Rome vs Florence – Which is Right for You?

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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Rome versus Florence, the eternal battle between two of Italy’s most important cities will never cease. Rome is the nation’s capital and its largest city, a sprawling megalopolis that was once the center of the known world. There are ruins, museums and fantastic food, to name just a few of the great things to do in Rome. Florence, on the other hand, is the cradle of the Renaissance, a large but never overbearing city that’s brimming with culture and art.

To help you decide which city is right for you, we’re running you through the best that Rome and Florence have to offer!


When it comes to history, Italy is a country that has, at times, quite literally written the history books. This was the center of the ancient world, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and it always seems to be at the forefront of European events. It’s no surprise then that both Rome and Florence are brimming with history and historic places to see.

Let’s start with Rome. This was the capital of the mighty Roman Empire, a city that grew from humble roots to dominate the entire Mediterranean and much of Western Europe. For centuries, Rome was the largest and richest city in the world, and even today you can see the splendor and grand architecture and engineering that was borne from the era. You can gaze at the Colosseum, where gladiatorial combat took place in front of Emperors and cheering crowds. You can walk through the ruins of the Roman Forum, the ancient center of the city, and you can visit the fabled Seven Hills that the Roman capital was founded upon, along with the ruins and archaeological remains of palaces and bathhouses.

If all that Roman history isn’t quite enough for you, then don’t worry, because the history of Rome didn’t end with the fall of the Empire. While the city never achieved the same glory as its past, you can still see its importance in the churches and castles dating from the medieval era. You can even visit the Vatican, an independent nation in the heart of Rome that’s the center of Catholicism and home to Popes for hundreds of years.

Florence is just as historic, although during the age of the Roman Empire, it paled in comparison to Rome. While the origins of the city can be traced back to the ancient world and it’s been occupied for thousands of years by various groups of Italian people, the most important history of Florence begins with the Renaissance era.

That’s because Florence is considered as the birthplace of the Renaissance. While Rome crumbled, Florence grew into one of the most powerful and richest trading cities in Europe, a place that could rival any of the Italian city states such as Venice or Genoa, and a place that could finance the wars, conflicts, and art and culture that grew during the Renaissance years.

Florence is gloriously historic and the city still looks remarkably medieval and Renaissance in outlook. There are winding streets and elegant palaces. You can learn about the notorious exploits of the Medici family, Florence’s most powerful Renaissance rulers, and you can spend days visiting the museums and historical sights around the city. If Florence isn’t enough for you, there’s just as much history in the nearby area, because Florence is the capital of Tuscany, where you can find incredible medieval towns and cities like Siena and San Gimignano.

It’s a difficult choice between the two, but if it’s ancient history and in particular Roman history you’re interested in, then you can’t beat Rome. On the other hand, if you’re looking to learn more about medieval and Renaissance Italian history, then you should book your next flight to Florence.


Rome and Florence both have a lot to offer in terms of culture, and both cities are rightly proud of their legacies. But when it comes down to it, this is one travel element that Florence can win, because Florence is perhaps the most cultural city in Europe.

Florence can boast of being the center of the Renaissance, which means you can enjoy seeing some of the most famous works of art in the world here. This is the artwork capital of Italy, where you can see works by masters including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

But more than this, Florence is where the modern Italian language was born. While each city has its own dialects and slang, it was the Florence dialect that was adopted as standard across the country, as it was the home of many great writers, such as Dante who infamously wrote about the Circles of Hell.

You can also find excellent food and a packed schedule of events throughout the year. In February, you can join the carnival celebrations, March is the Florentine New Year, while on Easter Sunday you can experience the unique tradition of Scoppio del Carro or the Exploding Cart.

Admittedly, Rome has a lot of artwork too and you can visit many galleries and museums across the city to see more of Italy’s best sculptures and cultural works. Visit the Vatican, not technically Rome but close enough, and you can marvel at the artwork of the Sistine Chapel.

Rome is the nation’s capital too, and its unique culture draws on every aspect of Italian life and history. The beauty of Rome’s modern culture is found on the streets, where you can enjoy slow mornings sipping on espressos and late evenings enjoying wine and good food on the cobbled streets, in the shadow of epic ancient buildings and statues dating back thousands of years. Rome is often called the Eternal City, and the culture is in many ways endless too.


These are two cities that can boast some of the best and most iconic architecture in the world. Both can easily rival each other for beautiful architecture and buildings, but for sheer size and scale, then it’s Rome that would win. It’s a much larger city and, as the Italian capital, there are many more distinctive works of engineering, both old and new.

In terms of quality though, Florence has a lot to show. You can marvel at the elegant palaces that were built by the rich ruling families in the Renaissance era. The Pitti Palace and Uffizi Gallery are two impressive examples, while the Florence Duomo, or cathedral, is one of the most iconic churches in the entire country. There are beautiful basilicas, marvelous squares and plazas, and the wonderfully historic streets are perfect for strolling.

Rome has the most historic architecture of the two though, or at least the oldest. Some of the most iconic sights in Rome are of course Roman in origin, and you can stand in awe as you gaze at the Colosseum or the Forum. But there’s more to Rome than its Roman legacy, and there’s much more in the way of architecture waiting to be discovered in the capital.

Visit Castel Sant’Angelo to see the most impressive castle in Rome, and one of the most impressive in Europe. Visit the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps if you don’t mind braving the crowds for a glimpse of these truly famous works of architecture. Explore an endless number of basilicas and churches, and wander along more modern streets lined with flashy new buildings or 19th century imperial-style palaces.

While both cities have a wealth of beautiful architecture, it’s the sheer variety and scale of Rome that makes this the first choice for anyone with a love for historic buildings and modern engineering.


Italy is world famous for its food, and this is a culinary destination like few others in Europe. If you’re here for the food, then it really doesn’t matter which city – Rome or Florence – you visit. In both places, you’re going to be well fed and you’re going to leave having gorged on far too much good Italian food, and with a much larger waist line than when you landed.

Rome has a long foodie tradition and many of the city’s best dishes are surprisingly simple, but have changed little in hundreds of years. You can find the ubiquitous pizza and pasta of Italy everywhere in Rome, of course, and any type of Italian cuisine – or indeed, international cuisine too – that you’re searching for.

But Rome is more than pizza and pasta. Some of the best dishes, you may be surprised to find, are stews and even offal and tripe-based dishes, which trace their roots back to the Roman days. Leave the stereotypes behind, and embark on a culinary journey through the cobbled streets and back alleys of Rome, where you’ll find the best cuisine in the city.

Florence has just as fantastic a food scene, and is home to many unique dishes as well as the usual pizza and pasta specialties that Italy is so famous for. Try the famed Bistecca alla Fiorentina, huge Florentine steaks that are perfectly cooked, or dig into wild boar, more tripe and offal dishes, and finish it all off with delicious servings of gelato.


If you’re in Italy for the shopping, then you’ll want to travel to Rome, because the shopping opportunities are endless.

Of course, there are plenty of things to buy and lots of places to shop in Florence and you can pick up plenty of local souvenirs, many inspired by the Renaissance. But it’s Rome where you’ll find the best shops and brands.

Rome is one of Europe’s biggest fashion centers, so you can find clothes shops everywhere. As the capital of Italy, there are few companies and shops that don’t have a large presence here. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re going to find it in Rome.


Italy may not be the cheapest destination to visit, particularly in touristy cities like Florence and Rome, so manage your budget and your expectations before departing. As the capital though, Rome will always be more expensive. Florence can be much better value when it comes to accommodation and food, especially in the low and shoulder seasons, whereas in Rome, you can do things cheaply, but you won’t be getting much value beyond rundown hotel rooms and bad food.


Both cities have a huge number of things to do. No matter which one you visit, you’ll find that you can easily fill a long weekend, if not an entire week, exploring.

Rome is much larger, so there’s more to discover here outside of the historic city center and other historic districts.

Florence is smaller, and you can easily see the highlights in a short period of time before using the city as a base for exploring the wider Tuscany region, which is as just as beautiful as the city itself.


After weighing up the pros and cons of these two fantastic Italian cities, it’s still going to be a challenge deciding which is best. Both cities have their assets and both have a few off-putting things about them, too.

Rome is best for ancient history and Roman ruins, while Florence is best for Renaissance history and classic Italian culture. Both are wonderful for food and drink, but if you’re here for the shopping and the fashion, then it’s Rome that takes the crown.

Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste. If it’s your first time in Italy, then Rome is where you’ll find the most iconic sights in the country. If you’re looking for a smaller city that’s a little quieter and easier to traverse, then Florence will be the winner in comparison to the hectic and somewhat chaotic capital.

No matter which of these two contenders for Italy’s best travel destination you choose, you’re guaranteed to have an incredible experience. Contact Italy4Real today to speak to our experts and to make your decision on which city – Rome or Florence – is right for you.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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