One of the most charming cities in Tuscany – if not all of Italy – Florence is a place to immerse yourself in history, art and architecture. Dubbed the birthplace of the Renaissance, it’s home to works by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo at the world-famous Uffizi Gallery. But you can also stroll the piazzas and cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens. Here’s our guide.
Everyone knows about the Renaissance, but learning about it in school and experiencing first-hand where it all began are two entirely different things. Every corner you turn has a new story, an interesting fun fact and a gorgeous building or piece of art that cannot be missed. Being the birthplace of Renaissance means there is plenty to do and see.
Florence is home to one of the most famous art galleries in the world, where many Renaissance masterpieces are housed. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Florence every year just to see the famous pieces by historical artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto and Titian, just to name a few.
If you’ve ever been to Rome, you know it’s metropolitan chaos. Florence, however, feels much slower. Even though it’s a city, it is calmer than Italy’s other equally tourist-centric spots. Sure, there are cars and scooters trying to get from one place to the next, but the city centre is overrun mostly by pedestrians who stroll the streets for fun to window-shop, slowly enjoy a gelato or take in a beautiful day sitting in a piazza while chatting and people watching.
Given its medieval and Enlightenment history, it’s not surprising there are plenty of hidden secrets and scandals to be discovered in the city of Florence. Take a tour of the Palazzo Medici and learn about how the Medici family boosted the Renaissance period, having made their fortune in commerce and banking and producing no fewer than four popes; you can also pick up the story of how Michelangelo was discovered, and why Hitler decided not to destroy the Ponte Vecchio during World War II. Florence has amazing secrets to uncover, and the best part is that it is very well-preserved city, where you will feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Florence’s crowning glory, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, was built in 1436 by architect Filippo Brunelleschi. The Duomo is made of natural green, red and white marble, with intricately carved and designed details – but it’s the sheer size of it that’s most impressive. As if that weren’t enough, everywhere you look you will see gothic and Renaissance architecture and can marvel at how the city makes a great effort to maintain its buildings, even alongside its newer or renovated buildings. Many churches, important places of government and even other noble families’ homes are all proudly on display to admire and visit.
Thanks to its role as the crucible of the Renaissance, Florence has always been a place for artists, scientists, specialists and eternal students to congregate. Over the generations of artists passing down their craft, artistic people have flocked to Florence from all over the world due to the creative energy that the city seems to emit so effortlessly. From street artists and painters to jewellery and fashion designers, there are plenty of creatives around the city with a supportive community to back them.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, a region famous for its cypress trees, rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see and delicious food. Base yourself in the city and it’s easy to explore the region with short day trips to the countryside, where you can go wine tasting, explore medieval hilltop towns, rent a Vespa or bike and enjoy the scenery, take a cooking class at a gorgeous villa or even help harvest grapes or olives for the season.
Although the whole of Italy has amazing food and wine, Tuscany, and Florence in particular, does it best. With both traditional dishes and modern chefs making classics with a twist, high-quality, minimal ingredients are important here, offering flavours that make all the difference in the food. You will be wowed by the care and passion that goes into each dish you eat here.
New York and Milan are usually considered fashion capitals of the world, but most of the famous Italian brands are actually based in Florence. With brands such as Prada, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo having factories in the Florence area, the city boasts great shopping and hosts many annual fashion events. Tuscany is known for its high-quality leather, one of the reasons these brands are based here. Florence even has a fancy street similar to Rodeo Drive full of high-fashion brands, so if fashion entices you, a visit is a must.
Although it’s a small city, Florence is very cultured and has a bustling food, art and culture scene. There are plenty of modern-art galleries, new restaurants opening all the time with a variety of different styles and flavours, fashion events, temporary museums with rotating subject matter and new pop-up events happening frequently.
Florence is a magical place. We all think of Venice or Rome when we think of Italy, but if you’ve never considered Florence, or if you’ve wondered whether to make it a stop on your trip, you will not be disappointed when you do. The energy is alive yet relaxed, the air is buzzing with creativity and there is beauty everywhere you look.
Book your stay in Florence by seeing the best hotels in the city on Culture Trip. Staying on a bigger budget? Book one of the best luxury hotels in Florence through us. Discover other reasons to stay in this gem of Northern Italy by seeing the must-visit attractions in Florence, as well as a local travel guide’s favourite restaurants in town. After your meal, grab a drink at the best bars in Florence.