Florence is one of the most enchanting cities in Europe. Cradle of the Renaissance movement, ‘Firenze’ is an open-air museum where you can admire artistic masterpieces and enjoy exquisite cuisine.
Located in Tuscany, a region in central Italy, Florence is home to some of the most renowned Renaissance art and architecture in the world with iconic artistic pieces such as Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ and Brunelleschi’s massive Duomo cupola.
Besides art and architecture, Florence witnessed the beginning of the Italian fashion industry, where icons like Salvatore Ferragamo started their fashion empires.
Enjoy ‘La Dolce Vita’ wandering in this beautiful city, and don’t forget to try some of the best Italian food and wine you’ll ever taste!
Here are the top 10 things to do on your trip to Florence, Italy.
Wander in the Duomo main square
Florence’s Duomo is the most iconic landmark in the city. The Duomo is a massive construction with a unique pink, white and green marble facade, and Filippo Brunelleschi’s red-tiled cupola that stands out from every view of the city. Its construction took nearly 150 years, it began in 1296 and was completed in 1436.
The Duomo has a neo-gothic architecture style and serves as the city’s cathedral, formerly known as “Santa Maria del Fiore”. Enter the Cathedral to admire frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Zuccari, and climb up the dome to have a breathtaking view of Florence.
Over time, some of the most valuable artistic treasures have been taken out of the Duomo’s interior and placed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which is worth a visit.
Finally, walk the Piazza del Duomo and don’t forget to admire the ‘Baptistery of San Giovanni’ right across the Cathedral, which has 4 spectacular bronze doors that are considered masterpieces and were called ‘Gates of Paradise’ by Michelangelo.
See the majestic David
Galleria dell’Accademia houses one of the most acclaimed Renaissance masterpieces: Michelangelo’s David.
The David is probably the most famous statue in the world and was carved by Michelangelo from a single enormous block of marble. The artist’s impressive technique can be observed in the subtle details throughout the statue’s body, mainly the arms, legs, and facial expression. In this gallery, you can also admire other works by Michelangelo like the ‘Prisoners’.
Besides Michelangelo, Galleria dell’Accademia is also home to masterpieces by renowned Renaissance artists like Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Andrea Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, and Filippino Lippi.
Eat a delicious Italian meal
There’s no better place to enjoy authentic Italian and Tuscan cuisine than Florence. This city has an impressive cuisine and many delicious restaurants, from high-end fancy ones to casual eateries in markets.
Try typical Florentine dishes like ‘Bistecca alla Fiorentina’ (Florentine Beef Steak) or ‘Tagliatelle Funghi Porcini e Tartufo’ (Pasta with Porcini and Truffle Mushrooms). A good place for foodies is the ‘Mercato Centrale’, where you can enjoy delicious Italian dishes for affordable prices. Also, local osterias or trattorias are a must, one I love is Osteria Santo Spirito right in the Santo Spirito neighborhood across the Arno river. Another beautiful place is Obicà Mozzarella Bar, a contemporary Italian restaurant.
If you want to grab something and keep walking the cobblestone streets, head to Antico Vinaio, the famous panini spot close to ‘Piazza della Signoria’.
If you want to go fancy, make a reservation in Golden View or La Giostra, to enjoy an exquisite dinner in an elegant place (Golden View has the best view of the ‘Ponte Vecchio’!).
After eating, go for a coffee. Coffee is an important part of Italian culture and Florence has some great coffee shops and baristas. If you want a traditional place go to Caffè Gilli right in ‘Piazza della Repubblica’ or head to a more trendy spot like Ditta Artigianale in the Santa Croce neighborhood.
Have a gelato in Gelateria Santa Trinita
In Florence, it’s always time for dessert, and dessert in this city equals ‘gelato’. Gelato is a frozen dessert invented in Italy and Florence has some of the best gelato shops in the world.
Enjoy some delicious creamy gelato in ‘Gelateria Santa Trinita’, with a privileged location facing the Santa Trinita bridge, with a stunning view of Ponte Vecchio.
Admire Botticelli’s masterpieces in Galleria degli Uffizi
‘Galleria degli Uffizi’ is the place for art lovers to witness the greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art. The museum is located in the beautiful Palazzo degli Uffizi, which was built to be used as government offices. The collection of masterpieces was donated by one of the most powerful families in Europe, the Medici family, which ruled Florence and then Tuscany from the 15th to 18th century.
The world-class collection includes everything from ancient Greek sculptures to works by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Caravaggio. But there’s no doubt that the star of the show is the Sala del Botticelli (Botticelli room), which displays acclaimed masterpieces by the artists like ‘The Birth of Venus’ and ‘Primavera’.
If it gets too crowded in the museum’s interior, head to the rooftop cafe and enjoy an Italian cocktail with amazing views of the city.
Watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo
For sunset lovers! The greatest spot in Florence to see the golden hour is definitely ‘Piazzale Michelangelo’. You can reach the square by walking uphill from the banks of the Arno river or taking the city buses that leave you directly in the square.
The views from this place are unreal, enjoy the breathtaking city panorama, buy something to drink, and watch the sun go down while listening to music, as there are always local artists playing. The sunset views from Piazzale Michelangelo are out of this world, this is a must-see spot when visiting Florence.
Tip: Along with the Piazza del Duomo, Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the spots where most pickpockets congregate. Keep your belongings safe and in sight. A good anti-theft bag can come in very handy.
Walk the iconic fashion street and visit the first Salvatore Ferragamo store
Via de’ Tornabuoni is filled with dazzling Renaissance palaces and the most iconic Italian fashion houses. The street goes all the way from Antinori square to Ponte Santa Trinita. The street was named after a famous Florentine family of merchants and politicians.
This is the place for luxury shopping where you can find high-end boutiques and jewelers. At the end of the street, you’ll find the Salvatore Ferragamo museum inside Palazzo Spini, built in 1289, and an iconic building in the city.
In 1938, Salvatore Ferragamo opened his luxury footwear workshop which quickly became the headquarters of the company and the first Salvatore Ferragamo store. This museum is a must-see for fashion lovers and gives an interesting insight into the fashion industry’s history.
Visit Palazzo Vecchio
This enchanting palace is located in the heart of the city right in ‘Piazza della Signoria’. It was built from 1298 to 1314 for the signoria (city government) and designed by Arnolfo di Cambio. The distinctive elements of the palace are its crenellations and a 94-meter high tower.
Nowadays, ‘Palazzo Vecchio’ is home to the mayor’s office and the municipal council. Visit the interior to admire the famous ‘Salone dei Cinquecento’ hall, full of impressive huge paintings depicting battle scenes by Giorgio Vasari. Visit the rest of the rooms, to admire works by Donatello and other Italian artists, as well as the luxurious decoration of rooms where the Medici family lived for a period of time.
On the second floor, visit the map room to view the fascinating collection of 16th-century maps from many parts of the world. If you’re up for it, climb up Torre d’Arnolfo for stunning views of the city.
Walk through the iconic Ponte Vecchio
‘Ponte Vecchio’ is the most iconic bridge in Florence and Europe. It’s the only bridge that survived destruction and bombing by German forces in Florence during WW2. Rumor has it German forces didn’t destroy it because Hitler thought it was too beautiful.
The bridge dates from 1345, and its interior is filled up with jewelry shops that have been passed from generation to generation.
Cross the Arno river from this classical bridge and enjoy beautiful views of Florence and live music from local artists.
Learn about Medici’s history in Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti is a remarkable Renaissance palace commissioned by banker Luca Pitti in 1458 and later bought by the Medici family. It served as a residence for Florence’s rulers over the centuries and it contains dozens of rooms with exquisite decoration, a collection of fine jewelry, and artworks by acclaimed artists.
Behind Palazzo Pitti, be sure to take a stroll through Boboli garden, a gorgeous garden adorned with fountains and sculptures, that offers breathtaking views of Florence’s countryside.
Words and most pictures by Lilian Arjona, a Digital Marketing Specialist with a passion for travel and culture. She has been to more than 45 countries and has lived in Florence, Barcelona, Tokyo, and New York.