Overflowing with artistic treasures, spectacular churches, mouthwatering cuisine and finely crafted artisan goods, Florence is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Read more.
Overflowing with artistic treasures, spectacular churches, mouthwatering cuisine and finely crafted artisan goods, Florence is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Art, architecture and artisans
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as Duomo) lies at the heart of the city. Here you can climb up into the painted dome to marvel close-hand at the artwork and also climb the huge bell tower for views out over the city. Smaller examples of Renaissance architecture can be found throughout Florence, for example in the Pazzi Chapel, or the frescos of the Brancacci Chapel, while some of the finest Renaissance art is held in the Uffizi Gallery, including the spectacular Botticelli room. The Galleria dell’Accademia is the ever-popular home of Michelangelo’s statue of David.
For a change from churches and galleries, head to the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a beautiful centuries-old building which provides an insight into the history of medicines, creams and perfumes. Visit the Mercato Centrale to admire the colourful produce downstairs and then enjoy lunch in the recently restored upper floor. Walk off your meal along the Arno River and enjoy the view of the 14th century Ponte Vecchio Bridge, the oldest bridge in Florence, now lined with tiny jewellery stores (and throngs of tourists). To escape the crowds, make your way into the winding streets of the Oltrarno area. This district is full of boutiques and artisan workshops, while Piazza di Santo Spirito, with its hip establishments and lovely outdoor terraces, is the perfect spot to while away the evening.
When to go and where to stay
Florence can be stiflingly hot and crowded in summer, (all the more excuse to indulge in delicious gelatos along the way), but it’s also when the city comes alive with outdoor events, many free. Between June and September, for example, head to the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, where a free jazz show is held every night with tables served by Slow Food International. If you are seeking fewer crowds and pleasant temperatures as you soak up all the sights, time your visit for the Spring or Autumn when temperatures hover around the early to mid teens.
Most of Florence’s sights are in the historical centre, a compact area that only takes around half an hour to walk from one side to the other. To the south of the river, the artisan district of Oltrarno provides a slice of authentic Florence as well as being near the beautiful Boboli gardens. Staying outside Florence’s historical district is a good idea for those wanting cheaper accommodation, or those with a car who are using Florence as a base for visiting the region (it’s only possible to enter the central city zone with a special permit). There are also a number of options outside the city, with a view over the rolling hills of Tuscany, yet downtown Florence just a short bus ride away.