Spending a few short days in Florence? Trust me: this is the absolute best of what to do in Florence, Italy, plus the best books set in Florence to pair with your travel.
I spent MONTHS researching our trip to Italy because I was traveling abroad for the first time, and we also had the benefit of a great travel agent and great tour guides to further point us to the best spots. Then, I honed this list down even further to ONLY the absolute best experiences we had.
Obviously, we couldn't do it all in just two nights, but I'm sharing what we picked and why. Even if different attractions are on your list (because there are SO many), I hope you will visit the restaurants recommended -- because they are THAT good.
As a literary buff, I just loved the culture and beauty of Florence. It's very small and walkable and felt very safe as well. There's very little traffic allowed, so it's also nice and quiet. It felt like it would be the perfect city for a young student to study abroad!
Without further ado, below are the best books set in Florence, Italy plus what to do in Florence, Italy, including where to stay, what to do and where to eat!
Best Books Set in Florence, Italy
First, because this is a book blog and I love to pair travel with related books, below are the best books set in Florence with details to help you decide which one is best for you.
Related post: Best books set in Italy
From Scratch by Tembi Locke
My top pick from this list.
The memoir From Scratch is a Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller about a Black American actress, who meets an Italian chef while studying abroad in Florence. After he dies at a young age, she returns to Italy to mend strained relationships with his disapproving family.
It's so beautifully written, memorable and hard to put down. Because food is such a big part of the story it also really transports you to Florence and other parts of Italy.
For more, read my full review of From Scratch with book pairings.
Inferno by Dan Brown
Inferno is a #1 worldwide bestseller. When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon awakens in a Florence hospital, he cannot recall the events of the past day, let alone the origin of the mysterious object hidden in his belongings.
He and his doctor must quickly flee after narrowly escaping a female assassin, embarking on a fast-paced journey through Florence in order to unravel a series of codes left by a scientist obsessed with the end of the world and one of the most influential masterpieces ever written, Dante Alighieri's The Inferno.
This popular book satisfyingly combines suspense with classical Italian culture.
Fun fact: This specific hotel I recommend below (where we stayed) is where the main character in this book stayed!
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Love and Gelato is a New York Times bestseller for fans of light Young Adult books. A teenage girl goes on a Summer adventure to Florence, and the trip is filled with romance, mystery, and a cute Italian boy. Pursuing her mother's dying wish, she tries to find her father and, upon discovering her mother's journal, learns a life-changing secret.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
A Room with a View is a classic on the Rory Gilmore book list and The Office's Finer Things Club book list. A naive young woman travels to Florence and, after exploring its culture and fainting in the arms of a young man there, she then returns to England and must decide between a life of convention versus a life of passion.
That Month in Tuscany by Inglath Cooper
That Month in Tuscany is the charming story of a mom feeling lost in her marriage. She travels to Florence alone and befriends a famous musician with whom she can make Italian memories over the course of a month. When a crisis strikes back at home, though, she is left to look back at the significance of that month in framing the course of her future.
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
The memoir Under the Tuscan Sun is the #1 New York Times Bestseller about a travel writer who moves to the land surrounding Florence to restore an abandoned villa. In the process, she takes chances and explores the tastes and culture of the Florentinian region, which forever change her. It's sure to warm your heart.
Travel Guide: What to Do in Florence, Italy
We spent two nights in Florence, so we had to be really specific when deciding what to do in Florence, Italy.
Our goal: to see just a few of the sights, shop, eat well and see what else we stumbled upon.
I spent MONTHS researching as much as I could ahead of time, and we also picked the brains of our travel agent and tour guides for recommendations. The travel guide below contains ONLY the best of the best recommendations from our experience.
Florence, Italy Hotels
Where to Stay in Florence, Italy
Our travel agent recommended Brunellesci Hotel and we really enjoyed it! It's a 4-star hotel right near the Duomo, contains a 2 Michelin Stars Restaurant, the Santa Elisabetta, and our room was very bright, clean and spacious. I felt very comfortable there and would definitely go back.
It's a Traveler's Choice in the Top 10% on Trip Advisor and has thousands of "Excellent" reviews (Read them here).
As for the price, we felt it was reasonably priced for being sort of on the higher end for a European hotel, and we really enjoyed the free breakfast in the morning.
This hotel didn't contain a ton of huge perks like a pool or balcony (although some upgraded suites have really nice perks), but the base option still did everything just right for us.
Fun fact: And for all you book buffs, at the end of Dan Brown's novel Inferno, Professor Langdon stays at the Brunelleschi.
What to Do In Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy Attractions
The Duomo was #1 on my wish list! I mean, LOOK at it. This architectural marvel, begun in 1296 is best known for the dome engineered by Brunelleschi. It is massive and every inch is bound to impress you with exquisite detail.
While we REALLY wanted to see it, we didn't want to spend all day there, so we booked an early morning, one hour skip-the-line tour. It felt like just enough time to hit all the high points! And I had booked early morning because I heard it can get crowded. Sure enough, there were A LOT of people waiting in line to get in.
I can't find our specific tour but we booked it through Viator on our travel agent's recommendation. You can browse through their options and find one that works best for you in terms of times, prices and themes. The reviews are helpful too!
Florence, Italy Guided Tours
Since we were limited on time, we thought we would kill two birds with one stone by booking a food tour (sustenance + tourism at the same time). We LOVED this experience!
We tasted a lot of Florence delights while also learning a lot about the history of the city and food traditions. As a bonus, our tour guide also gave us a ton of recommendations we followed thereafter (many of which are shared in this post!)
I can't find our specific tour but we booked it through Viator on our travel agent's recommendation. You can browse through their options and find one that works best for you in terms of times, prices and cuisines. The reviews are helpful too!
We simply didn't have time to formally visit more of the top attractions in Florence. Since I don't have personal experience with them, I'm not going to mention them here. But, we did get to roam around and explore the following (all pictured above):
- Relaxed and people-watched in the piazzas of Florence.
- Explored the eyecatching areas surrounding the Ponte Vecchio.
- Street shopped the goods Florence is most known for, like leather purses and other products, Pinocchio collectors' items, hand-painted pottery and jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
- Browsed Italian luxury stores, like the first-ever Gucci store and Versace. There's also a great Ferragamo and Prada.
Florence, Italy Best Restaurants
This is the REAL highlight of what to do in Florence, Italy. These restaurants are only the absolute best and most memorable experiences we had as a result of A LOT of research and experienced recommendations.
A few quick notes on food: Florence is most known for steak and Tuscan wine. What it's NOT known for: bread. They don't use salt since a long ago feud with Pisa. It's not tasty. Be prepared.
Food labels: On wine, you will want to look for the label DOCG. These wines have to be made in specific zones and with particular regulations. On food, you will want to look for the label DOP. This certified the products are locally grown and packaged -- made by local farmers and artisans using traditional methods. (Think of it like a certification a Georgia peach came from Georgia versus anywhere else in the USA.)
Now onto our favorite hot spots!:
Procacci - A Trip Advisor's Travelers Choice. This simple little truffle sandwich, pastry and wine cafe was one of our favorite meals in all of Italy. Don't let the simplicity deceive you! We could barely stop eating these delicacies (pictured on the bottom left of the picture above). It makes a great snack or lunch stop. Tip: Be sure to pair your truffle sandwiches with Prosecco for the perfect pairing.
Hotel Medici - We asked our tour guide for a great rooftop bar with a view of the Duomo, and she suggested this hotel. As you can see from my pictures of the Duomo above -- the views are sensational, and it doesn't seem to get that crowded there either. We absolutely loved visiting this spot for a quick cocktail.
Alimentary Uffizi - A Trip Advisor's Travelers Choice. Blink and you might miss this little meat and cheese cafe tucked into the tiniest little nook (pictured on the top left of the picture above). However, it remains one of my husband's favorite spots in all of Italy (I don't eat meat). It's family-owned and everything is farm-fresh. In fact, it's the only meat and cheese shop of its kind in Florence that owns its own pig farm in Tuscany. Chat with the owners and let them prepare a plate of goodies for you. I wouldn't be surprised if you stop back a second time!
Signorvino Firenze - A Trip Advisor's Travelers Choice. This is a modern wine bar, so you don't get rustic charm there, but what you do get is a patio overlooking the Ponte Vecchio bridge and some delicious wine and lunch. They seem to allow patrons to linger as well, which is great for relaxing and enjoying the views (pictured on the top right of the picture above).
Perche No!... - A Trip Advisor's Travelers Choice. This is a traditional gelato shop you can trust for the real deal. Florence is filled with amateur gelaterias. This one is authentic in style and quality... and delicious! Tip: If you want the real thing, stay away from gelato with lots of fruit piled on top. Over 70 years old, this shop is a member of the "Associazione Esercizi Storici Fiorentini."
Pro Tip: For the most authentic food and other goods in Florence, look for the "Associazione Esercizi Storici Fiorentini" seal in the window. This is an Association made up of more than sixty historical Florentine companies, some of which are considered "Historical Enterprises of Italy." They "promote, qualify, protect and enhance their historical activities" and "make [their] activities known nationally and internationally as cultural, social, characteristic and traditional heritage of the city of Florence."
That concludes what to do in Florence, Italy over the course of a few short days, based on our unique experiences + some of the best books set in Florence to pair with your travel.
At the end of the day, there's a LOT to do in Florence and everyone will have different top picks for attractions, but I do hope you will check out the restaurants recommended. We had amazing experiences there and are thrilled to share the good word!
Related Italy Travel Guide Posts
If you enjoyed my travel guide on what to do in Florence, Italy, you may also enjoy my travel guides (with a literary twist) for these Italian cities:
Have a great trip! And lastly, pin this post to Pinterest so you can refer back to it when you are deciding what to do in Florence, Italy.