Florence is one of the most historically and culturally important cities in the world. An important hub of civilization since ancient times, the city is alive with art, historic buildings, impressive cathedrals, palaces, and parks. See David, marvel at the Duomo, eat great food and relax with a glass of Chianti after a long day. Florence is a breathtakingly beautiful city, and no matter how long you’re there for, you’ll wish you had longer to spend!
The Florence Cathedral is more famously referred to as the Duomo. One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, it is also the city’s most prized feature. Construction of the Duomo started in the 1400s, but the façade wasn’t completed until the 1800s. The exterior is an impressive mosaic, painstakingly constructed from a mixture of pink, green and white marble. Close to the Duomo, but in separate buildings, you’ll find Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistry of St. John. Book your tour ahead of time and avoid waiting in line and running the risk of being turned away.
A trip to Florence is not complete with seeing Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. Buy your ticket far in advance to avoid the excruciatingly long lines and head to the Galleria dell’Accademia. Aside from the sculptural masterpiece, make sure you see the rest of the collection while you're there. The museum is full of other Renaissance masterpieces as well as historical art from the 14th century and old musical instruments.
Florence is full of stores featuring both internationally renowned designer and local artisanal makers. Set aside a hefty budget and visit the selection of luxury boutiques for shoes, clothes, bags, and more. Visit Via Tornabuoni for Italian fashion staples like Gucci, Prada, and Bulgari. Keep in mind that many stores are closed during lunch, so expect your shopping spree to be put on pause for a bit.
One of the most important galleries in the world, the Uffizi Palace and Gallery features a collection of Renaissance art from the old masters. Peruse pieces by Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian, to name a few. The Adoration of the Magi by Botticelli and Da Vinci’s The Baptism of Christ are two must-see works of art. Apart from the gallery, the building and inner courtyard are just as awe-inspiring. Give yourself a few hours to indulge in this incredibly powerful institution.
The Boboli Gardens are connected to the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti, but it’s worth coming back when you have nothing planned so you can spend an entire day in the gardens. These gardens once belonged to the Medici family, and they are huge and incredibly beautiful. Enjoy the selection of plants, fountains, and sculptures that fill the area while getting some fantastic views of the city. The grottos, amphitheater, and Knight’s Building and Rampart are particularly worth seeing.
Cross the river Arno and climb to the Piazzale Michelangelo to experience the best views of Florence. The Piazzale sits on top of a hill near the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens, so it’s a great place to end your day of sightseeing. Watch the sunset over a truly picturesque view of Florence, the Arno river and the rolling hills of Tuscany in the distance. The square itself has a beautiful bronze statue of David, and there are always people around selling food and drink.
The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, and it’s said to date back to 996. Not only is the structure unique and fascinating, but the bridge itself is lined with artisanal shops, goldsmiths, art dealers, and jewelers. Stroll across the bridge, admire the river Arno, and grab a few souvenirs along the way. There are also plenty of places to get a gelato nearby. We all know the only thing that makes a walk through Florence better is having a delicious gelato in hand!
The Church of Santa Maria Novella is another fine example of Florence’s Renaissance architecture. Like the Duomo, the façade of this smaller church features a mosaic of multi-colored marbles. The exterior of the church and the piazza itself are quite amazing to look at, but the inside of the church is full of incredibly beautiful chapels and fresco paintings. While you’re in the area, it’s worth visiting the Santa Maria Pharmacy, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world that now sells luxury perfumes and beauty products.
The Mercato Centrale is the place to sample the best food that Florence has to offer under one roof. Produce, meats, cheeses, fish, olive oils, vinegars, and other goods are sold on the ground floor while prepared food and drinks are found on the first floor. Peruse the market, snap some pictures and then head to the first floor to eat and drink. Order your food from a stall of your choosing, find a seat, and someone will come to your table to get your drink order. Enjoy a glass of Chianti or indulge in a Spritz while you take a much-needed break.
Although there are plenty of things to do in Florence, it's hard to say no to a day trip to the surrounding Tuscan towns and villages. Hop on a local bus and head to the Roman amphitheater in Fiesole. Walk through the archaeological site, enjoy a glass of Chianti and wander through the sun-kissed streets lined with persimmon and olive trees. For another memorable trip, head to the Villa di Pratolino in Vaglia and see the Appennine Colossus by Giambologna.
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