At the beginning of July, I went on a trip to Italy to discover and rediscover some parts of this beautiful country. Our trip started in the magnificent city of Renaissance, capital of Tuscany: Florence.
We didn’t have a lot of time in our hands as we really only stayed a whole day, plus a short evening before and a few hours in the morning the next day. However, we were determined to make the most out of it and explore the city as much as possible. We kept an active pace and obviously had to skip some things, but I think we managed to get a great glimpse of this stunning city.
I would highly recommend anyone to stay in Florence more than just one or two days, but if you are in the same situation as me and want to check out the main sights of Florence, this little “guide” is for you! Beware though, you will be exhausted at the end of the day!
Admire the magnificent piazza del duomo
Piazza del Duomo is without doubts the main landmark in Florence, as it features not only the stunning gothic cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the “Duomo”), but also Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery. The queues are very long to get inside the cathedral, so we didn’t go in this time, but I remember it being worth the wait last time I came there!
Walking around the monuments, you’ll be stunned by the colourful marble panels adorning the buildings and the detailed intricacies of their facades. The dome of the cathedral, engineered by the architect Brunelleschi, is also worth mentioning as it was for a very long time the largest dome in the world.
Explore the Galleria degli Uffizi
Even though it started out as a building for the administration, the Uffizi became in the late 16th century a space for the Medici family to showcase all the works of art they possessed. It is nowadays a museum and the oldest art gallery in the world. There, you can admire works by an infinite number of world-famous artists, including Botticelli, Tiziano, Michelangelo or Raffaello.
I’d say that the Uffizi gallery is absolutely another must do if you are in Florence, but know that you can easily spend the whole day there, as the collection is huge! Since our time was limited, we only stayed there a couple of hours or so, which still allowed us to see the main things and helped us escape the scorching heat outside.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is also another main landmark of the city and its is definitely something quite unique. Built in the 14th century, it is the oldest bridge of Florence, and the only one that wasn’t destroyed during World War 2. One of its particularities are all the little shops, who used to belong to butchers and tanners, that were later kicked out and replaced by goldsmiths and jewellers. Another specificity of the bridge is the “Corridoio Vasariano”, a passageway that runs on top of the bridge and that the Medici family used to cross the river Arno.
Nowadays, you can still walk on the bridge and check out all the luxury shops during the day. It is also really beautiful (and romantic) at night because all the shops close their wooden shutters and there are far less tourists around.
Eat all the delicious food
Well, this is absolutely a given when you come to Italy, and Tuscan food also is particularly delicious. There are plenty of places to eat in Florence, whether you are aiming for a full-on meal, just a snack on the go or amazing gelato, you won’t be hungry for sure!
Our diet there consisted of sandwiches with traditional bread and “fillings” (including the lampredotto, which is the fourth stomach of a cow…) and ice cream. We also tried the fantastic Florentine steak, but later during our trip – and it is without doubts a favourite of mine!
Go back in time in Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria has been the political centre of Florence since the 14th century and it is around it that you’ll find many iconic landmarks of Florence. The Palazzo Vecchio (or Palazzo della Signoria) surely stands out in the big square, and tourists are drawn to the replica of Michelangelo’s David, that used to stand right in front of its doors.
Other monuments worth mentioning in Piazza della Signoria are the Neptune fountain (created to celebrate one of the Medici’s weddings), the Bargello palace and the Loggia dei Lanzi, which stands right in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and where you can admire stunning statues.
Walk around the Giardino di Boboli
The Boboli Garden is the biggest park of Florence, located on the southern bank of the Arno river and it is truly an open-air museum with its amphitheatre, stunning sculptures and wonderful fountains. There is plenty to explore there, and it can easily take up a full half-day to see everything, so if you don’t have a lot of time in the city, it is all a matter of defining your priorities.
We actually skipped this landmark because we knew we wouldn’t get enough time to truly appreciate its beauty – and the ticket to get in was quite pricey – but I kinda wish we did, that’s why I’m putting it on this list, because you can probably fit it in if you have two days for instance!
Walk around the narrow streets of the Oltrarno
The Oltrarno is a neighbourhood located south of the river Arno. You can reach it by crossing the Ponte Vecchio and wander about its streets filled with antique shops and small houses. There, you can also visit the Palazzo Pitti, which hosts the Medici’s art collection (yes, they are everywhere in Florence!).
The area is also much less touristic than the centre, but still keeps the picturesque and authentic vibe of Florence – minus the crowds. There are also many restaurants and bars, so you can try going there for lunch or dinner and you’ll definitely find a place that appeals to you!
Admire the Santa Maria Novella church
The Santa Maria Novella church is located in a not-so-central area and it is probably not on your top things to check out while you are in Florence. It is however one of the most important Gothic churches in Florence and hosts some of its best works of art. It is beautiful to admire from outside, but the inside is also stunning, so I highly recommend you to check it out! It is also right next to the main train station, so it can also be a quick stop on your way (at least, that’s what it was for us!)
If you are lucky enough to stay there for more than one or two days or if it’s not your first time visiting Florence, I highly recommend you to check out some lesser known places too, as this city is filled with beauty everywhere. If you’re looking for inspiration I can only recommend this post by Diana on her amazing blog, Thoughts on Papyrus, where she lists some slightly off-the-beaten-path landmarks, while explaining a bit of history behind them!
Have you ever been to Florence?