If you’re planning a trip to Florence, Italy, and wondering what not to miss, this list will come in handy.
Florence, also known as the “cradle of the Renaissance,” is a stunning destination with innumerable art, culture, and architectural elements, and is an ideal city for short stays.
The majority of Florence’s attractions revolve around art, from the works displayed in the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’Accademia to the architecture of the Duomo and the Palazzo Pitti. But not all of the beauty has been captured in stone and canvas; visit the verdant Boboli Gardens, walk along the Arno and over the Ponte Vecchio, or eat your way through Firenze’s cafes, gelato shops, and ristorantes.
It is a one-of-a-kind jewel among Italy’s most beautiful cities. It is a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors.
It’s not a large city like Milan or Rome; it’s a small town with a population of 500,000 people, and the majority of the highlights are concentrated in a small area.
As a result, visiting the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo complex, and the Uffizi Gallery, which houses and exhibits thousands of Renaissance artworks, is a breeze.
Because they are only a ten-minute walk apart, you can easily visit Florence without having to rely on cars or buses.
If you enjoy hiking, there are plenty of opportunities in the surrounding area.
Begin in the city’s heart, where you’ll find one of the world’s most famous and enchanting complexes: Brunelleschi’s baptistery and dome, Giotto’s imposing bell tower, and the Duomo, which stands out with its white, green, and pinkish marble facade.
The Duomo, Florence’s majestic cathedral, also known as the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, is still one of the world’s four largest churches.
The Duomo in Florence took 170 years to build and is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks due to its size and the harmony of the patterns all around the marble decorations.
When construction began in 1300, Florence was one of the wealthiest cities in Italy, and the city-sponsored this duomo construction, which had to become the largest cathedral ever built at the time, thanks to the production of walls and the city’s solid economy.
The interior of the Duomo features a massive central nave with a massive pillar and massive Gothic arches. You will walk along with a beautiful floor pattern with three letters, OPA, which stands for “Opera del Duomo,” or the institution established specifically for the creation and subsequent maintenance of the Cathedral complex.
The cathedral is open from 10:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
The hours of operation may vary depending on the day and season. For more information, go to the official website.
Did you know that Brunelleschi, the designer of the Dome, was initially thought to be a fool?
When the project began in 1420, he was regarded as a fool because he was a goldsmith rather than an architect, and no one believed he would be able to finish the Dome. Filippo Brunelleschi, on the other hand, managed to surprise everyone in Florence in just 14 years.
The dome is a true work of art that has enchanted the world for centuries; it is the tallest structure in Florence and a symbol of the Renaissance.
If you are not afraid of heights and want to climb this iconic landmark to enjoy the view of the city and get a closer look at the wonderful frescoes, there are 463 steps to climb in a very narrow passageway (same up and down).
Climbing to the top is one of the most popular things to do in Florence, Italy, and reservations are required well in advance.
You should be aware that there is a popular saying about the dome: don’t climb it before graduating because it will bring you bad luck. As a result, I advise you to climb it only after you have graduated.
Hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. At 6:45 p.m., the last entry was made.
Saturdays, 8:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The last entry is at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays and public holidays: 12:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The last day to enter is 4:30 p.m.
If you’re not afraid of heights, prepare to have one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences like climbing to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower.
The bell tower of the majestic Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore provides some very impressive panoramic views from the top. To reach the top of the tower, however, you must climb 414 steps!
But don’t worry, there are several terraces in the tower where you can take a break, catch your breath, and possibly take some photos.
The Bell Tower has no elevators or other means of reaching the top. As a result, the climb is not recommended for people who have heart disease, vertigo, or claustrophobia.
You’ll have a fantastic panoramic view of the city and surrounding hills from the top of Giotto’s Tower, not to mention a unique perspective from which to admire the Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s Dome.
Climbing the Dome and the Bell Tower requires over a thousand steps, which is a great leg and spirit workout. The view from the top is incredible, and every sweaty step is well worth it.
Proceed from Piazza Duomo to Piazza Della Signoria, Florence’s most famous square and home to the Palazzo Vecchio, widely regarded as the best example of 14th-century civil architecture in the world.
It has an imposing and austere appearance and served as the Medici family’s private residence.
The city hall of Florence now occupies a portion of the palace, while the remainder serves as a museum.
At the Palazzo Vecchio’s entrance, a replica of Michelangelo’s David is on display.
But the original David has a little secret: in 1520, it was located in front of Palazzo Vecchio, and while there was a large army in the square, the Palazzo window above the statue was opened, and someone threw a bench outside, injuring the poor David; his left hand became detached and fell to the ground. It was there for four days before being removed with its 100 kilos.
The original David, thankfully, is now safely housed within the Accademia Gallery.
The square also contains the Fountain of Neptune, also known as “Biancone,” the city’s first public fountain, as well as the Loggia Dei Lanzi, a fourteenth-century structure that once housed ancient assemblies.
While you’re in Piazza Signoria, I recommend stopping for some delicious gelato.
Via De’ Neri leads from Palazzo Vecchio to Piazza Santa Croce. At the last intersection, on your right, you’ll find the Gelateria de’ Neri, which serves a wide range of gelato and granita flavors (Italian ices).
Following a delicious break, you will visit Florence’s largest museum, the Uffizi Gallery.
It is not only a museum but also a beautiful Renaissance palace where Florentines still walk through the courtyard, which has become a unique setting for car shows. However, it is best known for the thousands of artworks on display at the gallery.
If you look up on the second floor, you’ll find yourself beneath a magnificent gallery that still has the original ceilings, which depicted flowers and a few colorful decorations inspired by ancient Roman villas.
There are 120 rooms, and the rooms of the most famous artists, such as Giotto, Piero Della Francesca, and Porticelli, contain absolutely wonderful artworks.
Botticelli’s “Primavera,” an allegory of springtime, is one of the Uffizi Gallery’s most famous highlights. Flora, the Latin Goddess of Spring, is the painting’s main subject. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is another well-known work.
There are also rooms dedicated to Leonardo Da Vinci and his “Annunciation,” Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and other Italian masters, in addition to the Botticelli room.
A typical visit to the Uffizi Gallery lasts approximately two hours.
The Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s oldest and most famous bridge. This 700-year-old bridge is notable not only for its long history but also for the presence of jewelry stores.
With all of the glittering shop windows, it doesn’t even look like a bridge when you walk across it. Hand-made jewelry can still be found hereafter for hundreds of years. Florentine 18K jewelry is available in 49 stores.
The bridge was built at the request of the Medici family, particularly Cosimo I, who commissioned architect Giorgio Vasari to build a corridor to allow members of the Medici family to move between their homes (Palazzo Pitti) and their workplace (Uffizi) without having to mix with the crowds.
As a result, the project has earned the moniker “Vasari Corridor.”
This specially designed path connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the magnificent Pitti Palace, passing through the Uffizi Gallery and above the Ponte Vecchio jewelry stores.
This year, this secret passageway will reopen, but instead of a narrow tunnel or a dark passageway, you will be able to walk through it and enjoy thousands of artworks.
More information on the Vasari Corridor’s upcoming opening and new admission rules can be found on the official website.
You’ll arrive at Palazzo Pitti after crossing the Ponte Vecchio, one of the city’s most important palaces and the home of the Medici family since the second half of the sixteenth century.
It is a historic structure that houses several exhibitions and rooms, including the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Silver Museum, the Porcelain Museum, and the Costume Gallery.
The Boboli Garden, which is located next to the Palace and is a fine example of an Italian garden, should not be overlooked.
The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte, which offers a spectacular view of Florence, is another must-see attraction.
To get there, follow the famous avenues until you reach Piazzale Michelangelo, which is also known for its view.
The one from San Miniato al Monte, on the other hand, is my favorite because it is wider and less crowded with tourists.
I also recommend that you pay a visit to the wonderful Giardino Delle Rose (Rose Garden), which is located near Piazzale Michelangelo and is a garden that is little known by tourists but is well worth seeing.
The admission is free and it is open all year, though I believe the best time to visit is in the spring when the roses are in bloom. There are 400 different types of roses, and the garden offers stunning views of Florence.
The Baptistery of San Giovanni, located in front of Florence’s cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the city’s oldest churches.
When you enter the building, the first thing that catches your eye is the valuable mosaics that cover the entire ceiling. They were the largest in the world to be decorated with this technique at the time.
This is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences in Florence. Crossing the church will bring you into the presence of angels and flowery motives.
Finally, visit the Accademia Gallery to see the original David, whose surface is flawless and whose size, at 16 feet tall plus the pedestal, is truly astounding.
The Accademia Gallery is a major art museum in Florence. Despite housing Michelangelo’s David statue, it also houses a number of Renaissance works. The Accademia also houses the Grand Ducal collection of over 50 instruments, including the last surviving tenor viola of the Medici Quintet, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1690 and preserved in its original splendor.
Hours of operation:
Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. (last admission at 6:15 p.m.).
On Saturdays and Sundays, reservations are required.
Every Monday is a holiday.
The Belvedere Fort, located on the grounds of the Boboli Gardens, is Florence’s second-largest fort and commands a commanding position on the southern banks of the River Arno.
The fort, built in the late 1500s, was intended to demonstrate Florence’s power and wealth at the time.
Today, you can marvel at the magnificent architecture and design of this Renaissance fortification and comprehend why it held such a strategic position.
You can also see across the city and take some stunning photographs of the historical landscape.
The Statue of David is a magnificent piece of Renaissance art created by the legendary artist Michelangelo. It is possibly the most renowned and well-known sculpture in the world (not just because of his genitals).
This statue depicts the biblical hero David, who is said to be the first King of Israel, and it is well-known for its incredible detail and unwavering accuracy in depicting the human form.
The original statue can be found in the Galleria dell’Accademia, and a replica can be found at the Palazzo Vecchio’s entrance.
The Bistecca Fiorentina is exactly as it sounds: a Florentine steak. The meat can be veal or from a heifer cattle, which is a cow that has not yet given birth to a calf. Furthermore, it must be taken from a Chianina breed of cattle with Siena origins. Before ordering this steak, keep in mind that it is typically served rare.
There is no fancy marinade to add flavor to this dish, as there is in most Italian recipes. The flavor comes from the high-quality cut of meat, and the salt enhances that flavor. However, salt and pepper cannot be added until the dish has been cooked.
It must be grilled over hot coals to be considered a “Fiorentina.” The bone-in steak is comparable to the American T-Bone. You must obviously place it on the grill at room temperature, so remove it from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
During my research, I came across an article on Eataly and other English-language websites recommending cooking this with rosemary and sage, which while tasty, is not the authentic Florentine recipe. You can use rosemary as a garnish on the plate, but don’t let it touch the steak.
If you Google “ricotta bistecca alla Fiorentina,” you’ll get a list of all the Italian recipes for this dish. Although they are difficult to read, they contain four ingredients. The steak, salt (sale), pepper (Pepe), and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (olio).
Florence’s historic center, like most cities, is the best place to stay because it is easily walkable and has all the amenities.
The historic center is divided into several sections:
If you enjoy the nightlife, I recommend staying in the Piazza Santo Spirito neighborhood, which is packed with clubs that stay open until late.
If you’re traveling with your family, I recommend staying in central districts that are a little quieter, such as Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, which are home to Florence’s central station. It is conveniently located near the main attractions, only a 10-minute walk from Piazza Duomo, and the prices are even lower.
In Florence’s center, you can find everything from luxury hotels to bed and breakfasts. The cost of a luxury hotel ranges from extremely high to moderately low for two-star hotels and hostels.
Oltrarno is a lovely neighborhood on the other side of the Arno River, just a short walk from the historic center, Palazzo Pitti, and the Boboli Gardens.
You can find more affordable lodging options here, and it’s a great place to go shopping. There are numerous unique craft stores as well as an abundance of antique stores.
San Niccol is a peaceful neighborhood south of the Arno River.
It’s close to the Boboli Gardens, and there’s also quieter and less expensive lodging nearby.
I hope you found this overview of Florence’s landmarks and must-see sites useful in planning your trip to Italy.