Florence is a beautiful Italian city home to Renaissance architecture, monuments and statues, galleries displaying priceless pieces of art, and informative museums documenting Italian history. There are countless places to eat and drink and sample a vino or two and you can always find a place to stay no matter what your budget is. The centre of the city is a concentration of all these attractions, of which there are enough to send your head spinning! We’ve narrowed it down for you, and have compiled a list of the five best things to do in Firenze.
This emerald cathedral dominates the centre of Florence and draws crowds like a magnet into Piazza Del Duomo. The cathedral, officially named ‘Basilica di Santa Maria Del Fiore’, took 140 years to build and was finally completed in 1436. The grandeur of the cathedral is more impressive from the outside as it gleams shades of pink, green and white across a marble façade. The cathedral comprises of varying features that include the baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower). The most exciting aspect of a visit to cathedral is scaling the Duomo’s cupola. The dome is a significant feat of 15th-century engineering, and can be accessed via a climb of 463 steps. The ascent allows you to get up close to various frescoes painted inside the dome, including The Last Judgement, as well as inviting you to absorb the mesmerising stained-glass roundels. The reward for your staggering, limb-aching climb is magnificent views of Florence that spread across the orange-tiled roofs towards green Tuscan hills.
Piazza Della Signoria
This is Florence’s most famous square and has played the role of the heart and centre of the city’s political life since the 14th century. The square lies in front of the city hall, known as the Palazzo Vecchio. The square itself is L-shaped and is surrounded by impressive 14th-century architecture, including the arch-filled Loggia della Signoria and the Uffizi Gallery. The main attraction however is the Palazzo Vecchio which boasts a copy of Michelangelo’s David on its doorstep. The square has provided a meeting place for Florentines and tourists for many years and is home to numerous cafes, bars and restaurants.
Italian cities seem to be overwhelmed with famous bridges. However, surely none out-class Florence’s most iconic bridge, the Ponte Vecchio. The medieval bridge spans the narrowest point of the Arno River. The bridge is famous for the shops built into it. These were originally occupied by butchers, however today the bridge is mainly clad with jewellery stores, art dealers and tacky souvenir sellers. During World War II the Germans destroyed every bridge in Florence apart from the Ponte Vecchio which was left unscathed. This was apparently due to a direct order from Hitler who was thought to admire the bridge so much he refused its destruction.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the Western world. It is home to artistic works from the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Raphael. Construction of the gallery began in 1560 and ended in 1581. The internal courtyard within the gallery is often recognised as the first regularised streetscape of Europe. The gallery is one of the most popular attractions in Florence, and tourists often find themselves queuing for up to five hours to gain access during the high season. It is advisable to buy tickets in advance.
The Boboli Gardens is a fine park located across the Arno River and is home to various 16th-18th century sculptures. The gardens can be found behind the Pitti Palace which was once the main seat of the House of Medici, from who the Renaissance was born. The elaborate and formal design provides a fantastic insight into how the rich Florentines would spend their afternoons, strolling amongst fine sculptures and bubbling fountains. Boboli Gardens is a fantastic place to relax and take a break from the sun whilst enjoying great views back over the centre of the city.