Florence is one of those cities in which one could spend their entire Italian holiday. It’s that beautiful. And it’s that significant when it comes to the list of major attractions that have captivated tourists, art lovers, and people of faith for centuries. Whether it’s strolling along the peaceful Arno in the shadow of the Ponte Vecchio, admiring the David, enjoying an espresso or a famous Aperol Spritz while stopping in the Piazza Della Signori, or pondering the beauty in the Biblical scenes carved into the famous baptistry doors across from the Duomo, this city representing the center of the Renaissance, is an endless feast for all of the senses. So, give yourself at least three to four days in this marvelous and historic Tuscan town. You might want to add on an extra day to take a day trip to the nearby Tuscan countryside for a wine tasting, but more on that in another posting.
In the meantime, here are the top sights you want to cross of that bucket list when it comes to Florence:
- Duomo-Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – 14th century gothic cathedral and considered the religious center of Florence.
- Florence Baptistry – one of the oldest religious monuments in the city. The baptistry sits right in front of the cathedral, most famous for its 3 sets of bronze doors including the Ghiberti masterpiece, “the gates of paradise.” Tickets are needed to enter the Duomo and to gain entrance to the baptistry.
- Basilica di Santa Croce – is actually both a church as well as a museum. This famous Franciscan place of worship is designed in the shape of an Egyptian cross, hence the name Church of the Holy Cross in English. It’s located in a piazza by the same name and is south east of the famed Duomo. People of faith, history buffs, and art lovers will want to visit this site as it is the burial place of Italians who made major contributions to culture and science including Galileo, the famous composer Rossini, and last but not least, Michelangelo. It dates all the way to 1212 when St. Francis visited the city.
- The David – One of the main reasons tourists from around the world flock to Florence is to admire Michelangelo’s sculptures with the David being at the top of the list. The Renaissance artist’s masterpiece, along with a number of other notable works including his Slaves, and St. Matthew, are all housed in the Galleria dell’ Accademia more commonly known as the Accademia Gallery. If you have time to spare this art gallery is worth at least a few hours as the main halls offer art lovers pieces by other great Italian artists. You want to have your travel agent book the tickets in advance. Otherwise plan on spending hours in line if you buy tickets the day of your visit.
- Uffizi Gallery – The Uffizi is a prominent art museum located next to the beautiful Piazza della Signoria. It’s considered extremely important due to its housing one of the most famous art collections in the world. Famous works by Botticelli, Giotto, and others can be seen in the museum that first opened its doors way back in 1769. Here again given the popularity and prominence of this museum it’s recommended you purchase tickets in advance.
- Porcellino Market/Mercato Nuova – there are a number of great places to shop in Florence no doubt including all sorts of lovely shops selling clothing, leather, goods, jewelry, delicate and delectable dolce or sweets, and so much more but among my favorite place to bargain, stroll, grab a great deal on a new purse along with a bit of good fortune while I’m at it, is the Porcellino Market or new market. The Porcellino portion of the name the references the wild boar statue located there. Italian tradition says you need to rub the boar’s nose for good luck and fortune and hopefully some good deals as this market is flooded with great leather products, as well as scarves galore and other clothing items in every style and color imaginable. Even if you’re not a shopper it’s fun to stroll the aisles and look all around at the variety of items. It’s open 9am to 7pm Tuesday through Sunday.
- The Ponte Vecchio – Old Bridge which is exactly what Ponte Vecchio means sounds so much better in Italian doesn’t it? Last but certainly not least is a stroll along this famous bridge that crosses the Arno river and is home to countess jewelry stores that line either side. Even though shopping here would break the bank for the average tourist, it’s still something to see and a great gathering space for those iconic photos and images that Florence is famous for. Here’s a little insiders tip when it comes to where this unique bridge can take you if you like to be adventurous and wine and dine with the locals. After you’re done taking those selfies, start walking across the bridge away from the tourist area toward the residential section. Make a left as you cross and there you will find a number of wine bars that line the Arno. If you’re early enough you can grab a table by the window and enjoy your meal and vino watching the rowers as they pass by below. Nothing like it. Enjoy.