Spring is the perfect season to visit Florence, a Renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany. A weekend here puts you at the centre of some of Italy’s best museums, beautiful cathedrals and churches, interesting streets and squares with elegant buildings and shops and excellent restaurants. We’ve put together our top 10 Florence sights and experiences to get you in the mood.
1. Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio
Florence’s most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds some important statues including a copy of Michelangelo’s David. The piazza has been Florence’s political center since the middle ages and Florence’s town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, still sits on the square.
2. Il Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence’s most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo was begun in 1296, consecrated in 1436, and holds 20,000 people. Its exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues. Inside, Brunelleschi’s Dome is a masterpiece of construction. Here’s what to see inside the duomo.
3. Campanile – Bell Tower
The Campanile, bell tower, is in Piazza del Duomo. The first story was designed by Giotto and it is commonly called Giotto’s Campanile. Buy a ticket and climb the 414 stairs (no lift) for great views of the Cathedral and its dome and the city of Florence and surroundings.
4. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry. From the bridge, you’ll have a great view along the Arno River and beyond.
5. Galleria degli Uffizi
The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art but it’s also Italy’s most crowded museum so it’s a good idea to buy tickets ahead to avoid long ticket lines (use the link above for booking information or buy tickets from Select Italy). The Uffizi holds thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries. Artists whose works you’ll see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael.
6. Galleria dell’ Academia
Galleria dell’ Academia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th-16th centuries. Michelangelo’s David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is in the Galleria dell’ Academia as well as other sculptures by Michelangelo. You’ll also find an interesting collection of musical instruments, begun by the Medici family.
7. Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace
Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you’ll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence. The Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, was once the seat of the Medici family. You can visit 8 different galleries, including art, costumes, jewelry, and apartments.
8. Santa Croce
Santa Croce, in Piazza Santa Croce, is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante. The vast interior contains some exceptional stained glass windows and frescoes. One of Brunelleschi’s most important works, the Cappella dei Pazzi, is in Santa Croce.
9. The Baptistery
The Baptistery of John the Baptist, from the 11th century, is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. Its exterior is made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors (reproductions – the originals are in the Duomo Museum, also worth a visit). Inside, you can see some mosaics and a marble pavement of the zodiac.
10. Stay – JK Place