When you hear somebody talking about a vacation in Italy, the region of Tuscany will most likely come to your mind first. After all, this is where the Renaissance was born, where so many exquisite pieces of art were created and where you can find picturesque hills, beautiful villages and an idyllic Mediterranean scenery in general. But the city where all of this can be experienced in the best possible manner is Florence, a fascinating bastion of culture, impressive sights and excellent food. As a matter of fact, it is so packed with important places that you probably won’t be able to see them all during just one visit. And while coming back here is certainly not a bad idea, you will always need to plan your itinerary to get the most out of your trip. These top things to do in Florence are a great start to creating that itinerary, so read on and see what you shouldn’t miss while in the city.
Incredible things to see in Florence
1. Visit the Florence Cathedral
The magnificent Duomo should be at the very top of every list of things to do in Florence, honestly. This incredible piece of architecture with its huge dome stands in the very center of the old part of the city and can be seen from literally miles away. It’s absolutely massive! Its exterior is covered in marble, which comes in an array of colors, from red and white to green and even pink, while the interior of the dome hides a masterpiece – the Last Judgement fresco. You can actually climb the dome for a spectacular view of the city, but don’t miss out on the nearby baptistery, either – Dante Alighieri, along with many other famous Italians, was baptized there.
2. Enjoy the sun on the Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is just as important to the city as Piazza del Duomo (the square where the cathedral is located). You don’t have to walk too far from the cathedral to reach it either, and this incredibly beautiful square will mesmerize you with loads of fascinating buildings and the art it contains.
The main star, however, is Palazzo Vecchio, a building which has housed the local government since the 13th century and incredibly still serves as the town hall today. You can get a guided tour of the place (and you really should), but don’t forget to visit the huge bell tower next to it if the opportunity arises.
3. Explore the Uffizi Palace and Gallery
Very close to the Piazza della Signoria is the Uffizi Palace, one of the most important museums in whole of Italy, and that’s saying something. The building itself is exceptionally beautiful, with intricate ornamentation on the walls and on its magnificent ceilings, but the art it contains will make art lovers want to stay here forever. Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli and many other famous artists are all represented here. Renaissance at its very finest, that’s for sure.
Do keep in mind, though, that because of the popularity and significance of this place, you will have to book your tickets ahead of time, so plan accordingly because missing out on this would really be a shame.
4. Cross the Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio (literally meaning “Old Bridge”) is the most famous bridge across the Arno in Florence. Crossing it will give you a clear insight into the life of the city because this fantastic piece of construction is lined with all kinds of shops which you can browse for some great souvenirs. On top of the bridge is Corridoio Vasariano, a passageway built for the famous Medici family to allow them to cross without having to deal with the crowds below.
The crowds are indeed still there, but enduring them is well worth it when you consider that you will be walking along one of the symbols of Florence.
5. Keep an eye out for street art
Florence is a city of art, of that there can be absolutely no doubt. But apart from art from the Renaissance period and classical masterpieces, you can see modern artists’ work on almost every corner. Many traffic signs are often tuned into funny social commentaries, for example, and there are many other examples of street art around you you can enjoy if you just keep your eyes open. The art scene in Florence is very vibrant and full of excellent artists who make your every walk that much more interesting.
6. Taste some amazing food
Obviously, this is Italy, so great food is pretty much guaranteed, but each part of the country has something special to offer. The market in Piazza Ghiberti is a good place to start exploring the food scene of this city, but if you want to taste something truly unique to Florence, grab yourself a schiacciata sandwich – a magnificent piece of bread loaded with typical Italian things like mozzarella, mortadella, prosciutto, tomatoes, zucchini and many, many other wonderful things. The locals eat this with a cup of red wine, and you can get the whole meal for just a few euros. Oh, and by the way, you really should give Tuscan wines a try, too. They are quite incredible.
7. Go in Galleria dell’ Accademia
Back to culture. Located very close to Duomo, Galleria dell’ Academia is another very important museum, primarily because of the fact that it holds Michelangelo’s David. Yes, the original! Apart from that, however, there is an array of incredibly important pieces here from the Renaissance period, including several other Michelangelo’s works. Halls of fascinating statues here are really awe-inspiring, and booking a guided tour really seems like a good idea if you want to learn all about them. Naturally, because of the importance of this place, setting everything up ahead of time is strongly recommended.
8. Pay your respects in Basilica di Santa Croce
Another fascinating piece of architecture, Basilica di Santa Croce will immediately remind you of the Duomo. Indeed, it has a very similar (and beautiful) exterior, with colorful marble slates covering it. But the real prize awaits you inside. You see, this is where some of the most famous Renaissance thinkers were laid to rest – Machiavelli, Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Rossini and many other poets, philosophers and other intellectual giants. That’s why this place is sometimes also called Temple of Italian Glories. A fitting name, wouldn’t you say? Fairly close to Palazzo Vecchio, this is also something most locals will tell you is a must when considering the top things to do in Florence.
9. Relax in Piazzale Michelangelo
After all that walking and sightseeing, you will surely want to take a breather, and Piazzale Michelangelo is perfect for that. With a monument dedicated to Michelangelo, which has a bronze replica of his David on it and located on a hill above the Arno, this simple but beautiful square provides a spectacular view of the city below. And for an absolutely perfect end to your day in Florence, come here at sunset and watch the sun go down behind a truly fairy-tale scenery. The view is particularly romantic in the evening, so this is without a doubt a perfect place for couples. Yes, it is a bit of a climb, but the whole endeavor will be well worth it.
10. Take a peek inside the Gucci Museum
We’ve saved something not as serious for last, although this place is certainly worth a visit. The Gucci Museum will entrance fashion lovers. The history of this famous brand is displayed by the decades, so you can get a pretty good idea of how the fashion evolved throughout the years. It’s a fairly small museum, but since it’s located on Piazza della Signoria you should be able to spare some time to visit it. It’s really fun and a nice break from all the sculptures, churches and other forms of Renaissance art that surround you.
Keep in mind, however, that this list of top things to do in Florence barely scratches the surface of all the sights this magnificent city has to offer. That being said, however, you really should check them all out because they are indeed some of the most spectacular sights you can find not just in Florence but in the world. Places like the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio or the Uffizi Palace are the very heart and soul of this city. It’s no exaggeration to say that you could spend a lifetime marvelling at the art masterpieces hidden around here. Wherever you turn, you will see churches, statues, monuments, palaces, bridges and countless other traces of the influence the Renaissance has had on this part of the world. Naturally, you can’t enjoy all of that on an empty stomach, and great Italian food will make sure you always have the energy to move on. In short, Florence is a beautiful city surrounded by an equally beautiful region, so if you want to spend your vacation here, you’re in for an incredible treat. Don’t hesitate and set everything up right now!
Guest Author: Anca is the founder and chief editor of One Day Itinerary, a travel blog dedicated to those who want to make the most of their time in a new city, even if they only have only one day there. Thanks to the fact that she has traveled literally all over the world, she can tell you the dos and don’ts of pretty much every major city in the world. As a matter of fact, she’s already done so in her blog posts.