Buongiorno Italia, buongiorno Maria!
If Italy is considered to be Europe’s gem of culture, then Florence definitely is the center-point of it. In the heart of the picturesque region of Tuscany, one can spend hours and hours admiring this small town that hosts the most famous works of art. The whole city center is packed with extraordinary monuments, churches and palaces and it is not surprising that the entire city center is a Unesco World Heritage site. Wherever you look, there is something to be seen so we’re giving you a list of things that you definitely need to do when visiting Florence!
Visit the magnificent Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous museums in Europe, it is Florence’s top gallery that occupies Palazzo degli Uffizi, the building which was never planned to be a museum. Long labyrinth of rooms that are filled with artworks at first was only accessible to the Grand Ducal family, servants and few selected guests but now they host more than 10,000 people a day. The whole collection of Renaissance masterpieces now displayed inside the Gallery was a personal private collection of well known Medici family. The family was very art-fond and they collected “any kind of wonder”, including paintings, Roman sculptures, manuscripts, coins and so on. Owing to them, today we can enjoy some of the greatest artworks of Michelangelo, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. Absolute must see inside the gallery is Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus and also Titian’s Venus of Urbino. During the high season, waiting times tend to get really long so it is a recommendation to reserve the ticket in advance or to buy it online for a shorter wait.
Take a History of Art class
Florence might seem like an open-air museum to the most visitors but it would be a pity to be in David’s town and miss it. Galleria dell’Academia hosts impressive Michelangelo’s sculptures, including glorious David. Galleria also offers much more, lovers of botany and music will not be disappointed. Must see category is reserved for Botticelli’s Madonnas and original Antonio Stradivari red spruce and maple wood ‘Medici Violin’. Another museum to pay a visit to is Palazzo Strozzi which hosts three major exhibitions annually and a one permanent. It also offers different workshops in order to bring art closer to families, young people and adults. Very useful information: on the first Sunday of the month, all state-owned museums and archeological sites are open for free for everyone. Check the opening times for museums and monuments in Florence and outskirts so you can plan your Sunday at the Museum.
Climb the Dome
The most beautiful thing in life never come easy and that is the case with one of the most breathtaking views in Florence. Florence’s cathedral named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore is a great gothic structure built upon the remains of the 7th-century church. The interior is quite plain beside the mosaic pavements and frescoes of the Last Judgement but the exterior is covered in a mix of pink, white and green marble which makes it unique and typical only to Florence. It is that epic that it took two centuries for the Cathedral to be built. The symbol of Cathedral is definitely the Dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. In order to climb the Dome, you will need to take 463 steps but it will be worth it! It definitely offers a breathtaking view of the city, of its terracotta roofs and cobblestone streets. Entrance into Cathedral remains free but tickets to the Dome and Cathedral’s Museum are recommended to be bought in advance. The ticket is valid 72 hours and includes a visit to the monuments of the Complex Santa Maria del Fiore: Dome, Baptistry, Bell Tower, Crypt and Opera Museum.
Snap a picture at Piazzale Michelangelo
Another viewpoint in town that will blow your mind away is Piazzale Michelangelo. Piazzale Michelangelo is a square with a panoramic view of the town. The square is dedicated to the sculptor Michelangelo and it has bronze copies of his work. Florence seen from above is a really magical experience and it is definitely a moment of wonder. This panoramic view offers also an excellent photo opportunity, day or night but don’t forget to enjoy it while you are there and make some new memories. The breathtaking panorama is completely for free, it takes only a little legwork but the Florence skyline will stay forever in your mind.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
No visit to Florence is complete without strolling down to Ponte Vecchio bridge over the Arno river. The meaning of “Ponte Vecchio” is an “old bridge” and the name is definitely correct because the bridge dates back to the 10th century. This bridge is characteristic for its small shops – the tradition goes back to the 16th century when the Duke of Florence decided that only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to hold shops there. There you can find handmade, unique jewelry such as necklaces, rings, earrings etc. In recent history, some new tradition appeared: lovers should attach a padlock somewhere on the bridge and throw away the key in water so their love would last forever. Insider tip: pay a visit during warm summer nights to enjoy live music performed by charming Italian singers.
Wander around Boboli and Bardini Gardens
In case you get tired of long walking and seek for a little green piece of heaven, you won’t need to look any further from Palazzo Pitti; the reason is that green heart of Florence is located just behind the Palace. Boboli Garden is a typical example of Italian landscape art: geometric areas bordered by smaller and large paths. This park hosts centuries-old oak trees, sculptures and fountains and walking the paths of it may lead you in some different world full of secret and romantic stories. Another alternative to paved streets is Bardini Garden that is special for Wisteria tunnel and flower terraces.
There is a cumulative ticket to both of them so wake up early and seize the day, sing with chattering birds, get lost and enjoy it!
Do some shopping
Since Italy is famous for its fashion industry, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to shop where Italy’s fashion industry was born. Designers Guccio Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo opened haute-couture boutiques in the 1920s and since then Florence got that special stylish sense. Via Tornabuoni houses boutiques of high-end fashion of Gucci, Prada, Pucci, Cartier, Bulgari and many more. It is the most elegant street in town but even if your budget doesn’t allow you to shop there, window shopping is always an option. In case you are more into smaller boutiques that suit any budget, wander down to Via del Corso and find something for yourself. One must keep in mind that Florence is known for leather products and for leather shopping, the most vivid solution is open-air market, such as Piazza del Mercato Nuovo. You can find yourself a fine jacket, a bag or a wallet or a new pair of gloves.
Eat and drink like an Italian
Perhaps the easiest way to feel like a local is to eat like a local. While you are traveling, never forget to try the region’s specialties and thankfully, Florence has more than enough of them. No matter the question, pizza is always the answer! Some people prefer a thick pizza, usually known as the original Napoletana while others prefer thin and crispy pizza Romana. We recommend trying them both to make sure which one is the right for you. Bistecca Fiorentina is the dish you can find anywhere in Florence and the name refers to T-bone steak cut in a particular way. The size of it is huge so you should split it with your dining companions. Your choice of drink during the dinner should be Chianti wine since it is produced in the region of Tuscany. A fine dinner should always end with something sweet and creamy gelato with its rich texture and authentic flavor could the perfect option.