As one of the art capitals of the world, Florence has no shortage of things to see. Enjoy high art in world renowned galleries and museums, eat delicious Tuscan cuisine in incredible restaurants, shop for artisanal crafts at its city markets, discover captivating secrets in hidden medieval alleyways, and window-shop designer fashion boutiques. And, whatever you do, don’t miss these must-sees!
1) Climb to the Top of Giotto’s Bell Tower
Giotto’s epic ‘Campanile’, the last of many contributions the prolific artist made to Florence
The free standing “Campanile” (or “bell tower”) is one-third of the UNESCO Florence Cathedral complex. The world heritage site was designed by one of the founding fathers of Italian Renaissance architecture: Giotto. While Giotto did not live to see its completion, his successors, Andrea Pisano and Francesco Talenti, stayed true to his original designs. The polychrome marble tower takes a perfect square shape with 14.5-meter sides and stands an impressive 84.7 meters tall. A flight of 414 stairs leads the way to one of the most incredible views of Florence, closely overlooking the Duomo for unparalleled views of Brunelleschi’s dome.
2) Get Lost in the Lushness of Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens is a perfect green getaway filled with innumerable artistic and botanical treasures
The Boboli Gardens are perhaps epitome of Renaissance European horticulture. In fact, its prototype, which included contributions by architects Giorgio Vasari, Bartolomeo Ammannati, and Bernardo Buontalenti, inspired royal gardens everywhere – even at the palace of Versailles! Beside the Pitti Palace, this lush open-air museum spans for 111 acres, filled with centuries-old trees providing shade to the ancient and Renaissance sculptures and fountains dotting the grounds. Take your time strolling past highlights like the amphitheatre, the Viottolone, the Garden of the Cavalier, the Kaffeehouse, and the Grotta Grande.
3) Stock Up on Leather Goods at San Lorenzo Market
If it can be made out of leather, you’re sure to find it at Florence’s San Lorenzo street market. Image: https://tuscany-toscana.blogspot.com
Make your way to Florence’s original leather market to find yourself the perfect souvenir. An outdoor market fills the piazza with street vendors, craftsmen, and artisans displaying their exceptional goods. Most of the items are handmade and meet the best Italian standards for quality, but some are not authentic – so be wary of unusually low prices. While the area is safe, one should always keep an eye out for pickpockets in busy bottlenecks. If shopping works up an appetite, head to the newly restored 19th century indoor produce market next door, where you’ll find fresh, local fruit and veggies as well as the Mercato Centrale, a gourmet food court, on the 2nd floor.
4) Support the Monks at San Miniato Monastery & Cemetery
A unique historic context and beautiful views of Florence await you at San Miniato Church. Photo by Francesco Gasparetti
Though the exterior or the Church of St. Minias on the Mountain looks very similar to those of Santa Croce and the Santa Maria del Fiore, its interior is architecturally characterized by the Tuscan Romanesque style. Construction began in 1013 on one of the highest Florentine peaks, located just outside the city walls. The church, which is a short trek from Piazzale Michelangelo, is conjoined with an Olivetan monastery well-known for its artisanal shop stocked with herbal liqueurs, honey, and teas. Visitors are free to explore the on-site cemetery, home to the graves of many notable men, including Carlo Lorenzini, the author of Pinocchio.
5) Soak up the view from Piazzale Michelangelo
Hands down the best panoramic view of the Florence skyline is from Piazzale Michelangelo across the Arno
Take a bus, drive, or walk a winding uphill path to Piazzale Michelangelo, a spacious 19th century terrace with a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David and, more notably, a stupendous skyline view over Florence. If you’re looking for a postcard perfect perspective, it doesn’t get much better than this! The area is often filled with musicians and local vendors but do yourself a favour and don’t bother buying any sub-par snacks here, just bask in the atmosphere as you look out on the magic of Florence.
6) Sample as Much Florentine Food as You Can
Immerse yourself in Florence by digging-in to some of its amazing culinary masterpieces
Sure, who doesn’t love a good pizza or pasta? But Florence’s culinary scope ranges far beyond the two most popular Italian staples. A trip to Firenze wouldn’t be complete without tasting the most traditional local specialities. Steak lovers should opt for the “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” (an enormous 2 to 8 lb fire-grilled T-bone) and more open-minded foodies should give “Lampredotto” (a sandwich with thinly sliced tripe) a try. “Ribollita” (a soup of bread, tomatoes, and beans) is perfect for cold, rainy days, while “tagliere” (meat and cheese platters –don’t forget traditional Florentine “Finocchiona” salami!) make a light, cool snack in summertime. And, of course, don’t forget to enjoy some Tuscan wine and authentic Italian gelato!
7) Visit Michelangelo’s Final Resting Place at Santa Croce Church
Santa Croce is home to Michelangelo’s tomb and holds the remains of some of Tuscany’s most illustrious citizens
Pay homage to one of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti. The master responsible for the Accademia’s “David”, St Peter’s Basilica’s “Pieta”, the Sistine Chapel’s “Last Judgment” and ceiling frescoes left behind a legacy like no other artist in history. The artist’s lifeless body was originally laid in the Church of Santi Apostoli in Rome until his nephew snuck in and stole it, as it was only right for Michelangelo to be buried in his home city of Florence. His tomb, created by Giorgio Vasari in 1570 (6 years after the artist’s death), is housed in the Church of Santa Croce. The church also houses the tombs of Machiavelli and Galileo.
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