Overflowing with history, art, and culture, Florence is a city that’s very hard to do justice to in a short stay. You have just arrived in the Renaissance capital of the art world with a couple of days to spare, so where do you go and what highlights can you see? Haute Retreats (based near Venice) prepared a travel guide for you to get the best of it during your stay.
From the iconic David by Michelangelo to the romantic Ponte Vecchio, to Giotto’s bell tower, Florence Italy just seems to be represented by a lot of things or famous people such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Dante Alighieri, or Michelangelo, to name a few. From any Italian city, getting to Florence is easy since the city itself is an important railway and highway center. The past years have had an increase in direct flight connections abroad. You can always choose from getting there by car, train, or plane. Right now airlines like Qatar Airways, Vueling, Alitalia, British Airways, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, AirFrance among others that offer flights to Florence.
The most charming spots in Florence Italy area a walk of discovery. Starting off in the main Piazza, you’ll easily spot the famous Duomo, with its magnificent terracotta colored cupola.
Heading to the piazza, you will see the Duomo before you reach the piazza it resides in as you walk down to Via Borgo San Lorenzo. The squat building in front of the cathedral is the Baptistery, built on the foundations of a Roman Temple. The golden doors facing the cathedral are replicas of an original set made by Lorenzo Ghiberti and regarded by Michelangelo as the “Doors to Paradise“.
If you are there early enough to avoid the crowds and feel you can face the 463 steps. To have a spectacular view of the city we suggest to climb up into the dome. The Duomo is probably the most distinctive feature of Florence’s skyline and is the result of years of work spanning two centuries.
The cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. A statue to each of these important architects can be found outside to the right of the cathedral, both admiring their work for the rest of eternity.
When you step inside you should note the clock, that still works, above the entrance on the inside of the church, designed in 1443 by Paolo Uccello in accordance with the ora Italica, where the 24th hour of the day ended at sunset.
Many of the original works that were used to decorate the exteriors and interiors of the baptistery, church and campanile are houses inside the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo, behind the cathedral, the museum rooms that catalog the history of the buildings. You can admire many pieces made by Michelangelo, including his Pietà that he partially destroyed, which was finished later by a student.
Take a walk to the nearby Piazza Della Signoria, you’ll find a unique outdoor gallery of sculptures, including Neptune’s Fountain and a copy of the famous Statue of David. Underneath the loggia, there is also a collection of other famous statues including the Rape of the Sabines, Hercules and the Centaur Nessus, by Giambologna and Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus.
Michelangelo’s David (the original) is in the Accademia Gallery of Florence (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze) in Florence and is definitely a goal you cannot miss on your visit to this wonderful city. The Accademia Gallery is very close to the monumental Duomo (Piazza del Duomo). In 1910, the statue of David that was exposed to the elements in Piazza Della Signoria was transferred to the Accademia Gallery to avoid its deterioration, and the David we currently see at the square is a copy of the original.
There are three copies of the David in Florence: the original sculpture of the David is in the Accademia Gallery of Florence, the second copy of the David is located in Piazza Della Signoria (Duomo Square), just opposite the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), the third copy is in the middle of Piazzale Michelangelo.
Michelangelo sculpted the David from September of 1501 until May of 1504, resulting in this icon of the Renaissance with size and proportions of enormous dimensions. The David is just over 5 meters high and exceeds five tons.
You’ll find the Palazzo Vecchio, built in the early 14th century is still used today for its original purpose as the Town Hall. Just beside the Palazzo Vecchio there is the Uffizi museum with its unrivaled collection of Renaissance art. The collection inside is second only to that of the one held at the Vatican in terms of artistic significance. Giotto, Fra Angelico, Lippi, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and the list goes on. The gallery is closed on Mondays and needs at least half a day to get around. We can arrange a visit also at closing hours, a private tour of the Uffizi. We also can book your visit way in advance in case you wish to visit during the summer. We suggest visiting Florence in Springtime or Fall season…so to avoid the most crowded months.
Alongside the Uffizi, you’ll find the River Arno, with its many bridges. If you take a right turn you will arrive at the Ponte Vecchio, the famed bridge that houses a multitude of goldsmiths and jewelry shops. If you make your way back to the northern end of the bridge where there is the covered colonnade heading left alongside the river, you can see where there was built a secret passageway for the Medici’s as the walked above the populace between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. The Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge, which was the only spared by Nazis in WWII. The original shops where butchers that used to throw the leftovers into the Arno river below. In the 16th century, the Medici could not stand the smell and decided to have goldsmiths move in.
Once you cross the bridge, you arrive in the area called Oltrano, which literally means “Over the Arno”. Here you will find the Palazzo Pitti, a large 16th-century palace. The palace was originally home to the Medici family who ruled Florence almost between 1434 and 1743 and it now houses several important museums and galleries.
We suggest finishing your first day by taking a relaxing stroll in the Boboli gardens, that you can access through the Palazzo Pitti. These gardens were laid out in 1550 for the Medici year after they bought the Palazzo Pitti and were opened to the public in 1766. Walking through these wonderful Renaissance gardens includes seeing charming monuments such as the Grotta del Buontalenti, amphitheater, and Small Island with statues of dancing country-folk. The San Lorenzo Market is homed within huge iron and glass building built-in 1874.
Another great spot where to end your first day in Florence is the sunset at the Ponte Vecchio, we love the lights on the bridge that reflect on the River Arno. We suggest arranging ahead of time your visit to Florence as the more museums and attractions you book in advance the better, so you can enjoy most of the city during your stay.
Behind Piazzale Michelangelo, you should not miss a visit and the view from the Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte. The exterior is one of the best examples of Tuscan Romanesque architecture while the interior is home to some extraordinary 13-15 C frescos.
Really getting to know Florence Italy is not just about visiting the museums, seeing the churches, palaces, and monuments, but to fully understand the versatile spirit of the city, is mixing with the local people and trying to live as they do for only one day.