10 things to do and see in Florence

A complete and detailed guide about 10 things to do and see in Florence in 1, 2 or 3 days

10 things to do and see in Florence
10 things to do and see in Florence

If you could travel back in time, like the movie of Troisi and Benigni, during the period between 1400 and 1500, you could  meet in Florence Brunelleschi and Masaccio, Donatello and Michelangelo, Lorenzo the Magnificent and Savonarola.

Each one of them doing their work: architect, painter, sculptor, prince and preacher in order to transform  (without knowing and maybe without wanting) this little city, placed on the Arno’s shore, into a  masterpiece: the cradle of the Renaissance. Before that period, Florence was a calm and rich city, but after, it became a model to the “New Man”  who was coming out from the Middle Age. In a few kilometers, thanks to the artists, palaces, museums, churches, bridges began to rise. The paintings in the workshops were destined to change the history of art forever. All these masterpieces made of stone, canvas and marble are in a perfect state of preservation, open to everybody… if you succeed to find a place among the crowd of tourists. In this page we suggest 10 things to do and see during a holiday or a weekend in Florence.

If you are looking for a hotel in Florence, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 700 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Duomo, Campanile di Giotto and Brunelleschi’s Cupola in Florence

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The Brunelleschi’s Cupola (dome)  is still the tallest building in Florence nowadays. The Campanile (bell tower) was designed by Giotto but he never saw it finished. The baptistery is one of the oldest building in Florence, it was built in the IV century. With its wonderful main doors, it  looks like an illustrated Bible. The Duomo, with its marvelous façade  made of white and green marble, catches the eyes of everybody . There’s no other place in the world with a complex of so extraordinary buildings. We’re in the middle of Florence, in front of Santa Maria del Fiore, that everybody calls “the Cathedral”.

Duomo, Campanile di Giotto and Brunelleschi’s Cupola in Florence
Duomo, Campanile di Giotto and Brunelleschi’s Cupola in Florence

A church of 153 meters high, built in 170 years, to make the rival cities (Siena and Pisa) envious. In this ambitious realization were involved the most important artists of Florence: from Giotto to Brunelleschi, from Vasari to  Talenti, from Arnolfo di Cambio to Lorenzo Ghiberti. Any tour of Florence starts from here: looking at the Campanile you’ll have the amazed expression, asking yourself how men have created such a wonder.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When:
Cathedral
Monday-Wednesday and Friday: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Thursday:
10:00 am  to 4:00 pm (May and October)
10:00 am  to 5:00 pm (July-September),
10:00 am  to 4:30 pm (from January to April, June, November and December);
Saturday: 10:00 am  to 4:45 pm
Sundays and religious holidays: 1:30 to 4:45 pm
Holy Thursday: 12:30 to 4:30 pm
Holy Friday: 10:30  am to 4:30 pm
Holy Saturday: 11:00 am to 4:45 pm
The opening days and times of access may vary on the basis of religious celebrations.
Closed Christmas, 1 January, Epiphany and Easter.
Bell tower
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8:30 am to 7:30 pm
Epiphany: 8:30 am to 2:00 pm
The ticket office closes 40 minutes before closing.
Annual closing: New Year, Easter and Christmas.
Baptistery
Monday-Saturday: 11:15 am to 7:00 pm
Sunday and first Saturday of the month: 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.;
Easter Monday, April 25th, May 1st, Holy Thursday, Holy Friday and Holy Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 pm
Access allowed up to 30 minutes before closing.
The opening days and times of access may vary on the basis  of religious celebrations.
Annual closing: New Year, Easter and Christmas.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

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Florence’s most beautiful bridge, and one of the most photographed too, wasn’t in the past a chic place. Nowadays goldsmiths shops are an attraction for tourists, but until 1565 most of the shops were groceries and butcher’s shops. When it was built the “Corridoio Vasariano” (Vasari corridor), that runs over the bridge,  the butchers and the grocers were driven out . Goldsmiths and artisans were considered more suitable trades for the beauty of the place. From that time, the gold became a protagonist of Ponte Vecchio, as the statue of Benvenuto Cellini (the greatest goldsmith of Florence) reminds us.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Ponte Vecchio in Florence

In 1565 Giorgio Vasari built for Cosimo I Dè Medici the “Corridoio Vasariano” to connect Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti (at that time it was residence of the Medici family). The corridor is one kilometre long, it starts from Palazzo Vecchio, passes through the Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)  over the workshops of Ponte Vecchio and ends in Palazzo Pitti. It seems that Hitler during the Second World War bombardments ordered to save the bridge. Beauty sometimes lights up even the tyrants.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

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The first thing you can notice of Palazzo Vecchio is that you can’t take a full picture of it. Even if you go in the farthest place in Piazza della Signoria, the palace is too large and too tall to enter in just one picture.  You can’t stop  taking  pictures of it because it’s considered the best example of 1300 civil architecture. The palace has the “Torre di Arnolfo” which is 94 meters tall . It was built in 1310 and on its top you can see the flag with the Florentine fleur- de -lis.  At the entrance of Palazzo Vecchio is exposed (as a support for the pigeons too…) a copy of Michelangelo’s David.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

This beautiful palace is in Piazza della Signoria, a place for long-time considered “cursed”, because it was the terrain of the struggle between guelphs and ghibellines. Today, faded away  the memories of this bloody past, Piazza della Signoria is the centre of the social, civil and political life of all Florence’s city.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When:
From October to March: Every day from 9 am to 7 pm
Thursday and holidays from 9 am To 2 pm.
From April to September: Every day except the Thursday: 9 am 11 pm
MEZZANINO-DONATION LOESER
Every day except Thursday: 9 am – 7 pm
Thursday: 9 am -2pm
TOWER
(Not allowed access to children under 6 years)
Access to the tower is suspended in case of rain
From October to March
Every day except Thursday: 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday: 10 am – 2 pm
From April to September
Every day except Thursday: 9 am 9 pm
Thursday: 9 am – 2 pm
The ticket office closes one hour before the museum
December 25: Closed Museum, Archaeological route and Tower
Tickets:
Museum: Adults: € 10 / € 8 Reduced
Torre: € 10 / € 8
+ Museum Tower: € 14 / € 12
In case of rain, access to the Tower will be suspended. You can still visit the walkway of Ronda with reduced ticket (+ € 2.00)
The climb is forbidden  to children under 6 years old and not recommended for visitors with mobility difficulties, for heart patients, asthmatics, those who suffer from vertigo and claustrophobia. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence

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One Caravaggio’s masterpiece returns and the one of  Raffaelo  is gone. Tiziano leaves for an art exhibition but the “Angeli” by Rosso Fiorentino are back. The Uffizi Gallery is like an art supermarket, a case that contains masterpieces of each historical period and the favorite destination for all the art lovers. It’s quite strange to see tourists stand patiently in queue whereas the greatest part of the Italians has never been to the Uffizi.

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence

There are a lot of things to see. If you think about a painting, it is probably kept here. The path inside this huge museum begins with the 1300 room which host the three altar pieces made by Cimabue, Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto. They represent  the “Enthroned  Virgin and child” . You can admire other masterpieces too:  Botticelli, Leonardo, Signorelli, Perugino, Durer, Caravaggio… We want to give you just one tip: during your stay in Florence you should schedule an entire day dedicated to the Uffizi, wear a pair of comfortable shoes and enjoy the show.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: by feet
When: From Tuesday to Saturday from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm.
Closing time: Every Monday, 1st January, 1st May, 25th December.
Ticket office close at 6.05 pm. Closure operations starts at 6.35 pm
How much: Full ticket € 12.50

Cappella Brancacci in Florence

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An angel with a sword chases Adam and Eve in order to expel them from the Eden. Adam covers his face with his hand, he cries and tries to hide himself because of the shame. Eve has the defaced face by the pain, her face is visible because hers arms are covering her breast.

Cappella Brancacci in Florence
Cappella Brancacci in Florence

It’s a devasting scene, this fresco is considered one of the highest pointof art history and it’s painted on the vaulted ceiling of the Cappella Brancacci (chapel) in Florence, in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Masolino and Masaccio, young and old, teacher and pupil, frescoed this chapel together, which was commissioned by Felice Brancacci. Brancacci obliged the two guys to work on the same walls to reduce the style differences at the minimum. It ‘s a masterpiece that surprises everyone, believers or not , telling the sin’s history and other episodes of the Bible and Gospel.

Where: Piazza del Carmine 14
How to get there: by feet in the old town centre
When – Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday and Monday:  from 10 am to 5 pm
Public holiday from 1 pm to 5 pm.
Closed: Tuesday, New Year, January 7, Easter, May 1, July 16, August 15, Christmas.
Tickets: Full ticket € 6

Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence

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Michelangelo’s grave, protected by three statues that represent the painting, the sculpture and the architecture, is placed at the entrance of the Basilica. In front of it there’s the Galileo Galilei’s tomb. A little forward there’s Dante’s cenotaph but not his remains which are in Ravenna, where he dead. Then you can find Vittorio Alfieri, Antonio Canova, Nicolò Machiavelli, Gioacchino Rossini and Ugo Foscolo who defined Santa Croce as the place where were preserved “le urne dei forti” (the mortal remains of the great people”).

Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence
Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence

But Santa Croce isn’t just a collection of tombs of the greatest Italian people. Indeed, at the end of the Church, there are the Chapels frescoed by Giotto with the history of San Francesco’s life. In the Cappella dei Pazzi (chapel), where Giuliano Dè Medici was killed and Lorenzo the Magnificent was injured in a conspiracy, there’s a crucifix made by Cimabue.

Where: city centre
How to get there: by feet
When – Hours: weekday from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Sunday and Religious holidays (6th January, 15th August, 1st November, 8th December) from 2 pm to 5.30 pm. Easter Monday, 25th April, 1st May, 2nd June, from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Closing time and last entrance: 5 pm
Closed: 1st January, Easter, 13th June, 4th October, 25th/26th December.
In case of extraordinary events taking place in Piazza Santa Croce (eg: games of the historic Florentine football at the end of June) and for of publicpolicy issues, the closure can be anticipated
Tickets: Full ticket costs 6,00 €
Combined ticket with Casa Buonarroti :8 €
Where to buy tickets: Tickets are on sale only at the ticket office of the Opera, in the loggia on Largo Bargellini (Via S. Giuseppe side).

Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence

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It was not possible that the churches of Santo Spirito and Santa Croce, belonging respectively to the Augustinian and Franciscans friars,  were the most beautiful and majestic churches in Florence. For this reason  the Dominicans in 1278 began the construction of the Church of Santa Maria Novella, that became a wonderful example of “Tuscan – Romanesque style”, thanks to the use of white, black and green marble.

Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence
Chiesa di Santa Maria Novella in Florence

The interior has three naves in which the Crucifix of Giotto immediately attracts the visitor’s eye. In the transept, in Cappella Strozzi, there is a wonderful cycle of frescoes made by Filippino Lippi. In the main chapel or Tornabuoni there is a famous Ghirlandaio’s fresco cycle in which the character portraits are all important figures of the time, including the Tornabuoni people. In the Cappella Gondi there is the Crucifix made by Brunelleschi, the only wooden work of  the artist. The most important work of all Santa Maria Novella is the Trinity of Masaccio that is a totally revolutionary art. Jesus on the cross, at his feet the Virgin and St. John,  with the buyers of the work on the side, Lenzi spouses. The vault over Christ seems that really exists, so that Vasari used to say that “It appears a hole in that wall.” The Virgin does not watch his son ,who is dying , but points at the viewer of the picture, resigned to a fate that must be accomplished for all men’s salvation.

Where: close to the station Santa Maria Novella
How to get there: by feet
When- Hours:
Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Friday: 11:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Saturdays: 9:00 am  to 5:30 pm
Sundays and religious holidays:
July-September: 12:00 to 5:30 pm
October to June: 13:00 to 5:30 p.m.
The ticket office closes 45 minutes before closing time

Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence

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In 1784 the Gallery was founded by Pietro Leopoldo  Grand Duke of Tuscany, to help the Academy fine art’s students with the Florentine art studies.  Called also Museum of  Michelangelo, for the abundance of the Florentine genius works, the gallery currently holds the sculptures of other artists and paintings from the XIV to XVI century.

Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence
Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence

The most important work of the Gallery is undoubtedly Michelangelo’s David that was exposed to the windy and cold of Piazza della Signoria, now replaced by a copy. The statue depicts the biblical hero when he is about to face the giant Golia and symbolizes the victory of intelligence and courage against the pure brute force. Michelangelo worked to the David from 1502 to 1504 using a block of marble that had been previously used by Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino. Both artists abandoned the sculpture because they judged the marble too fragile to support the weight of a statue of 4 meters and 10 high . Michelangelo made some special interventions making David a symbol of formal perfection and eternal beauty that emerges in spite of the cold marble.

Where: Via Ricasoli
How to get there: From the Cathedral by feet taking Via Ricasoli
When-Hours:
Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 am to 6.50 pm
Closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, May 1st, Christmas
The ticket office closes at 6.20 pm
Closing operations begin at 6.40 pm

Things to eat in Florence

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Florentine cuisine  is famous thanks to the Florentine steak, but it has more to offer: its dishes are born from common people fantasy that used  to transforms poor and essential ingredients into  extraordinary courses.

Things to eat in Florence
Things to eat in Florence

The meal usually starts with some salami and liver bruschetta or a “fettunta” (bruschetta with salt and oil) Among the first courses, there are the “pappa al Pomodoro”  (literally “food with tomato”), and the Tuscan soup. The Florentine steak is the really queen of the table and people of Florence  always specify that it must be at least 1 kilo weight. Among the second courses there is the tripe and the lamprey with beans as side dish.  As all the red meat, Florentine should be served with red wine, even on the wines Tuscany has a lot to offer: Chianti, Brunello, Montepulciano. If you want to know where you can eat it in Florence we suggest you to avoid the restaurants of the city centre. It is enough to move a little away from the centre of the city to find great restaurants, where you can eat very well without making your credit card cry.

Where to sleep in Florence

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Since there are always many foreign tourists and Italian schools, Florence is a city organized all around the tourism. This means that the offer of hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and rooms is exceptional, but also that you will have to look for a while, and book early to find a place to sleep with a good relationship between the price spent and the quality of the room.

Where to sleep in Florence
Where to sleep in Florence

In the old town centre there are many  rooms in B&Bs and small 3-star hotel with an average price of about 100 Euros per night. Moving out of the center, reachable on foot, however, you can save some money  and you can get a better hotel

If you are looking for a hotel in Florence, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 2000 hotels with prices, pictures  and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com