Start your short break in Florence with a visit to the city’s biggest landmarks, Brunelleschi’s gigantic engineering feat, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, or Duomo. Discover statues and frescos concealed behind the huge bronze doors and see the terracotta rooftops and the nearby Tuscan hills from the dome. Get your bearings for a late-morning shop after your 463-step climb to the dome. Down below the pencil-straight Via Tornabuoni are couture-dressed windows. The wide Via dei Calzaiuoli, which starts at the Duomo, is the perfect place to grab a panino or gelato. Pick up lunch and stroll down to the open-air statue display at Piazza della Signoria square.
Start: The Duomo
Turn south from Piazza della Signoria, past the Corinthian columns of the Loggia dei Lanzi statue display and stroll towards the meandering River Arno’s narrowest crossing at the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Here tiny gold merchants’ quarters are stacked like match boxes on top of the bridge’s arches. Continue straight after the medieval bridge to find the Renaissance Pitti Palace. Don’t miss the sumptuous fabrics and flamboyant Italian robes in the Costume Gallery in the palace’s wings. Outside the regal, rolling lawns at the landscaped Boboli Gardens provide the setting for the romantic Duomo panorama shown in the Merchant Ivory film A Room with a View.
Start:Piazza della Signoria
For a romantic Florentine ambience, head to Santa Croce square, a short walk south-east of the Duomo. Moonlight reflects off the chalky white façade of the Santa Croce Basilica. Ristorante Boccadama serves thick Tuscan tomato soup and peppery Fiorentina steak at rustic, lantern-lit tables on the pavement.
Start: Santa Croce
Start day two by picking one of Florence’s world-famous galleries. Get your tickets in advance for masterpieces at the Uffizi Gallery to avoid the queues. Room after room tells the history of painting from Michelangelo to the Dutch masters and Rembrandt. Or arrive early to beat crowds at the Accademia Gallery where the 4m marble giant David presides.
Start: Uffizi Gallery
Pick up mementos from your short break in Florence at San Lorenzo street market. Stalls covered in handbags, gloves and leather jackets line the bustling street from Piazza di San Lorenzo past the huge stone exterior of another of Brunelleschi’s churches.
Start: Piazza di San Lorenzo
Join the arty crowd for handmade pasta in the cavernous La Giostra, a cosy family-run restaurant, on Borgo Pinti street just 100m from the Duomo. After a pre-theatre fill, choose chamber concerts or passionate opera performances at the red-furbished circle of the Teatro Communale.
Start: La Giostra, Borgo Pinti