By the end of June last year, we spent a weekend in beautiful Florence, Italy. For me, it was the first time visiting this city of art, romance, numerous bridges, and good food but Steven already stayed here previously for a few weeks so I had my personal guide! 🙂 On Saturday morning, we flew from Brussels to Pisa from where it only took us +/- 1.5h by train to get to Florence. Our return flight was scheduled on Monday morning which gave us 2 full days in Florence. Although getting lost in the little streets is a great way to discover the city, here are our tips for 10 things to see and do in Florence.
See also: Postcards from Florence
10 Things to See and Do in Florence
1. Walk over the ancient and unique bridge
Once in Florence, you can’t miss to see and walk over Ponte Vecchio – that would be like going to Paris without going up the Eiffel Tower. Until the early 13th century, this was the only bridge across the Arno river. Later in the past century, it was also the only bridge that was not destroyed during WWII. You can find many goldsmith and jewelry shops on the bridge which is the only type of shops allowed on the bridge since the 16th century. In order to enjoy it without crowds of tourist groups, go early in the morning, when the sun is still low and you can make some nice pictures. Probably the nicest view of this bridge is from Ponte Santa Trinita, in the late afternoon.
2. Enjoy the open-air museum
Once you arrive at Piazza della Signoria, which has been the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century, first you will definitely notice the Palazzo Vecchio, the main symbol of the civil power for the city of Florence, overlooking the square. In front of this building, you can see the copy of the Michelangelo’s statue of David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Academia). On the right side of Palazzo Vecchio, you can enjoy the open-air sculpture gallery. You can also see the Neptun Fountain made of marble and bronze in the middle of the square.
3. Visit one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is another symbol of the city which dominates many postcards and apparently inspired many architects all over the world. It is the 4th biggest cathedral in the world and for me, this is the most beautiful cathedral I have ever seen. No surprise that the works took 2 centuries before it was finished! You can visit the cathedral during its opening hours for a fee which includes the entry to other monuments around the cathedral including the lookout tower and the ticket is valid for several days.
4. Find graves of some Italian Masters
Beautiful 13th-century Basilica Santa Croce with marble façade and frescoes depicting legends and religious scenes inside is a piece of art on its own. It is here where Michelangelo, Machiavelli, or Galileo Galilei are all buried. Basicila of Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Unfortunately, this place was closed when we were here but hopefully, you will be luckier!
5. Have some of the best gelatos in town
If you get to visit Florence in the summer, it will be pretty hot so some good ice cream is absolutely necessary! Vivoli gelateria claims to have the best ice cream in the world, but for my taste, it was too sweet. On the other side, I loved the ice cream at Gelateria Dei Neri. Another good one is Gelateria Santa Trinita close the bridge of the same name.
6. Walk up to the viewpoint in order to burn the calories from gelato 🙂
Probably the best view over the city you can get from Piazzale Michelangelo where you can see the river flow with Florence’s bridges and the extensive city. This place was closed when we were there, but thanks to that little inconvenience, we walked up to the beautiful Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The view from there was also very satisfying.
7. Go for aperitif or dinner with the locals
Piazza Santo Spirito is a lively square away from the main sights on the other side of the Arno river and is very popular among locals. There are some nice non-touristy restaurants and bars and it is here where we enjoyed a pleasant dinner under the trees surrounded by a mix of locals and some foreign visitors.
8. Pass through the ancient city center
Piazza della Repubblicca has been the central point of the city center since Roman times when the Roman forum stood here. The square maintained its medieval look until the 18th century when the original churches, towers, and houses around the square were destroyed, although the Arch of Triumph stayed. While passing through the square, stop by at the historical Caffé Gilli for a coffee break and something sweet.
9. Shop for leather
When in Florence, you will not escape the smell of leather products coming from various boutiques and markets in the town. You can find many imitations but also nice artisanal leather bags, wallets, belts, jackets, etc. We both did not resist and got one nice cross-body leather bag. If you see something you like on the market, always try to negotiate.
10. Visit one of Italy’s top art museums
If unlike us, you have enough time and don’t need to enjoy every minute of the nice weather outside, then Uffizi Gallery is a must-visit for every art lover! You can find it next to Palazzo Vecchio and it was actually initially designed to host administrative offices (hence the name Uffizi which means offices). Nowadays, this building houses some amazing artworks such as Botticelli’s Birth of a Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino or works of Rembrandt, Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci. If you want to visit the Uffizi Gallery, they advice booking your ticket online and plan enough time for the visit to the museum.
Have you been to Florence? Is there something you are missing on this list? Please share your tips in the below comments! 🙂 See also our photo story from Florence here! Have a lovely summer!
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