Florence in 1 day: Palazzo Vecchio, Rose Garden and panini


Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Laura Teso

I arrived in Florence at 10.30. I never realized how close it is Firenze now by train. Just 1 hour and a half from Padova. So I guess I could easily make also a day trip whenever I like. Cool. So far I never considered it, since I normally prefer to take it slowly. Anyway, I immediately went for the first visit: Palazzo Vecchio. I have been to Florence many times but this was the first visit for me. I was happy to do it because it’s really worth it. This is what I did in Florence in 1 day.

Piazza della Signoria, Florence in 1 day
Piazza della Signoria, Florence in 1 day

Florence in 1 day

I dedicated the morning to visit Palazzo Vecchio. After a break for lunch and the check in in my room, I continued the exploration reaching the lovely Rose Garden.

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio was at first seat of the city government, then residence of Cosimo I de’ Medici, until he moved to Palazzo Pitti. Nowadays it is Firenze’s Town Hall.

Its symbol is the Arnolfo Tower and, yes, I did climb it!

I started the visit (since the entrance is next to the ticket office) from the archaeological dig under the palazzo (to retrieve the ancient Roman theatre). Before visiting the halls, I lingered at the Michelozzo courtyard. An elegant loggiato made of stucco and gold columns adorned with frescoes depicting Passau, Wien, Innsbruck, Prague and other (at the time) Austrian cities. Why? Well, in honour of Giovanna d’Austria, spouse of Franceco de’ Medici. From the open portal you can see piazza della Signoria and the statues of the Lanzi Loggia.

Then the visit of the Halls began. After the first flight of stairs, you open a small door and immeidately enter the main hall, the Salone dei Cinquecento, Hall of the Five Hundred.

Salone dei Cinquecento

Quick facts:

  • It is one of the largest (54 x 23 meters) and most precious halls in Italy.
  • 500 were the members of the city council when the hall was built.
  • Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were hired to decorate the eastern wall with two frescoes. Michelangelo just began to draw the preparatory drawing of the Battaglia di Cascina but then moved to Rome. Leonardo tried a new technique for his Battaglia di Anghiari. Unfortunately, the fresco got ruined immediately after its completion. Learn more on my post related to the town of Anghiari.
  • When Cosimo I de’ Medici became Duke, he chose Palazzo Vecchio as his court and employed the painter Vasari to decorate the Hall and the Palace. Many people think that Leonardo’s fresco is still there, under the new decorations (depicting Cosimo’s military victories over Pisa and Siena).
  • One of the statues in the hall is The Genius of Victory by Michelangelo.
  • On the coffered ceiling you can see a series of paintings praising Cosimo.
  • On one side you can see the Hearing Throne.
  • On a side of the Hall, a little door leads to the fascinating studiolo of Francesco I, all covered in paintings (inspired to the four elements) and wooden decorations.

Palazzo Vecchio Highlights

It would be impossible for me to thoroughly describe every room, every painting, every piece of furniture, so I suggest, for those interested, to read everything on Google Arts & Culture page dedicated to Palazzo Vecchio.

After the Salone dei Cinquecento, you enter the Quartieri Monumentali. First of all the one of Leone X, son of Lorenzo il Magnifico who became pope. Then: Apartments of the Elements, Apartments of Eleonora and Apartments of the Priors. Plus the Loeser Bequest on the Mezzanine. At some point, yes, you will see Dante’s mask (the one seen in the Inferno movie).

I particularly appreciated some of the rooms for their exquisite decorations, paintings and frescoes:

  • Salone dei Cinquecento and its view from the balcony
  • Studiolo di Franceso I
  • Leone X Room
  • Elements Apartments
  • Saturn Terrace (beautiful view, but I still didn’t know what awaited me!)
  • Cappella dei Priori
  • Sala delle Udienze
  • Sala dei Gigli (beautiful with the blue walls and the golden French fleurs-de-lis, as an homage to the Anjou dynasty, protectors of the guelphs of Florence)
  • Sala delle Mappe Geografiche (I also spotted Padova in one of the maps)

The Tower

At the end of the itinerary, you can reach the tower, 94 meters high. But, for those who are not willing to climb it, I assure that you already have a spectacular view over Florence from the battlements. Actually, maybe a better view. You can in fact cover all the four sides of the palace and therefore enjoy a 360 degrees view, even if through some window bars.

Florence Cathedral view, Florence in 1 day
Florence Cathedral view, Florence in 1 day

On the contrary, after climbing the about 200 steps to reach the top of the tower, you’ll see that the view is covered. You can not get close to the crenelation. You can just climb two steps on northern side and take a selfie with the Duomo on the background. Two seconds, and then another person has to come up. So it’s quite an assembly chain experience. Conversely, downstairs you can sit and enjoy the view with more calm. At lest in May! I don’t know how it can be in high season.

On the top of the tower it can be very windy. See for yourselves my hair in the photo below! 😀

On top of Palazzo Vecchio is very windy (look at me without shawl)
On top of Palazzo Vecchio is very windy (look at me without shawl)

While climbing, after some flights of stairs you’ll reach a small room. That’s the so called Alberghetto. It once was a cell for prisoners. Even Cosimo il Vecchio (the one played by Richard Madden in the TV series), before being condamned to the exile, was imprisoned here.

In conclusion, Palazzo Vecchio amazed me. I don’t know why but I had not imagined such a magnificent interior. I surely recommend a visit. You can find more info on the official site: museicivicifiorentini.it/palazzovecchio

Panino Da’ Vinattieri

After the visit I was close to an address where to eat a simple panino on the go: Da’ Vinattieri. This is a super tiny spot close to Dante’s House. Just two stools inside and a couple of chairs outside, along the narrow street.

I ordered the panino number 5 without artichockes: just baked ham and paté toscano (chicken liver pate). First of all, the panino was good. Second, the two guys were super kind. Third, one of them let me taste the lampredotto for free because I was curious. I asked him: How does it taste like? And he: Lampredotto tastes like lampredotto, there’s no comparison. And so he handed me a sample. Well, it wasn’t bad with the garlic sauce. But too heavy to digest.

Gelateria de’ Neri

After checking in and resting for a bit, I continued my exploration of Firenze. How? By having a gelato, of course. After many years I returned at Gelateria de’ Neri. Always in the same street, but on the opposite side. With my cone in one hand and the smartphone on the other, I walked towards Oltrarno and reached the beautiful Giardino delle Rose. After all, it was May, the roses month.

Il romantico Giardino delle Rose 

Il Giardino delle Rose is a free entrance garden close to the most famous Piazzale Michelangelo. But way more romantic. The view of the city combines with rose bushes in different shades of colours. Couples walking hand in hand. Students reading a book. Ladies chatting on a bench. I loved the atmosphere there and I enjoyed the view for a while.

Pity for the cranes ruining the view… Is it me or cranes are all over the place exactly when I visit a city? In any case, it’s a good sign. It means they’re taking care of our beauties. So.. never mind for the “ruined” panorama.

Rose Garden Florence
Rose Garden Florence

All’Antico Vinaio focaccia time

Since I was alone that day, I went for a simple schiacciata (focaccia) for dinner at All’Antico Vinaio. I chose this place because it was top of the list on Tripavisor. Even if, two days later, a Fiorentino told me he prefers other places, less touristy. I can imagine. I waited in line for 20 minutes to have my schiacciata. It was good, and also quite cheap, considering the dimension (huge and well stuffed). Since I had to taste something typical, I chose their speciality: the Favolosa, with sbriciolona (local salami), artichokes, slightly spicy eggplants and (delicious) pecorino cheese cream. I loved it.

Pay attention. The place has three different entrances along the same road. One for panini on the go. Another for panini to eat inside (seated). A third one… I didn’t catch what the third place was exactly. And nor the two local guys in line with me were able to tell. Mystery.

Ponte Vecchio sunset

To end the Florence in 1 day tour worthily, I headed to Ponte Vecchio to admire the sunset, accompanied by the sweet songs by a street musician. Do you remember? I shared a couple of pictures on Instagram. What a lovely light! Buonanotte, Firenze! I’m ready for the second day… asap on the same channel 😉

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