The city of Florence is the capital of Tuscany – the fount of Renaissance – the Italian region that’s known for its priceless artworks, beautiful architecture, scenic landscapes, undulating vineyards, and a glorious local cuisine based on age-old cooking traditions.
Florence is home to many artistic, historical, and cultural treasures. There are so many museums, galleries, and churches to visit that it would be impossible to spend just a weekend exploring the city and say you’ve covered it all. Plus, there are so many cafes, restaurants, and gelaterias waiting to be discovered.
To help you choose which sights to see and the activities to engage in during your trip, here is a suggested list of the top ten things to do in Florence.
1. Visit the Uffizi Gallery.
One of the oldest art museums in the world, the Uffizi Gallery is a must-visit attraction in Florence. The world-renowned gallery features a vast array of magnificent and historic works and a guided tour of the building presents an opportunity to be introduced to the museum’s greatest pieces, like the works of Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, and Titian – the Birth of Venus, Madonna and Child with Two Angels, and the Venus of Orbino, respectively.
Another piece you should not miss is the Statue David by Michelangelo. The museum also houses a collection of artworks by Cimabue, Giotto, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Leonardo da Vinci so ample time should be spent appreciating and contextualizing their works.
2. Admire the beautiful Duomo of Florence.
One of the Italy’s most photographed tourist destinations is the Duomo, Florence’s world-famous cathedral. The Duomo, built in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore, is a massive Gothic building with a Renaissance dome that makes it easily distinguishable from the other architectural structures in the city. The Florence cathedral also features many works of art, among them the frescoes of Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno, as well as the terracotta sculptures by the Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia.
3. Take in the spectacular sights of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Perched on a hill to the south bank of the Arno River in OItramo district, the Piazzale Michelangelo offers visitors unparalleled views of Florence. This lookout is a favourite daytime or nighttime attraction among visitors as it is also the perfect spot to witness the insanely beautiful Florentine sunrise or sunset.
4. Indulge in authentic gelato.
Italy is well known for its gelato but you’ve never really tried the best-tasting Italian ice cream if you haven’t been to the best gelaterias in Florence. Florence is where it all started and nothing beats having a refreshing scoop or two of authentic gelato on a hot and humid afternoon.
5. Cross the Ponte Vecchio.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio or the Old Bridge, was once the only bridge across the Arno River. Swept away by a flood and rebuilt in 1345, the medieval bridge is the most photographed spot in Florence. It also enjoys the distinction of being the only bridge in Florence that remained intact, left alone by the retreating Germans, during the WW II. And in 1966, although severely damaged, the Ponte Vecchio survived the great flood of the Arno. The Ponte Vecchio is also one of the few bridges in the city that have shops, mostly selling jewellery and souvenirs, built along its length. Built in 1565, the Vasari corridor that runs above the shops on the bridge connects the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace on the opposite side of the river.
6. Marvel at Renaissance art.
In Florence, you’ll find yourself surrounded by different kinds of unique Italian Renaissance art so be sure to actually stop and take in as much as you can. Florence, like many cities of the Renaissance period, has been built over a long time and is home to the churches, public buildings, and houses that are representative of the prevailing Romanesque or Gothic architecture during those times. When a revival of classical styles became popular in the city, new structures featuring the same architectural style rose alongside the old, well-preserved buildings adding to the city’s allure and charm.
7. Browse San Lorenzo’s Market.
If you plan to shop and experience the local market scene, the best place for that is San Lorenzo’s Market. The market is divided into two sections, the outdoor section and the indoor market. The outdoor market consists of stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs, and clothing while the indoor market or the Mercato Centrale, is a late 19th century building filled to the brim with vendors selling fresh local ingredients as well as places where you can grab a quick yet hearty Tuscan meal.
8. Have your photo taken at the Fountain of Neptune.
Located in the Piazza della Singnoria, the Fountain of Neptune was designed by the famous sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati in 1565, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence. The fountain, fronting Palazzio Vecchio, is also one of the most picturesque spots in the city.
9. Spend a day in Tuscany.
There’s a myriad of interesting things to do in Tuscany but if you have to choose a few, be sure to spend time in the Italian hill town of San Gimignano and join a wine tour to the Chianti region. San Gimignano is famous for its spectacular skyline made even more beautiful by 15 medieval skyscrapers collectively called the Towers of San Gimignano.
Some of Italy’s finest vintages are produced in the vineyards of Chianti so joining a tour provides the opportunity to explore some of the region’s best wineries. Wine tours are an immersive experience, you’ll get to taste the country’s best-tasting wines and learn a thing or two about wine-making as well.
10. People watch in Piazza della Signoria.
The Piazza della Signoria is a gorgeous open piazza that was actually the front “yard” of the Medici family’s home. The piazza, with a “David” replica standing at its entrance, was once the center of politics and power during the Medici rule.
Also found in the square is the Loggia dei Lanzi , an outdoor sculpture gallery designed in 1376, located to the right of the Palazzo Vecchio. Behind the Loggia is the Uffizi Gallery, one of Italy’s premier art museums. The piazza is great for people watching; spend one or two relaxing hours in the piazza and watch the locals go about their daily lives.
Ready to discover Florence? Join these tours and excursions to make your trip more memorable.
By: Brendelyn Balaga