Are you traveling to Florence and wondering what to see and do? There are lots.
Florence is the capital of the Italian Renaissance, and it has some pretty spectacular points of interest. It’s also the capital of Tuscany and located about 280km (173 miles) north of Rome, and 310 km (192 miles) south of Milan.
The Medici Family ruled over Florence and Tuscany for almost three centuries giving this city some of the most beautiful and famous monuments in the world.
How To Get to Florence
Florence, Firenze in Italian, is very easy to reach by train. The central train station “Firenze Santa Maria Novella” is conveniently located downtown, walking distance from all the major attractions.
If you are planning a trip to Florence, consider spending in this city at least three nights.
Uffizi Gallery – You Must See Florence Art Gallery!
The Uffizi Gallery is a museum of antique paintings and is probably one of the most famous in the world. The gallery is located near the Palazzo Vecchio (City Hall) right in the center of the city. The entrance cost is €20.00 plus the €4.00 entrance reservation. Also, if you are planning to visit Pitti Palace and the Duke Gardens, you may find that it’s more convenient to buy the 3-day pass that covers all the three monuments for €38.00 plus €4.00 reservation fee.
I recommend buying the tickets in advance to skip the massive lines at the ticket office. The Gallery is open every day from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm.
Lastly, if this is your first visit, it can be a good idea to take a guided tour because the exhibit can be slightly overwhelming.
Ponte Vecchio, The Original Bridge in Florence
Ponte Vecchio is probably one of the most iconic bridges in the world. An icon, this bridge has many jewelry stores built on it. Further, it’s the only original bridge left in the city. Unfortunately, all the other bridges in Florence were bombed by the Germans to stop the allied troops in world war 2. Then, they were rebuilt shortly after the way. However, they did not dare to bomb the Ponte Vecchio because it was too beautiful.
On the bridge, there is the Vasari Corridor, a passage that, in the old days, allowed the Duke of Florence to go from his palace to City Hall without having to walk among commoners. This secret passage is open to the public for special visits. (Read more here)
Palazzo Vecchio: A Must See and Do in Florence!
Palazzo Vecchio (The Old Palace) is the Florences’ City Hall and indeed, a must-see and do! The Palazzo Vecchio is situated on the Piazza Della Signoria. You can easily recognize this palace by its clock tower.
Visiting hours are:
- October to March: from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm except for Thursday that is open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
- April to September: from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm except for Thursday that is open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm
- Last admission is one hour before closing.
In front of the Palace, you can see the replica of the famous Michelangelo’s David. To be sure, the original stood here until 1873. Then, it was moved to the Accademia Gallery to protect it from the elements.
On the left side of the Palazzo, you can see the Loggia Dei Lanzi. Under the arches of this building, you can admire some other amazing sculptures of the Renaissance, like Benvenuto Cellini Perseus.
On the right side of the Palace, you can admire the Fountain of Neptune, a 16th-century fountain of Neptun and sea horses.
The Duomo – A Must See and Do in Florence
Here you will find probably the most famous building in the city. The Duomo is stunning with its marble facade and Giotto’s bell tower next to it. Further, you can admire Brunelleschi’s dome towering over the cathedral. The Brunelleschi Dome was the biggest dome ever built until the Vatican was built. In the piazza, you can also admire the baptistery with the famous golden door (Porta del Paradiso). If you want to go inside the duomo, I suggest going early because the lines outside are usually very long.
Palazzo Pitti and Boboli’s Gardens
Pitti Palace was the residence of the Duke of Tuscany. Nowadays, it’s a museum with several paintings, masterpieces, and some stunning rooms. Notably, there are many paintings by Raphael – the famous painter, not the turtle :-).
The Palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. Tickets are €16.00 plus a €3.00 entrance reservation. Then, inside the palace, you can see the Palatine Gallery and the Royal apartments – a real gem in the heart of Florence.
Connected to the Palace are the Boboli’s Gardens. The Duke used it has his private garden. Then, with the many fountains, statues, and water features, it became the inspiration for the Italian Style gardens all over the world. Boboli Gardens is most certainly a must-see and do while in Florence.
Santa Croce – An Oasis of Peace
Santa Croce is a huge Florentine monastery in the heart of the city. Inside it is an oasis of peace. Here, Santa Croce hosts the tombs of some of the most famous Italians of the past, such as Galileo Galilei.
The sanctuary of the convent is quite remarkable and worth spending some time in it.
Santa Maria Novella and The (Very) Old Pharmacy
The Church of Santa Maria Novella and its convent is another remarkable complex in Florence. Nearby, you can see the Old Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, and as a tip, you might want to check a map of Florence to get to it. Here, the monks used to use the herbs from their garden to prepare medicines. Nowadays, the pharmacy produces essences, soap, and fragrances. Inside it is quite stunning and worth a visit.
Piazzale Michelangelo, il Belvedere – A Must See and Do in Florence
The Piazzale Michaelangelo viewing point is about 5 minutes by taxi from the Centro. Or, you can walk there in about 20 minutes. The view of the city from this spot is quite stunning. It’s also iconic, as the Duomo and its dome dominate it.
San Lorenzo Market
The San Lorenzo Market is Florence’s old food market. Here inside, you will find stores that sell typical Tuscan food and wine. On the upper floor of the market, you can sit down for a typical Florentine meal.
Florence Food – You To Try It!
The food in Florence is excellent. For instance, the most typical dish is the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a giant T-bone cooked rare and sliced for sharing between 2-3 people. Here, you will find that many restaurants offer this famous dish and is sold by the KG.
Also, when in season (usually late September to November), mushrooms and truffles are a typical dish in Florence. Pizza, on the other hand, it is not a typical Tuscan dish. Yes, you can find many restaurants that serve pizza in Florence, but it is not the real, local experience.
Tuscan Crostini is another typical appetizer in the area. And, the most popular crostini topped with chicken liver pate.
If you’re looking for street food, you can find quick and delicious Porchetta sandwiches. Porchetta is slow-roasted pork that is deboned and heavily seasoned with a blend of Tuscan herbs.
We found a great little shop near the Porcellino Market, called “Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916,” that does this sandwich to perfection. These guys were super nice to us and gave us a sample!
Unfortunately, with Florence being a top-rated tourist destination, it’s also home to many restaurants that target tourists.
For this reason, If you see a restaurant that shows a menu with many photos, stay away as the chances are that it is not a typical place that serves real Tuscan food.
I hope that these few notes about Florence will help you have a great time in this fantastic city.