Rome vs Florence - which Italian city should you visit?

Are you wondering about Rome vs. Florence and which city you should visit in Italy if you have to pick just one?

As publishers of Romewise and Florencewise, we are here to give you our expert opinions!

view of duomo complex from torre di arnolfoFlorence is a beautiful city but so is Rome, so how to decide between them?

But be aware, they are just that: opinions.

As you might imagine, at the end of this page, we are going to say that the choice is up to you.

But here are some tips to help you decide!

Rome vs Florence: Which Italian City to Visit? - Things to Consider

Is the Eternal City, Rome, more beautiful than Florence or the other way around?

Which city is the best city to visit?

Naturally, we think you should visit both of these Italian cities, as they are both amazing and offer so much.

But after decades in the travel business, we know how it is when you just have limited time and have to pick one.

We truly love both cities so you can count on this being subjective advice!

rome pantheon at nightThe Pantheon in Rome is one of Italy's top sights, but is it enough to choose Rome over Florence?

Here are things to consider when trying to decide if you should visit Florence or Rome Italy:

History and architecture

Ancient Roman ruins

Both Rome and Florence have histories dating back to before the Roman Empire.

But in Rome, the Eternal City, this is evident nearly everywhere you look, at least in the historic center.

Besides the obvious Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, a long stroll down the via dei Fori Imperiali takes you between stunning Roman ruins from the time of the Roman Empire.

roman forum view towards palatine hillThe Roman Forum was the heart of the ancient Roman empire

Right in the heart of Rome's city center, you'll come upon the Pantheon, one of the most intact ancient Roman monuments you can visit.

It is a truly awesome monument and to me, reason enough to visit Rome.

There's also the Castel Sant'Angelo, Circus Maximus, the Baths of Caracalla, and many underground sites like the Domus Aurea, San Clemente, and Domitian's Stadium underneath Piazza Navona.

Terme di CaracallaThe Baths of Caracalla site is home to a huge ancient Roman complex, complete with original mosaics

In Florence, you will find some things to see from ancient times.

Underneath the Duomo, you can visit Santa Reparata, the first basilica before the cathedral was built over it.

Even inside the Uffizi gallery, there are remnants of an ancient structure that you can see through plexiglass, mostly at the entrance.

But if exploring Ancient Rome, and admiring archaeological remains is your goal, it might be obvious to choose Rome.


ara pacis rome museumThe Ara Pacis museum in Rome is the perfect example of the mix of architectural styles, with an ancient Roman temple housed in a modern Italian building

Both cities have plenty of famous landmarks and incredible architecture.

One of the things I love most about Rome is all the different layers of architecture we have to explore here.

This includes ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque, neoclassic, and Rationalist.

I think when many people think of "architecture" in Italy, it's Roman architecture and usually specifically ancient Roman architecture.

If that is your passion, then Rome is the city for you.

You can see so much ancient Roman architecture in monuments throughout the city just by walking around.

florence street view - architectureIt's easy to admire the different architectural styles in the streets of Florence

Florence doesn't offer any ancient Roman architecture, although if you love medieval and Renaissance architecture, then you will find plenty of this!

Take a look at these pages to find out how to make the most of your time in Florence:


accademia sculpture David by michelangelo head viewFlorence is full of art, including the famous David by Michelangelo

There is no way to compare Florence and Rome where art is concerned.

There is so much beautiful and important art in both cities.

It's almost impossible to pick a favorite when one has the Sistine Chapel and the other the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia.

Both Florence and Rome are home to famous art museums, I could never advise you to visit one over the other!

Tribuna room of the Uffizi GalleryThe Tribuna room of the Uffizi Gallery is packed full of stunning pieces, but there is so much more to see here!

Some might argue that in Florence there is a higher concentration of Renaissance art than in Rome.

This may be true although Rome does boast vast collections of Renaissance art in the Vatican Museums alone.

In this case, you should think about anything that is really a must-see for you.

Is there something on your bucket list?

colosseum wide view in springThe Colosseum is one of the most amazing things you can see in Rome and is a must-see for a lot of people

I actually dislike this phrase but it's quite clear.

Do you have anything in Rome or Florence that you absolutely must see?

If any of these are on your list of things you just have to see, you will need to visit Rome:

If any of these are on your list of things you just have to see, you will need to visit Florence:

Details of the painting Birth of Venus by Botticelli in Uffizzi Gallery The Birth of Venus painting by Botticelli in the Uffizi Gallery is a showstopper for sure!

Food and wine

Local cuisine

Rome and Florence each have their own cuisine.

And each city's citizens are proud of their local cuisine.

Rest assured in both cities you will have no problem finding delicious food.

And, yes, you will find pasta in both cities.

Italian cuisine overall offers plenty of standard items like meat, fish, and vegetables, but there are certain things each city is known for.

ribollita in a restaurantThe hearty Florentine dish of Ribollita is more suited to the colder months than summer

You also have to keep in mind the season.

Rome is famous for artichokes but they are only in season from late fall through early spring.

Florence is famous for ribollita but you may find it on the menu more in cooler months.


Pizza in FlorenceWhile the pizza in Florence is not bad, it is just not as good as the pizza in Rome

Where pizza is concerned, I have to give it to Rome.

While I am a fan of pizza Romana (super thin crust) vs. pizza Napoletana (thick bready crust), either way, you will find a lot more options for both of these types of pizza in Rome.

Florence is not really known for its pizza although, of course, you can find it.

And while I love pizza, I would not let that be the only reason to pick a city to visit - but it's just something to consider!


You might think you'll find better wine options in Florence due to its location in Tuscany, one of the wine capitals of the world.

But throughout Italy, you will easily find excellent wine from all the Italian wine-producing regions.

It really depends more on the restaurant you visit and the quality of their wine list.

Cafe in Uffizi - wine glassEnjoying a great glass of wine is easy in both Florence and Rome

If you are really into wine and plan to do some Tuscany travel and wine-tasting, then Florence may be the better option.

But just for wine options throughout each city in the various wine bars and restaurants, you will be fine in either one.

Learn from the experts on this food and wine tasting tour in the fun neighborhood of Oltrarno in Florence!

Visiting vineyards

While there is some wine tasting near Rome, arguably Tuscany is one of the most popular spots in Italy for this activity, with good reason.

If you want your Italy itinerary to include some exploring in the Tuscan countryside and some serious wine tasting, you may want to choose Florence and then head out from there.

Fashion and shopping

Both Rome and Florence offer fantastic shopping in their own way.

Both offer elegant streets with luxury shops, neighborhoods with cute boutiques, vintage shops, and outdoor markets.

I would not let shopping be the reason to pick one or the other for your city break.

You will do well in both!

Shopping street in Florence - Via dei CalzaiuoliVia dei Calzaiuoli is just one of the many shopping streets in Florence

No matter when you visit Florence, here are four things never to leave at home:

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Family travel

It's one thing to visit Rome and Florence as a single person, with friends or as a couple.

When travelling with kids or a larger family, you'll want to take into consideration several factors like the weather, things to do, and how you'll get around.

Weather in Rome vs Florence

The weather is usually similar in Rome and Florence as they are so near each other, although temperatures can vary a bit.

Both Rome and Florence are exhaustingly hot in summer and neither one will offer a "cooler" experience.

So if you are visiting in summer, do your best to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, and to keep cool and comfortable as best you can.

people at the piazza della republica in winterFlorence is wonderful during any season including the winter!

Besides worrying about heat exhaustion in summer, both Rome and Florence are beautiful to visit and easy to enjoy from early fall through late spring.

Both cities are also at their quietest in the winter, with the exception of the festive period.

Once you've made a decision on which city you want to visit, you'll need to start thinking about where you're going to stay.

Italy offers a wide range of options from 5 star hotels to premium apartments, simple hostels to self catering accommodation so you'll be sure to find the right place for you!

Things to do in Rome and Florence

Both Florence and Rome offer plenty of things to do for kids.

Both cities also have lovely green spaces and parks and gardens.

It may be a matter of finding out your preferences for the kinds of things you want to visit.

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How you will get around

Whether you're travelling with young ones or elderly parents with walking issues, consider how you will get around.

In Rome, we often recommend golf cart tours to make everyone in the family happy.

Florence also has golf cart tours but in Rome you will see more.

For more about getting around:

Ease of getting around

We are big walkers.

We love exploring Rome and Florence on foot and suggest this as the best way to really see each city.

On the other hand, Rome can be difficult to explore only on foot.

Visiting Vatican City is its own adventure and usually, it's exhausting to try to go anywhere on foot after that.

Ditto for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

So we often suggest public transportation or taxis in Rome when moving between certain sites.

However, overall, Rome is a very walkable city and the monuments and sites in the city center are within walking distance from each other.

bus on the street of florenceWhile there are plenty of buses and trams in Florence, unless you have a specific destination out of the city center, you're unlikely to use them much

Florence is arguably much smaller and easier to get around on foot alone.

We have never taken any form of public transportation in Florence, not even a taxi.

It's just so easy to walk most places.

Often we stay in the Oltrarno (across the Arno River from Florence's historic center), and even then, a walk to the Duomo is still only about 15 minutes.

The bottom line is that Rome, from Vatican City to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum is more spread out and you may need to take some form of transportation other than walking.

If the ease of getting around and being able to walk just about everywhere is a factor, we would probably suggest you choose Florence.

Where you're coming from and where you're off to next

When people visit Italy for the first time, it's common to want to see as much as possible.

We find many people visit Rome, Florence, and Venice.

With the fast trains, this is really easy.

But if your trip is focused on a specific area, deciding whether to visit Rome vs Florence may depend on where you are arriving in Italy or where you are going after your city visit.

Train station in FlorenceThe train station in Florence is a great place to start your Italian journey

Flying into Italy

Many international travelers arrive in Italy at Rome's Fiumicino airport (and sometimes at Ciampino airport.)

Florence has an airport, too, but it's much smaller.

It may seem logical to stay in Rome and explore it a bit before heading on.

We've found that when people want to visit Florence specifically, it doesn't make much difference to them to fly into Rome and immediately get the train to Florence.

So this may not be that much of a factor but it depends on you.

Cruise stop

If you are on a cruise, your ship might dock at Civitavecchia, in which case, the logical city to visit will be the Italian capital, Rome.

Or it might dock at Livorno, in which case, the logical city to visit will be Florence.

If the ship stops at both ports, then you don't have to worry about choosing!

Heading to the Amalfi Coast

If you are including the Amalfi coast in your Italy itinerary, you may want to start in Rome and then head to southern Italy from here.

From Rome it's just an hour to the major city of Naples, and then an easy boat ride to Capri or a second short train ride to Pompeii.

On the other side of the peninsula where also the beautiful town of Sorrento is located, the Amalfi coast continues from Positano in the east to Vietri sul Mare in the west.

You can also visit Pompeii and the Amalfi coast on a day trip from Rome if you have limited time.

While you can do it yourself, for a stress-free experience I strongly recommend booking a tour that includes transport, like this one which will take you to Pompeii with a guided tour before going to Positano for the afternoon.

Going to Venice, Milan, the mountains, the lakes regions, or Cinque Terre

view of the dolomitesThe Dolomites are a breathtakingly stunning part of Italy

If your Italy itinerary includes Milan, Venice, Emilia Romagna, the Dolomites, or the Lakes regions, you may want to start in Florence which is slightly closer.

On the other hand, with high-speed train travel it doesn't make that much difference whether you leave from Rome or Florence (they are 1.5 hours apart on the fast trains.)

The trip will be several hours anyway.

If your trip includes Cinque Terre, it's much easier and relatively faster to get there from Florence than from Rome.

You could also include a stop in Pisa along the way!

Day trips

I'd argue that if you have time in your itinerary for a day trip, then you have time to visit Rome and Florence.

But if you are looking for a base, both cities offer excellent options for easy day trips, including beaches, small towns, gardens, and wine tasting.

And of course, you can visit Rome as a day trip from Florence and vice-versa.

Take a look at my video about how you can visit the Tuscan countryside from both Rome and Florence:

How to travel between Rome and Florence?

Inside the florence main train station - sigh with Roma Termini destinationTaking the high speed train to Rome or many other Italian destinations is a reliable and comfortable way to travel

If you do decide to visit both cities, the best way to travel between them is by high-speed rail.

The trip is only 1.5 hours and takes you between the two central rail stations, making it easy to visit one or the other even as a day trip.

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