Florence, the home to some of the scintillating Renaissance art and sculpture, is the capital city of Tuscany in Italy. If you are an art and culture lover, you should plan a trip to Florence as soon as possible. Being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is known for its river, history, food, shopping, amazing countryside, local carnivals and warmth. Florence is known as the City of Lilies, because its official emblem is the image of a blooming red lily on a white field.
Top things to see and do in Florence
Cathedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
Commonly known as the Duomo di Firenze, this cathedral and its dome are the most iconic structures in Florence. This was the tallest church in the world until 1881. Climb all the 463 steps to get to the top area of the cathedral and enjoy panoramic views of the city. Constructed using white marble with polychromic designs of red, pink and green in the middle, this imposing structure can be seen anywhere in Florence. Don’t miss the massive clock face on top of the dome.
Are you looking to capture Florence in her beauty? Visit the Piazzale Michelangelo Square, located on the southern banks of the Arno River. You have to climb a small hill near the Boboli Gardens to visit this famous square. The bronze statue of David, situated right in the heart of the square, cannot be missed. The street-side shops of local vendors selling their crafts make for beautiful pictures. You can shop for souvenirs from these local stores.
Palace and Gallery of Uffizi
If there is one place on earth that houses all historical representations of Renaissance Art in a single location, it has to be the Uffizi Gallery. This palace and gallery blow your minds away with their majestic architecture. The huge courtyard of the building with marble statues adorning the columns & arches, is one of the most beautiful sights for an art lover. Some rare works of Renaissance Art, like the Baptism of Christ (da Vinci), Adoration of Magi (Botticelli) and Sacrifice of Isaac (Caravaggio), can be found in this museum.
A photograph in front of the awesome Palazzo Vecchio is a must-have, when you come back from Florence. At the time of its construction (1299), this place was the home of the Signoria of the Republic of Florence. Later, this place served as a town hall. This is one of the most iconic buildings of Florence, just after the Duomo. This structure looks nothing less than a castle with its many crenulations and square-shaped design. The interiors and exteriors of this building contain intricate carvings of important political members and statues.
Located right next to the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile is known for its scintillating Gothic architecture. Like the Duomo, you will find colorful polychromic decorations in marble on the exteriors of this structure. Considered a perfect representation of Renaissance Art, this structure was constructed in 1344 by Giotto. Don’t miss out on enjoying the marvelous sculptures, artwork and carved panels on the inside and outside of the Campanile.
Piazza della Signoria
There we go with Renaissance Art again! The Piazza Della Signoria is easily accessible, as it is located right next to the most iconic structure of Florence, the Duomo. While the Palazzo Vecchio is located right in the center of this building, the beautiful Neptune fountain towards the palace’s left is sure to attract your eyes. To the right of the fountain, you will find gorgeous sculptures depicting the Renaissance period (Hercules, Perseus and more).
Basilica of Santa Croce
One look at this basilica, and you cannot help but notice its similarity with the Duomo. However, that’s the style of all iconic structures in Florence, isn’t it? With colorful polychromic decorations complementing the white marble of the building, the front façade of this basilica is a great place for taking photos. After basking in the external beauty, don’t forget to visit the tombs of famous Renaissance artists, Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli located inside the basilica.
Water tours on the Arno River
The Arno River is second only to the Tiber, in terms of popularity. If you are bored of visiting the museums and galleries, you can take a water tour on the Arno River to witness a different angle of Florence. Try your hand at paddleboarding on the waters, as you travel through the beautiful cultural landmarks of the city.
The Mercato Centrale (Central Market) building, belonging to the 19th century, is the perfect place to go, if you are a foodie. On the ground floor, local vendors sell wine, meat, fresh fruits & vegetables, cheese, spices, etc. You will witness a unique food court on the first floor, specializing in outlets selling fresh pasta and pizza. Try these instead of going to upscale restaurants for your usual burgers and fast foods.
The Galleria dell’ Accademia may not be an immensely attractive structure from the outside. However, you have to visit it, as it contains some of the best original works of Michelangelo. He was only 26, when he carved the famous David sculpture, the pride of this gallery today. David was carved from a single block of marble, 500 years ago. The attention to detail in this sculpture (you can even see David’s veins!) will certainly give you goose bumps.
Florence Travel Tips
- Learn how to say certain everyday terms (good morning, thank you, please, how are you, etc.) in the local language to get more help from the locals.
- Some small restaurants and bars may not accept card payments. So, you should always carry some cash in your wallet.
- Don’t always go by the itinerary to see all the tourist attractions during your trip. Take it easy, and take some time off to enjoy the small streets and the local lifestyle of the people here.
- Tickets for top tourist attractions sell out quickly. So, please book in advance to save time and money.
When to visit Florence
The months between May and September are the best to visit Florence. You get to enjoy the mild sunshine of the city on your tours. However, the city is likely to be crowded during this time, so you should plan your trip properly to move past the crowds.