Planning a regular holiday can be stressful, especially if it’s a short one and you want to squeeze in as much as possible in as little time as you have. The epitome of this is when you have one day only somewhere. One night in Bangkok may have been enough for Murray Head, but is it for a Travelette? That’s when you get a handy 24-hours guide that puts it all in a neat nutshell for you. What to eat, do, buy, and see and most importantly when and how long to spend with each. And while I think these guides are great, they are unfortunately not a reflection of reality and they usually weren’t collected in said 24 hours. They are rather the result of extensive research and usually a good few days at the actual place to explore different options and come back with the crème de la crème.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

What do you do if you find yourself someplace new and actually only have 24 hours and no time for research before, no guide at hand? I got stuck in London en route to Cape Town a few years back and all of a sudden had an entire day. I made two phone calls to my personal London experts, who also happen to know me and my likings really well: my brother and my father. I asked them both what I should do with my one day in London? My father sent me to the Tower and my brother told me to have lunch and shop at Harvey Nichols. I did both and had the most fantastic day. Could I have done more? Sure, but I rather wanted to do a couple of things leisurely that I really enjoyed instead of trying to squeeze everything in and possibly get overwhelmed or even annoyed with the city. A few years and many 24-hours city breaks later, I think I have a good system down. So I put together my inspirations for the best day in any city with the example of my newest metropolitan love: Florence.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

I was last in Florence when I was 18 and all I remember was that we took lots of pictures of old stuff and my friend’s shoulder after a pigeon pooped on her. In all fairness I think it is legit to be more interested in the real boys than the one done in marble when you are a teenager. This time around I was actually more interested in the latter and wanted to settle the dispute between my brother and my father whether the real David needs to be seen if you have a tight schedule or not (the answer is yes, he needs to be seen!).

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Coming to Florence after days of indulging and tired due to a wedding and a 5am start, I must admit I was feeling a bit travel fatigued. The idea to have an itinerary that would keep me busy from morning till late was not appealing. So while I didn’t curl up in my hotel bed with take away pizza, I did still take it easy. I recommend if you only have a short amount of time in a city you do the same and in return you will actually get the most out of it. I decided to find a fabulous, central place to stay and pick one of each: walk somewhere, see something, eat something, and buy something. With that I got a rather good idea of Florence, an idea that made me want to come back one day and stay longer.

Get an overview

I’m a big fan of the hop on/off busses that many cities have to get an overview and to decide of what I might want to take a closer look at. There is no such bus in Florence as the entire inner city is basically closed off to motor vehicles. So you put on your walking shoes and follow the not so yellow brick road. Walk, walk and walk some more, because that’s what Florence was made for. From the Galleria dell’Accademia to the Duomo, from the Duomo to the Piazza della Signoria where you will find the former home of the David, which is now occupied by a replication. Can you spot the difference? From there to the Uffizi Gallery and then to see the Ponte Vecchio. I managed to cross the Arno and come back via the Santa Trinita bridge before I got distracted by other Italian landmarks namely Prada and Gucci so I couldn’t continue my walk of historic Florence. If you want to combine the best of two worlds I recommend a sundowner at the Continentale, a chic Salvatore Ferragamo hotel, with an awesome roof terrace overlooking the Arno.

I also recommend to repeat your walk, however long you last without distractions, and do it again at in the evening. The Duomo is something different against the night sky.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Skip the line – What to see

The one thing you don’t want to do when you only have 24 hours to spare is wait in line. Never ever. While some things are definitely worth waiting for, I say they are also worth paying a little extra. What is possible for roller-coasters is also possible for museums. So after I had settled in my guesthouse and decided that I definitely wanted to see the real David, I asked them for help and they booked me an express, skip the line tour of the Accademia Gallery. For EUR 29 I waited in line for about 20 minutes compared to the usual 2-3 hours and I got a 40 minutes tour. While that is quite a bit more than a regular ticket, I was happy to pay for the almost no wait part of that deal. Apparently I was also very happy to see the David because I went down on my knees in front of him. Literally, but not voluntary. Careful, marble floors are slippery! I came out with bruised knees and a bruised ego – after all I fell flat on my face in front of the most handsome man there ever was. Mind you, it was still very worth it and for me it settled the argument that you definitely should see the real one. You can book similar tours if you rather want to see the Uffizi Gallery or the Vasari Corridor. To skip the line contact Accord Solutions.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Andiamo a mangiare! – What to eat

I have sort of given up on the concept on finding the best place to eat when I travel. Guide books and recommendations can drive me a bit crazy, I know that the concept of avoiding places just because they have an English menu is nonsense, and quite frankly, I’d rather spend my time actually eating than looking for a place to eat.

With that in mind I had only three requirements for my dining experience in Florence: I wanted to have 3 scoops of gelato from different places, a truffle pizza, and after my fall I also wanted wine for lunch. While I had asked on Twitter for gelato recommendations I decided to just walk into places that I came across on my way. First there was a scoop of Fior di Latte for breakfast, because fior di latte = milk = breakfast and later a scoop of green apple, because an apple a day, keeps the doctor away. I didn’t manage a third scoop because I ended up having a proper Italian lunch with my wine. Yes, the type of lunch where you eat pasta as a starter. In case you are keen, check out Hostaria il desco which has awesome lunch deals, in English, eaten by locals. How I still managed to eat an entire pizza for dinner I’m not sure. Though it might have been the hot, tattooed waiter at the very cool restaurant La Bussola who told me I couldn’t just pick the truffles off my pizza, but had to eat the whole thing. Yes, I’m sure it must have been his Italian waiter charm. And of course the fact that one cannot not finish a truffle pizza when in Florence.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Souvenir Shopping

To tell you the truth I didn’t buy anything at Prada. Budget was one concern, but you can also get Prada anywhere else in the world. I wanted something truly Florentine and so I made my way to the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica. This Florence institution has been around since 1612. Here artisan apothecary procedures and best materials meet modern technology. That and the most beautiful interior a shop has ever seen will most likely make you want to buy everything. I managed to restrain myself and only got a bottle of flower water for me and a bar of soap for my father. But even if you don’t have a fortune to spend, this is simply no Sephora so you should take your time, enjoy, and smell the roses – literally of course.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Buenanotte – Where to stay

When you only have 24 hours somewhere you don’t want to travel far in order to see and do things. Most cities have awesome public transport from the airport into the city centre these days and Florence is no exception. A shuttle will take you to the Santa Maria Novella train station, which is smack bang in the middle of it all. So, no reason to not sleep where the action is. Florence is a perfectly walkable city, but admittedly the city centre can get very crowded in high season (which will explain the masses of tourists in all my pictures). So I chose the perfect B&B, La Residenza Johanna, which was close enough to all the main sights and only five walking minutes from the Accademia. However it is also tucked away in a small side street, which was perfect for a quiet night and allowed me to walk off some of the pizza on my way back.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide
24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

While flirting with an Italian waiter is sort of mandatory when in Italy, I recommend taking someone you love. If you think Paris is romantic, you haven’t crossed the Ponte Vecchio during sunset. It even has its own place for love locks too and is nowhere close to breaking down. In case you are single like me, I recommend you get yourself another sort of bacio, the chocolate sort, to take to your canopy bed and let the sounds of Italian thunder lull you to sleep.

24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide 24 Hours in Florence – A Travelettes Guide

Time to plan your Italian getaway now! Whether you have a day or a week – make sure you take your time to enjoy!

All pictures by Annika. To find the places mentioned, check out this Google Map.