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Florence is full of wonderful things to do and see. If you only have a short time or just want to see the highlights, here are 21 things you absolutely cannot miss.
Although this is usually implied when people say to visit the duomo, not many people know you can actually climb to the top for an amazing, up close view of the cathedral. Climbing Giotto’s bell tower is among the most popular things to do when in Florence, all 414 steps.
This famous landmark is also hard to miss. The bridge itself is lined with jewellery stores from one side of the river to the other, where the windows attract with their glittering allure dripping with gold and jewels. This is also a great spot for photos on the river.
Just off of the the main piazza del duomo (each main cathedral in Italy is called the duomo) is Piazza della Repubblica where you can find a grand arch, a colourful old carousel and fancy restaurants with outdoor seating. This is a great square for people watching and having a drink.
This grand piazza is home to Palazzo Vecchio, the loggia of outdoor statues and sculptures, the Fountain of Neptune, The Gucci Museum and is surrounded by bars and restaurants, with outdoor seating and filled with the music of local street musicians. With a great ambiance and plenty of art and history to take in, this piazza is highly recommended.
From the outside, this church looks like the others with a similar white marble facade and Renaissance architecture, but on the inside, it’s a gorgeous oasis with a chapel, museum, and adjacent garden. There’s also a famous state of Dante Aligheri (a native born Florentine) standing over two meters tall in front of the church. Book your ticket in advance during peak season to go inside. This square is also great for people watching with a drink in hand, or catching any of the frequent events that are held in the square throughout the year. In June, this large piazza is the location of the famous Calcio Storico (meaning historic soccer) which is a medieval game traditional only in Florence. It’s sort of like rugby meets mixed martial arts, but with no rules and a lot more blood. During the Christmas season, there’s a big Christmas market with handmade goods from all over Europe and delicious food too.
For a great photo, unforgettable view and maybe even some great memories, take the short hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo and let Florence show off its beauty. The best time to go is at sunset, where the sun drops down behind the city, turns the sky into a water colour painting and then the city lights begin to twinkle. It is magical.
Much like Rodeo Drive, this high fashion street is full of great Italian and non-Italian brand stores. From Gucci and Prada to Tiffany’s and Cartier, this street is great for shopping.
Find some Tuscan leather goods at this outdoor daily market and bring home a souvenir. Although most of the leather at this market is real, be careful not to overpay for something fake. Do your research beforehand to be a savvy market shopper and maybe you can score a bargain. Don’t forget to rub the nose of the boar fountain for good luck -put a coin in its mouth as your rub its nose and drop the coin down with a wish!
So this one isn’t exactly in the city of Florence, but it made the list for a good reason. This little hilltop town called Fiesole (pronounced Fee-EHZ-oh-leh) sits on the north side of the city and can be reached directly by local bus. Just a short hike up the street from the main square is a lookout point where the view of the city below and the surrounding green Tuscan hills is to die for. There’s also a quaint church and an old monastery where you can go inside and see the rooms the monks lived in. Two weekends a month, there is also a market that fills the main square. There is one museum Fiesole has that is older than the entire city of Florence, which is the old Etruscan amphitheater. Stay for lunch with a view and enjoy the peace and quiet before heading back into the city centre.
This old indoor produce market is where all the local restaurants get their ingredients fresh every morning. The first floor is filled with spices, oils, meats, cheeses, breads, vegetables, fruits and even some household goods. The second floor above is a recently renovated food court with delicious street food and all kinds of options.
This piazza is right near the main train station of Florence, which is named after the church. The basilica has much more to offer than meets the eye with numerous separate chapels inside, a gorgeous courtyard, famous Renaissance frescos that have been uncovered and some famous designers’ work on the Tuscan Gothic architecture. For some reason, many tourists don’t make it a point to go inside, only enjoying the pretty square. Be sure to not make the same mistake and see what lies in store in one of the older churches in the city.
Just a few blocks away from the duomo, this square has an equestrian statues, lots of history and a great view of the main cathedral down its narrow street. The main building is the old orphanage called Ospedale degli Innocenti and although it translates to hospital, it really means hospitality. Now a museum, the place was once where poor women would leave their babies for adoption, come to give birth, where rich families would board their children, or even where poor blue collar families would leave their children to be raised until marriage age. There is also a secret church opposite of the view of the duomo which is one of the most intricately decorated churches in the city.
Book your tickets to see the world famous David up close and personal at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Although this perfect man is the main attraction, stay awhile and enjoy the other amazing sculptures and statues in the gallery. As always, get there early and be prepared to marvel.
tThis isn’t necessarily an attraction, but you can’t say you’ve experienced Florence without trying some of the city’s most famous gelaterie, or ice cream parlours. Grab a cup or a cone of your favourite flavour and enjoy strolling the cobblestone streets taking it all in. Check out our list of best gelaterias in Florence to know where to go.