Florence is the most elegant and visited city in Italy. The flow of tourists does not dry out all year round.
What to do in Florence
Renaissance architecture, represented by numerous palazzos, basilicas and churches, will be of interest to any cultured person:
- Santa Maria del Fiore is a monumental cathedral, more like a museum. In addition to frescoes, it is famous for its huge dome — a bold engineering solution of a bygone era.
- Palazzo Vecchio, where the city magistrate once sat, is a series of pompous rooms with exquisite decoration.
- Giotto’s bell tower awaits those who are ready to climb more than 400 steps to enjoy a gorgeous view of the city.
The museums of the city keep priceless treasures. The Uffizi Gallery should be in the guide of every tourist who wants to expand their horizons. In its spacious halls you can enjoy the masterpieces of Giotto, Raphael, Michelangelo and other masters. The Archaeological Museum is a collection of unique antiquities, among which there are even Etruscan artifacts. This people left little material evidence, so all the finds are extremely valuable.
Parks are the best place for a family vacation after long excursions. Especially beautiful are the Boboli Gardens, which abound with ponds, shady paths and statues.
This is one of the most pompous squares in Italy. People come here to enjoy the harmonious architectural ensemble. These are the marble Fountain of Neptune (1565), the Palazzo Vecchio — the place from which the republic was administered — and the loggia of Lanzi (XIV century), on which the rulers of Florence and their entourage sat during carnivals, processions and other mass events.
Belfry of Giotto
The tower towering above Cathedral Square is part of the architectural ensemble of the cathedral. The bell tower is named after Giotto di Bondone, who started building it in 1344. The building is lavishly decorated with bas-reliefs, mosaics and statues. The height of the structure is about 84 m, at the top there is an observation deck, which leads to more than 400 steps.
The magnificent palace was erected at the turn of the 13th-14th centuries. Once the rulers of Tuscany and the Florentine Republic sat in it. The building’s dominant feature is a clock tower approximately 94 m high. The Palazzo has been preserved almost in its original form.
Inside there are chic interiors, which contain the richest collection of applied art. You should definitely visit the 52-meter Cinquicento hall with original frescoes of the 16th century. In the Signoria Chapel with an azure ceiling and gold decor, Donatello’s original statue of Judith and Holofernes is kept.
In the Dressing Room there is an impressive wooden globe and old maps. It is also worth looking into the picturesque courtyards of the palazzo with statues and a fountain.
Ponte Vecchio Bridge
This is the oldest bridge in Florence (1345) and the only one that has survived from the troubled times of the Middle Ages — the rest of the crossings were destroyed in the bombing of World War II.
The bridge connects the opposite banks of the Arno River. In the 15th century, a market worked on it, but today jewelry boutiques have settled here. They attract numerous tourists who come not only to buy jewelry, but also to admire the panoramic views of the surroundings.
The rustic stone palace was commissioned by Filippo Strozzi, the sworn rival of the Medici family. The construction was supposed to surpass in beauty and scope all the palaces and residences of noble competitors. Now the premises of the palazzo are used as an exhibition space.
The rectangular building has 3 floors and a classic patio. The façade is of little note except for the barred windows on the first floor and the arched marble entrances. Cafes and souvenir tents are hidden among the ancient columns of the courtyard.
The square, located south of the tourist part of the city, was created in the 19th century as part of the renovation of the left bank of the Arno River. People come here to enjoy the beautiful views. In 1873, 4 bronze copies of Michelangelo’s marble sculptures were installed on the square, among them one of his most famous works — «David».
The building houses a collection of books and manuscripts that belonged to the Medici family for several centuries. In 1444, the ruling clan was expelled from Florence, and an extensive library was transferred to the monastery of San Marco. One hundred years later, the Medici restored dominion over Florence, and the collection of books returned to its rightful owners.
The construction of the library, named after Lorenzo I, was entrusted to Michelangelo. The work took over 30 years. The master created a beautiful building in the Renaissance style with elements of mannerism. The architect paid special attention to the stairs. Looking at the steps, it seems that they are floating. Such an optical illusion symbolizes the flow of thoughts.
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Cathedral or Duomo began to be built in 1296, and was completed only 140 years later. The Gothic facade is richly decorated with pale pink, light green and white marble. Bas-reliefs and numerous sculptures of saints are made with amazing detail.
Inside is an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures. Of interest are 44 stained glass windows made during the Renaissance. The author of one of them is the famous Donatello.
The main highlight of the cathedral is the innovative dome of Filippo Brunelleschi. The giant structure consists of two shells inserted into each other. To climb to the top to the observation deck, you need to overcome more than four hundred steps.
Baptistery of San Giovanni
The monumental octagonal building for baptism was built in the 11th century. The best Byzantine craftsmen worked on its exterior. They lined the walls with marble tiles, arranged arches and columns. The interior halls were decorated with skillful frescoes and mosaics.
Bronze gates are located on three sides. The most beautiful are the eastern «Paradise Gates», created by the master Lorenzo Ghiberti. He depicted canonical biblical scenes (this is a copy of a masterpiece — the original is kept in the museum at the cathedral). Above the entrance are sculptures of angels.
Basilica of Santa Croce
The Franciscan church was built in the 13th century. It is famous for its multi-colored epic stained-glass windows and frescoes of the genius Giotto. All 16 chapels of the basilica are real works of art, especially the Pazzi Chapel, created by Brunelleschi. The temple contains the graves of famous citizens, among them Galileo, Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and others.
The chapel, in which representatives of the once powerful Medici clan are buried, is located at the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Michelangelo worked on the appearance of the chapel and its decoration. The mausoleum allows you to enjoy the masterpieces of the brilliant master from a close distance — all the tombs are decorated with spectacular statues. Allegory sculptures Night, Day, Sunset and Sunrise are the most impressive.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
The light openwork facade of this 14th-century Dominican church resembles an elegant casket. This effect is facilitated by multi-colored tiles that form bizarre patterns and heraldic symbols of the Ruccelai family, which ordered the construction of the basilica. Inside there are marble bas-reliefs, beautiful frescoes and a massive altar with a gilded crucifix.
The exhibition grew out of a private collection of rarities of the Medici family. Today, the exposition presents artifacts from ancient Egypt and the material heritage of the ancient period. In a separate room are stored things that belonged to the mythical Etruscans.
The most important exhibit is the 80-cm bronze statue «Chimera of Arezzo» (5th century). This is a mythical creature with a lion’s head, a snake’s tail and another goat’s head growing out of the side ribs.
One of the most famous and richest museums in the world is located in the former government building of the Medici era. In the 18th century it was turned into a museum. The gallery houses thousands of sculptures and paintings from the Renaissance to the present. Here you can admire the works of Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Raphael, Giotto.
Opera del Duomo Museum
The museum stands on Duomo Square, behind the apse of the cathedral. It houses original creations from Santa Maria del Fiore and the baptistery. Among them are the Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo, the wooden Mary Magdalene, the original panels of the Gates of Paradise made by Lorenzo Ghiberti, a silver altar with scenes from the life of John the Baptist and other masterpieces.
The first painting academy was opened in 1561 by order of Cosimo I de’ Medici. There is a gallery at the educational institution, which stores outstanding works of the Italian Renaissance. Here you can admire the creations of Botticelli, Uccello, Ghirlandaio. The pearl of the collection is a 5-meter statue of «David» by Michelangelo.
National Bargello Museum
The museum occupies a 13th-century Gothic castle. Once there were barracks here, then a prison and a city magistrate. Today, works by Donatello, Verrocchio and other famous creators of the Italian Renaissance are exhibited here. The Bargello collection is considered one of the most important in the country.
Dante Alighieri House Museum
The philosopher and author of The Divine Comedy lived and worked in Florence. Tourists can visit the writer’s house, which recreates the atmosphere of those years. Some skeptics argue that the old building has nothing to do with Dante. This fact does not detract from the merits of the exposition, which tells about important milestones in Alighieri’s creative path. The museum also has many paintings with views of Florence from the 14th century.
A covered arched gallery across the Arno River was erected by order of the Medici. It connects two palazzos — Pitti and Vecchio. Along this corridor, the rulers of Florence could freely cross the waterway and quietly go out into the street.
Both walls of the gallery are decorated with hundreds of paintings by the great masters of the 16th-17th centuries — Giotto, da Vinci, Titian and others. Only part of the gallery is available for inspection as part of an organized tour.
This is a large landscaped park, spread out on the hillside behind the Pitti Palace. The gardens were laid out in the 15th century for Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Cosimo I. Over the centuries, the gardens changed owners, each of which reconstructed and supplemented the green area.
Today, Boboli is an ideal place for leisurely walks and admiring the surroundings. Smooth alleys seem to be lined with a ruler, statues, fountains and hedge labyrinths are installed everywhere. At the end of the walk, you should look at the observation deck in the Belvedere fortress, which offers a panoramic view.
At first, this place was the hunting grounds of the Medici dynasty, then the territory was occupied by farmers. They put a generous harvest in barns called «kashiny». In the 19th century, arable land was covered up, orchards were uprooted, and a park of about 160 hectares was laid out in their place.
Since then, it has been popular with both Florentines and tourists. They come to walk along the cozy alleys, have a picnic on the lawn and ride bicycles. The park has all the necessary infrastructure for recreation.
San Lorenzo Market
This huge market is a paradise for shoppers and gourmets. It consists of two parts. Open-air stalls starting near Piazza San Lorenzo sell souvenirs, antiques, clothes, shoes and other things.
The covered market, or Marcato Centrale, consists of food stalls. They sell famous Italian cheeses, deli meats, fruits and vegetables. Separately, there is a “glutton row”, where you can enjoy delicious national fast food made from local products.
Perfume and pharmaceutical house Santa Maria Novella
This is the oldest pharmacy in Florence, which concurrently produces perfumes, eau de toilette, soaps, creams, balms and other cosmetic products. Recipes for several centuries, the ingredients are exclusively natural.
A trip to the pharmacy will be an interesting adventure. In addition to shopping, it will be possible to take photos of vintage bottles, jars and other perfumery and pharmaceutical paraphernalia.