Updated: Jan 14
Florence is the home of the Italian Renaissance, a movement that changed art and the world forever. Evidence of the renaissance is all over Florence, and for those inspired by it, there are a plethora of places to visit.
Florence was my husband's favorite place in Italy due its the calm, friendly nature. Despite having many things to do, the atmosphere was serene and inviting. Here are a list of the top things to do in Florence.
1. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, The Baptistery of Saint John, and Giotto's Bell Tower
These wonderful three buildings are listed together because they are close in proximity and a combined ticket can buy you access to all of them. Both the dome of the Cathedral and the bell tower can be climbed for a wonderful view of the city of Florence. The cathedral's structure and art makes it worth a visit while you're in Florence. The Museum of Opera of Saint Maria of Fiore is also located nearby and showcases some of the original artwork designed for the duomo.
2. The Accademia Gallery
The Accademia Gallery is home to Michelangelo's world-famous Renaissance sculpture David, built between 1501 and 1504. It is mandatory that you see David while you're in Florence, but unfortunately, many people leave the museum right after accomplishing this. While David is definitely the most impressive piece in The Accademia Gallery, the other artwork in the museum is worth seeing as well, especially since you may only be there once.
It's not uncommon for The Accademia Gallery to have lines that stretch for hours during peak seasons. Luckily, we visited in January and were able to walk straight in with no problem. I suggest either visiting in a slow month or booking tickets online before visiting.
3. The Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is a large art museum that houses some of the most important pieces of the Renaissance. The gallery holds artwork from Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli among many more. The building itself is a piece of art as well, so it's important to look at every ceiling, every wall, and in every room. In fact, my biggest piece of advice for those in the Uffizi is to always look up!
4. Porcellino- The Lucky Boar
Located near a rather popping marketplace is Porcellino, the lucky boar fountain that is associated with good luck. Similar to Rome's Trevi Fountain, it is said that if you rub the boar's snout, you will receive good luck and a return visit to Florence someday.
5. Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio was once the home of several butcher shops which poured waste into the river below. Now, the bridge is home to high-end shops that only the most elite can afford. Ponte Vecchio is important because it was the only bridge that survived World War II in Florence. An even darker fact, it is also said that Hitler liked the view from the bridge.
Today, it is a beautiful place to visit for its history and to peruse the expensive shops that line the interior. If you get a chance to catch a glimpse of the city from the bridge, you'll see some of the sights that make Florence the spectacular place that it is.
6. Piazzale Michelangelo
We almost didn't trek to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo. That would have been a huge mistake. We hiked to the top around sunset, which was a suggestion from people we know who live there. The top of the square lets you see basically the entire city of Florence. There were buskers playing music, and we even witnessed a proposal while we were there.
The hilltop lets you take in the beauty of the Renaissance capital of the world. Standing at the square, looking out into the city, and taking it all in was one of the highlights of our trip, and my favorite part about Florence. It was stunning.
Where should I stay?
Booking a hotel near main attractions is the most important thing for me when I go on vacation. I feel it is best to have the option of walking to every important landmark there is to see. Here are my suggestions for a few hotels:
Economy: Hotel Nella.
Hotel Nella is a 9 minute walk from the Duomo of Florence, and rooms start at as little as $40 per night. The Uffizi Gallery is a 14 minute walk and Ponte Vecchio can be reached in about the same amount of time.
This hotel is only 0.5 miles from the city center, and it is listed as a 4-star hotel. The baptistery is only a 3 minute walk from here and Ponte Vecchio can be reached in 6 minutes.
Luxury: Grand Hotel Cavour.
This hotel is the most expensive, but it is practically on top of the Duomo. The Uffizi Gallery is only a 5 minute walk from here and an 8 minute walk from Ponte Vecchio.
Florence is an art lovers dream, and the perfect destination for any couple to enjoy a romantic adventure in a romantic city. The tranquil city is easily walk-able, surprisingly slow-paced, and a nice break from the hustle and bustle of other Italian cities such as Rome and Milan.
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