The Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria are two of the most important squares in Florence, and are seeped in history. The sights and activities around this area are endless, thanks to the indescribable beauty and richness of the old town. To help narrow down the choice, we’ve explored the 10 best things to do and see in this wonderful part of Florence.
Discover the Duomo
Florence’s cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the most stunning architectural wonders in Italy. The cupola is incredible, not only because it is one of the largest depictions in the world of the Last Judgement, but also because of its enormous size. It was built by the famous Brunelleschi, who has had a lot to do with making Florence look the way it does, because he was brave enough to undertake the huge task at hand whilst most other architects were paralyzed by fear, thinking that any cupola would collapse because of the size of the Cathedral. Although the interior might seem bare to some, it is representative of the subtle beauty of Florentine art.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
Climb the Campanile
For an excellent close-up view of the stunning Cathedral, visitors can go to the top of the tall and skinny Campanile. Although it is quite a climb, there are several stops along the way up where visitors can sit down, breathe some fresh air and take some photos of the cathedral at different heights. From the top travelers will enjoy one of the most privileged views over the Duomo, and will be able to remark details that are difficult to see from the ground. There is also a beautiful panorama of Florence and the Battistero.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
Marvel at the Battistero
The golden doors are perhaps the building’s most obvious asset, built by Pisano and Ghiberti, and depicting the lives of Christ and John the Baptist, taken from the New Testament. The interior is also worth a visit, and if tourists buy a combined ticket they will be able to see the Duomo, Campanile and Battistero for around ten euros. The Battistero’s cupola is also beautiful, with a golden mosaic ceiling representing the Last Judgement. What is truly remarkable is the baptismal font in which Dante himself was baptized over 600 years ago.
Address: Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
Explore the Palazzo Vecchio
Cosimo di Medici’s stunning palace is today the city’s town hall, but it is still open for visits. Travelers can climb the tower, although there are probably better views of the city elsewhere, or explore the living quarters of Florence’s most famous and powerful family, the Medici. Beautiful frescoes, carved wooden inscriptions, old maps of the world and a collection of antique furniture make this a great option for everyone. There is also an exciting guided tour that takes tourists through the secret passages that are scattered around the building.
Rejoice in the cuisine
Pizza, gelato, pasta… Italian cuisine is known around the world for its great, timeless recipes, and Florence has some excellent restaurants. Those around the Piazza Della Signoria and Duomo offer great options, such as wild boar pasta or Neapolitan pizza. The pizzerie around this area have some great, classic options that will please everyone. Some of the best ice cream parlors are also located near these two landmarks, so to finish off an Italian meal travelers can enjoy some excellent handmade gelato.
This church is free to visit, and both its exterior and interior are worth noting. It is located between the Duomo and Piazza Della Signoria, on the Via Calzaiuoli. Originally the building was built with the purpose of being a grain market, but around the end of the 14th century it became a church for the crafters and traders’ guilds. Nowadays visitors can still observe the holes in the ceilings which were used as ducts to pour the grain inside the church. The stained glass windows and white altar are also beautiful works of art.
Rub the boar’s snout
A short way after Orsanmichele when walking to the Piazza Della Signoria from the Duomo there is a covered market with many different Florentine souvenirs: postcards, sweatshirts, key chains, cute leather bags… On one of the sides of the market there is a bronze boar, which Italians affectionately call ‘Il Porcellino’, or the piglet. The statue is part of a fountain, and the figure of the animal was copied from one on display at the Uffizi Museum. Tradition mandates that visitors should put a coin in the boar’s mouth, and if it falls down they will have good luck, and by rubbing the boar’s snout they will ensure that they return to Florence.
Observe the statues at Piazza Della Signoria
The original statue of David, which is now housed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, used to be located where its copy now stands. It was sculpted by Michelangelo, who wanted to represent David fighting Goliath, and is one of Florence’s most famous works. The beautiful fountain of Neptune is another of the city’s landmarks, called Il Biancone (the white giant) by Florentines when it was first built; fascinatingly, women used to take their daughters here before marriage to show them what a man’s body was like. The Logia also has excellent statues, with panels explaining what they symbolize and who built them.
Head to the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery is perhaps Florence’s most famous museum, as the long queues suggest. It is a stunning building housing an extremely important collection of art, with some of Botticelli’s most famous works, including The Birth of Venus (1486). The museum also houses works by Giotto, Michelangelo and other renowned Italian artists. There are guided tours available for those who want a quick overview of the gallery’s most important works, which usually last around two hours, cost about 20 euros per person and will enable visitors to skip the long queues. Travelers who are not interested in a tour but do not want to queue for several hours should buy their tickets online.
Go to the Gucci Museum
By Sonia Cuesta
Italy is the country of fashion, having set trends for centuries, and features many of the world’s most sought-after brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ferragamo and Gucci. Both Gucci and Ferragamo started their careers in Florence, so it is fun for fashion addicts to explore their respective museums. The Gucci Museum is located on the Piazza della Signoria, and apart from the permanent and temporary exhibitions there is a chic café, a bookstore, a gift shop and icon store.
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