The Best Sights of Florence
Florence, is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany, sitting on the banks of the Arno river. It is not only known for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but as the most important artistic capital and birthplace of the Renaissance, as some call it “The Athens of the Middle Ages”. Florence is also the birthplace of some of the most important painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and fashion designers known to the world, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Amerigo Vespucci, Donatello, the Medici Family, Dante Alighieri, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Emilio Pucci, Guccio Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, as well as being the place where the famous Michelangelo grew up. Florence is a fascinating city and there are many things to see. Here is a list of some of Florence’s most popular sights:
Florence’s most well known attraction is perhaps the Duomo, a huge Gothic Duome which began construction in 1926, designed by Brunelleschi, and was consecrated in 1436, holding up to 20,000 people. Its exterior, is made of green, pink, and white marble while inside, Brunelleschi’s Dome is a masterpiece of construction. Visitors can buy a ticket to climb the 463 steps to its top. The dome, 600 years after its completion, is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA AND PALAZZO VECCHIO
Florence’s most famous square is Piazza della Signoria, which is the heart of the historic center, houses the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, making it Florence’s political center, and is also the site of the cities’ Town Hall.
The piazza also has an open air sculpture exhibit, the Loggia della Signoria, in which copies of many important historical statues live, like the copy of Michelangelo’s David, probably more famous than the original. Inside the palace are elaborately decorated public rooms and private apartments that can be visited, or visitors can just relax around the piazza in one of the many cafès, bars, or restaurants.
At the heart of the Piazza is Bartolomeo Ammanati’s Fountain of Neptune (1563–1565), which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still-functioning Roman aqueduct.
The Ponte Vecchio or old bridge built in 1345, is the only bridge in the city that survived the Second World War, and was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River. The Ponte Vecchio is distinctively lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, although in its medieval times it was a meat market. The bridge carries Vasari’s elevated corridor, which is a secret passage used by the Medici family that links their residence (Palazzo Pitti) to the Uffizi gallery. It can be visited nowadays with a reservation.
GALLERIES: UFFIZI AND ACCADEMIA
The Uffizi Gallery holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art, holding thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations, and tapestries. Artists whose works you’ll see include Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael. Florence’s Galleria dell’ Academia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th-16th centuries. Michelangelo’s David, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, is in the Galleria dell’Accademia.
BOBOLI GARDENS AND PITTI PALACE
Crossing the Ponte Vecchio arriving in the Oltrarno, to the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. These used to be the Medici family’s gardens, and their palace, which served as an inspiration for the Versailles Palace in Paris. Here you’ll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere. Eight different galleries feature art, costumes, jewelry, and the apartments are inside the palace.
Piazzale Michelangelo is the best panoramic view in all of Florence, where countless pictures and postcards of Florence have been taken. It was built in 1869 by architect Giuseppe Poggi on a hill just south of the historic center, at a time when Florence was the capital of Italy and the whole city was involved in an urban renewal. The square, dedicated Michelangelo, has copies of some of his works found elsewhere in Florence: the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. These copies are made of bronze, while the originals are all in white marble. Piazzale Michelangelo can be accessed by car along the tree-lined Viale Michelangelo, or by walking the stairs or going up the ramps from the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, also known as the “Poggi Ramps” in the district of San Niccolò.
BASILICA DI SAN LORENZO
Situated next to the San Lorenzo Market, the Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Florence, aand is also the burial place of most members of the Medici family. The church was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century, with a façade that was never completed, giving it a rustic appearance. The church also features a lot of architecture and art by some of the most important artists of the time: the Old Sacristy by Brunelleschi, with interior decoration and sculpture by Donatello; the Laurentian Library by Michelangelo; the New Sacristy based on Michelangelo’s designs; and the Medici Chapels by Matteo Nigetti.
BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA NOVELLA
Santa Maria Novella, situated across Florence’s railway station of the same name, is the first great basilica of Florence, as well as being the city’s main Dominican church.
The church and its cloister house many artistic treasures and funerary monuments, including Gothic and Early Renaissance frescoes, finances by the greatest Florentine families to as to ensure themselves a place in the grounds’ funerary chapels.
Some of the artworks featured in the church are by renowned Florentine artists like Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Ghiberti and Giorgio Vasari.
BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE
The Basilica of Santa Croce, also knows as the Temple of the Italian Glories (basically because it is the burial place of some of the most important Renaissance artists, like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini) originally was in a marshland outside the city walls, and is the centerpiece of the Piazza di Santa Croce. It is the principal Franciscan church in Florence, and the largest Franciscan church in the world. It houses sixteen chapels, decorated with frescoes by Giotto. Legend has it this basilica was founded by St. Francis himself.
BASILICA OF SANTO SPIRITO
The current church was constructed over the ruins of an Augustinian priory from the 13th century, destroyed by a fire. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the new church in 1428. After his death in 1446, the work was carried on by his followers Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole, and Salvi d’Andrea.
Unlike S. Lorenzo, where Brunelleschi’s ideas were somewhat changed, here, his ideas were carried through with fidelity, with a Latin cross plan designed to maximize the legibility of the grid. The side chapels, in the form of niches of the same size (forty in all), run along the entire perimeter of the space. Michelangelo, when he was seventeen years old, was allowed to make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent’s hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy.
SAN MINIATO AL MONTE
One of the least known churches in Florence, but for sure one of, if not the most beautiful church in all of the city is the Church of San Miniato al Monte, built in honor of Saint Miniato. This church is a fine example of the romanesque style that can be seen all over Florence (such as in the Duomo, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella) but this one also boasts the absolute best location in all of the city: on top of it. It is located in one of the highest, and thus, most scenic spots in all of Florence. As if now, the building beside the church is an Olivetan monastery, but at first, in the year 1013 when it was built, it was a Benedictine community. The complex also includes the bishop’s palace, and the Cimiterio delle Porte Sante or Cemetery of the Holy Doors, which was built in 1854. Several Tuscan and Florentine personalities are buried in it, including Pinocchio’s creator Carlo Collodi.
Known worldwide for being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence’s highlights include amazing architecture, gorgeous works of art, open air museums, its role as a World Heritage Site and, of course, the delicious food. Located in the middle of the Italian peninsula along the Arno River, Florence was home to many pivotal figures of the Renaissance, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and many others who have contributed to the arts. The tourism industry of Florence is mainly concentrated in the historical center of the city.
On the other side is the Oltrarno area, with historic churches and the Palazzo Pitti as well as quieter streets filled with artisans’ workshops and locals going about their daily life. Florence is the home of the Renaissance; it was here in the very beginning of the 15th century that the Renaissance began. Therefore, its greatest treasures are the paintings, sculptures, and architecture that reflect the innovations of this important time period.
The top attraction here is the Duomo (or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore), a magnificent cathedral capped with the world’s largest brick dome. Climbing to the top offers visitors a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Not far away is the Uffizi Gallery, home to arguably the best collection of Renaissance art in the world. The vast majority of visitors also go to the Accademia di Belle Arti, which houses Michelangelo’s iconic sculpture of David. The Ponte Vecchio, Italian for “old bridge,” is a favorite among tourists for its charm and fine jewelry stores, a trade that has thrived on the bridge since 1593.
More information on the history of Florence
- Florence is a small city, and all the major sights are within walking distance.
- Florence has approximately 378.236 inhabitants.
- Between the years 1300 to 1500 (approx.), Florence was the most important cultural, political, and economic city in all of Europe.
- Julius Caesar founded Florence as a retirement place for his soldiers in 59BC!
- The Italian name for Florence is Firenze.
- Florence became the first city in Europe to have paved streets in 1339!
Here in Florence, at restaurants like the Trattoria Da Giorgio, Cento Poveri, I Latini, and Yello Bar Florence, you can explore all the delights of Tuscan cuisine. You can also find a variety of typical Italian restaurants on the second floor of the central San Lorenzo market where classical Italian dishes and products like pasta, olive oils, breads, and meat are up for grabs. For its food alone Florence is definitely an experience that awakens the soul and softens the heart of any traveler.
But what about after all your adventures in the city, when you’re ready to unwind? Relax on the couch, cook a meal, watch a movie and enjoy some quality time you can only get when you rent the whole apartment. Find the perfect vacation home in Florence on this website: www.holidayinflorenceitaly.com.