Italy,  Travel

What to see in Florence: classic and unusual places

Florence after sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo | photo credits Maëlick

What to see in Florence in a weekend? Plan the perfect itinerary for discovering its priceless treasures and unusual places!

The classic tour in Florence

Santa Maria del Fiore in Dome Square | photo credits didier.camus

Dome Square: Cathedral, Bell Tower and Baptistry.

Every “classic” tour in Florence, in my opinion, has to start from Piazza del Duomo for seeing the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (and the dome designed by Brunelleschi), Giotto’s Bell Tower (designed by Giotto but realized by Andrea Pisano and completed by Francesco Talenti) and the Baptistry of San Giovanni (with the Gate of Paradise – Porta del Paradiso – dubbed by Michelangelo). In the square there is also the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Opera museum) where, the masterpieces removed from churches for their fragility or for their preservation, are kept. Climb the bell tower to admire a beautiful view over the rooftops of the city. ESTIMATED DURATION: 3 or 4 hours. ADMISSION: 20€ (18€ full price ticket + presale fee of 2€) for all monuments (Cathedral. Dome, Baptistry, Bell Tower, Crypt, Museum).

Signoria Square

Then, continue to Piazza della Signoria the l-shaped square in which you will admire the Palazzo Vecchio, municipality office and museum, the Loggia della Signoria or Lanzi (because the Lanzichenecchi camped there in 1527) a sort of open-air museum housing famous sculptures from the Medici collection (such as the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna or the Perseus by Cellini), the fountain of Neptune and several statues (replaced by copies) such as the Marzocco (the heraldic lion sculpted by Donatello representing the free Republic of Flirence with the paw on the red lily), the Judith and Holofernes by Donatello and Michelangelo’s David, to mention the three most famous. ESTIMATED DURATION: 30 minutes. ADMISSION: free.

The Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery | Image by dalibro on Pixabay

The Galleria degli Uffizi are among the most visited Italian museums because they host masterpieces by Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo and Raffaello that attract thousands of visitors each year. Skip the long lines (up to 5 hours in high season!) and buy the advanced ticket on the official site. ESTIMATED DURATION: 2 and a half hours. ADMISSION: 24€ (20€ full price ticket + presale fee of 4€).

Old Bridge

Ponte Vecchio | Image by 27707 on Pixabay

The walking tour continues towards the famous Ponte Vecchio over the Arno where jewelers, souvenir sellers and art dealers shops are located (in the past, butchers occupied the shops). Crossing it, you end up Oltrarno, reaching Palazzo Pitti and several museums such as the Galleria Palatina, the Modern Art Gallery and the Boboli Gardens. ESTIMATED DURATION: 30 minutes. ADMISSION: Free.

Where is the best view of Florence from above?

It is definitely from Piazzale Michelangelo the square designed by Giuseppe Poggi, on the hill in the Oltrarno district. From this outodoor terrace, at sunset, you can enjoy a view from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, on bridges, roofs and museums! In teh square you will find several bronze copies of the works of Michelangelo. ADDRESS: Piazzale Michelangelo.ESTIMATED DURATION: 1 hour. ADMISSION: Free.

Basilica di Santa Croce | Image by kirkandmimi on Pixabay

Basilica of The Holy Cross

Coming back, crossing the Old Bridge, you can visit the Basilica of Santa Croce (in english Holy Cross) the principal franciscan church in Florence. This Basilica, collecting the remains of illustrious Italians (Michelangelo, Galilei, Foscolo, Canova, Alfieri just to name a few), preserves the precious chapels frescoed by Giotto and a “piece” of history related to the conspiracy when Giuliano de Medici was assassinated. ADMISSION: free.

Santa Maria Novella

In a classic tour, you have to see in Florence Santa Maria Novella. The facade of this church – very close to the main railway station – is in white and green marble. It was designed by Leon Battista Alberti, while the Tornabuoni Chapel was frescoed by Ghirlandaio. Santa Maria Novella is a vivid testimony of the so-called Tuscan Romanesque. The Trinità (The Trinity in english) of Masaccio makes it a destination for art lovers. ADMISSION: free.

The unusual tour in Florence

For doing a very unusual tour, I recommend:

A natural walk through the public gardens of Florence, for example Giardino delle Rose & Giardino dell’Iris! The Rose garden is open every days while the Iris garden opens only from late April to late May, when the iris are in bloom. These gardens are on either side of Piazzale Michelangelo. ADDRESS: Viale Giuseppe Poggi 2. ADMISSION: free.

The interesting visit of the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy (near the omonymous church), the oldest still-operating pharmacy in Europe established in 1221 by Domincan monks. It opened its doors to the public only in 17th century. Here you can find products with original recipes of the monks. I bought the Carta d’Armenia, the paper incense that for scenting the air burns but without a flame! Take a look on the site about products and prices and for discovering sales hall, the green room, ancient apothecary’s shop, sacristy, museum and herbal tea room! ADDRESS: Via della Scala 16. ADMISSION: free.

Another unmissable place to see in Florence is the Vasari Corridor, a kilometer long covered passage (commissioned to Vasari in 1565 by Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici to celebrate the wedding of is son). The passage connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace and could be used to move safely from  the office of the Medici government to the home of the duke. ADDRESS: Via della Ninna 5. ADMISSION: The Vasari Corridor is currently closed for renovations. Plans are for its reopening to the public in 2021.

The discovering of (probably) the first example of street art: the caricature called the “L’importuno” realized by Michelangelo among the stones of Palazzo Vecchio, on the side near to Uffizi. It is an outline of a man’s face. Why Michelangelo did it? Nobody knows. The stories surrounding the origin of this little piece of graffiti are numerous… ADDRESS: Piazza della Signoria. ADMISSION: free.

Last but not least, passionate tourists about zoology have to the visit La Specola, the oldest scientific museum of Europe which hosts also the largest and best known wax anatomical collection. Be advised that the visit of wax collection is only permitted with a guided tour in specific days. Check dates and hours on the official website. ESTIMATED DURATION: 1 and half hour. ADDRESS: Via Romana 17, near Palazzo Pitti. ADMISSION: 6€+3€ guided tour.

By Vastino

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