And here we plunge back into the forest with this positively vernal risotto. Risotto is a complicated dish to make at home because of this timing, but biting into this flawless version made me absolutely despair of being able to make perfect risotto at home.
Back in the United States, pasta dishes are often heavy and lugubrious, which is why we usually get pasta as a main course. But in Italy, pasta is served before the main course and it’s much lighter. Look at these stunning ravioli! Why they are as light as the tulle on the tutu of some forest pixie!
For the meat course, I was served a delicate pigeon. No, not rats with wings, but an exquisite bird with the flavor of game meat without any of the usual toughness that comes with game. It was the perfect end to my forest-to-table meal.
OK, I lied. There’s one final stop on our forest dining experience: dessert! Look at that gorgeous chocolate crust. Doesn’t it look like decadent mounds of earth rising off the plate. It was almost too beautiful to eat. (Yet I ate every last bite.)
That’s a One Day in Florence Itinerary!
What would you do on a one day in Florence itinerary? Have you ever dined at a forest-to-table restaurant? And is it appropriate to discuss upgraded drinks packages with preteens? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend one day in Florence.