It’s no wonder Florence was rated the best city in Europe in the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Let’s discover together this gorgeous region rich in history and culture and 8 unforgettable experiences you can take while visiting Florence.
The Cathedral and its dome, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s bell tower, the Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizzi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Galleria Palatina, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, San Miniato, San Lorenzo, masterpieces by Donatello, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo… Florence is all this and much more!
On approaching the city, you could have the seductive and passionate pace of Lauretta’s aria “Oh, my dear papa”, from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Puccini in your head. Let the soundtrack dictate the rhythm of your steps and glances. The plot was inspired by a passage from the Inferno, the first part of the Divine Comedy penned by Dante Alighieri, the Florentine poet, considered the father of the Italian language (Dante’s house lies in the heart of the old city, in Via Santa Margherita). Florence serves as the backdrop for Puccini’s opera, which makes many references to the city’s history, landscape and architecture, with precise geographical indications and a phrase book full of local expressions.
Climb the Duomo and Bell Tower
If you want to see the entire city, scale the 476 stairs of one of the world’s architectural wonders, the Duomo. Built by Filippo Brunelleschi who won the competition for its commission in 1418, the dome is egg-shaped and was made without scaffolding. Climbing the Duomo will cost €8, the Bell Tower €6. Remember, if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights, we don’t recommend to climb up to the dome.
Visit the Santa Trinità Basilica
This is a local gem of beautiful old art! The Church of Santa Trinita is extremely rich in artworks, most of them displayed within its chapels. The Sasseti chapel is the most important, but you can visit also Davanzati Chapel, Spini Chapel, Benozzo Federighi funerary monuments and the Main Altar.
Go to the Uffizi Museum
Every year, millions of visitors enter the Uffizi Gallery to experience the beauty of some of the most famous works of art and masterpieces (Venus de’ Medici, The Birth of Venus, Bacchus by Caravaggio, Ognissanti Madonna). You should know that the Uffizi is open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm. This means it is closed on Mondays. Book tickets in advance to avoid waiting in lines. Here, you can spend all day because you’ll see thousands of unique pieces by some of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists including Raffaello, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Giotto. So prepare yourself for a long and special day!
Unwind in the Piazza Santo Spirito
One of the most picturesque squares in Florence, Piazza Santo Spirito, is a lively place, both night and day, for every tourist. Sit on the steps and enjoy a proper taste of the city’s real cosmopolitan life. Santo Spirito square has a long tradition in festivals too, the most notable of them being the sacred representation held in March 1566 for the marriage of grand-duke Francesco I with Maria Giovanna d’Austria. Still today, concerts and various events make this square one thriving center of night life in Florence. Walk and enjoy the view!
What to do with kids in Florence: Visit Museo Zoologico La Specola
The name Specola means observatory, a reference to the astronomical observatory founded there in 1790. Now it houses the largest collection of anatomical wax models, presenting in great detail the systems composing the human body. Definitely worth the price and time. Also, you can enroll your children in Arte al Sole, an art and cultural day camp located at Palazzo Belfiore in Florence. It’s an interesting activity for the whole family, focused on Renaissance style ceramic-ware.
Walk along the Arno River
It is the most important river in central Italy after the Tevere (the Tiber). For those looking to get away from the crowd of tourists, those who really only want to hear the steady rhythm of the water, they shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to float down the Arno River in one of the restored “vecchi barchetti” (old boats). Also, it’s a must to walk the Ponte Vecchio early in the morning or at dusk. This bridge was the only bridge across the Arno in Florence, until 1218. In recent history, a tradition says that if lovers attach a padlock somewhere on the Ponte Vecchio and then throw away the key in water, their love will last forever.
Don’t forget to take a special break for a delicious gelato! Some of the best gelato can be found at Vivoli, Perché No!, Grom and Festival. A few tips for making the most of your gelato order: first, decide what you want, a cone or a cup; be smart and choose a cone because you’ll get more gelato in a cone. Then, let’s take a look at the flavors: from the “arachidi salati” (salted peanuts) which tastes just like delicious peanut butter cookies, to the “biscottino”, a yummy cookies & cream, all flavors are mouth-watering. You can also enjoy some milkshakes and smoothies.
Visit Santa Maria Novella
This is one of the prettiest churches in Florence. Santa Maria Novella houses the landmark fresco of the early Renaissance, “The Trinity” by Masaccio. All the frescoes are beautifully painted with a special attention to every little detail — the wisps of hair, the folds in the robes, the furniture, the decorative details of clothing. Great works of art were conceived for the church by masters such as Masaccio, Giotto, Filippino Lippi, Duccio di Buoninsegna and Ghirlandaio, just to name a few.
Florence is one of the most beautiful cities of Italian Renaissance, so there are a lot of interesting things to do no matter what street you may end up wandering.