Europe Italy

Photographing Florence by foot in 24 hours

By on June 21, 2016

Post updated on May 1st, 2017 at 05:30 pm

Florence has something for everyone: art museums and architecture, food and photography, stunning landscapes and sunset points, all soaked in centuries of history. The best part: it’s a photographer’s heaven! You can wander through the streets, camera in hand, and without even planning to, end up with some of the best photographs you’ve ever taken. Whether you’re a professional photographer, or just a regular tourist who wants some good photos for Snapchat, you should reserve a day to see Florence through a lens; its beauty lies not just in the famous sights, but on the paths between them.

Here’s a walking route you could follow; I spread these out over my 3-day stay in Florence, but it can easily be condensed into 24 hours:

Photography walking route in Florence

Stop A: The Duomo at 9am

Before getting started, grab a cup of coffee or some breakfast at Caffe delle Oblatea laidback coffee shop located on the second floor of a local library, with great views of the Duomo. The food and coffee is delicious and cheap!

Start the day at Florence’s main attraction, the Duomo, which usually opens at 10am. If you’re living close by (I highly recommend that you do), don’t use a map. Just follow whichever route takes your fancy in the moment, and you’re guaranteed to end up at the Duomo (well, ask for directions on the way just to make sure you’re not completely off!). The streets leading to the Duomo are filled with welcoming stores, selling personalized, embroidered aprons, tin cans of the purest olive oil, and handcrafted notebooks. For me, photographing the walk was even more inspiring than capturing the cathedral!

Bike on Florence street

Randomly spotted this outside a store on my way to the Duomo

Wine and olive oil on the streets of Florence

So many stores selling wine, cheese and olive oil

In all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend going inside the Duomo. It wasn’t as impressive as its imposing exterior. I ended up wasting a morning, since I couldn’t enter the Duomo until 10am. I wish I had just photographed the outside earlier (when there are less tourists) and moved on.

Florence Duomo Red Roof

Florence Duomo Door

The entrance to the cathedral

Photography tips:
  • Aim to spend at least 20 minutes photographing the Duomo; with every new angle and perspective, it takes on a different shape and color.
  • Photograph the Duomo by day and night: the colors create a striking contrast. In the day, it’s a mix of ivory, olive green and salmon pink, whereas your photograph will look like someone applied a black and white filter to it at night. More photos towards the end of the post.
  • Make sure you don’t cut out random chunks of the monument. I’m definitely not a professional, but I took one photography course, and one of the things I learned was to make sure the subject you photographed was complete. Especially with a large monument, you can’t capture the entire thing in one frame. Make sure whatever portion of the structure you capture is not cut out. For example: if you’re capturing the roof of the Duomo, don’t cut out part of the dome!

Pick up some lunch to-go as you walk towards Stop B (Ponte Vecchio); there are several panini and pizza shops close to the Duomo (my absolute favorite was I Due Fratellini for the best, and cheapest, paninis). You can also wait to pick something up on the other side of the bridge, but looking for a quick to-go spot there might be harder.

I Due Fratellini - the best panini in Florence

Hands down – I Due Fratellini was the best panini I’ve had in my life! Only 3 euros and all the deliciousness you can imagine

Walk time to next stop: 8 minutes

Stop B: Ponte Vecchio at 11am

The most famous tourist attraction in Florence (second only to the Duomo) is also its most charming. Constructed sometime in the 900s AD, this Medieval stone bridge was destroyed by floods twice in the next few centuries, and finally rebuilt in 1345 AD. Ponte Vecchio feels a bit like a well-lit tunnel because it is closed from the top, on either end of the bridge. Dominating the interior of the bridge are jewelry, art and souvenir stores, tightly squeezed into each other; I almost felt like one of them might topple over because of the lack of space!

Before walking through the bridge, make sure to walk along the Arno river and capture Ponte Vecchio’s exterior. The chaos of mismatched colors and disproportionately-sized windows makes it the perfect subject for your camera.

Ponte Vecchio colorful windows

From where I was standing, this was the view on my left… The Ponte Vecchio

Florence views over Arno river

…and this was the view on my right

Ponte Santa Trinita

The view of Ponte Santa Trinita from Ponte Vecchio

Photography tip:

  • Capture Ponte Vecchio at 3-4 different times in the day. The colors the bridge takes on as the blue sky deepens in color, and the lights from the stores reflect in the river below, are even more impressive than the Duomo on camera. More photos towards the end of the post.

Walk time to next stop: 5 minutes

Stop C and D: Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens at 12pm

Cross the bridge and head to Palazzo Pitti, a renaissance palace that now houses the largest museum complex in Florence, and serves as the gateway to the Boboli Gardens. Set on a slightly sloped gravel surface, the open square outside the museum is a great place to eat lunch in the sunshine, watch locals running their daily errands, and pick up some great street art.

Palazzo Pitti at sunset

Since I spread this out over 3 days, I ended up visiting Palazzo Pitti at sunset. Love the different colors the bricks took on!

Alternately, you can also picnic inside the Boboli Gardens, a sprawling collection of gazebos, mazes and ponds amongst perfectly manicured gardens. Because the gardens are set on a hill, you get breathtaking panoramic views of Florence.

Boboli Gardens reflections

Walk time to next stop: 35 minutes (Choose this option if you want to walk at a leisurely pace and photograph your route)

Driving time to next stop: 15 minutes (I recommend taking a cab if you’re pressed for time)

Stop E: Piazza Michelangelo at 3pm

Built on a hill on the south bank of the Arno river (the same side as the Boboli Gardens), the views from Piazza Michelangelo stretch in all directions, the city scape dominated by the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Arno River. Because the Piazza is circular, you get a 360-degree view of the city! Spend a few hours over here, and try to catch the first inklings of sunset as an antique glow descends on the buildings. Don’t wait for too long though – you need to get back to Ponte Vecchio in time for sunset! Check sunset timings beforehand, and give yourself at least 20 minutes to walk back to Ponte Vecchio (probably longer if you’re a bit tired, since Piazza Michelangelo is set on a hill). If this means not being able to stay at Michelangelo until the colors start to change, it’s fine!

Duomo from Piazza Michelangelo

Florence Duomo at sunset

Colors changing as the sun sets

Ponte Vecchio view from Piazza Michelangelo

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio views at sunset

I love the sunset colors!

Walk time to next stop: 20 minutes

Stop F: Ponte alle Grazie bridge at 6pm

Cross the Ponte alle Grazie bridge from where you will get a perfect view of Ponte Vecchio as the sun sets, and just keep clicking!

Ponte Vecchio at sunset

Arno river at sunset

Ponte Vecchio at night

I can’t get over how beautifully the colors are changing!

Florence at night

Stop A: The Duomo at 9pm

Make your way back to the Duomo to see how different it looks at night! It looked like a very sharp, pencil sketch to me with its distinct black and white colors!

Florence Duomo at night

The difference between day and night is unbelievable:

Florence Duomo by day and night

Florence duomo roof by day and night

Are there any other great spots for photographing Florence that you’ve come across? Let me know in the comments below!

Arno river sunset glow

Happy me, taking a break from all the photography 🙂

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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Ioana

    October 21, 2016

    Hi Mehek! I’ve come across your website a few days ago and I must say I really, really enjoy it! The photos are amazing as well. Best of luck from Romania 🙂

    • Reply

      Mehek

      October 21, 2016

      Hi Ioana,
      Thank you so much! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog 🙂 That means a lot! If you have any suggestions or feedback, definitely do let me know. I love hearing from readers 🙂

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