One of the great things about visiting Rome is its proximity to other desirable locations on your bucket list, such as Florence. In fact, if you have a spare day in Rome, a day trip from Rome to Florence can be easily and conveniently had.
We’ll show you how to make it happen!
Why You Should Visit Florence
Florence, the historical, artistic, and commerce mecca of Italy, is located less than two hours north via train from Rome’s Termini Station. It presents a departure from the vastness of Rome, as Florence is small enough to be seen and walked in a day, although additional days may be required if you’re visiting Florence for the shopping and commercial aspects of the city – although that’s something that didn’t personally draw us there.
Rather, what drew us to Florence were the historical and artistic reputation of the city. The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is home to two of the most impressive museums in Europe – the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’Accademia. In addition, the architecture and site seeing throughout the city, let alone the city center, offers some of the most beautiful and interesting architecture anywhere in Italy.
Florence also offers incredible food. The cuisine ranges from simple European sandwiches to higher-end eateries. In fact, the capital of Tuscany is the home of more than a dozen Michelin star-rated restaurants, most of which are located within walking or short cabbing distance from the city center.
What we enjoy most, however, are the alley-side and authentic local establishments, of which Florence boasts many riches. The best meals (and value) will be found outside the central gathering point around the Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo, as it’s known colloquially), and further down the narrow streets that encircle the city’s thriving inner quarter.
If you’re interested in food, art, and architecture, Florence is a place you have to see at least once. If you’re staying in Rome, there’s no reason not to be able to make it there for at least a day.
How To Get To Florence From Rome
Getting to Florence from Rome is quite simple and straight-forward, with your journey beginning at Rome’s Termini Station.
Now, you may have heard a bit about Termini Station from various travel shows or via other reviews, most of which describe the station as the nearest thing to hell. Quite honestly, it isn’t that bad, especially in comparison to New York ’s Penn Station or Paris ’ Gare du Nord. Make sure to buy your tickets online ahead of time, however, as Termini is incredibly busy, and the kiosks can be temperamental. You don’t want to be trying to buy tickets 15 minutes before your train’s department at the station, essentially.
Our preferred vendor for booking train travel in Europe is Rail Europe. We’ve used the platform several times, gotten great discounts, and the service is always fast, flexible, and reliable. In fact, you can book multiple-city tickets, in case you wanted to continue venturing beyond Florence to Venice or somewhere else in Italy.
Save plenty of time before arriving at Termini, as the signage can be a bit confusing if you aren’t a native Italian speaker. You’ll find that move lines depart directly opposite the entrance, through the shopping areas and toward the back of the complex. Give yourself 45 minutes to get food, drinks, or anything else you need prior to boarding, as well as check the status of the train and make sure everything is on time. Once you leave for Florence, you’ll be heading to Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station, which is smaller than Roma Termini, but possibly more chaotic (especially in the afternoon). You’ll also be returning to Rome from Santa Maria Novella (also called S.M. Novella on most mapping apps), so make sure to make the location once you arrive.
Book your tickets to arrive as early as possible, as Florence really becomes bustling by noon, and you’ll want to spend as much of the morning as you can exploring the city before the flock of tourists flood the streets for the day.
Art And Architecture
While Florence is known as a shopping destination and perhaps Italy’s “Paris” in that regard, it’s still a city that is very much about art, architecture, and its Renaissance history. Even if you’re not an art lover when you arrive in Florence, you will be when you leave.
There are two primary museums that any visit to Florence is incomplete without, as they hold some of the most remarkable Renaissance works including Michelangelo’s David and Sandro Boticelli’s Birth of Venus.
These are only two of the dozens of stunning works in these galleries, and a visit to Florence without seeing them is akin to a Parisian trip without the Mona Lisa. So, how do you see them?
As mentioned, you’ll want to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia (for David) and the Uffizi Gallery (for Birth of Venus). Do not wait to purchase entry until you arrive in Florence, however, or you’ll find yourself among those unlucky travelers who spend hours waiting in line when they could easily save that time and skip the queues!
Doing so is easy, in fact, and cost only a few extra euros over the ticket price. Simply go to the Uffizi and Accademia websites to schedule your time of entry, which will allow you “skip-the-line” access. Arriving 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time will allow you find the appropriate administrator to show your ticket (which you will need printed on “on hand” when you arrive), then simply enter.
Our recommendation is to book the Uffizi for early in the day (prior to lunch and as close to 9am as possible, as the museum opens at 8:15am), then visit the Accademia in the afternoon (around 3pm). The Uffizi is a massive, multiple-storied museum which attracts huge crowds during the afternoon time, and can become quite hectic. Having this “skip the line” appointment still gets you in without waiting in line, but you’ll find yourself engulfed in a massive crowd that makes it difficult to get close to some of the prized pieces. The smaller Accademia can be visited in 30-45 minutes, which allows the traffic to flow through more rapidly and allows you a bit calmer viewing experience.
Once you see the lines in to these major attractions and experience the remarkable art inside, you’ll be glad you spent the time planning ahead.
Both museums are close to the city center, and can be transversed on foot easily. Starting your day at the Uffizi and spending the afternoon at Accademia also makes planning sense, as you’ll be able to work your way through the city’s core during the mid-day hours, and see some of the most impressive architecture in Europe as the mid-day sun reaches high overhead.
Mid-Day Fun In Florence
Making sure to book-end the majority of your day with these classic museums should give you ample free time in the middle of the day to walk around Florence, enjoy sight seeing, and having some of the best food in Tuscany.
After you’ve exited the Uffizi, you’ll find yourself facing the beautiful Piazza della Signoria. Enjoy a stroll here and consider crossing the nearby Ponte Vecchio for beautiful scenery over the Arno River. You can also enjoy the Museo di Palazzo Vecchio (as “della Signoria” is also called the Palazzo Vecchio), where you’ll find some of the most impressively painted halls and walls this side of the Sistine Chapel. The lines here are normally much shorter than at the Uffizi or Accademia, but you still may want to check online for reservations shortly before lunch time.
The Piazza della Signoria/Vecchio is one of two locations we would recommend for lunch and people watching, with the other being in the Piazza del Duomo, where you can get beautiful photos of the Florence Cathedral, and even climb to the top of Il Duomo, if time permits.
You can’t go wrong with the food in Florence, it’s simply too good. The fertile grounds of Tuscany make for excellent produce, and of course produce some of the greatest wines in the world. Our advice? Find as authentic a location as possible (with the front signs in Italian, not English), and get some form of wine to your liking and a hearty meal that won’t disable you for the afternoon. As you can see below, we had an excellent filet with a locally grown grilled mushroom and salad, all for a very reasonable price.
Once you’ve enjoyed lunch, you may find yourself wanting to peruse the shopping areas of Florence. After all, most who visit the city do, although our recommendation would be to find a smaller, local shop with quality products made in the region. It’s only a matter of personal preference, but we find that engaging with these types of stores is often your best bargain and gives something back to the community that’s entertaining you! Plus, it always makes for a great story when someone asks where you got your shiny new trinket.
A great place to do this is in the San Lorenzo Market, which is conveniently only a 10 minute walk from the Galleria dell’Accademia. This local market is famous for fresh produce, handmade clothing and jewelry, as well as beautiful work from some of the new Florentine artists. You’ll get a true feel for Florence here, as vendors work out fair trades with prospective customers, and you’ll come to experience how Florence truly hums with energy.
Once you’ve wrapped up at San Lorenzo Market and had your visit of the famous David in the Galleria dell’Accademia, enjoy the setting sun by sitting outside in a beautiful Florentine cafe. If you’re looking for something light, you can’t go wrong with a bisque made from local ingredients, which we enjoyed at Trattoria Buzzino near the Ponte Vecchio. This is the type of place you’re looking for when you travel – small, original, local, and packed on the inside with Florentines instead of tourists.
Depending on how much time you have remaining in your day trip, you may want to work your way back to the Piazza Duomo and simply stroll back toward S.M. Novella. After a day packed full of museums, sight seeing, great food and wine, and the history of the Florentines, you might even be ready to call it a day.
Return To Rome
Santa Maria Novella Train Station is overwhelmingly busy in the late afternoon and evening, so make sure to afford yourself plenty of time. Depending on which line you’re taking back to Rome, give yourself at least 20 minutes to find out which rail you’ll be boarding, and double-check the end location so you don’t confuse your train for the wrong one. This is key. Most trains going from Florence to Rome actually end in Naples, so they won’t say to “Roma”, but rather to “Napoli”. Confirm with the desk attendants (who almost always speak excellent English) which train is yours, and you’ll be on your way.
While there’s more to see in Florence, if you’re staying in Rome and only have one day to make a day trip to Florence, do so in a way that allows you to see the highlights of the capital of Tuscany and the center of the Renaissance!