The “Florence Things to do” post helps you make your own plan on what to see in this Italian city. This is the capital of Tuscany and can be overwhelming with all the historical, and cultural attractions, and its crowded streets. The atmosphere is like in any other important European city with crowds, long lines, and masses of tourists around the main attractions, but this is also the place to find some of the most famous artworks such as Michelangelo’s David. And you’ll browse around with a tasty gelato in your hand.
Even though Florence Italy was founded by the Romans in 59 BC, it experienced its golden age during medieval times. This was politically, financially, and culturally one of the most important cities of Europe between the 14th and the 16th centuries but also a birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The dialect that was spoken in Florence and used by Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio, was later declared the official language of Italy.
The city is mostly related to the Medici family, the famous bankers who ruled Florence for two centuries in the Middle Ages. Most of our “Florence Things to do” items originate from that period. When the Kingdom of Italy was founded in 1861, before the capital was moved to Rome – it was first situated in Florence.
Florence Things to do
Florentine merchants invested in and helped businesses all over Europe in medieval times. They even financed popes and English kings during the Hundred Years’ War. This was an important trade center relying on the Arno River flowing into the Mediterranean, even before its golden age.
The wealthy Medici family invested in businesses but also in arts, and hence there are great names we recognize when talking about Florence Things to do.
Best things to do in Florence
The famous Florence Cathedral (or Duomo Florence) was once called Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. It was built for almost 150 years from the end of the 13th century. One can recognize it immediately since it appears when strolling along narrow streets to the Piazza del Duomo. A specific façade is abundant with decorations and columns made of white, ocher, green, and crimson marble.
TIP: Bear in mind that the place is always crowded. The best time for taking pictures is at lunchtime or from the tower terrace. If you want to enter the Florence Cathedral or climb the Giotto Bell Tower, be prepared to wait in line for an hour or so.
Besides the main building of the Cathedral, one of the must-sees on our “Florence Things to do” list is the Giotto Bell Tower. It belongs to the complex and is 84.7 meters tall. The famous Italian painter and architect Giotto di Bondone worked on the tower in the 14th century. In order to get to the tower’s terrace, one should climb about 400 steps.
This is another one of those “Florence Things to do” places not to be missed. Ponte Vecchio or the Old Bridge is a medieval bridge made of stone adorned with, typically for the time, various shops and jewelry stores.
The first one spanning Arno was erected by the Romans but the bridge was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century. After it was demolished by a torrent, the new one emerged, made of stone.
Pay attention to an arched walkway on the waterfront called Vasari Corridor. It was designed by a renowned Florentine architect Giorgio Vasari in 1565 so that Cosimo I de Medici could stroll undisturbed from Palazzo Vecchio which served as the Town Hall of Florence, to the 15th-century Palazzo Pitti. A part of the walkway also goes over Ponte Vecchio.
Santa Croce Florence
It may be a surprise that there are a lot of churches in the central area listed among “Florence Things to do”. Take the Basilica of the Saint Cross or Basilica di Santa Croce for example, the principal Franciscan church in Florence. It is located at the square bearing the same name less than a 10-minute walk from Duomo. I was fascinated by the fact that this is where Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini were buried. The church is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories.
According to beliefs, the basilica was founded by no other than Francis of Assisi. It was built at the end of the 13th century at the place formerly occupied by an older church. There is an impressive monument dedicated to Dante Alighieri in front of the portico. The walls are decorated by Donatello, Giotto, and many others, and the church represents one of the finest examples of the Italian Gothic style.
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Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous in the world. It occupies two floors of the 16th-century building designed by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo I de Medici. It is best known for housing a few of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance era like paintings by Botticelli, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio.
It is situated at Piazza della Signoria in the historical center. When the Medici family vanished, their enormous art collection was given to the city. In front of the Palazzo Vecchio, you’ll find the famous replica of David. The original is kept inside the Uffizi Gallery.
The Neptune Fountain is also to be seen at the same square. It was commissioned by Cosimo I. Neptune’s features were modeled after him. Stroll around since there are other sculptures along with the 16th-century originals, to be found at the nearby open gallery.
It would be a pity not to visit the Dante’s House Museum when visiting Florence. This is not the original house the poet lived in but is the very place he was born in 1265. The author of the Divine Comedy didn’t write much about his life but it still gives you a nice feeling to remember that you are standing in the place he originated from.
Mercato Centrale Florence
If you are looking for a place to rest and have something to eat, head to the Centrale Market or Mercato Centrale. The iron building was designed in the 19th century with a diversity of fruit and vegetables on the ground floor, and a lot of small shops, bakeries, stalls, and restaurants on the floors above. I tried a great pizza I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat by myself. (I ate it all before I remembered to take a picture.) Cakes were another nice surprise, especially the one called Schiacciata alla Fiorentina with the fine white cream.
One more stop should be on your “Florence Things to do” list. You know how we flip a coin in fountains around the world – for luck, to make a wish, or to return to the place one day? Well, in Florence they traditionally flip a coin for – wealth. And hence, at the New Market (Mercato Nuovo) you’ll find a bronze statue of a wild boar.
One should touch its snout (which got brighter over time), and insert a coin into the boar’s mouth. If it doesn’t fall out outside the small fountain, the year to come is going to be – prosperous!
(By the way, the sculpture of a wild boar dates back to the 17th century and it is kept in one of the museums. Well, of course, it does, we are in Florence, right?)
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