Florence is the capital of Tuscany and the “Birthplace of the Renaissance.” Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and da Vinci (among other great minds) called this city home. Some of the greatest works of Western art are here. And in the historic part of the city, every street and building is a work of art in and of itself.
Florence should absolutely be on your Italy itinerary, so here are the best things to do in Florence!
Visit a museum (or two or three!)
Even if you’re not an art history buff or a “museum person,” you can’t go to Florence and not see at least one of its treasure troves of art. My top recommendations are:
The Galleria dell’Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture.
The House of Dante is a museum that showcases Dante’s work and documents his life in Florence. It’s also where Dante was born.
The Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo is where you’ll find the original Baptistery doors, an unfinished Pieta by Michelangelo, and the famous wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalen.
Tour the Duomo
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo, dominates Florence’s center and skyline. Make sure you tour the inside and climb the Bell Tower for some fantastic panoramic views.
Across from the Duomo are the Baptistery and its doors. If you want a chance at photographing the doors without hordes of people in your way, I suggest getting there early.
Walk Across Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is one of the oldest and most photographed bridges in the world. You should walk across the bridge and view it from both sides of the river. The bridge’s reflection on the water is quite a sight to see!
This bridge is easy to find if you’re doing a self-guided tour, and almost every guided walking tour of the city will come here.
See the Views from Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo has the best views of the city! This square is on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River. To get here, you can take a relatively short and leisurely walk, or a short car or bus ride.
Don’t be surprised if you see this square called Piazzale Michelangiolo on street signs, and the brown and white signs that indicate historical landmarks.
Visit Palazzo Vecchio & Piazza della Signoria
Palazzo Vecchio is a palace built in the 12th century that housed the Medici family. The Arnolfo Tower of the palace makes this building one of the most recognizable and tallest landmarks in the city.
But the inside is just as striking as the outside with its frescoes, carvings, tapestries, painted ceilings, and sculptures.
Palazzo Vecchio was a filming site for the film Hannibal (2001), the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). You can do a self-guided tour of the city to retrace Hannibal Lecter’s footsteps.
Piazza della Signoria is the square in front of Palazzo Vecchio. Here, you’ll find a copy of Michelangelo’s Statue of David, Perseus with the head of Medusa, and the magnificent Fountain of Neptune.
Stroll through the The Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are a perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle and crowds of the city. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site located behind the Palazzo Pitti that was built by the Medici family in the 16th century.
These gardens are an Instagrammer’s paradise with fountains, tree tunnels, flower beds that are works of art, and beautiful views of the city.
Having a picnic here is one of my favorite things I did in Florence!
Browse the New Market
The New Market is a covered market near the Piazza della Repubblica. It’s the best place in the city to buy Florence’s famous hand-made leather goods. Florence is also known for its gold jewelry, ceramics, perfumes, and stationery.
This market’s most famous resident is the Fontana del Porcellino (Piglet Fountain). Legends say that if you rub the pig’s nose, you’ll be given a chance to return to Florence.
Take a Day Trip
Florence is ideally situated for some fantastic day trips! If you want to visit a picturesque hill town, I recommend San Gimignano or Pienza. Pisa is also just an hour and a half away by car and public transportation.
The coastal cities of Portovenere and Cinque Terre are only a two and half hour drive from Florence, and Venice can even be done as a long day trip from Florence.
If it’s wine you’re wanting, then I recommend a wine tour of the Chianti region.
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