Are you wondering what are the best things to do in Florence, Italy? I have been to Florence during our 2-week Interrail trip around Europe. I traveled to Florence with my husband and two other friends, and we really had a great time exploring the arts, churches, architectural designs, and the breathtaking Florence landscape. With its classic beauty, no wonder why Florence is a popular city in the Tuscany region of Italy.
One of the world’s most culturally and historically significant cities, Florence is home to some incredible buildings and historical sites. Florence, the capital of Tuscany in Italy, is home to 383,000 people, with a total population of 1.5 million in the surrounding metropolitan area. This wonderful city is located in central Italy and has connections to Bologna and Pisa through a well-developed rail system.
Florence was once a Roman city in antiquity and later turned into a thriving medieval commune. It is celebrated as the birthplace of the Renaissance movement and was one of the most significant cities in the world in the 12th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Machiavelli, Lorenzo Medici, Dante, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo, and Raphael were among the notable Florentines.
Today, Florence’s economy undoubtedly depends heavily on tourism, which attracts an average of 13 million visitors annually. Florence won’t let you down if you’re looking for some culture and want to see amazing structures like their famous Duomo.
List of Best Things to Do in Florence, Italy:
1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, more commonly referred to as the Duomo di Firenze, serves as the focal point of the city.
You probably already know everything there is to know about this well-known dome because you have either seen it or heard it. Climbing to the lantern at the very top of the structure will take you to the highest point in central Florence as long as you don’t mind the 463 steps and some tight spaces involved in the process. Prior to 1881, it was the largest structure of its kind in the world.
You’re not out of breath yet, are you? Visit the adjacent Campanile (bell tower) designed by Giotto for an additional breathtaking perspective of the city and the Duomo building itself.
The Baptistery of St. John
In front of the main facade of the Florence Cathedral is where you’ll find the Baptistery. The Baptistery was constructed in 1059, making it well over a thousand years old. Extremely ancient, particularly when measured against standards from the United States. The Church of San Miniato al Monte is Florence’s oldest building and the city’s only other structure of its kind.
The Baptistery was designed to honour Saint John the Baptist, who is revered as the city’s patron saint and is credited with being the first person to perform the sacrament of baptism. The citizens of Florence were baptized in this particular baptistery when the city was first founded.
Up until the 18th century, this was the only location in Florence where baptisms could take place. It was there that the poet Dante and members of the Medici family, who ruled at the time, received their baptisms. The baptistery is well-known for the three sets of bronze doors and the spectacularly decorated mosaic ceiling that it features.
2. Piazalle Michelangelo
This square in the centre of Florence has some of the best views in all of Florence, particularly of the Cathedral.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a public square in Florence, Italy, that is perched high on a hill close to the Boboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti. It is situated on the southern banks of the River Arno.
In the middle of the plaza is a magnificent bronze statue of David, and around the perimeter of the plaza are a number of merchants and artists selling their wares. The perspective that you get from the Piazza is unparalleled, and you can see Florence in all of its splendour while it is silhouetted against the Arno River.
This is the perfect location to take a picture that will stick out in your mind for a very long time!
3. Go Museum Hopping
There is no doubt that Florence is among the top destinations in the world in terms of the arts, culture, and history. You could spend days immersed in the culture of the Renaissance city that is known all over the world for the famous statue of David created by Michelangelo as well as countless other art treasures.
Here are some of the museums worth visiting in Florence, Italy.
- Uffizi Gallery
The first and second floors of the Uffizi Gallery, designed by Giorgio Vasari and built between 1560 and 1580, are entirely devoted to the Gallery. It is renowned throughout the world for its magnificent collections of antique sculptures and paintings (from the Middle Ages to the Modern period). Among the absolute masterpieces found in the collections of Renaissance and 14th-century paintings are works by Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, and Botticelli, among others.
- Accademia Gallery
The Gallery of the Academy of Florence, which is close to the Piazza del Duomo and the Basilica di San Lorenzo, is a very significant museum. The Gallery is a plain structure that you might walk right by if you didn’t know it was there, but it houses some Renaissance masterpieces, including the original David sculpture by Michelangelo.
- National Archeological Museum of Florence
You would hardly know that MAF, the National Archaeological Museum in Florence, is one of the oldest museums in Italy as you stroll through the roomy, modern-styled halls. Additionally, this collection of artifacts, historical works, and works of art is to blame for a phenomenon that first appeared in Europe: “the birth of museums as state institutions connected to the formation of modern nations.”
- Museo di Palazzo Vecchio
From the moment you enter the Palazzo Vecchio, you will be amazed. The Marzocco and Judith and Holofernes statues, both works of art by Donatello, are displayed in front of the façade and stand out in their beauty (the originals are now in the Bargello Museum).
- Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
A permanent exhibit is located in Florence, Italy’s historic center, at the Leonardo Interactive Museum (there are traveling exhibitions around the world). Interactive wooden models of Leonardo’s inventions are on display in the Florence museum. Actually, the museum’s full name is “Leonardo da Vinci Interactive Museum.” This is part of what makes it the ideal place for kids to visit since they love to learn through touching and doing, but adults will also find it interesting!
- Museo Galileo
A massive sundial at the entrance gives you a hint as to what you’ll find inside this cutting-edge museum, which is nearby the Uffizi Gallery. The instruments, which were amassed by the Medici and Lorraine dynasties, provide a journey through the history of astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences with a focus on Galileo Galilei’s contributions.
If you want to know more about these museums in Florence, I wrote another article that discusses the Best Museums in Florence (Italy) That You Shouldn’t Miss. I encourage you to read it to plan your trip well.
4. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the most well-known structures in Florence and is also an extremely old bridge. Florence is full of famous buildings.
The Vecchio Bridge is a historic structure that spans the river Arno in Florence, Italy. It is famous for the numerous shops that are built into the sides of the bridge, as well as the decorated history of the bridge itself, and the abundance of shops that line the main walkway.
Although there is evidence that the bridge existed as early as the year 996, its true origin is unknown.
Step onto this incredible structure, where you’ll find a variety of shops and vendors, and take a look around: There are also art dealers, as well as shops selling souvenirs and jewellery.
When you reach the point halfway across the bridge, it will open up, and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the river Arno below you.
You can see the exterior of the Ponte Vecchio and its marvellous house-like attachments by walking along the Corridoio Vasariano in addition to walking on the bridge itself.
5. Palazzo Vecchio – Piazza della Signoria
While the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is considered to be Florence’s most significant religious structure, the Palazzo Vecchio is considered to be the city’s most significant administrative structure.
In former times, this building served as both the town hall and the palace of the Signoria of the Republic of Florence. In more recent times, it also served as the town hall.
The Palazzo was initially constructed in 1299, and its design was created by the same architects who were responsible for the construction of the Duomo and the church of Santa Croce. The structure is almost designed to resemble a castle; it has a square layout, a number of crenulations, and a large bell tower. In addition, the structure is a church.
There is a collection of coats of arms displayed on the front facade. These coats of arms represent various families and significant individuals who have played a role in the history of the city. The interior of the palace is equally as magnificent, featuring a number of uniquely designed rooms such as “The Hercules Room” and “The Room of Cybele.”
Piazza della Signoria
The Piazza della Signoria is an equally significant public square in Florence, and like its more famous neighbor, the Piazza del Duomo, it is home to a wide variety of historic structures and works of art. Because of its central location, the square can be reached quickly and easily from Piazza del Duomo, which is to the square’s immediate south.
The magnificent Pallazo Vecchio, with its enormous clock tower and fantastic statues of David and Hercules, is the primary building that can be found in the Piazza. A magnificent statue of Cosimo Medici can be found standing close to the fountain of Neptune, and a variety of upscale shops can be found lining the buildings.
The magnificent Fountain of Neptune can be found to the left of the palace, and the Loggia dei Lanzi, which can be found to the right, is home to some stunning sculptures from the Renaissance period. These sculptures include Hercules, Menelaus, and Perseus.
6. Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are an enormous and stunning public garden that is connected to the Pitti Palace.
The gardens are some of the largest in Florence, covering a total area of 45,000 square meters, and they are a real treat to stroll through.
The Boboli Gardens were established in the 16th century and include a wide variety of distinct sections, such as a main lawn that is adorned with a fountain and an obelisk, an assortment of trees, plants, and flowers from around the world, and several large ponds that are outfitted with water features.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can find peace and quiet in this amazing place and take pleasure in the stunning designs and natural specimens.
7. Fountain of Neptune
The Fountain of Neptune, which keeps watch in the middle of the bustling Piazza Della Signoria against the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, has long been one of Florence’s most iconic sights.
The commission for this Bartolomeo Ammannati masterpiece came in honor of Francesco I de’ Medici and Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria’s nuptials. With the face of Cosimo I de’Medici, the ornate bronze and marble statue depicts a towering representation of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, while satyrs and horses frolic around the tall central pedestal and basin.
The statue has undergone painstaking restoration and continues to be a well-liked gathering spot for both locals and tourists despite having sustained significant damage over the years, including losing a hand to vandals in 2005.
On Florence tours by foot, Segway, or bicycle, a stroll through Piazza della Signoria with a stop at the Fountain of Neptune is essential. The Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio, and Accademia are a few of the top attractions in and around Piazza della Signoria that are usually included in private and small-group tours.
8. Admire the famous statues of Florence
If you enjoy art and want to see some of the most well-known sculptures, Florence is a great place to visit. Due to its location in a busy part of the city, it is also a well-liked spot for people-watching. These statues are available for viewing in Florence.
- David of Michelangelo
The Statue of David, a magnificent work of Renaissance art created by the illustrious artist Michelangelo, is arguably one of the most famous and well-known sculptures in the world (and not just because of his genitalia). This statue is renowned for its incredible detail and unwavering accuracy in representing the human form. It shows the biblical hero David, who is believed to have been the first King of Israel.
- il Porcellino (Fontana del Porcellino)
Il Porcellino in Mercato Nuovo is a bronze statue of a wild boar made of Greek bronze. The tradition has very little to do with rubbing the boar’s nose, but it is now practically required to get the boar ready for what comes next.
- Perseus with the head of Medusa
The Perseus statue was added to the Piazza della Signoria alongside some of the more notable statues of the era, including David by Michelangelo and Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli. When you visit the well-known square, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants, be sure to admire the statue.
- Hercules and Cacus
Baccio Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus’ journey from quarry to piazza was probably the most difficult of any marble block’s journeys. A sculpture with two tales to share, one of which is the myth of Hercules. The other is its involvement in the significant upheavals that occurred when Florence went from being a republican to a monarchical state.
9. Go visit the markets
The knickknacks and treasures discovered in Florence’s vintage markets are an adventure all their own as the birthplace of the Renaissance and a focal point of medieval history. Any market is a great place to stop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs because they are full of local Tuscan produce, wine, and leather goods and great for treasure hunting. The following are a few of Florence’s top markets.
- Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica, which is in the heart of Florence, Italy, was initially conceived in 1858 by architect Angelo Masucci and finished in 1871. The attraction is not only significant historically, but it also boosts Florence’s economy significantly. Take advantage of the chance to visit the museums that are devoted to the Piazza’s history.
- Central Market
This 19th-century indoor market hall, made of iron and glass, is situated in the center of the San Lorenzo neighborhood and offers fresh, local foods.
Before the rest of the city wakes up, the nearby restaurants are its most eager customers, snatching up the best ingredients for the day’s menu. Early riser locals quickly follow. Italians are perfectionists, and anything less wouldn’t be acceptable.
The newly added food court, which is located on the market’s second floor, allows you to create your own customized Tuscan tasting using only the freshest local ingredients. It resembles a gourmet food court in that it offers everything from upscale hamburgers to an entire enoteca with the best wines from the area. The upper level of Mercato Centrale is a foodie’s paradise if you’re searching for a quick lunch with fantastic food and something for everyone.
- Mercato di Sant’ Ambrogio
The Sant’Ambrogio Market (Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio) in Florence is one of the country’s most energetic outdoor markets. Here, you can shop at the stalls stocked to the gills with fresh produce and regional specialties while taking in the atmosphere of an authentic traditional Italian food market.
10. Go Church Hopping
Despite the fact that Santa Maria del Fiore and its enormous dome frequently steal the show, Florence is home to a number of breathtaking churches that are rich in cultural, historical, and artistic significance. Check out these additional churches.
- Basilica of Santa Croce
Even though Florence’s Cathedral is enormous, the Basilica of Santa Croce is incredibly lovely and warm. It was also built around the same time as the Duomo and has a front facade with polished white stone contrasted with polychrome panels of pink, green, and red marble. The Basilica perfectly frames the Piazza di Santa Croce as it occupies the center of the square.
- Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
A stunning building with a front facade made of polychrome and white marble, the Church of Santa Maria Novella is situated in front of the city’s main railway station. Its design is similar to that of the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce.
- Basilica di Santo Spirito
One of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture created by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century is the Augustinian convent that became the Basilica di Santo Spirito. When visiting the Basilica, you can view the magnificent works of art by well-known artists like Perugino, Andrea, Michelangelo, and many others.
11. Porta San Niccolo
It was constructed in the 13th century, is over 65 meters tall, and provides breathtaking views of the city. Visitors can take in breathtaking views of the cityscape from the tower’s top, which includes the Duomo Cathedral, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the River Arno. Anyone visiting Florence must see the Tower of San Niccol. The building is a superb example of Romanesque architecture, and the vistas are simply breathtaking from the top.
An enduring representation of Florence, Italy, is the San Niccol tower. To protect Florence’s southwestern approaches, the tower was constructed in 1324. Originally a part of the city’s defences, the tower was later abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. The tower underwent extensive restoration in the early twenty-first century and is now accessible to the public.
It is one of Florence’s few remaining examples of a medieval building. The tower is constructed of stone and brick and is plastered in white. At the bottom of the tower, there is a small door that opens to a staircase that ascends to the top of the structure. One of Italy’s most prized architectural works, this stunning tower is situated right next to the tower of San Niccol, allowing you to take in both buildings’ full splendour.
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