This travel guide looks at two of the best cities to visit in Italy: Venice and Florence.
If you’re currently planning your trip to Italy and only have a weekend to spend and you’re comparing Venice vs Florence, which one should you choose?
I know, this is not an easy choice! If I was you, I’d aim to visit both during the same trip, but most likely you won’t have the time. So let me help you make up your mind.
On one side, there’s Florence, a city of art like few others, with beautiful piazzas, world-wide famous museums and the imposing Duomo, dominating the city.
Then there is Venice, the city on the water, where instead of cars and buses, you move around through the dense network of canals. It is like an open-air museum, charming visitors with its squares, the romantic bridges and sinuous gondolas.
Venice vs Florence: which is better?
Keep reading to learn more about the best time to visit, things to do, culture and food of these wonderful cities, so you can choose between Florence and Venice.
If you ask me which city I prefer between Venice and Florence, I personally choose Venice. The reason is because I have lost count of how many times I’ve travelled to Venice and it still continues to fascinate me over and over again.
I have found that there’s always something new to see or do in Venice and I just can’t seem to resist its timeless decadent beauty. In any case, it’s not easy to decide between these two cities, as they’re both wonderful places to visit in Italy.
So now you know my personal favourite, let’s begin to compare both in the most objective way, so I can help you make your own final decision and get on your way.
Best time to visit Venice vs Florence
Florence is the capital city of Tuscany and counts on a mild climate, characterised by hot summers and cold but not too harsh winters.
The climate is strongly conditioned by its geographical position, in a valley enclosed by the hills to the south, and by the slopes of the Apennines to the north.
These elements contribute in making the climate more continental than in the coastal towns. You can visit this Renaissance city all year long, but the best time to visit Florence is from April to June and in September and October.
Venice is usually in the top 3 of the most visited cities in Italy, so it should not be a surprise if I tell you that it’s always high season here. The best time to visit Venice though is spring (between Easter and end of June) or early autumn.
The city is beautiful whether you’re visiting it during the summer months or for Christmas with all the festive lights and markets, but winters in Venice are quite cold, foggy and humid. I generally recommend avoiding the hot and humid summers (July and August) but this is undoubtedly the most popular time.
Be aware that during autumn and winter, the city is subject to flooding at certain times (late morning till early afternoon) and that might affect your visit to Venice. Between Florence and Venice, Florence has a more pleasant year-round climate.
🏆 Winner: Florence
Culture in Venice vs Florence
Florence is the beating heart of Renaissance art and it’s a lively and romantic city. With its inimitable charm, the capital city of Tuscany is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy and a great place to move to from abroad.
This is one of the only cities in Italy that can actually satisfy everyone’s needs and especially for those who are considering relocating from other countries. The large green areas are perfect for families with children, universities attract young students from all over the country and beyond and the nightlife is vibrant.
People from Florence and Tuscany are famous for always having a joke ready and a smile on their face, which makes everyone feel very welcomed.
The Florentine’s love their food and you’ll instantly connect with locals by going for a meal in a rustic trattoria. Ask for advice from the waiter and have a chat with locals. I personally recommend the wild boar sauce pappardelle and fiorentina steak. I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
In Venice everything is more expensive and there’s a clear division between the local life and tourist way of living in the city.
If you want to feel closer to the Venetian lifestyle and get to really know the authentic side of this incredible city, then go on a bacaro tour.
The bacaro is a tavern where you go to drink an ‘ombra de vin’ (i.e. a glass of wine) and eat ciccheti (literally ‘small food’ that are savoury snacks prepared with fresh local and seasonal ingredients). Here you can meet many locals and ask about Venice, places to eat out and hidden gems to visit.
Then you should have an aperitif with a Spritz: In Venice every occasion is good to have an aperitif prepared with white wine, Aperol or Campari and an olive. The Venetian spritz though is prepared with Select! Make sure to try that one too.
Something I love about Venice is about daily life. For example, Venetians still go shopping in small family-owned shops. If they want to get some milk, they go to the milkmen, for fish, fruits and vegetables they will go to the nearest market.
🏆 Winner: Venice
Food in Venice vs Florence
If you are planning a trip to Florence, in addition to the architectural and cultural attractions to not miss, I really recommend joining a gastronomic tour to taste the typical Tuscan and Florentine dishes.
Get ready to immerse yourself in generous-sized portions of food and rich flavours hard to forget. Surprise your taste buds by trying these traditional dishes:
pappardelle with wild boar sauce, ribolitta, pappa al pomodoro, Florentine steak, lampredotto sandwich and the schiacciata bread with cured hams and cheeses from All’Antico Vinaio (very popular place, be prepared to queue!). Most of the Florentine cuisine is based on meat, cheese and vegetarian dishes.
If you’re a fish and seafood lover, then your destination has to be Venice. Authentic Venetian cuisine is made up of simple and nutritious ingredients, rich in flavour and includes both meat, fish and vegetarian dishes.
On your list of traditional dishes to try, add: baccalà mantecato, creamy stockfish cooked for a long time and served with slices of grilled polenta or on top of bread as cicchetto, sarde en saor, bigoli in salsa and squid ink tagliolini or risotto.
These are just some of the best Venetian dishes to try, but I invite you to find out what ‘andar per bacari’ is, by joining this cicchetti food tasting tour with a local guide. Unfortunately, in Venice there are a lot of non-authentic restaurants serving non traditional dishes, mainly on the main touristic streets of the city.
On top of this, the level of service is bad and food is not good at all! Make sure to go a bit off-the-beaten-path whilst in Venice and look out for good osterie and trattorie,asking advice to locals.
🏆 Winner: Florence
Cost of Travel in Venice vs Florence
Between Venice vs Florence, the city of bridges and canals is definitely more expensive, do you know why? If you know how Venice was built, you should be aware of the fact that it’s been built on 118 small islands!
This means that everything is transported by water which makes basically all services and products more expensive. For this reason, if you’re travelling on a limited budget then you should go to Florence, where generally accommodation and eating out is cheaper.
That doesn’t mean Florence is a cheap city, because it’s way more expensive than other Tuscan towns and villages. Remember to take into account the money you’ll spend on sightseeing such as museums and guided tours for both cities.
Be aware that when there are important events such as the Carnival and Mostra del Cinema in Venice, prices for the flights and accommodation in the best neighbourhoods increase exponentially.
For both Venice and Florence, finding accommodation months before your arrival is imperative, to allow you to have a wider choice of places to stay and find some good deals.
If you’re looking to stay on a budget, and don’t want to give up on comfort and elegance, I recommend La Fonderia Firenze, where I really liked the spacious bedroom and the rich buffet breakfast that awaits you in the morning.
Whilst in Venice, I recommend staying at Porta da Mar, which is less than 15 minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square and main attractions of the city.
🏆 Winner: Florence
Things to do in Venice vs Florence
Both Venice and Florence are extraordinary art cities and exude elegance and timeless beauty in every corner.
The main activity could simply be visiting world-famous museums like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.
You can also explore former noble palaces turned into modern or contemporary art museums like the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice or just stroll around their historic city centres for hours.
Is there anything better than admiring the beauty of Venice and Florence from above? I suggest doing it from the Fondaco dei Tedeschi terrace (for free!) in Venice and from the Santa Maria del Fiore church’s dome in Florence!
For a romantic stroll with your other half, you can walk along the Grand Canal and cross the iconic Rialto Bridge, whilst in Florence walk along the Lungarno to enjoy lovely views of the Ponte Vecchio around sunset time.
If you’re spending more than 3 nights in Florence, make sure to visit other places in Tuscany. If you love tasting food and wines, then the Chianti region with its scenic countryside roads surrounded by vineyards is perfect for you.
Otherwise, visit other art cities and mediaeval villages, by joining this day trip to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano.
🏆 Winner: Draw
Tourist attractions in Venice vs Florence
Florence is the cradle of the Renaissance and one of the most interesting cities to visit in Italy for its artistic past and history.
Below are some of the most important attractions to visit:
Here’s what you should include in your Venice itinerary as first time visitor:
🏆 Winner: Draw
Getting Around Venice vs Florence
The best way to explore Florence is on foot. The historic centre is not big and the main attractions are all close one to the other!
You can join this guided walking tour, to find your feet in this city and get precious advice from a local guide.
Florence is also a bike-friendly city, so why don’t explore the city by bike or e-bike? This bike guided tour is a perfect way to explore the city accompanied by a local English speaking guide. For attractions located a bit outside the city centre, you can get the city buses.
The ticket costs €1.50 (duration 90 min), but to save money it is also possible to purchase a 10-journey booklet. I also recommend the hop-on hop-off tourist bus, ideal to enjoy panoramic views of the city.
You can discover Venice’s historic centre on foot or by vaporetto. Venice is a car-free city so cars, buses, trams or motorbikes can’t circulate.
You can use these vehicles on the mainland or to get to Piazzale Roma, not far from the railway station Venice Santa Lucia. Alternatively, you can use the water taxi service, but it’s quite expensive, and I recommend moving around by vaporetto.
The best thing you can do is hire a local guide to show you around, especially the most hidden corners. You can also enjoy a relaxing gondola ride on the Grand Canal and admire the Venetian city from a different perspective. Find out what’s the best way to get to Venice from Marco Polo airport and also from Treviso airport.
🏆 Winner: Florence
After comparing what both cities offer, in terms of things to do, best time to visit them and attractions, you should now have a better idea of which city you will visit during your next Italian escapade.
There are certainly other factors to take into consideration depending on the type of trip you’re planning to take.
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Venice vs Florence: which will you visit?
Venice and Florence are both wonderful Italian cities to visit at least once in life. For this reason, it’s difficult to say one is better than the other.
Simply, you should feel more inspired by one instead of the other, based on the points mentioned above and other factors.
I believe that your final decision should be based on: the time of the year you’re planning to travel to Italy, the type of activities you’re looking to do and the attractions you’re more interested in visiting.
If you have already made up your mind and have decided to go to Venice after all, remember to read all of my Venice insider’s tips before your trip here.
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