Things to do in Florence, ITALY

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As the stronghold of the powerful Medici family, Florence is one of Italy’s richest cities in terms of culture, history, and beauty.

The Tuscan capital is a city that bewitches visitors. Be it because of its breathtaking yet unassuming beauty, its unmatched art collections, or its interesting history, its charm is undeniable. Visitors can enjoy seeing some of the world’s masterpieces like Michelangelo's “David” and Botticelli's “Birth of Venus.” They can also revel in the Renaissance architecture that still defines most of the city, and in the splendor of its landmarks.

Besides culture and history, Florence also offers a joie de vivre that makes it easy to enjoy life. Whether you’re enjoying a glass of wine at the Piazza del Duomo, watching the sky from the Piazzale Michelangelo, or shopping in Ponte Vecchio, you’ll notice that time seems somehow slower here.

To try to reduce Florence to only 5 things is nearly impossible. In the face of necessity, here are the 5 best things to do in gorgeous Firenze:

1. Uffizi Gallery

The impressive interior of Florence's Uffizi Gallery (© Petar Milošević , CC BY-SA 4.0) Botticelli's the Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery Titian's Venus of Urbino at the Uffizi

One of the most important galleries in the world, the Uffizi is home to thousands of iconic Renaissance masterpieces.

Boasting works by Renaissance masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Velazquez, and countless others, the importance of this gallery cannot be overstated.

Like most important landmarks in Florence, the gallery owes its existence to the Medicis, and, more specifically, to Cosimo I de’Medici.

Expanding over time to display more and more of the family’s extensive art collection, the gallery had so many pieces at one point that it had to transfer several to other Italian museums.

Though you will find it difficult to find a single piece that is not a masterpiece, some works are recognized worldwide. These include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino, and Peter Paul Rubens’ Triumph of Henry IV in Paris.

where? The Uffizi Gallery is located in the Piazza della Signoria in the city centre. Though walking is by far the best way to explore the city, you can also take a bus to the Galleria degli Uffizi bus station.

when? The gallery opens Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am to 6:30 pm. Occasionally, it has extended summer hours and close at 10:00 pm. Lines to enter tend to be quite long, so arrive as early as possible.

£$€¥ The general admission price is $9. EU citizens under 25 and public school EU teachers can enter for a reduced ticket that costs $5. Anyone under 18 may enter for free regardless of citizenship. EU citizens that have a disability, journalists, and member of the International Council of Museums do not have to pay. The museum is free to the general public the first Sunday of the month.

2. The Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River (© Gary Ashley, CC-BY-2.0) Fireworks over Florence's Ponte Vecchio (© Martin Falbisoner, CC-BY-ASA-3.0) Ponte Vecchio at sunset from the Michelangelo Park

Possibly one of the most picturesque bridges in Europe, Ponte Vecchio makes for a picture-perfect moment.

Ponte Vecchio is more like a tiny neighborhood hanging over the Arno than a simple bridge. The minuscule “houses” that can be seen in its facade are actually stores. The bridge is the oldest in Florence, with its two predecessors having been destroyed by floods. The current bridge was rebuilt in 1345 and is today one of Florence’s most iconic landmarks.

The shops on the bridge were once butcher shops and the like, but today they appeal more to the tourist’s eye. This is where jewelry, pretty accessories, and souvenirs can be found. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it is worth a visit, as it is by far a unique shopping experience.

where? Ponte Vecchio is located in the city centre, just a couple of blocks away from the Piazza della Signoria. To arrive in public transportation, take bus lines C3 and D to the Ponte Vecchio stop.

when? Sunrise to sunset marks the best time to be at Ponte Vecchio, as it is when the shops that inhabit the bridge are open. If you want to avoid crowds, then night and early morning are the best times, though it is not as safe as in the daylight.

£$€¥ As a public space, you can enjoy the beauty of Ponte Vecchio and get as many pictures as you like for no charge. The shops and souvenir stores that reside on it, however, tend to be pricier than others in the city.

3. Il Duomo (Florence Cathedral)

Il Duomo at night (© Petar Milošević, CC-BY-ASA-4.0 International) The intricately decorated facade of Florence's Cathedral (© Christopher Patterson , CC-BY-SA-3.0) The baptistry of St John, adjoining Florence cathedral (© Fczarnowski, CC-BY-SA-4.0)

As the centerpiece of Florence, the dome of Il Duomo is perhaps the city’s most recognizable symbol.

Il Duomo is the dome of Florence’s major church, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Along with other landmarks that complement the cathedral, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The cathedral in itself is quite remarkable, with a captivating facade and soft arches. It is the dome, however, that really sets it apart and that has made it into one of the world’s most famous churches.

Il Duomo held the title of the world's largest dome between 1436 and 1881, when a slightly wider iron structure at the Devonshire Royal Hospital in the UK was erected. Il Duomo stil holds the world record for the largest brick dome. Today, the world's largest dome is the 310-metre diameter Singapore National Stadium.

With intricate frescoes painted in its interior, the climb up the dome cannot possibly be dull. In fact, making line is almost a pleasure, as it allows for a closer look into its details. Once you reach the top, however, you are distracted by a incomparable view over the red roofs of Florence.

where? The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is located at the Piazza del Duomo. It is impossible to miss it, as it rises above all other buildings in its surroundings. The closest bus station to it is the Oriuolo station, serviced by the C2 line.

when? Hours for Il Duomo differ from those of the cathedral. It is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am to 6:20 pm. Keep in mind that it is closed on the first Tuesday of every month, as well as on major Catholic holidays like Pentecost, Christmas, and New Years.

£$€¥ Of course, there is no charge to enter the cathedral itself. However, its many attractions like the Duomo, the baptistery, and the bell towers all charge individual prices. If you wish to visit all of them, your best bet is to buy the OPA Pass, which allows you to see the dome, the bell tower, the baptistery, the crypt, and the Opera del Duomo Museum for $16. If you wish only to see the dome, entrance is $9.

4. Piazzale Michelangelo

The view to the left of the Piazzale Michelangelo (© Simone Zuffanelli, CC-BY-3.0) The view to the centre of the Piazzale Michelangelo (© Simone Zuffanelli, CC-BY-3.0) The view to the right of the Piazzale Michelangelo (© Simone Zuffanelli, CC-BY-3.0)

Standing atop the rest of Florence, this is where you will find the best panoramic views of the city.

Built in 1869 when Florence was the capital of a new nation called Italy, the Piazzale Michelangelo was meant to be an ode to the city. Designed by Giuseppe Poggi, it has a neo-classical style, and is dedicated to the great master, Michelangelo. It is because of this that you will find a bronze copy of the David standing at the top, looking over downtown Florence.

The hill is quite popular, as it has an incredible view of Florence, from where you can see most of the city’s major landmarks. Rarely is a city so cohesively gathered in a single frame as Florence is from here. It is also a good place to walk, eat, and spend a sunny afternoon.

where? For anyone that enjoys a good stroll, the Piazzale can be reached on foot, from downtown Florence by simply walking up the hill. If you rather go on bus, take lines 12 or 13 to the Piazzale. Alternatively, you can hop on a sightseeing tour bus that stops here.

when? The Piazzale Michelangelo is truly one of those places that is incredible at any time of day. Its panoramic view of Florence changes with every passing hour, and each view is as beautiful as the one that preceded it. If any consideration should be taken, it would be safety. As being at the Piazzale late at night might pose risks.

£$€¥ There is no charge for visiting the Piazzale, outside of possible transportation costs. There are also restaurants, food stands, and souvenir vendors at the top, but how much you spend -if you spend anything at all- is entirely up to your discretion.

5. Galleria dell'Accademia

Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia (© Jörg Bittner Unna , CC-BY-3.0) A Ghirlandaio altarpiece at the Accademia, Florence

Art lover or not, leaving Florence without seeing “The David” would be sacrilege.

Built in 1873, the Galleria dell’Accademia is mostly important because it is the permanent house of Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture, “The David.” The gallery was originally intended to be a museum dedicated to the artist, though the grand plans were never fully carried out.

There are other works of art that draw attention, including other sculptures by Michelangelo and paintings by Botticelli, Paolo Uccello, and others.

Without a doubt, however, it is the impressive sculpture that brings people into the academia, and that makes a visit to it absolutely necessary. 

where? Unlike most other major landmarks in Florence, the Galleria dell’Accademia is not located on the city centre. Instead, it is a little farther north, close to Florence University. The closest bus station is the Piazza San Marco, serviced by numerous bus lines. However, walking from the centre will not take more than 15 minutes.

when?The Galleria opens on Monday from 8:15 am to 2:00 pm, and Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am to 7:15 pm. Ticket office closes one hour before closing time.

£$€¥ Visiting the square and walking about is free of charge. However, as it is a major tourist attraction, be prepared to pay more for goods, services, and consumables than you would in other parts of the city.