Rome and Florence are among the most popular cities in Italy. If you start digging into what makes each one unique, you’ll see why. Both cities have a wealth of history, vibrant cultures, and delicious food. There are, however, a few differences that you should keep in mind when choosing Rome vs. Florence.
It’s a tough call—you’re choosing between two renowned Italian cities. The perfect Italian city to visit will come down to exactly what you want out of your visit to Italy.
In general, Rome is best if you want to explore a huge city, are a history buff and have a lot of time to devote to exploring. On the other hand, Florence is great for those who are looking for a smaller destination, love Renassaince art and history and want to explore a bit of Tuscany.
Here is everything you need to know if you’re trying to decide whether to visit Florence or Rome.
Rome boasts worldwide fame for historic monuments like the Colosseum, but the city has far more to offer than what most visitors know. Located in the middle of the country on the western edge, Rome is a jumping-off point for many visitors. Keep reading to learn about what makes Rome so famous.
Rome is home to Italy’s highest-traffic airport that not only connects the city to destinations across Europe but also to countless cities and countries much further afield.
Rome is also well-connected to virtually every major city in Italy with train and bus connections reaching the city’s main stations with ease. This makes accessing Rome from just about anywhere pretty easy. You can view train schedules here.
Rome is a city that rewards its visitors for exploring on foot. Many of its most famous landmarks are clustered together in a no-traffic zone. Pedestrians are free to casually stroll between sites without having to worry about cars.
You’ll want to make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Landmarks like the Colosseum and Roman Forum are near each other, but you’ll be doing more walking inside each of these attractions.
You’ll notice immediately that traffic in Rome is bad. There are taxis readily available, but it could take longer to reach your destination than if you took the metro. That said, the underground metro in Rome is one of the easiest ways to cover long distances. If you’re heading to Vatican City, for example, hop on the metro for a short and affordable ride to your destination.
Depending on how often you plan to use it, you can purchase a metrocard with unlimited uses for 24, 48, or 72 hours. You will probably stick to line A and line B the most while visiting Rome.
Affordability is a factor when deciding to visit Rome or Florence. Generally speaking, as the country’s capital, Rome is more expensive. It’s also one of the most popular cities in the world for tourists, so restaurants and hotels can charge a premium based on demand.
Expect to pay the average prices for a large and famous European city. If you choose to travel during the shoulder season, you can generally find more affordable accommodations.
Things to do in Rome
Rome boasts some of the most famous landmarks in the world—many you’re probably already familiar with. The Colosseum, Pantheon, and Roman Forum are three iconic sits to start getting acquainted with the ancient Roman ruins that can be found all over the city.
You’ll need a timed entry ticket for the Colosseum, but not for the other two. It is well worth visiting, however, as it is truly an incredible sight to be seen and it is unmissable on any trip to Italy. You can purchase tickets online and you can book a guided tour of the area.
Piazza Navona is one of the most stunning plazas in the city. It’s located just around the corner from the Pantheon and surrounded by restaurants and bars that make it a great place to stop in for a meal.
The Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, and Spanish Steps are three more famous sites you should visit, but expect to encounter crowds. You can take a walking tour of the area to learn more about the history.
If you can manage to set an early alarm, try to visit the Trevi Fountain early in the morning before the tourists arrive to crowd the area.
You’ll want to save time to visit Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. It’s highly recommended that you get a guided tour. The line to enter the Sistine Chapel without a tour guide is massive. Not only will a tour give you great historical information, you’ll also get seamless entry to the Sistine Chapel. You can book tickets in advance online here or organise a guided tour if you prefer.
Finally, after seeing all the famous landmarks of Rome, head over to the Trastevere neighborhood for some delicious pizza, wine, and gelato. You can take a food tour to learn more about the cuisine.
While still famous, this neighborhood is generally much quieter than those around the city’s major attractions. You will often encounter street musicians and can peruse local vintage shops.
Rome also has a thriving nightlife and, being a bigger city than Florence, does have more options available if you’re looking to have a great night out.
Where to Stay in Rome
Domus Palatina – This mid-range hotel is a great place to base yourself while visiting Rome. Perfectly located to explore see all that the Italian capital has to offer, they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and breakfast is included each morning. Click here to check availability
Barberini Dream – Luxury visitors to the Italian capital will love this sophisticated hotel located within spitting distance of the Trevi fountain. They have a range of lovely rooms on offer and countless amenities to ensure you have a fantastic time in Rome. Click here to check availability
Trianon Borgo Pio Aparthotel – This aparthotel is a great choice for those who’d like their own space while visiting Rome. Well-located close to the Vatican, there are a range of apartments to choose from and breakfast is available daily. Click here to check availability
The RomeHello Hostel – If you’re traveling solo or on a budget, then this hostel is a great choice in the Eternal City. They have both dorms and private rooms available, an excellent location for exploring Rome and a good atmosphere for those looking to meet others on their trip. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Rome!
Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence sits in the middle of Italy and is the gateway city for exploring the Tuscany region. This city is renowned for its preservation of Renaissance art, architecture, and history, making it a museum lover’s paradise. Here you’ll find some of the world’s most famous pieces of art and much, much more.
Florence is home to its own international airport, however, it doesn’t see nearly the traffic as Rome’s. However, it does still have connections to cities all over Italy and across Europe. You can also easily reach Florence from Pisa Airport to the south, which is easily connected with the Tuscan capital.
And though it’s a smaller city than the Italian capital, there are also countless bus and train connections to the city, making it easy to reach from a number of different cities in Italy. You can view schedules here.
Similar to Rome, Florence is a city that invites its visitors to get around on foot. You can walk between ends of the city in just about 30 minutes, seeing many of the best landmarks along the way. Many of the roads are cobble-stoned, so make sure you wear sturdy shoes.
There is no underground metro here like there is in Rome. Instead, if you need to cover long distances, hop on the local bus or you can call a taxi. Taxis do tend to run a bit more expensive in Florence than other cities in Italy, so keep that in mind.
There is a main train station where you can purchase tickets for day trips to Pisa or wine tasting. It’s also where you might be arriving in Florence. It’s centrally located, so you’ll easily be able to reach your accommodation by foot.
Renting a car to get around Florence proper won’t do you much good. Much of the city center is blocked off to traffic, only allowing pedestrians through. A rental car (you can browse options here) is only helpful if you’re heading out of the city for a day trip to other towns in Tuscany such as Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena or Lucca.
Florence is known for its charming, cobble-stoned streets, but this also means they are narrow and crowded in some parts of the city.
Italy as a whole is not the cheapest country to visit. That said, when comparing prices in Florence and Rome, Florence is slightly more affordable. You can usually find much more value for your money in Florence. Travel during the shoulder seasons means you’d be paying even less than usual.
It is worth noting that if you intend to visit a number of museums and pay for entry into some of Florence’s top sites that this does add up. Keep this in mind when budgeting your trip.
Things to do in Florence
Florence houses some of Italy’s best displays of art and culture. From museums to architecture, you’ll find an excellent display of Italian history. Your time in Florence will likely begin near the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
This is the towering, orange-domed Duomo (cathedral) that dominates Florence’s skyline. You can visit the interior, but the line to enter is usually very long. Try to arrive early in the morning or just enjoy the cathedral from the outside. Speaking of the skyline, Piazzale Michelangelo offers some of the best views of the city, especially at dusk and after dark. You can organise a guided tour here.
The Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery are two of the most famous art museums in Florence. The latter is the home of Michelangelo’s David and works by Leonardo Da Vinci. Between the two museums, you can admire the art of Botticelli, Giotto, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and many more.
You’ve probably seen photos of Ponte Vecchio. This medieval stone bridge spans the Arno River and is famous for the shops that have been built into its sides. Originally, the bridge was lined with butchers and farmers, but today it’s filled with jewellers and art dealers.
Depending on how long you have to visit Florence, you may want to take a day trip out of the city. Pisa and wine tours are two of the most popular day trips. To reach Pisa, you can hop a train from Florence’s station. It’s a short ride to reach the town of Pisa. From there, it’s about a 20-minute walk to arrive at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Alternatively, you can visit on a guided tour.
Alternatively, Florence sits in the heart of Tuscany, one of the country’s most famous wine regions. If you want to venture to the wineries in Tuscany, you should organise a wine tour with a knowledgeable guide. They will be able to provide you with valuable information to enhance your experience.
Finally, you cannot visit Florence without dedicating some time to exploring the Florentine food scene. You’ll find excellent food all over Italy, but some of the best in Florence. From pasta and pizza to gelato and tiramisu, you should set aside time and have a few indulgent meals. Round it out with a nice glass (or two) of Tuscan Chianti. You can also take a food tour.
Where to Stay in Florence
Hotel Bellavista – Mid-range visitors to Florence will love this lovely hotel in the center of the city. Situated within a stone’s throw of the city’s top attractions, they have a number of great rooms to choose from and an excellent breakfast available each morning. Click here to check availability
25hours Hotel – If you’re looking for a luxury stay in Florence then this plush hotel is a perfect opton. They have an excellent location for exploring the Tuscan capital, plenty of beautiful rooms to choose from and there is also an on-site restaurant and bar and breakfast is available in the mornings. Click here to check availability
Ostello Bello Firenze – This hostel is an excellent choice for budget travelers or those after a social atmosphere. They have a number of dorms and private rooms on offer and a great location for exploring all Florence has to offer. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Florence!
Florence or Rome: Which is Better to Visit?
Choosing whether to visit Florence vs Rome is no easy task. Hopefully, some of the information here helps guide your decision. While these cities share many qualities, there are some key differences to call attention to.
Art and museum lovers will fall in love with Florence. If you want to spend your days wandering around a beautiful city with countless opportunities to enjoy Renaissance art and architecture, Florence is the best choice.
However, if you’re a history buff who wants to see ruins from an ancient civilization, head to Rome. You’ll love the Roman Forum and Colosseum. If it’s your first time visiting Italy, it might feel impossible to leave the country without seeing the Colosseum or the Sistine Chapel.
Foodies and lovers of wine will want to visit Tuscany. Florence is the gateway to one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Both cities offer amazing options for Italian cuisine.
Rome is better for shopping. From clothes to souvenirs, if you’re wanting to shop, head to Rome. That said, you’ll still find great options for shopping in Florence.
If you’re traveling in the spring, head to Rome, but if you’re traveling in the fall, go to Florence. Due to their locations in the country, these seasons tend to see some of the most comfortable temperatures in their respective cities. Summers tend to be comparable.
Florence is more condensed than Rome. There is equally as much to see and do, but it’s all clustered closer together. This usually makes getting around the city and seeing all the best landmarks easier. However, it also means that these areas can get very crowded, especially if you’re visiting during peak travel season.
That said, both Rome and Florence are crowded. No matter when you visit, these cities are popular so expect to encounter large crowds in both places. You have more day trip options out of Florence, therefore more opportunities to temporarily escape the crowds.
In a perfect Italian itinerary, you can visit both Rome and Florence. Both cities are incredible in their own ways and promise their visitors a trip they won’t forget. However, if you’re short on time, whether you visit Florence or Rome comes down to personal preference.
Ask yourself what you will most enjoy out of your time in Italy then select a city based on that. Italy is a beautiful country—you’ll have an incredible time no matter where you go.
Are you deciding between Rome or Florence? Have any questions about either city? Let us know in the comments!