As the Capital City of Tuscany and arguably one of the most recognisable skylines in Europe, Florence has a lot to offer any city break enthusiast. It’s the birthplace of Renaissance, home to the statue of David and famous for its historical architecture, monuments, churches and buildings. Not forgetting its renowned terracotta tiled backdrop, deep history, and UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
I flew to Pisa and took the train down to central Florence. Our hotel was a short walk from the train station in a fantastic location for getting just about anywhere. I spent the whole train journey worried that I might be disappointed if Florence didn’t look as good in real life as it does is the pictures but I was pleased to discover that Florence is undeniably as pretty as its postcard (unlike Pisa, I thought).
Not only does it look like it’s supposed to in real life, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
We fulfilled the quintessential pursuits of scoffing cappuccino and pistachio gelato in an authentic Italian gelateria, trotting around the Piazza della Repubblica (city square) by horse and carriage and gawping at super impressive architecture, watching children point and laugh at naked statues, drinking Chianti on rooftop terraces, eating pizza and visiting the food markets. I felt like we were really embracing Italy and not just visiting Florence, it was really authentic.
The food was incredible, as it should be right? It was just what I hoped Tuscany would bring; Antipasti, crostini toscani, prosciutto, bistecca alla fiorentina – all with customary lashings of real olive oil – delicious!
The open top city sightseeing bus tour is brilliant. You can hop on and off almost anywhere and there are a few different routes to take. My favourite stop was Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square). Home of the best replica statue of David, in my opinion (The marble original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia). This bronze cast of Michelangelo’s masterpiece is truly impressive and stands in the centre of the square. The Piazzale offers the most incredible panoramic views of the city and really captures the heart of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the Lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Beyond the city are the hills of Settignano and Fiesole. This view was one of my favourite experiences of Florence, it’s like a visual representation of this entire blog.
The Uffizi Gallery
One of the oldest and most famous art galleries in the world. It is full of masterpieces from the great Italian Renaissance artists such as Rembrandt, Boticelli, da Vinci, Bellini, Raphael and Michelangelo. It was really incredible to see the likes of the Birth of Venus up close. The building itself is amazing too, there are 28 marble statues of illustrious Tuscans set up in the niches of the pilasters on the outside of the Gallery, this includes Leonardo da Vinci.
The Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore)
The main church in Florence and the most prominent and recognisable building in the city. The Duomo is visible from just about everywhere (not least because it’s the largest brick dome ever constructed) but a few places have really mega views – my favourite being that from Piazzale Michelangelo but a visit up close will reveal the most incredibly intricate architectural design and colours that can’t be seen from a distance, it’s a phenomenal building.
The Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)
The town hall of Florence and the second most prominent building to dominate Florence’s skyline. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.
Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge)
A medieval stone arch bridge stretching across the Arno River. It’s lined with shops built on its edges, held up by stilts. It looks much more impressive than it sounds (Google it!).
‘The green heart of Florence’ was commissioned by the Medici family and is one of the largest and most elegant Italian gardens in the world. Architects such as Vasari, Ammannati and Bernardo Buontalenti created Boboli and the gardens is home to sculptures that date from Roman times to the 17th century such as the original Bacchino fountain of 1560, with the Dwarf Morgante riding a tortoise dressed as the God Bacchus, and the monumental bronze head of Igor Mitoraj in Prato dell’Uccellare.
Fountain of Neptune
At the heart of the city, in Piazza della Signoria, is Bartolomeo Ammanati’s Fountain of Neptune, a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct.