The Best Things to Do in Florence
Discover our top pick of things to do in the Tuscan capital
As Italy gears up to reopen its borders to European travelers on 3 June, we can’t help but daydream about our next trip there (and our next pasta). Florence is always a good idea but with strict social distancing measures likely to be in place, some aspects of a classic Florentine itinerary will need to shift slightly. Here are eight of the best things to do in Florence that will help you immerse yourself in this romantic Tuscan city, while keeping a safe two metre distance from anybody else.
Take a socially distanced tour of the Duomo
The majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, commonly known as il Duomo, is perhaps the ultimate must do in Florence. Its iconic dome dominates the city’s skyline, and climbing the 463 steps to the top of this Brunelleschi masterpiece has long been a popular activity for those who enjoy sweating on holiday. In order to allow culture seekers to visit the architectural beacon safely now that Italy’s lockdown has been lifted, the museum has introduced social distancing necklaces, allowing people to take in the celebrated cathedral while maintaining a safe distance from one another. The device, which is the first of its kind in a museum setting, will be handed out for free at the beginning of each visit. If two people approach within a range of 2 metres, the device will beep, vibrate and flash, which is your cue to step back.
Climb a belltower
If exercise is your bread and butter, another top thing to do in Florence is to climb the Duomo bell tower, which - heads up to the arty types - was designed by Giotto. A less arduous ascent than the Duomo itself, the bell tower offers supreme views of the dome and the entire city. Once you’ve hopped up the 414 steps, at a respectful distance from others thanks to your social distancing necklace, take in spectacular vistas and think about what flavour gelato you’ll reward yourself with when you make it back down.
Stroll through an outdoor sculpture gallery
When it comes to things to do in Florence, a leisurely walk around the Piazza della Signoria and its adjoining Loggia dei Lanzi is the perfect way to dig into the Tuscan capital’s rich artistic history without having to step inside. The historical sculptures on view here, standing in the open air, include a cast of Michelangelo’s David (remember, the original is in the Galleria dell'Accademia) as well as works by Cellini, Bandinelli and Giambologna. Once you’ve admired the art, sip espresso or something a bit stronger at an outdoor table in one of the piazza’s many charming cafes. Campari Spritz, anyone?
Have a picnic in the Boboli Gardens
When the sun is shining, one of the best things to see in Florence is the majestic Giardini Boboli, an historic park first opened to the public in 1766. Originally designed for the Medici family, it represents one of the most prime examples of the ‘Italian garden’, serving as inspiration for royal courts across Europe. Pick up sandwiches from a local panini spot and enjoy a picnic surrounded by lush greenery and ancient and Renaissance sculptures. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance and be aware that your temperature might be taken prior to entry.
Hit the outdoor market
For those days when it feels like shopping is the answer (no matter what the question is), head to the Piazza Santo Spirito where early Renaissance architecture meets fresh air and souvenirs galore. This local hangout is one of the more non-touristy places to visit in Florence, offering a plethora of items, stocking everything from vintage trinkets to clothing to unique, handmade jewelry, collectible books and even traditional Florentine ceramics. Stalls are likely to be spaced apart to respect social distancing measures, so you can browse safely and calmly. Pro-tip: buy some flowers to add extra sparkle to your Plum Guide home in Florence.
Enjoy a near-empty Uffizi
One simply cannot fathom things to do in Florence without incorporating a few hours spent at the Uffizi museum. The gallery is currently gearing up to reopen to the public and thanks to social distancing, you can expect to get far more up close and personal with the incredible artworks on the walls here. Entry will be limited to 450 visitors at one time as opposed to the usual 900 (yikes). The outstanding collection of 14th century and Renaissance period paintings include artworks by Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Caravaggio.
Venture to a less well-known museum
While everyone you know will make a stop at the Uffizi (and you certainly should too), visiting a less famous museum, such as the Museo Marino Marini, is a fantastic way to up your dose of culture while avoiding the crowds. This gem of a gallery, which should reopen later this summer, is dedicated to Italian sculptor and painter Marino Marini (1901-1980). A visit here will inject you with a much-needed dose of contemporary art when you’ve been stuck (no matter how happily) in the Renaissance.
Drink Chianti in Chianti
Escape the crowds of the city (no matter how minimal they may be), with a day trip to Italy’s famed Chianti region. Hire a car with a driver (both will likely be doused in antibacterial) so you can sip to your heart’s content. Once there, if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a bike to get you from winery to winery. You’ll feel as Italian as Audrey Hepburn did on her Vespa jaunt in Roman Holiday.
Take a day trip to Cortona
Live out your Under the Tuscan Sun fantasy with a day trip to Cortona. Rent a car to get there in order to avoid unnecessary human contact and explore one of Tuscany’s most famed hilltop towns. Sit outside for lunch somewhere and slurp spaghetti to your heart’s content, before embarking on a walk across the cobblestoned roads to prime your stomach for dinner and catch the breathtaking views of the valley and Lake Trasimeno below. Bellissimo.