My brother emailed and said he has a friend who's taking the train from Rome to Florence for the day. She was looking for suggestions about the best way to spend one day in Florence, where to go, where to eat, etc. Here's what I said:
It's hard to give advice to someone I don't know because I don't know what type of traveller they are, but if it was me I would:
1) take the 5 minute walk from the train station to the Duomo. Here you could: a) go into the cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), b) climb to the top of the Dome, c) climb to the top of the Campanile or d) go into the Baptistry --- my choice would be to go into the Baptistry which is just beautiful with bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
2) next walk from the Duomo down Via Calzuioli to the Palazzo Vecchio/Piazza della Signoria. Here you can go into the Palazzo --- but for a one day trip I would just stroll around the piazza, take a look at the sculpture in the Loggia to the right of the Palazzo.
3) Also just to the right of the Palazzo is the Uffizzi - If you want to go in there I would get a timed ticket ahead of time since the line can be 3 hours long - I think you can buy them online. To see all the galleries it can take 2-3 hours, so I would either start this early in the day (and maybe skip the Duomo/Baptistry) or save the Uffizzi for a longer trip.
4) From the Piazza Signoria I would walk over to the Ponte Vecchio just to have a look.
5) From there I'd walk east along the river until the Ponte alle Grazie then hang a left and go to Piazza Santa Croce. Here you can go into the church. This is also a nice place for lunch: our favorite is "Boccadama" on the south side of the piazza - they have nice salads, fresh pastas, reasonable prices, with outdoor tables on the piazza in the summer. Also down the street (one block west on Via Islola delle Stinche) is a famous Gelateria called "Vivoli" if you're interested in some after-lunch gelato.
6) After lunch I would walk over to the Bargello, only a few blocks west on Via Proconsolo. It's a great museum with amazing stuff, but not so much that it's overwhelming to to do it on a day trip.
7) For dinner we know a bunch of restaurants, but most are closer to our neighborhood than to the station. After dinner you can get a cab at the taxi stand in Piazza Santa Croce - it's only about 5-8 euros and about 10 minutes to the station:
For a very casual but good meal, I would go to "Yellow Bar" on Via Proconsolo #39R, just north of the Bargello (you'll know it by the big round yellow lights outside).
More expensive, with typical tuscan food and good wine is "La Giostra" on Via Borgo Pinti - here's their website.
Another good one is Osteria del Caffe Italiano - on Via Isola delle Stinche #11R. I would recommend the Bistecca Fiorentina (for two)!