Of course one needs more than 12 hours to experience Florence, but thanks to the incredibly convenient high-speed rail network linking Italy’s major cities, it’s easy to stay in one city and visit another as a day trip. Visitors to Milan, for example, can take Trenitalia’s Frecciarosa line to Florence in less than two hours in great comfort—and in chic style, to boot. If you have only a short window of time to spend in Florence, here’s a sampling of things to do throughout the city.
10 a.m.: Arrive in the center of town and head straight to the Galleria dell’Accademia, where Michelangelo’s masterpiece David is housed. The lines to see the statue are incredibly long, so be sure to book your clients’ tickets in advance. Even then, they may have to wait to get in (though for much less time than if they didn’t have tickets), and their time inside will be strictly limited. (Hint: Don’t just see the one statue. There are wonderful works by many other legendary artists throughout the museum, and visitors should take their time exploring.)
12 p.m.: For lunch, go to Cibrèo Ristorante at the Sant’Ambrogio Market, an exclusive and very intimate little family-run restaurant that’s part of a larger network of eateries. (For example, across the street is their café, and a trattoria is nearby. Each restaurant is unique, but part of the same group.) Cool Touch: The menu is not printed—instead, the waiter describes each dish in detail. (Many of the dishes are fish-based). The restaurants have become iconic in the city, and are very popular.
Italy specialist agent Patricia LoBracco of Bon Voyage Travel, on the other hand, recommends Il Latini, a restaurant that dates back to the 1800s. She calls it true Tuscan fare, adding that celebrities can frequently be spotted there.
2 p.m.: Burn off lunch by visiting the Duomo, one of the grandest and most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in Europe. LoBracco suggests going into the cathedral’s crypt to see archaeological finds and the original church that was found when flood waters receded not too many years ago. There are tombs of bishops, and the architect Brunelleschi is buried down there as well.
4 p.m.: Most of Florence’s stores close for lunch at 1:30 p.m. and reopen at 4 p.m., so LoBracco recommends going to the Piazza Republica to shop for the afternoon. Alternately, those not interested in shopping should visit the Pitti Palace, which has more than 500 Renaissance paintings as well as the Boboli gardens.
6:00 p.m.: Walk down to the Ponte Vecchio and browse the little shops.
7:00 p.m.: Explore the Piazza della Signoria, which has many notable statues (or at least good copies of the originals). Once there, spend a few hours in the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ufizzi Gallery, both of which are nearby.