There is something quite special I have to tell you about what I rediscovered in Florence over 20 years after my first visit. It quite literally felt as though I was falling in love again! I definitely feel this is one of those cities where you can visit time and time again and see things from a different and fresh perspective each time. But, then again I am pretty biased because of my love of Renaissance art and tireless nights at University trying to master the anatomical drawings of the great Leonardo da Vinci in preparation for my anatomy class!
I’ve listed 8 of my very favourite things to do in the arts and culture rich city which I continued to enjoy and rediscovered on my recent trip. I hope they inspire you when you’re building your own Florence itenary.
1. ADMIRE RENAISSANCE ART IN THE UFFIZI GALLERY MUSEUM
The ‘Galleria degli Uffizi’ is probably the most famous museums in the world and if like me you are a lover of Renaissance arts in particular paintings from the greats of the time, then this will be a must-see for you. The majority of artworks are from the Renaissance period and donated to the City of Florence by the prominent Medici family. The pieces are works of the great Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Raffaello to name a few. So now you know they weren’t just Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!! The gallery welcomes over a million visitors per year and for that reason it is a good idea to reserve a ticket online and then collect on the day of your visit opposite the gallery. Although we purchased tickets for 08:30, the gallery announced they were having a team meeting until 10:00 so we needn’t had bothered rushing! When in Florence, just be as laid back as the Florentines!!
Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6
Tel +39 055 23885
Open 08:15 – 18:50
2. LOOK IN AWE AT MICHELANGELO’S DAVID AT THE ACCADEMIA
Again if you’re into your arts then this is one for you. Whereas the Uffizi to me is more of an art gallery, the Accademia or the ‘Galleria dell’ Accademia’ is concentrates more on sculptures. It’s the second most visited museum after the Uffizi and I’m sure in saying the reason for this is that it houses Michelangelo’s David.
The David was sculpted from marble between 1501 and 1504 and stands 14 Ft tall. It depicts the Biblical hero and warrior David represented as a tall standing nude male.
I have to admit when I rediscovered David after all this time following my first encounter, I was inspired all over again, as all those years ago I don’t think I fully appreciated the scale of the sculptor. One thing is for sure this fine specimen of a man has not changed one single bit in 23 years! The Academia does also have a number of other sculpture, paintings and musical artefacts displayed in other sections of the museum.
Again I would recommend you purchase tickets online and exchange them for tickets on the day of your visit. The ticket office is literally opposite The Accademia.
Galleria dell’ Accademia
Via Ricasoli, 66, 50122 Firenze
Tel +39 055 215449
3. GET THE PERFECT PEOPLE-FREE SHOT AT THE PIAZZALE DEL DUOMO
This is the square on which sits Florence’s famous Renaissance dome cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. It’s a gothic styled building built on a 7th century church. Entrance into the cathedral is free so don’t be put off by the long queue – it does move along pretty quickly. If you go with a special tour or tour guide, there is the inclusion to visit the roof top terraces or you can choose to climb the steps up to the top of the Brunelleschi’s Cupola (the dome).
The cathedral is a stunning building but I defy you not to have to get up super early to take a people-free photo outside it. We tried first thing in the morning, and in the evening!
Santa Maria del Fiore
Piazza del Duomo, 50122 Firenze
4. FLORENCE’S MOST ICONIC BRIDGE – THE PONTE VECCHIO
Every photo you are going to see from anyone who’s been to Florence is going to have this iconic bridge as a back-drop. The Ponte Vecchio or ‘Old Bridge’ was actually the only bridge across the River Arno in Florence until 1218. The bridge that stands today was rebuilt following a flood in 1345. If unlike me, you are a fan of gold then you will notice that there are many high-end goldsmiths shops lined along the Ponte Vecchio where you can make purchases, worth of varying fortune! There are also some market stalls lined along the three-arched bridge-way.
During my recent visit, I rediscovered that across the top of the Ponte Vecchio is a portion of the Vasari Corridor built for the Medici family by the Renaissance painter, Vasari. The enclosed walkway leads from the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi, across the top bridge to the Pitti Palace, located on the other side of the river.
The Ponte Vecchio
5. OGLE OVER THE VIEW & SUNSET FROM PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO
This is the place where you see postcard perfect views, which are depicted in glossy books and cards of panoramas of Florence. You are positioned high up above the city overlooking the fortified walls, the river Arno, the Palazzo Vecchio tower and the red dome of the Duomo. You can literally stand here for hours just looking down at the views, identifying the buildings and palaces. It’s also a great spot for people watching as you’ll see many photographers bringing couples here for romantic wedding pictures!
If you are a keen photographer like Dr C, you could spend forever here during the day but this is the place you need to be during sunset. Although, get there early as the best photo spots will be taken early on and there’s also another copy of Michelangelo’s David in the middle of the square.
6. CLIMB THE STEPS TO SAN MINIATO CHURCH
Florence has many beautiful churches but none will give you the breath-taking vistas that San Miniato al Monte can boast. It sits high above the city in the hills and all the climbing will make it totally worth it for the views! Infact we had this as our location for our Flytographer photoshoot and when we arrived, we realised why the photographer chose this spot.
The church is named after Saint Miniato who is said to have died at the church. The interior of the church features a stunning multi-coloured marble and 13th century mosaic over the altar. There is a monastery next to the church, which sells produce prepared by the monks such as honey, liqueurs and ice-cream. There is a 15th century cloister around the church as well as a cemetery where the creator of Pinnochio is buries, Carlo Collodi.
San Miniato al Monte
Via delle Porte Sante, 34,
7. SNIFF OUT SOME ROSEY SCENTS AT A ROSE GARDEN
To get away from the busy city, there is an oasis of calm and serenity to escape to in the form of the Giadino delle rose. During the months of May and June, the roses are in full bloom but you can visit the rest of the year as there is an array of sculptures by a Belgian artist. The garden also gives some further stunning sweeping views of the city as it is located not too far from Piazalle Michelangelo.
Giadino delle Rose
Viale Giuseppe Poggi, 2,
Tel +39 055 055
8. MOOCH AROUND THE MERCATO CENTRALE
One of my favourite past-times is to mooch around markets so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of The Mercato Centrale. There are other more quainter markets but I like this one and love all the inviting stalls.
The Mercato Centrale
Tel +39 055 239 9798
Florence as we experienced is the ideal place to use as a base for day trips out into the surrounding areas and countryside. So if you are planning a trip to the region, and want to know more of what to do then I have an array of posts awaiting your perusal on Pisa, the Tuscan Countryside and medieveal towns, Cinque Terre, wine tasting, eating out and more on spectacular views.
Something tells me that Dr C and I will be returning to Florence very soon…
I’d absolutely love to know what your Florence special places are down in the comments below.
Until the next time…
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