24 hours in… Florence


Yes, I’m dreaming again but I do have able assistance.  Take a look at Paula on Lost in Translation.  The lady has a supreme talent in photography. These are all her images, which I’ve stolen in a good cause.  I hope I’ll be forgiven.

It’s ages since I’ve entered a competition but this one by Accor Hotels is too good to resist, even though I’m pushing the deadline.  24 Hours In…   Just name your city, and off you go.  My initial reaction- ’24 hours in Florence?’ Impossible!!!  But then resourcefulness kicks in.  I’m a huge fan of free walking tours.  Nothing I like better than a good ramble and to just follow my nose, but my nose has a terrible habit of getting me lost.  With time at a premium I’ll opt to follow ‘one who knows’.  And afterwards pick their brains for good places to eat and whatever else I can pack in.

Florence Free Tour has 2 options.  One at 11.00 and one at 14.00, both starting from the Santa Maria Novella church.


I know I won’t be able to sleep for excitement so I’ll be up at the crack of dawn, grab a coffee and out on the streets to just absorb Florence.  I’ve heard tell there are secret bakeries, open very early, so if I stumble upon a waft of pastry, so much the better.  The other half is always reluctant to be prised from his bed but, if I can persuade him, I’ll have a slot booked at the Uffizi.  They open at 8.15, so not too hard to escape the crowds.

Culture tucked in my back pocket, time to join the morning walking tour, when I can hope to get my bearings. Afterwards I’m going to allow a substantial time for collapse and a leisurely lunch.  Somehow I have to find the energy to climb the 463 steps to get a proper look at Brunelleschi’s Cupola in the Duomo.  I’ve seen Paula’s photo and I know it will be worth it.

I always gravitate to a river, and in Florence there is the biggest incentive of all time, the Ponte Vecchio.  I might have to pinch myself when I get there.  Not since Venice have I been this excited!  A browse through the arcades and a nice little cafe for a restoring coffee. (and I know he’ll want a cake!)  There’s one more must see on my list.  You can’t be married to a garden designer and not visit the Boboli Gardens.  Even if it rains!  It seems the perfect place to watch the sun set over this lovely city.  Maybe there will be an evening concert at the Pitti Palace, but if not it will be a leisurely meal, and then just strolling and sighing until my legs won’t walk any more.


I haven’t been there yet, but when I do, next February, I very much hope to enjoy this vista, at Twilight.  And when I do I’ll be telling you all about it.

Meantime, do you have any tips on how to spend 24 hours in your favourite city?  Accor Hotels would very much like to hear them, and if you’re awfully quick there are super prizes!  Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin ring any bells?


  1. I love your writing because the joy pulls one in – and looking forward to seeing your photos after the Feb trip.
    And I agree about Paula’s photos – so good with her touch.

    And with this post – the part that you really grabbed me with was the early morning walk – crack of dawn and see what is open…
    I think many travelers will agree that getting out to “see” is priority and sometimes that crack of dawn stroll is magical.
    And the enthusiasm gently layered in your words makes me smile in general. Funny how that happens.
    And side note –
    On a trip in Canada a few years back – hubs and I went out at the crack of dawn.
    Hungry for food and culture – but nothing opened til 7 and 8 a.m.
    It was so disappointing – so we made the super log walk back to our hotel – needing java and food- and got some back at the hotel –
    But we were shocked at how late the streets opened up in that tourist town….

    1. We have 4 whole days booked, Yvette, and I have 101 things to do in them, but mostly I will just gawp in amazement, and Mick will try to keep me from getting us too lost 🙂 🙂 Thanks, darlin.

  2. Never been to Florence, Jo, but from what I know about Renaissance art, I’d need at least a week! On the other hand, I could design a one day tour of Prague quite easily – lived there a year, and the city is quite compact.

  3. What a great trip to look forward to. And I do hope you win with Accor. It’s years since I was in Florence. So long ago, I can barely remember it, except in a dream-like way..

  4. With Paula’s stunning photos and your well written prose, I think you have a good chance of winning. Even if you don’t, you will still get your opportunity to live what you wrote. 🙂

    1. That’s very true, Karen. I chose to write about Florence because I’m so excited about going. I can’t really offer good advice but I thoroughly enjoyed my bit of research. 🙂

    1. The judges pick their favourites on 15th December, Becky, and then it’ll be open to voting. I did wonder how I was going to organise 9 nights away with Paula but decided to leave the decision for now. 🙂

  5. I visited Florence in February and it was amazing. Low season is the best time to go, there is no queuing and you can see a lot more. I will recommend a visit to the food Market and climb the stairs up to the Dome for an amazing view of Florence. I would love to go again😄

    1. I’ll definitely be climbing the steps, Gilda. 🙂 Food markets are not so much my thing so it will depend how the time goes. I’m really looking forward to it.
      How are you? Are you busy on a project because you don’t seem to be writing posts at present?

  6. I will get round to commenting – you’ve sent me off trawling the competition site and then wondering how I’d present Warsaw. I’ll probably tackle this beyond the competition boundaries. I like your Florence better than the ambassadorial accounts of Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam. Too much time spent eating, drinking and shopping! Whereas you amble and stroll and have a varied 24 hours. 8.30 at the Uffizi sounds great – most such things don’t open till 10, by which time I’m ready for an afternoon nap. I’m looking forward to visiting Florence with you. Hugs on a day when both lots of grandparents turned up for pick up! I really hope it wasn’t my wires that got crossed.

    1. So how did you decide whose turn it was? I will look forward to your 24 hours in Warsaw. In fairness to the ambassadors I couldn’t have written those kind of accounts because I don’t have the knowledge, so mine was more wishful thinking (especially the getting Mick out of bed for an 8.15 start- I suspect I’ll be going without him 🙂 ). I did enjoy my bit of research though. Thank you for being so loyal 🙂

  7. Twenty four hours is just too little time to spend in this stunning city. Even after a week I didn’t want to leave…wonderful memories came flooding back with your post…you capture the essence of Florence! We went to Uffizi very late in the afternoon and had it almost to ourselves. Surreal!

  8. What a delightful post! I spent a lovely day in Florence a couple of years ago but I was there with pre-teen kids and a not-so-arty husband. I need to go back. Your plan sounds wonderful 😉

  9. I did spend 24 hours in Florence… it was 32 years ago, but I remember the rain, the David, the smell of leather in shops, and the micro-mosaic bracelet I brought home… 🙂 I’d love to be there in sunshine!

    1. Yes, sunshine would be a huge bonus, Kana, but in February I daren’t hope for much. 🙂 So many snippets of memories down the years… 🙂 Thanks for your company.

  10. This is great, Jo. I wrote a similar post called Florence in a Day, but with a different take which came in the form of a tour guide geared toward children. We saw so much in such a short time window. I love the Biboli Gardens too :).

    1. I think it really concentrates the mind to have a short time frame, Corey. The reality will probably be very different because I will be so starry eyed. 🙂 (and I’ll have 4 nights!) Thanks, darlin.

  11. Three years ago we spent a week an hour drive W. from Firenze (that’s how the Italians call Florence), but there was so much to see and painted in Lucca (since Tuscany is almost heaven for painters) , Cinque Terre and Nice (France) that we didn’t get to spend even one day in Florence. Hope there’ll be a next time! Wish you enjoyment in Flprence:)

    1. I’ll be mainly focused on the city, Jesh, but if I get chance to see some of the surrounds I will. Lucca, Sienna, Pisa… so many places, never enough time 🙂 🙂

  12. I dragged my poor parents and brother around the stunningly beautiful Florence when I was 17 years old and just about to sit my history of art A level. My brother (aged 14 at the time) made himself ill on ice cream, I wandered around in a haze of art loving lust for 2 days. Then the evening we were due to drive to Milan to put the car and ourselves on the overight train to Boulogne, our car had been towed to a pound. Luckily a local mafioso type in a bar took pity on us and we were whisked to the car pound in a limo with blacked out windows, the pound was opened up for us and we were given our car back! My dad swears to this day that this man was not family as he’s a southern Italian himself, but the memory and the story has become family legend…although it’s all absolutely true! I really need to go back….

  13. You busy lady Jo … what you fit into all parts of your life lol . Best of luck with this although ? the deadline has passed . Good for you spotting a travel zoo special , I receive their emails and often go off on a fantasy armchair trip 🙂 Lovely to have that to look forward to in dismal February !
    Super post .

    1. Couldn’t have done it without Paula, Poppy! 🙂 🙂 The deadline is supposed to be 7th December but I didn’t have any real expectations. I just enjoyed a bit of preliminary research. How was Oxford?

      1. Super dooper thanks Jo . Terribly foggy with mizzle but not inside the jolly Kings Head 🙂 Really sad though to see the increase in numbers of homeless folks bundled up in. sleeping bags in the alley way /side streets this visit 😦 There is a hostel but as my friend said some just don’t want the regime of it all . I made my small donations in three cups couldn’t do any more . Halfway through the week ! and I’m being crowned. A tooth of course 😉 enjoy your day Jo x

      2. Leeds is the same when I go to visit my son. So depressing! I can’t imagine a life on the streets. I’d just curl up and die. And everywhere, spend, spend, spend…. Talking of which, crowns don’t come cheap. Ouch! 🙂

      3. Needs must Jo … NHS this time and v happy . Private dentistry for 2 becoming rather expensive , but having found the right one for DH who was somewhat phobic about dental treatment I made him stay with. Plus … I’d rather fill up the travelling piggy bank 🙂

  14. Best of luck Jo! I didn’t enter but if I did I think I’d try New York in 24 hours for a laugh – apparently it’s easy to fly there and back in a day with Norwegian if you’ve got £400 to spare!

    1. We’re getting 4 nights with B&B for both of us for not much more than that, Richard. 🙂 Granted it might be chucking it down in February but I’ll risk it. Chances of winning were never high but I like to keep the daydreams coming.

  15. Good luck. I always think the best competition to win would be one with a holiday prize. How exciting to have Florence to look forward to. If Paula’s gorgeous photos are anything to go by, you will have a wonderful time. Just don’t let Mick sleep too long.

    1. Paula’s photos are a total inspiration, and I was just happy she let me pinch them. I’ll just leave him in bed and go back for him, Carol. I’ve got 4 nights 🙂 🙂

  16. You are one brave lady! Your Florence trip will be amazing if you manage to pack this much into 24 hours! We fancied staying in Lucca and getting the train in to Florence. If you manage to visit Lucca you will have to let me know which place is the best to stay in. Good luck with the comp!

    1. I think I left it too late for the comp, Jude, but the best bit was spending a foggy, grey morning doing a bit of research for the trip. Did you see Gilly’s comment? She wanted to go too 😦 Having a small nightmare with old laptop on go slow, new laptop head strong (don’t know where it gets it from! 🙂 ).

      1. Our broadband is on a go slow these days – I wonder if that is because the whole of Cornwall is online ordering their Christmas presents? Definitely worse in the evenings.

      2. For the third year running the OH and I have been going to buy a new TV for our Christmas present – maybe this year we will actually go and do it. Watching tennis on a 20″ screen is not great unless you sit practically on top of it!

      3. I always do! And for Strictly as well 🙂 Almost on the dance floor! Our Algarve one is old style but it never gets used. Doubt it would even have junk value these days.

  17. SOOoOOOo envy!!!!! Florence is highest on my bucket list .. now. So happy that you get there before me, so I can pick up from your trip. I’m a bit confused if are going or hope to go (winning)???!! Fantastic choice of city. Beautiful images and a great report about 24 hours in Florence Well done and good luck with Accor Hotels.

    1. The competition is to win 3 nights in Paris, 3 in Amsterdam and 3 in Berlin, Vivi. I don’t have any chance but I enjoyed writing and researching this, and aren’t Paula’s photos an inspiration? If you had time you could do Istanbul. 🙂 🙂 I have wanted to go to Florence forever and a couple of weeks ago I saw an irresistible offer on Travelzoo. I’ve booked 4 nights from 26th Feb. Mr. B is thrilled 🙂 No, he isn’t, but he should be 🙂 Maybe he will be when we come back. You could choose any city to write about and I didn’t want to rewrite Porto, so I had fun. Hugs, honey! Got to go and do my Facebook shares of the walks this week. Running so behind!

    1. I actually have 4 nights booked, Jill. 🙂 The competition is to win 9 nights taking in Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. Beyond my hopes, but Paula’s photos are so lovely and I used this post to do a little bit of research for February. Thanks, hon!

  18. Ooh good luck darling, this is a lovely piece so you deserve a prize, I’ll keep everything crossed. Funny I’ve been thinking about Florence, Sienna and maybe Pisa recently, so I’ll enjoy reading your adventures. Tuesday hugs 🙂

    1. I’ve wanted to do Florence for as long as I can remember, Gilly. An offer came up for a wonderful price so I jumped on it. I know the weather might be atrocious, but at least it won’t be hot and too busy. Funnily, I mentioned it to Jude and she wanted to go too, just not in February. I’m hoping to do Pisa and maybe even Lucca too. I’ve got 4 nights so who knows 🙂 🙂 Thanks, sweetheart!

      1. Yes, Lucca would be another place I’d hope to visit. You’ll be fine in February, you’re a hardy north country lass, not a wussy hothouse flower like me 🙂 🙂 🙂

      2. I’m getting worser and worser and will do my best to avoid going out if it’s cold or wet, pathetic!!! it isn’t even winter yet, been about 16 degrees here today.

      3. 14 here. Is this December? 🙂 🙂 Dark though! Not light till 8.15 and I walked home in dusk at 3.45. Hugs, sweetheart. You feeling better physically?

      4. Oh of course your days are slightly shorter than mine, I can’t wait for spring 🙂 I’m so much better and it makes me realise how ill I actually was, even when we met, hugs back my lovely!

  19. I really enjoyed this lovely and stately visit to Florence, Jo. It was fun to get some of the highlights, and Paula’s photos are superb. Have a really wonderful trip in February — I know you will walk until there is no more land.

  20. I was in Firenze a very long time ago. It was during my first “great adventure”, when I hitch hiked to Italy from Belgium with a friend when I was 17. No, my parents did not like this idea. 🙂 As far as I remember, the city is very big and spread out. There is so much to see and your legs will be tired! What an exciting prospect for February, Jo. Enjoy!!

    1. The beautiful photos are all courtesy of Paula, who lives in Zagreb. I am so looking forward to this. It’s a lifelong dream for me. I have 4 nights and hope to do Pisa and possibly Lucca, weather and time permitting. If you have any ideas I’d be very grateful. 🙂

      1. Both, Lucca and Pisa, are fine. Lucca is a small, romantic little town, Pisa is famous for the leaning tower. Whatever you do, plan a day in the Uffizi gallery. Be there first thing in the morning, this way you won’t miss anything.

        Go to the Piazzale Michelangelo, from there you have the best view over Firenze and you will be able to take great pictures.

  21. I’m so excited for you, Jo! You have your first 24 hours all mapped out, and they sound fabulous! February will be here before you know it. I know you can hardly wait. I can’t wait to read all about it. 🙂

  22. 😆 I have only one objection, Jo, it’s the snow. It is not supposed to snow over this dome or this beautiful twilight sky 😀 I hope you win! 🙂

    1. I was going to contact you first for permission, Paula, but the deadline is imminent! It may well snow on me in February? I wouldn’t care! (well, not much 🙂 Careful what I wish for!) Thank you so much for not minding, Paula. The images are very special.

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