Florence is the capital of the Italian Renaissance and it has some pretty spectacular points of interest. It is also the capital of Tuscany and it is located about 280km (173 miles) north of Rome and 310 km (192 miles) south of Milan. Florence, Firenze in Italian, it is very easy to reach by train. The main train station “Firenze Santa Maria Novella” is conveniently located right downtown, walking distance from all the major attractions.
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.
If you are planning a trip to Florence consider spending in this city at least 3 nights.
Let’s see what are some of the must-sees in Florence:
This painting museum 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 €20.00 plus the €4.00 entrance reservation. Also if you are planning to visit Pitti Palace and the Duke Gardens, it is more convenient to buy the 3 days pass that covers all the 3 monuments for €38.00 plus €4.00 reservation fee.
It is advisable to buy the tickets in advance to skip the huge 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.
This is probably one of the most iconic bridges in the world. The bridge has many jewelry stores built on it. It is the only original bridge left in the city. All of the other bridges in Florence were rebuilt after world war 2. In fact the german troops destroyed all the bridges in Florence to stop the Allied troops. However, they did not dare to bomb 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 (The old Palace) is Florence City Hall. It is situated on the Piazza Della Signoria. You can easily recognize this palace by its clock tower. It is open for a visit:
- 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. The original stood here till 1873 when it was moved in the Accademia Gallery to protect it from the element.
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.
This is probably the most famous building in the city. The Duomo is absolutely stunning with its marble facade and Giotto’s bell tower next to it. Furthermore, you can admire Brunelleschi’s dome towering over the cathedral. This 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 to go 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 is a museum with several paintings masterpieces and some stunning rooms. The Palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:50 pm. Tickets are €16.00 plus €3.00 entrance reservation. Inside the palace, you can visit the Palatine Gallery and the Royal apartments.
Connected to the Palace are the Boboli’s Gardens. This was the Duke’s private garden and it became the inspiration for the Italian Style gardens all over the world. This amazing park has many fountains, statues and water features. It is definitely worth a long visit.
This is a huge monastery in the heart of the city. Inside it is an oasis of peace and quiet. The Church of Santa Croce hosts the tombs of some of the most famous Italians of the past like Galileo Galilei.
The cloister of the convent is quite remarkable and worth spending some time in it.
Santa Maria Novella and the old Pharmacy
The Church of Santa Maria Novella and its convent is another remarkable complex Florence. Nearby you can access the Old Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. Here the monks used to use the herbs of their garden to prepare medicaments. Nowadays the pharmacy produces essences, soap, and fragrances. Inside it is quite stunning and definitely worth a visit.
Piazzale Michelangelo, il Belvedere
This viewing point is about 5 minutes by taxi from the centro or 20 minutes walking. From this piazza, the view of the city is quite stunning. The view is dominated by the Duomo and its dome.
San Lorenzo Market
This is Florence’s old food market. Inside you will find stores that sell typical Tuscan food and wine. On the first floor of the market, you can sit down for a typical meal.
The food in Florence is really excellent. The most typical dish is the Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a giant T-bone cooked rare and sliced for sharing between 2-3 people. Many restaurants offer this famous dish and it is usually sold by weight.
In season, usually late September to November mushrooms and truffles are a common dish in Florence. Pizza, on the other hand, it is not a typical Tuscan dish, you can find many restaurants that serve pizza in Florence but it is not the true local experince.
Tuscan Crostini is another typical appetizer in the area. The most popular is the chicken liver crostini. If you are looking for a quick and delicious sandwich you must try the Porchetta sandwich. This is a slow roast hog deboned and heavily seasoned with a blend of Tuscan herbs.
We found a great little store, near the Porcellino Market, called “Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916” that does this sandwich to perfection.
Florence, being a very popular tourist destination, is also home for many restaurants that target tourists.
For this reason, If you see a restaurant that shows a menu with many photos stay away 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 amazing city.