When visiting Italy, people raved about Florence and how much they loved it. So I decided to use it as my home base and spend four nights out of my week long trip to Italy. It was the perfect size to go out and explore on my own, as well as taking short day trips as well. So here is my list of the 5 best things to do in Florence!
1)Admire Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is the most popular pedestrian bridge in Florence. It was originally built sometime around 966 and was the only bridge across the Arno River in Florence until 1218. After being rebuilt in 1345, it was the only bridge that survived World War II and the German army. There have been shops on the pedestrian bridge since the 13th century, first including butchers, fishmongers and tanners, but in the 16th century it was decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to improve the wellbeing of all. The bridge is a beautiful and unique bridge that welcomes both visitors and residents alike. I loved seeing it with the sun shining and reflecting along the river. It’s also beautiful to look down on at night, either from Piazzale Michelangelo or the windows of the Uffizi, all lit up. Take a seat on the walls along the river or bridge before it and admire it, as it’s definitely one of a kind!
2)Visit One of the Oldest Art Museums-The Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery is Italy’s top visited art museum, and was originally built for the Grand Ducal family to house their personal private collections. The Medici family was very fond of art and added manuscripts, gems, coins, and cameos over the centuries. An octagonal room was created for Francesco I as the Tribune, which hosted his favorite works of art and jewels, and remains untouched since 1584. In 1769, the museum was opened to the public, showcasing art in chronological order with pieces by Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. I personally enjoyed the variety of statues, Tribune room, and the unfinished Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci. With over 1.5 million visitors a year, it’s best to buy your tickets in advance, if art is your thing. We reserved ours almost a week in advance for the 8:15 am booking for about €17 per person, however had to stand in a reservation line to actually get the tickets. The reservation line was longer than the purchase tickets line, and we paid an extra €7 for booking fees. Most blogs and people recommend buying in advance, but you could always risk saving yourself some pocket change and arriving to wait in line and purchase tickets.
3)Drink Wine in a Café Open to the Street
Florence, is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany, therefore it’s absolutely necessary to enjoy a glass of wine with lunch and dinner. The best way to do this? In a café open to the street or in a piazza. My personal favorite piazza was the Piazza Santo Spirito which is in a less touristy part of Florence on the opposite side of the Arno River. It offers a more authentic atmosphere and provides a great space to enjoy the weather and people watch. Regardless of where you choose, I loved spending time, slowing the day down, to enjoy some wine and an appetizer or a meal. It’s such a European thing to enjoy a café outside and people watch, and drinking delicious wine was a wonderful way to enjoy this tradition. For the best gnocchi of your life, I suggest eating at Osterio Santa Spirito by the fountain, but you may want to make reservations, even for lunch.
4)Watch the Sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo
Whenever I visit a new city, I always look for a vantage point that I can get a bird’s eye view. To see the skyline of Florence, climb some hills and make your way up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Although I will warn you, it’s not a secret and will be very busy, especially for sunset. We went for sunset, but I wish we would’ve hiked our butts back up during the early morning to see the city as the sun was bright as well. It offers such magnificent views of the city, illuminating the Duomo Santa Maria di Fiore, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Arno River and its many bridges. Be prepared to wait your turn at the balcony edges to get the perfect photo, and even bring a bottle of wine and picnic dinner if you’d like!
5)Gaze at the Statues of Piazza della Signoria
The Loggia dei Lanzi sits to the right of Palazzo Vecchio, designed by Orcagna in 1376 showcasing a variety of sculptures. The sculptures hold many political connotations, rivaling the power of the Medici. David, stands as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the Medici whereas Hercules and Cacus, on the right of David show the Medici power after returning from exile. Perseo holding Medusa’s snake head, offers up a reminder of what will happen to those who cross the Medici. Sculptures always amaze me because they are often larger than life size and so precise with their details, that it astounds me. You can look at these statues and make out the veins in their arms, and wisp of hair. Although busy, I enjoyed walking around and looking at the different statues, working to interpret who they represented and what they mean. Best part is, it’s free!
Honorable mentions are the Duomo Santa Maria di Fiore and Boboli Gardens.
What was your favorite thing to do in Florence?