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The City of Florence, Italy

Updated: Apr 12

Jason Steven outside the Duomo in Florence, Italy in the rain

Florence, the beating heart of Tuscany, is a city that has captivated my soul like no other. With each walk down Florence's enchanting streets, I find myself unveiling layers of beauty and discovering new treasures that leave me forever enamored. As a seasoned traveler, I've had the privilege of exploring some of the world's most spectacular destinations, but Florence holds a special place in my heart – a place where art, history, Tuscan cuisine, and la dolce vita intertwine to create an intoxicating tapestry of wonder. No wonder I'm here every 2 months and will be permanently soon. So here's some of my advice for your journey to Firenze!

Map of the destinations to explore from this article in Florence, Italy.

The Duomo in Florence, Italy

The Duomo: An Architectural Marvel

No visit to Florence is complete without marveling at the awe-inspiring Duomo di Firenze, the city's grand cathedral. As you approach its colossal presence, be prepared to crane your neck in awe at the magnificent Renaissance dome engineered by Brunelleschi. This architectural masterpiece, clad in a mesmerizing pattern of green, white, and pink marble, is a testament to human ingenuity and artistic prowess.

I highly recommend climbing the 463 steps to the top of the cupola, a journey that rewards you with breathtaking panoramic views of Florence's terracotta rooftops and the surrounding Tuscan hills. As you catch your breath, take a moment to appreciate the intricate frescoes adorning the interior, a celestial feast for the eyes. I recommend this activity in Florence with kids as it will keep them moving.

The Galleria dell'Accademia and the statue of David in Florence, Italy

The Galleria dell'Accademia: Home of David

Florence's artistic legacy is unparalleled, and no museum embodies this more than the Galleria dell'Accademia. Here, you'll come face-to-face with Michelangelo's sublime sculpture of David, a work of art that has captivated the world for centuries.

As you approach this colossal marble figure, you'll be struck by its sheer magnitude and the intricate details that bring it to life. Michelangelo's masterpiece is a triumph of Renaissance art, capturing the human form in all its perfection and evoking a sense of power and grace that leaves visitors spellbound.

Domenico Ghirlandaio at the Accademia Museum in Florence, Italy

While the Galleria dell'Accademia is famous for housing Michelangelo's iconic statue of David, this museum offers so much more for art enthusiasts to explore. Wander through the Gipsoteca Bartolini, a collection of plaster casts that showcases the evolution of Baroque and Renaissance sculpture. Don't miss the Sala dei Prigioni, where you can marvel at Michelangelo's hauntingly beautiful unfinished Prisoners sculptures, trapped in their marble prisons.

For a deeper dive into the museum's treasures, consider joining one of the guided tours (around €34 for a small group tour). These knowledgeable guides will provide expert insights into the artworks, revealing fascinating details and historical context that you might otherwise miss. Before your visit, I recommend purchasing Skip the Line tickets online (around €16 for adults) to avoid the long queues that often form, especially during peak season. With these tickets, you can bypass the crowds and spend more time immersed in the museum's artistic wonders.

The Uffizi Gallery: A Treasure Trove of Art

Primavera by Bottiicelli at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence

No visit to Florence would be complete without immersing yourself in the boundless treasures of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world's most celebrated art museums. This vast repository of artistic masterpieces is a true feast for the senses, housing an unparalleled collection of works spanning centuries of artistic excellence.

As you navigate the winding corridors and grand halls, prepare to be awestruck by iconic masterpieces such as Botticelli's mesmerizing Birth of Venus, Raphael's sublime Madonna del Cardellino, and Caravaggio's haunting Medusa. Each room unveils a new treasure, inviting you to lose yourself in the intricate details and profound emotions captured on canvas.

Caravaggio's Bacchus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy

As you navigate the Uffizi's grand corridors, be sure to seek out lesser-known gems like Raphael's exquisite Portrait of a Young Woman (La Velata) and Caravaggio's haunting Bacchus. For an in-depth experience, consider investing in an audio guide (around €6.99), which will provide detailed commentary on the masterpieces, allowing you to appreciate the nuances and symbolism within each work.

If you're visiting Florence Firenze during the peak summer months, I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance online (around €20 for adults) to skip the notoriously long lines. Alternatively, you can opt for a guided tour (prices vary but typically around €35-50 for a small group), which not only grants you priority access but also provides invaluable insights from knowledgeable art historians.

The Oltrarno: Florence's Artisan Quarter

Piazza Santo Spirito in the Oltrano section of Florence, Italy

Venture across the Arno River, and you'll find yourself in the charming Oltrarno neighborhood, a vibrant district brimming with artisanal workshops, trattorias, and a distinct bohemian flair. This quarter has long been the beating heart of Florence's artisan community, where skilled craftsmen ply their trades in small botteghe, carrying on centuries-old traditions.

Volume in Piazza Santo Spirito

Volume, located in Piazza Santo Spirito, is my go-to spot in Florence. It's a cozy café-bar filled with live music, art, and a friendly vibe. Once a woodcarver’s shop, it's now a place where locals and visitors mingle over coffee, wine, or a specialty cocktail surrounded by quirky artwork and books. It's more than just a café; it's a community spot where you feel the true spirit of Florence. Whether you're there for a morning espresso or evening drink, Volume is a warm, welcoming place that captures the heart of the city, especially the Oltrano neighborhood.

As you explore the neighborhood's winding streets, keep an eye out for the charming artisan shops. One gem is La Bottega di Massimo Adario, where you can find handmade ceramics and pottery created by a master artist using traditional Tuscan techniques. These one-of-a-kind pieces make for truly unique souvenirs and are well worth the investment (prices range from €20 for small items to over €100 for larger, more intricate pieces).

For a true taste of Florentine culinary delights, seek out the neighborhood's unassuming trattorias and osterie, where locals gather to savor hearty Tuscan fare and sip robust Chianti wines. I highly recommend trying the ribollita, a traditional bread and vegetable soup that is a quintessential Florentine dish.

The Mercato Centrale: A Foodie's Paradise

Inside the Bustling Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

No exploration of Florence would be complete without a visit to the bustling Mercato Centrale, a vibrant indoor market that is a true paradise for food lovers. As you navigate the labyrinth of stalls, you'll be greeted by a riot of colors, aromas, and sounds that encapsulate the city's vibrant culinary scene.

Stop by the various vendors offering an array of fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and locally made delicacies. I recommend trying the lampredotto, a classic Florentine street food consisting of a hearty sandwich filled with slow-cooked tripe – a true local delicacy.

La Schiacciata in Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

If you're a true food lover, I highly recommend booking a guided food tour of the Mercato Centrale (prices vary but typically around €65-85 for a small group tour). These tours are led by local culinary experts who will introduce you to the market's hidden gems, from the best stalls for fresh produce and artisanal goods to the most authentic street food vendors. You'll have the opportunity to sample a variety of local delicacies, including the iconic lampredotto sandwich, and learn about the rich culinary traditions that shape Florence's vibrant food scene.

Cucina Lorenzo de' Medici cooking school at Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

Image courtesy of Cucina Lorenzo de' Medici

For a more immersive experience, consider taking a cooking class at one of the market's renowned culinary schools, such as the (Cucina Lorenzo de' Medici) Mercato Centrale Cooking School (prices start around €70 for a 3-hour class). Here, you'll learn the secrets of Tuscan cuisine from expert chefs, mastering classic dishes like handmade pasta, ribollita soup, and the beloved bistecca alla fiorentina steak.

A video of a Pizzaiolo (Pizza Chef) making pizza at Il Mercato Centrale Firenze.

If you're in the mood for a more upscale dining experience, head to the upstairs Mercato Centrale Firenze, a food hall that showcases the best of Tuscan cuisine. Here, you can indulge in regional specialties prepared by renowned chefs, sample local wines, and immerse yourself in the convivial atmosphere that is so quintessentially Italian.

Hidden Gems and Secret Spots

Jason Steven at Santa Maria Novella in Florence

Part of Florence's charm lies in its ability to reveal hidden gems and secret spots to those willing to venture off the beaten path. One such treasure is the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, a Gothic masterpiece that often goes overlooked by visitors.

As you step inside, you'll be greeted by a serene oasis adorned with breathtaking frescoes and intricate stained-glass windows. Don't miss the enchanting Chiostro Verde, a lush green cloister that offers a tranquil respite from the bustling city streets.

Meander through the narrow streets, and you'll stumble upon workshops specializing in everything from leather goods and ceramics to hand-crafted jewelry and intricate inlaid woodwork. I think one of the most unique places is the Scuola del Cuoio, a renowned leather school where you can witness the artisans in action, creating exquisite pieces using time-honored techniques. Consider signing up for one of their leather-working workshops (prices start around €40 for a 2-hour class), where you'll learn the basics of this centuries-old craft and even create your own leather souvenir to take home.

Another hidden gem is the Museo Opificio delle Pietre Dure, a unique museum dedicated to the art of stone inlay and semi-precious stone craftsmanship. Here, you can witness skilled artisans meticulously creating intricate mosaics and decorative objects using exquisite stones and marble, a tradition that dates back centuries.

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence Italy

One of my favorite hidden gems in Florence is the enchanting Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, a stunning Renaissance library designed by Michelangelo. This lesser-known treasure is often overlooked by visitors, but it's a true gem for architecture and book lovers alike. Wander through the airy reading room, adorned with intricate wooden carvings and frescoed walls, and marvel at the ancient manuscripts and rare books housed within.

For a truly unique perspective on Florence, I highly recommend joining a guided walking tour with a local guide. These insiders can unveil the city's lesser-known corners and regale you with stories and anecdotes that bring its rich history to life. One excellent option is the Freewalkingtourfirenze (tours are free, but tips for the guide are expected), which offers several daily tours focused on different aspects of Florentine culture and history.

Beyond Florence: Day Trips and Excursions

Palio horse race in Siena

While Florence itself is a treasure trove of wonders, the enchanting Tuscan countryside offers a wealth of opportunities for day trips and excursions. One of my favorite destinations is the charming town of Siena, renowned for its stunning Piazza del Campo and the iconic Palio horse race.

Immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere as you wander the narrow streets and admire the Gothic architecture, including the magnificent Siena Cathedral. Be sure to indulge in the local specialties, such as the hearty pici pasta and the renowned Pecorino di Pienza cheese.

For wine enthusiasts, a visit to the rolling hills of Chianti is an absolute must. Join a guided tour and visit renowned vineyards, where you can learn about the region's winemaking traditions and sample exquisite Chianti Classico wines straight from the source.

Another idyllic destination is the medieval town of San Gimignano, known for its towering stone towers and well-preserved medieval architecture. Stroll along the cobblestone streets, admire the stunning views of the Tuscan countryside, and indulge in the local delicacies, such as the famous saffron-flavored gelato.

Accommodations in Florence

Helvetia & Bristol Firenze Hotel

Florence offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every traveler's needs and preferences. For those seeking a truly authentic experience, consider staying in a historic palazzo or a charming bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of the city.

One of my personal favorites is the Palazzo Guadagni, a meticulously restored Renaissance palace that now serves as a luxurious boutique hotel. Imagine waking up in opulent surroundings, surrounded by frescoed ceilings and antique furnishings, and stepping out into the heart of Florence's historic center.

Presidential Suite at the St Regis in Florence italy

Image courtesy of the St Regis

For those seeking luxury, the Four Seasons Firenze and the St. Regis Florence offer impeccable service and lavish accommodations, often housed in lovingly restored Renaissance palaces. Indulge in the finest amenities while being steps away from the city's iconic attractions.

Of course, Florence also boasts a variety of affordable hotels and guesthouses that provide a comfortable base from which to explore the city's delights. No matter your budget, you're sure to find the perfect accommodations to suit your needs and enhance your Florentine experience.

Walking accross the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy in the rain

As you wander the labyrinth of narrow streets and cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio, Florence's allure becomes immediately palpable. The city exudes an aura of timeless elegance, where Renaissance splendor and modern-day charm coexist harmoniously. It's a place where hidden gems lurk around every corner, inviting you to peel back the layers and uncover its secrets.

Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence Italy at dusk overlooking the City of Florence Italy

Florence is a city that captivates the senses and ignites the imagination, a true masterpiece where art, history, and culinary delights converge. Whether you're seeking iconic landmarks, hidden gems, or cultural immersion, this Tuscan jewel promises an unforgettable journey through the heart of the Renaissance.

Embrace the city's timeless charm, indulge in its rich heritage, and create memories that will forever etch Florence into your soul. As a seasoned traveler, I can attest that this city has the power to enchant even the most well-traveled of hearts, leaving a lasting imprint that will beckon you to return time and again.

So, fellow wanderers, pack your bags, sharpen your senses, and prepare to be swept away by the eternal allure of The City of Florence Italy, a city that truly embodies la dolce vita.

Arrivederci, and happy travels!

Firenze Card in Florence, Italy

Bonus Tip: The Firenze Card - Your Key to Florence

Unlock the treasures of Florence with the Firenze Card, an essential for savvy travelers looking to experience the best of the city while saving money. This magical pass grants you access to over 72 museums, galleries, and historical sites, including the iconic Uffizi Gallery, Accademia, and the mesmerizing Duomo complex.

But the benefits don’t stop at entry; the Firenze Card allows you to skip the long queues, giving you more time to immerse yourself in the art and history that Florence is famous for. Additionally, the card offers unlimited access to the city's public transportation network, enabling you to navigate Florence with ease and explore even more of this enchanting city.

For families traveling with children under 18, the card presents an added advantage, as it extends free entry to these younger visitors when accompanied by an adult cardholder.

At a price that pays for itself after visiting just a few sites, the Firenze Card is not just a pass but a gateway to discovering the rich tapestry of Florence's culture, art, and history at a pace and depth that suits you, making it an invaluable companion for any Florence adventure.

Here are some website links to important destinations in Florence:


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