Sightseeing on a whole other level: Fall in love with Florence and gather some insider tips!
Tuscany mesmerises you with its mild temperatures, slender cypress trees, which line the streets and hilly landscape, and of course with wholehearted Vino Rosso, which is a product of this region! For this reason I have collected the best tips for Florence for you. In terms of scenery, culture and food, this region is one of the most impressive you’ll ever find. And naturally the same goes for it’s capital, Firenze. The “Dolce Vita” of Tuscany meets the historical spirit of this trade and culture hub, in which the markets have thrived for hundreds of years. Florence attracts over one million visitors every year with its sheer abundance of art treasures from some of the biggest names of medieval Europe and fabulous architecture. Check out my tips for Florence below:
You’re asking yourself if Florence is worth a visit? You bet it is! The city is so popular worldwide, over a million visitors flock to Florence every year. That’s way more than the comparatively small number of inhabitants the city has (around 382,000). So it may well be that in the summer months of the high season the most beautiful and popular sights will be completely overcrowded and you may have to queue up for a few hours to see them. Therefore it’s definitely worth visiting the Italian city in the off season. If you’ve got a full programme planned for your city trip, then it’s definitely worth going in the off season as in summer the temperature can easily be above the 30 degree mark, which will definitely bring one or two sweat beads to your forehead.
Tips for Florence: Save with the Florence Card
I’ve already hinted at the fact that this Italian city is just full of sights to see. And as they are all situated close to one another, sightseeing in Florence can be done on foot without any problems. If you’re interested in culture then you should get yourself the “Florence Card”. The card is valid for 3 days, i.e. 72 hours, and for a price of €72 (£61.99) you get access to a whole host of discounts and perks. It gives you single admission into 72 museums, villas, and churches. The 72 hours start as soon as you use the card for the first time. You you can find more great offers for amazing trips and museum entries here on Tiqets.com.
In the footsteps of centuries-old history
In Florence there is a large number of wonderful palaces, which invite you on a journey back in time to discover their history. For example, the Palazzo Pitti is known for being the previous headquarters for the dukes of Tuscany from the Medici family. It was originally built for the merchant Luca Pitti in 1458. From the outside, the Palazzo looks fairly basic and without ornamentation with its facade of rough-hewn stone blocks, but don’t be fooled! Today the palace contains a magnificent collection of paintings from the Medici family, which are well worth seeing and also numerous other galleries, museums and the former Ducal rooms. But my personal favourite attraction at this place is the Giardino di Boboli, the garden area behind the palace. Here, you can stroll through the beautiful garden and marvel at the the stunning view of the city centre and also the unique collection of sculptures.
Exciting sightseeing tips for Florence
Statues, fountains, grottoes, nymphs, temple gardens… Whatever else you expected of a magnificent Tuscan garden, you can discover and enjoy here first hand. To begin with, you can take a look at the Amphitheater with its Egyptian obelisk, which was brought here especially from Rome by Medici. Particularly impressive for me is the “Grotta Grande” or “Big Grotto” which was completed in 1593 by the artist Buontalenti. The walls, with their unevenness and stalactites, resemble a natural grotto. At the time, the cave was home to the sculpture “The prisoners” by Michelangelo, which was reminiscent of the original characters of a grotto. Such grottoes were used by Shepherds as a shelter from rain or a hideout in the case of danger from wild animals. Today, you can admire the original masterpiece at the Galleria dell’Accademia. In the meantime, gaze at the other amazing sculptures in the grotto, like the “Bathing Venus” by Giambolgona, for example.
A lot more central is the Palazzo Vecchio, which lies, with its large historical background, in the Piazza della Signoria. It was finished in 1314 and was home for a long time to the parliament of the Republic of Florence. The palace looks like a small, streamlined fortress: With a few small windows, the facade looks like a wall. On top is the Arnolfo Tower, from which you have a superb view of the surrounding area. Back then parliamentarians spent the night in this building, so these architectural features probably acted as a security measure (for example, as protection against the angry people).
More tips for Florence: the most important square
The adjacent square to the Palazzo Vechio was named “Piazza della Signoria”as “Signoria” was the name given to the government of the city. The Palazzo (palace) was renamed when Cosimo I moved the city government into the Uffizi building (now a gallery), however the square kept its name. It is probably the most important central square in Florence. Back in the medieval times, public events such as seasonal celebrations, knight’s games, and executions were held here. Today, it’s home to the Loggia dei Lanzi with impressive statues, the fountain of neptune and the famous David statue by Michelangelo (admittedly not the original, which is located in the Galleria dell’Accademia, but a 100% replica).
One of the best tips for Florence: The Ponte Vecchio is a must
Other than the many small restaurants, the square also has access to the Uffizi through which you can also reach the Ponte Vecchio. Again the name says it all: The “old bridge” is in fact the oldest in the whole of Florence and was built in the middle of the 14th century. Crafted out of solid stone, the bridge over the river Arno connects the inner city to the south side of Florence, which was quickly heavily built up with small shops, some of which even hang over the bridge a little. In the middle of the bridge, there are three curved archways from which pedestrians can enjoy a view of the river and surrounding area.
Tips for Florence: Unbelievable sights
We now come to city’s historic cathedral: The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Fiore is the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Florence and is the fourth biggest church in all of Europe. It’s famous and inconceivably impressive dome is an architectural as well as an engineering masterpiece. In 1296, it was decided, probably with the idea of competing with Pisa, that a cathedral should be built that will top everything else in terms of size.
The Santa Reparata Cathedral, which originally stood here, was built upon. Today the cathedral is truly enormous. When you go inside, you can’t help but be amazed! A number of magnificent pieces of art such as statues, paintings and much more await you. However, be careful of what you wear! The roman-catholic Italians aren’t so liberal when it comes to style of dress: You’ll find yourself standing outside the door if your knees and shoulders are on show. Many Italian churches even have capes on hand for such situations, however this isn’t always the case. If it’s really warm, then it’s best that you take a shawl or something similar just to hang over your shoulders.
Above the rooftops of Florence
My personal highlight however, is not the cathedral itself but rather the view from the very top: You can climb right up the enormous dome. Old, narrow staircases and dark passageways wind up to an absolutely breathtaking view, which makes all the effort of getting there more than worth it. From the platform, you have an unbelievably striking view of the whole city and the surrounding area – an experience which you will definitely never forget!
Even the facade of the cathedral is world famous. It’s made up of three-coloured marble, which was laid out in a beautiful pattern in the late 19th century. Another feature is the baptistery in the Piazza del Duomo. Quietly take a look at the biblical scenes on the golden doors, also an artistic and engineering masterpiece!
There’s a just as breathtaking view over Florence waiting for you at the Piazzale Michelangelo, just take the bus (Nr.12 or 13 from the train station) to get there. From there you can marvel at the beautiful city from a little bit further away, it’s a really amazing view! The view is even more beautiful when you come at dusk. When it starts to get darker, the town shines with its many lights. Truly very beautiful!
Restaurant tips for Florence
If you’re on your feet all day then you’re bound to get hungry. Due to the masses of tourists, you can find small ristoranti all over the city. However this doesn’t necessarily mean that quantity equals quality. So here are a few gems which I highly recommend in Florence:
The “All’Antico Vinaio”on the Via dei Neri (virtually halfway between the Piazza della Signoria and the Piazza Santa Croce) offers quite a superb selection of paninis for lunch. Of course the little restaurant is open longer, but it’s during the day that you can enjoy a really delicious light snack. Here you can get a delicious panini quickly, cheaply, and made your way, or the local Florentines which you can also have for lunch (always a good sign!). You can also enjoy a glass of wine with your food here. Preferably as the locals have it: Self service per glass!
The Mercato Centrale, the central market in Florence, is an absolute must for all you foodies out there! On the Via dell’Ariento, north of the Cathedral, you’ll find the indoor market with many delicacies for you try. As a proper Tuscan Italian market you can admire the urban bustle as well as a rustic and semi rural flair. The food, as it should be in a good market, is naturally excellent and of the highest quality. Besides food, you can also buy a few other exciting things like fabrics, clothes etc.
Florence is definitely worth a visit!
Florence is a truly special city! Due to the high value put on art and culture over the centuries by the influential and affluent families who have lived here, there’s so many treasures in this city that it resembles one big collection. Culture lovers definitely get there moneys worth here, and those who are not that into culture will still definitely be impressed by this beautiful city, with its architecture and scenery. I hope you like my tips for Florence and have a great time!