Florence is a walking city:
Florence’s centro historico or historical center is packed to the brim with museums, art galleries, cathedrals, elegant buildings and beautiful squares that it’s possible to see and do a lot here even if you’ve only got a couple of days. Over the past few years, we’ve made a few brief stops here and were able to re-visit all our favourite places each time.
Top 10 sites you could visit on foot
Art lovers will not want to miss this as it holds the world’s finest collection of Renaissance art, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and early works by Leonardo da Vinci. There’s a lot to see in the Gallery and it’s unlikely that you’ll cover it all. The queues for the Uffizi Gallery are usually quite huge. To avoid standing for hours in the queue, it is recommended that visitors book a guided tour in advance. Another advantage is that the tour guide will be able to point out the key pieces and provide a commentary on the work.
Galleria dell’ Accademia
Michelangelo’s David, is housed here and is the Gallery’s most famous sculpture. This sculpture of the biblical hero who killed Goliath attracts visitors from all over the world and it can be quite busy around the statue. Guided tours of the Accademia are also available and will ensure that you get ahead of the queues.
The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) is the only bridge from Florence’s medieval days that survived the destructions of World War II. Built in 1345, it was the first bridge across the Arno River and from the bridge, you’ll have a great view along the Arno River and beyond.
Campanile – Bell Tower
The Campanile is in Piazza del Duomo. The first story was designed by Giotto and it is commonly referred to as Giotto’s Campanile. You can climb the 414 stairs to the top (sorry, no lifts) for great views of the Cathedral and its dome and the city of Florence and surroundings.
Il Duomo – Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence’s most popular landmark is its Duomo - Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo is Europe’s fourth largest church and the city’s tallest building. Inside, Brunelleschi’s Dome is a masterpiece of construction. You can climb the 463 steps to the top.
The Baptistry of John the Baptistis one of Florence’s oldest buildings. Built in the 11th century, its exterior is made of green and white marble and there are three sets of amazing bronze doors – all reproductions (the originals are in the Duomo Museum, which is also worth a visit). Inside, you’ll see some mosaics and a marble pavement of the zodiac.
Piazza della Signoria
Florence’s most famous square is in the heart of the centro historico. 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, sits on the piazza. The palazzo contains elaborately decorated public rooms and private apartments.
Santa Croce, in Piazza Santa Croce, is the largest Franciscan church in Italy. It holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante, as well as one of Brunelleschi’s most important works – the Cappella dei Pazzi. Inside the church are some exceptional stained glass windows and frescoes.
Pitti Palace, south of the Arno River, was the former residence of the powerful Medici rulers. Today it houses the Palatine Gallery, with its astonishingly lavish Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Porcelain Museum, among many others.
Florence is noted for its leather goods and you’ll have lots to choose from here. Peruzzi is a huge store which is on the itinerary of most tour groups. Apart from leather goods, there’s also paper goods, and jewellery as well as nice souvenirs and art productions.
If you enjoy the markets, Florence has a number of open air markets selling food, clothing, and antiques. The most famous is around Piazza San Lorenzo where you’ll find leather goods, too. Another good place is Mercato Nuovo (Porcellino) on Via Porta Rossa. Mercato Centrale is a great place for food shopping. The last time we were in Florence, it was Christmas Eve and the market stores in front of the Duomo had a great range of regional foods to help ward off the cold.