The Essence of Florence: Florence, the capital of Tuscany, stands as a beacon of art, culture, and history. It is where the Renaissance was birthed, and where every corner narrates tales of artistic prowess and historic grandeur. In this article, we outline 19 essential things to do in Florence to fully embrace the Florentine spirit.
See The List Below For the 19 Things to Do in Florence;
1. Marvel at the Duomo (Florence Cathedral)
The iconic Duomo, officially known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is Florence’s crown jewel. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, its construction began in 1296 and concluded in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. This cathedral isn’t just an architectural masterpiece, but it also serves as an emblem of the city’s legacy.
- Brunelleschi’s Dome: A pinnacle of Renaissance engineering.
- Giotto’s Bell Tower: Offers panoramic views of Florence.
- The Baptistry: Known for its exquisite bronze doors.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes. If you plan to climb the dome or bell tower, there are over 400 steps each, with no elevators.
- Piazza della Signoria: 0.4 miles/0.64 kilometers
- Palazzo Vecchio: 0.5 miles/0.8 kilometers
2. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio, or the “Old Bridge”, stretches over the Arno River. Historically, this bridge was occupied by butchers. However, Ferdinand I, in 1593, decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could operate here to preserve the bridge’s beauty. Today, its sparkling shops make it one of the most photographed sites in the city.
- Gold and Jewelry Shops: Some dating back to the 16th century.
- Central Arch: Perfect spot for picturesque views of the Arno.
- Vasari Corridor: Elevated walkway connecting Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti.
Travel Tip: Visit during sunset. The view of the sun dipping below the Arno from the bridge is mesmerizing.
- Uffizi Gallery: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Palazzo Corsini: 0.6 miles/0.97 kilometers
3. Discover treasures at the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery, commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici in the 16th century, is among the world’s top art museums. It houses an unrivaled collection of Renaissance art, offering an unparalleled journey through the history of art, especially when considering things to do in Florence.
- “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli.
- “Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio.
- Extensive collection of works from the Middle Ages to the Modern period.
Travel Tip: Book tickets in advance, especially during peak seasons, to avoid long queues.
- Loggia dei Lanzi: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Piazza della Signoria: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
4. Admire Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery
The Galleria dell’Accademia is a must-visit primarily for one monumental reason: Michelangelo’s David. This 17-foot marble masterpiece symbolizes the Renaissance spirit and stands as a testament to Michelangelo’s sheer genius. The statue was initially positioned at Piazza della Signoria but was relocated in 1873 to protect it from damage.
- Michelangelo’s Prisoners: The unfinished statues leading up to David.
- Museum’s Musical Instrument Section: Exhibits antique musical instruments from the Medici collection.
- The Hall of the Colossus: Holds large artworks including Giambologna’s ‘Rape of the Sabines’.
Travel Tip: Head there early to avoid crowds and to have a more intimate experience with David.
- Basilica di San Marco: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Florence Biennale: 0.3 miles/0.48 kilometers
5. Stroll in Boboli Gardens
Boboli Gardens, right behind the Pitti Palace, offers an open-air museum setting. It boasts beautifully manicured lawns, fountains, sculptures, and an amphitheater. It’s a representation of the Italian Renaissance garden and offers solace from the bustling city.
- The Buontalenti Grotto: Showcasing fascinating stalactites and classical sculptures.
- Amphitheater: Site of many public events and concerts.
- The Kaffeehaus: A Rococo greenhouse offering panoramic views.
Travel Tip: Wear a hat and carry some water, especially during sunny days. The gardens are vast and can involve a lot of walking.
- Palazzo Pitti: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Museo delle Porcellane: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
6. Explore the Pitti Palace and its collections
A mere mention of things to do in Florence would be incomplete without the Palazzo Pitti. It once served as the residence of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Today, it houses several museums and offers insights into the life and times of the Renaissance era nobility.
- Palatine Gallery: Contains a broad collection of Medici household artworks.
- Royal Apartments: Showcases 14 rooms of the palace, exhibiting the life of the Medici family.
- Gallery of Modern Art: Features 19th-century Tuscan art.
Travel Tip: Allocate ample time. The palace and its gardens can easily consume half a day.
- Museo delle Porcellane: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Boboli Gardens: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
7. Find serenity at the Basilica of Santa Croce
Situated in the Piazza Santa Croce, this basilica is one of Florence’s principal Franciscan churches and a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s renowned for its frescoes, chapels, and the final resting places of many illustrious Italians like Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
- Tomb of Michelangelo: A resting place that pays homage to this master.
- Pazzi Chapel: Designed by Brunelleschi, showcases Renaissance architectural principles.
- Frescoes by Giotto: Narrating stories from the life of St. Francis.
Travel Tip: There are often evening classical music concerts; check the schedule for a musical experience in this historic setting.
- Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale: 0.4 miles/0.64 kilometers
- Piazza della Signoria: 0.6 miles/0.97 kilometers
8. Relish panoramic views from Piazzale Michelangelo
Perched atop a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, Piazzale Michelangelo provides visitors with a breathtaking panorama of Florence. It was designed in 1869 by architect Giuseppe Poggi and serves as a beloved spot for both locals and tourists alike, offering sunset views that are truly unparalleled.
- Bronze Replica of David: Stands tall, watching over the city.
- Basilica of San Miniato al Monte: A short walk up the hill leads you to this Romanesque structure.
- Sunset Views: The place comes alive during the golden hour, with the sun casting a soft glow over the city.
Travel Tip: Carry a light snack and a beverage. The atmosphere is perfect for a small picnic while you soak in the view.
- Basilica of San Miniato al Monte: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Forte di Belvedere: 0.5 miles/0.8 kilometers
9. Dive into history at the Florence Archaeological Museum
One of the most significant things to do in Florence for history buffs is visiting the Archaeological Museum. It contains a plethora of historical artifacts, spanning from ancient Egypt to the Etruscan era. Established in 1828, it’s a treasure trove of historical wonder.
- Egyptian Collection: The second largest in Italy, it showcases mummies, statues, and steles.
- Etruscan Artifacts: Highlights include the famous Chimera of Arezzo.
- Roman Collection: Offers a deep dive into Roman-era artifacts.
Travel Tip: The museum is vast. Ensure you have enough time on your hands to explore it comprehensively.
- San Marco Museum: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Florence Botanical Gardens: 0.3 miles/0.48 kilometers
10. Shop at the San Lorenzo Market
The bustling San Lorenzo Market is a haven for shoppers. From souvenirs and leather goods to delectable local produce and Tuscan treats, it’s a genuine Florentine experience. Divided into an outdoor and indoor market, it’s a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and flavors.
- Central Market: The indoor section with various food stalls offering fresh produce and eateries.
- Leather Market: Perfect for picking up handcrafted leather goods.
- Local Delicacies: Sample cheeses, wines, and meats unique to Tuscany.
Travel Tip: Always bargain when shopping in the outdoor market. Prices are often inflated for tourists.
- Medici Chapel: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Florence Cathedral: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
11. Indulge in Florentine gelato
Florence claims to be the birthplace of gelato, and a trip here isn’t complete without indulging in this creamy delight. There’s no shortage of gelaterias, but it’s essential to differentiate between authentic establishments and tourist traps.
- Traditional Flavours: Seek out flavors like stracciatella, nocciola, and fior di latte.
- Artisanal Gelaterias: Prioritize shops that make gelato in-house using fresh ingredients.
- Seasonal Varieties: Many shops offer flavors based on the season’s freshest ingredients.
Travel Tip: Look for gelaterias where the gelato is stored in metal containers and has natural colors—bright, fluorescent colors often mean additives and preservatives.
- Piazza della Repubblica: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Palazzo Strozzi: 0.3 miles/0.48 kilometers
12. Attend a traditional Tuscan cooking class
One of the most immersive ways to delve into the heart of Florentine culture is through its food. And what better way to understand the depth of Tuscan cuisine than by enrolling in a cooking class? Florence offers a myriad of options for those eager to master the art of creating delectable Tuscan dishes.
- Handmade Pasta: Learn the traditional method of making pasta from scratch.
- Tuscan Breads: Dive into the world of ‘pane Toscano’ and ‘schiacciata’.
- Wine Pairing: Understand the intricacies of pairing Tuscan wines with local dishes.
Travel Tip: Opt for classes that include market tours. It offers a unique perspective into sourcing fresh ingredients.
- Mercato Centrale: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Sant’Ambrogio Market: 0.5 miles/0.8 kilometers
13. Wander the streets of Oltrarno
Oltrarno, which translates to ‘beyond the Arno’, is Florence’s artisan heart. This neighborhood, although a bit removed from the central tourist zones, is where true Florentine spirit thrives amidst cobblestone lanes, medieval houses, and artisan workshops.
- Palazzo Guicciardini: An iconic renaissance palace.
- Artisan Workshops: Observe craftsmen at work, from shoemakers to goldsmiths.
- Piazza Santo Spirito: A lively square lined with cafes and hosting a daily market.
Travel Tip: Take a guided walking tour to truly understand the historical and cultural significance of the sites.
- Brancacci Chapel: 0.2 miles/0.32 kilometers
- Pitti Palace: 0.3 miles/0.48 kilometers
14. Take a wine tasting tour in Chianti region
While technically a short drive from Florence, the Chianti region is too significant to miss. Known globally for its wines, especially Chianti Classico, the region is a mosaic of vineyards, olive groves, and medieval villages.
- Wine Estates: Tour vineyards and enjoy tastings straight from the cellar.
- Scenic Drives: The region offers some of the most picturesque drives in Italy.
- Local Produce: Apart from wines, savor olive oil, cheese, and local meats.
Travel Tip: Consider hiring a local guide or joining a group tour for a comprehensive wine experience, ensuring you don’t have to worry about driving post-tastings.
- Castellina in Chianti: 12 miles/19.3 kilometers
- Greve in Chianti: 20 miles/32.2 kilometers
15. Visit the Medici Chapels and understand their legacy
The Medici Chapels, attached to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, stand as a testament to the powerful Medici dynasty’s legacy. It serves as both a mausoleum for the Medici family and a showcase of Renaissance art and architecture.
- Chapel of the Princes: Adorned with precious stones and marbles.
- New Sacristy: Designed by Michelangelo, it houses tombs sculpted by him.
- Laurentian Library: A repository of over 11,000 manuscripts.
Travel Tip: Purchase a combined ticket that offers access to both the church and the chapels.
- San Lorenzo Market: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
- Florence Cathedral: 0.3 miles/0.48 kilometers
16. See the Palazzo Vecchio and its historic significance
Standing tall in Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio is a massive Romanesque fortress-palace that has been the symbol of the city’s civic power for centuries. This historic structure has served as a palace, a residence, and now, a museum, narrating stories of Florence’s illustrious past.
- Salone dei Cinquecento: A grand hall adorned with artwork by renowned Renaissance artists.
- Tower of Arnolfo: Offers panoramic views of Florence.
- Apartments of the Elements: Rooms dedicated to the Medici family, showcasing ornate decorations.
Travel Tip: Opt for a guided tour. The palace is laden with symbolism and intricate details which might be missed without an expert.
- Loggia dei Lanzi: 0.05 miles/0.08 kilometers
- Uffizi Gallery: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
17. Get cultured at the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore is an institution founded by the Republic of Florence in 1296 to supervise the construction of the new Cathedral and its associated structures. Today, it serves as a museum, detailing the history of these iconic structures.
- Original Ghiberti’s Doors: The ‘Gates of Paradise’ which once adorned the Baptistry.
- Architectural Models: Displaying the evolution of the Cathedral and Brunelleschi’s Dome.
- Artifacts: Relics and fragments associated with the Cathedral’s centuries-long history.
Travel Tip: Allocate time to explore the museum before or after visiting the Duomo complex to understand its historical context better.
- Florence Cathedral: 0.02 miles/0.03 kilometers
- Giotto’s Campanile: 0.03 miles/0.05 kilometers
18. Revel in sunset moments at Fiesole
Nestled in the hills above Florence, Fiesole offers a respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Known for its archaeological sites and scenic views, it’s the perfect spot to catch a Florentine sunset, making it a valuable inclusion in things to do in Florence.
- Roman Theatre: An ancient structure with panoramic views of Florence below.
- Monastery of San Francesco: A serene place with picturesque vistas.
- Etruscan Walls: Echoes of a civilization that predates Roman Florence.
Travel Tip: Take a public bus from Florence to reach Fiesole. It’s a short ride, and the journey itself is scenic.
- Villa Medici in Fiesole: 0.5 miles/0.8 kilometers
- San Pietro in Monticelli: 0.6 miles/1 kilometer
19. Take a historical tour of Florence’s secret passages
Florence is riddled with hidden corridors and secret passages, a testament to its layered history. The most famous is the Vasari Corridor, linking the Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, offering insights into the city’s political and social maneuverings.
- Vasari Corridor: A kilometer-long passageway filled with priceless artworks.
- Secret routes of the Medici: Explore pathways used by the Medici family to move discreetly.
- Hidden cellars and basements: Many transformed into quaint cafes and restaurants.
Travel Tip: Booking in advance is crucial as many of these tours are limited in number and get sold out quickly.
- Uffizi Gallery: 0.05 miles/0.08 kilometers
- Ponte Vecchio: 0.1 miles/0.16 kilometers
Conclusion: Florence, often dubbed the ‘Athens of the Middle Ages’, is more than just a city; it’s a living, breathing museum. From its cobblestone alleys to the majestic Duomo that paints the city’s skyline, each corner has a story to tell. Whether you’re an art lover, a history buff, or simply someone in search of beauty, Florence promises an immersive experience that lingers long after the trip ends. As we’ve journeyed through these 21 things to do in Florence, we hope you’ve felt the city’s heartbeat, its allure, and its timeless charm. Here’s to discovering, exploring, and falling in love with Florence – La Bella!