Often known as the ‘King of Italy’, Florence is a Renaissance-rich Italian city, with a huge number of tourists visiting it every year. Though less complicated to explore than other Italian cities, Florence itself offers a wide variety of cultural monuments and museums, that uphold its artistic legacy.
Read on to know how to make the most of your time in Florence!
Santa Maria del Fiore
More commonly known as the Duomo, or the Cathedral of Florence, this is one of the most symbolic buildings in Florence, and is synonymous with beauty and art. The dome is a prominent highlight on the Florence skyline, and is the second-largest church in the world.
Inside the dome, also called Brunelleschi’s Dome, you will discover some of the most stunning bits of craftsmanship in Italy, or around the world! I recommend thoroughly walking around the stairs to not miss the chance to see breathtaking paintings from up close.
Adjacent to the Duomo, is the Bell tower located in Piazza del Duomo. Just like the dome, you can climb the top of the tower as well. But, my recommendation would be to to climb the dome for the amazing paintings, over the 414 stairs of the tower.
The Baptistery standing in front of the Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, and is best-known for its exterior bronze doors, also called the ‘Gates of Paradise’, embedded with stunningly carved depictions of scenes from the Bible, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Pitti is a former palace, and currently one of the most impressive art galleries existing in Florence. If you go around the River Arno, you can see the palace perched on top of a hill, in all its grandeur. It is now home to the Palatine gallery, works by some famous artists like, and royal apartments, which are a true reflection of the grand lifestyle that Tuscan kings used to lead. It is definitely not a place to miss when in Florence.
Santa Maria Novella
Novella is Florence’s principal Dominican church, located just in front of the train station. This is another church you wouldn’t wanna miss in Florence, if you’re an art and history lover. It is comprising of cloisters, a piazza in the front swarming with people, and masterworks by some notable names on the inside. You will need around 2 hours to see the whole thing, owing to long queues.
The gallery houses the sculpture of David, arguably the most famous sculpture from around the globe. Apart from that, the exhibit with musical instruments is an unmissable one whilst in Florence. If you are short on time and can’t visit every museum in the city, visit just this one. You won’t be disappointed.
Synonymous with world-class popularity is Uffizi Gallery, a must-visit on your Florence itinerary. Boticelli’s (any Dan Brown fans?) the ‘Birth of Venus’ resides here, along with some works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and the likes. Presumably, it has a lot to see, but not everyone can be interested in everything that is on display. I would recommend reading up online about its specialities and visiting those, if you’re not particularly an art enthusiast.
Check here for information about Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti. (recommended)
For a panoramic view of the whole city of Florence, visit the Piazza Michelangelo, also one of the most romantic places in the city. It is essentially a square located in the Oltrarno neighbourhood, overlooking the entire city. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to Michelangelo, and also has replicas of some of his famous sculptures. It offers a breathtaking view of the city at all times, but visiting it at sunset is a big perk. Spot the large David statue in the middle!
Other things to do:
The perks of being in Europe around winter-time are the lovely wind, (though it can get too cold sometimes) and scenic views from bridges wherever you go. Ponte Vecchio is no different, and a walk around the bridge at least once is a must. There are often street musicians, and shops built around it.
A beat off from the architectural clusters in Rome, the Boboli Gardens are huge, sprawling gardens, located just on the hill behind Palazzo Pitti. It is a refreshing change from all the sightseeing you will otherwise do in Florence, and is a fantastic opportunity to explore its greenery and beauty. Go there at the end, because it will take time to explore the whole thing.
Piazza della Signoria
The city is strewn with picturesque squares, and the Piazza della Signoria is no less. Oozing rich history, beautiful Renaissance statues (a staple in the city), and the crowds of early-morning locals are up and about here. Spend some time walking around the statues in the Piazza, like the Fountain of Neptune.
Like all other Italian cities, there is no dearth of places to stay in Florence, ranging from cheap to expensive, and simple to extravagant.
Owing to our thirst for exploration, we stayed in Impruneta, a little town about 15 kilometers from Florence. The town is a prominent part of Tuscany, testified by its monopoly in Terracotta! The town also hosts some amazing wine festivals and has a lot of Terracotta displays.
We stayed in a cozy apartment just in the beginning of the town, and made full use of the markets selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and also other ones which had jewellery and artifacts (Terracotta, of course.)
If you’re more likely to stay in Florence, check out a hostel, as they are located in central places and give you easy access to main attractions. Or, if you’re with family, you may stay in a hotel or apartment.
It is impossible to come to Florence and not indulge in Gelato to your heart’s content. My favorite one was the Bar Gelateria Signoria, with a cute seating outside, and a wide number of flavours to choose from. You can also check out Gelateria La Carraia, and Gelateria de Neri.
A staple Italian food, you can get it practically anywhere in Florence. Try the ‘John Travolta’ pasta at Il Profeta.
- Florence sees a huge footfall every year, all year around, in terms of tourists. Therefore, brace yourself for a swarm of people wherever you go.
- Wake up early, in order to make the most of your time. Start your sightseeing early, as everything closes pretty early, especially during winter time.
- Book your tickets in advance. I assure you, you would not want to stand in line for hours outside any museums.
- Make use of student discounts wherever you can.
- Lastly, try to do as much as you can on foot. The city is best explored while walking.
Check out my other blogs on Rome, Venice, and the Vatican!
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