Florence is rich in art, culture and history… but what can be expected from the birthplace of the Renaissance? As you meander through the stradas, trying your best to avoid the numerous heladerías, look up and acknowledge the decadence surrounding you. Turn the corner and find yourself at the steps of the Duomo, an immense edifice made of solid pink and green marble that stands proudly in its own plaza. Pursue another street, and you find yourself at the feet of a man carved from a singular piece of stone. Or, walk along the Arno, admiring the terracotta homes that sit atop the bridges that connect the left and right bank.
Florence was one of the richest cities on the globe, thanks to the Medici dynasty, and the remnants are apparent throughout. You only have to wander around one of the many galleries to gather that Leonardo Da Vinci’s and Michaelangelo’s are not exclusive artworks in this part of Italy. History and art aside, Florence has an includible cuisine that differs greatly from other regions of Italy. The Tuscan region presents a meaty array of dishes incorporating interestingly shaped pastas and rich broths that do not disappoint. From Boticelli to the Boboli gardens… Florence has something to offer everyone.
On your first Day in Florence, why not hit the main spots from Santa Maria Novella to the Uffizi Gallery to get an idea of the city’s grandeur. Be stunned by the architecture of the buildings and nature as your guide the trails of the Boboli gardens, taking a moment to inhale the delicious scent emanating from the Rose Garden. After a full day of tourists in the city, find refuge in Todo Mundo, a trendy cafe serving wine and local food. You’ll end your first day in Florence simply mesmerised by the marble buildings, the terracotta-coloured homes and the quaint cobbled streets of the rich city.
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella is a gothic church and monastery located in the heart of Florence. The church was built between 1279 and 1357 and houses various pieces of religious art. The Basilica was founded by the monks of the Dominican Order towards the beginning of the thirteenth century and has since become a religious and artistic relic in Italy. However, in an equally lush building across the plaza, the residing monks of the basilica began experimenting with herbs and flowers which were grown on-site. Subsequently, the Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella was formed. This perfumery is said to be one of the oldest in the world and continues to sell delicious scents today. Why not stop and buy yourself an authentic Italian parfumo from one of the oldest herbalists in Europe.
The central point of Florence is the immaculately sculpted Duomo which makes up part of the famous Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. This beautifully crafted building is made from marble with sweet pink and cool green tones. Designed by mason Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1436, this vault reaches 114 meters in height. Climbs the turret to gain the best views over Firenze. Save your energy for the climb up to the top by Booking tickets here to avoid queuing!
The Ponte Vecchio is the famous bridge in Florence that stretches over the Arno river. The bridge itself is an architectural enigma, as numerous shops are integrated into the bridge's construction. Formerly home to fishmongers, butchers and merchants, the bridge now houses various jewellers and boutiques. The bridge is, however, most known for the secret passage that runs from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti which enabled the Medici dynasty to traverse the city without drawing attention to themselves.
Escape from the crowds of tourists by making a getaway to this quaint bookshop and café. Todo Mundo has a rather unassuming façade… Except for that fact that the interior will surprise you. With over 150,000 books to choose from, you will be spoiled for choice with options in both English and Italian. However, the library has its own wine bar called Uqbar, where the winemaker will suggest wine options to accompany your food prepared by chef Hiroko. Treat yourself to a tranquil meal in this zen café after a long day of travelling!
Hidden behind the Pitti Palace, you will find the vast Boboli gardens, covering an area of 111 acres. The gardens are home to a wide variety of flora, statues and other sculptural designs just waiting to be explored. One site of particular interest is the Grotto of Buontalenti, a cave-like structure decorated with colourful mosaics and adorned with shells and stone droplets. Pack a picnic full of Italian delights and relax in the rose garden, located at the top of the gardens. With over 350 varieties of roses, the garden is the perfect place to visit in the months of May and June to enjoy the rich aroma. Book tickets here for a guided tour of the gardens!
The Uffizi Gallery is located in the heart of Florence, and it is the resting place of many famous art pieces, most famously The Birth of Venus. The building was originally designed as offices for Florentine magistrates, though now the building now houses over 100 000 pieces of art. Perhaps the most famous piece that the gallery houses is Botticelli’s Birth of Venus which is just as miraculous as anticipated. The pastel painting shows Venus, a pale and whimsical goddess emerging from a pearly shell from teal coloured waters. The painting's beauty and size is enough to stun audiences! Book ticket here to avoid queuing for Botticelli’s masterpiece.
Piazzale Michaelangelo is a wondrous plaza named after the famous craftsmen behind the medici chapels; Michelangelo Buonarroti. The square is located atop a hill, south of the Arno River, providing panoramic views over the beautiful city. The square itself has a replica of Michaelangelo’s David, but what you should really look forward to is the views over Florence - which makes it absolutely an extraordinary spot in Italy. Wander up to this exquisite view point to see some of the most famous Florentine buildings such as the Duomo or the Ponte Vecchio. Reward yourself after your short walk with a glass of wine and Italian meats in the surrounding bars.
The Galleria dell'Accademia is one of the most important art galleries in Florence to visit. Originally an art school for students of Florence, the building then became a gallery for a multitude of famous works. The most famous of which is The Sculpture of David by Michaelangelo. David, carved of pure marble, stands proudly with a slingshot in his right hand; a reminder of his defeat over the Great Goliath. The sculpture represents the epitome of the male form and is a spectacle not to be missed. Book tickets here to get in line for this famous masterpiece.
Palazzo Vecchio, meaning “old palace” , is a 14th-century palace located in the heart of Florence. The Palace was designed by architect Arnolfo di Cambio and was the former residence of many Florentine royalty, such as the Medici family. You can tour the various suites and chambers of the palace and admire the Michaelangelo sculptures in the residence. The palaces on towers stand proudly over Florence with a height of 94 meters. Book tickets here to admire the masterpieces that lie in this ancient palace and ascend the iconic tower.
Where to Eat:
Osteria dell'Olio is located just a short walk from the Duomo. If you are in the mood for wholesome Italian cuisine, look no further than this restaurant!
Il Profeta is another delightfully quaint restaurant serving Italian classics. Escape from the crowds in this beautiful trattoria with a quiet terrace!
Where to Stay in Florence:
Budget - Hotel Lorena
Just 50m away from the Medici chapels and is a classically designed Italian townhouse.
Mid-range - Hotel La Fortezza
A 19th century Italian villa straight out of A Room With a View! Rest your head in the clean and comfortable rooms.
Luxury - Park Palace Hotel
Escape the swathes of tourists by staying at Park Palace Hotel located in the Tuscan hills. Unwind and relax with a coffee on the terrace or perhaps a swim in the private pool.
After getting your bearings on day one, we can venture further afield, visiting places that are not so known by the average tourist. The Piazza della Signoria is the perfect place to start, where you can admire the bronze carvings of the open-air gallery. After a meander through the city, passing the grand Medici Castles, it is time to start your pilgrimage towards the Basilica of San Miniato. With some of the best views over Florence and with its own decadent interiors, you will not be disappointed. After trekking up the grand hill, reward yourself with a glass of wine in one of the hidden port holes located around the city; after all you deserve it! Once you’ve refreshed yourself with a local Chianti or bubbly Aperol Spritz, treat yourself to a bit of Italian shopping.
Piazza della Signoria and the Loggia dei Lanzi
Loggia dei Lanzi is an outdoor museum located in the Piazza della Signoria. Built in the 14th century, this Piazza exhibits some of the most intricate sculptures in Europe, featuring the work of Donatello and Cellini. Admire Perseus with the head of Medusa, a grand bronze sculpture that looks proudly over the Piazza. The Piazza itself is the perfect meeting point for tourists and locals alike with various buzzing bars and hearty trattorias to choose from!
The Medici Chapels, as the name suggests, were commissioned by the Medici dynasty as the resting place for the family. Architect Micaelangleo designed two chapels, each of which are carved from Italian marble and features intricate decoration and frescoes. The Medici family were the most important family in Europe during the renaissance, and the grandeur of these tombs makes this fact evident. Book tickets for your visit here to enter this architectural wonder!
Florence is not only famous for the renaissance of the Medici family. This region of Italy has some of the finest dishes to offer visitors. Why not book a food market and cooking experience which allows you to meander Florence’s central market and prepare a Tuscan feast with your ingredients. You’ll be led through the vibrant market with a guide who will reveal the finest local produce to you, letting you taste and try as you go. Once your ingredients are ready, you’ll be led through a cooking class. Book here to secure your ticket! Otherwise, there's also a leather market that you can shop for goods like leather bags, wallets, all made by artisans of Florence! Be sure to check it out at the The San Lorenzo Market.
On your short trip to Florence, you may notice the small port holes that feature on the exterior of the buildings. These ports are in fact wine holes, an idea that was birthed during the plague to avoid contact with customers. Infected customers would place their change on a shovel to be received and disinfected by the server. Then, their glasses would be filled with their drink of choice. There are now only 14 that remain in Florence, while the options for ordering have diversified. When wandering around the old town, why not order an Aperol, ice cream or a classic chianti from these delightful holes in the wall.
When in Italy, it is only right to indulge in the food, wine and culture. However, why not also indulge yourself in high society by attending a classical Italian Opera in a beautiful medieval church. The Santa Monaca Church is an exquisite 15th-century church which used to be a former prison for revolutionaries during the 19th century. Enjoy the melodies of an Italian Opera under intricate painted frescoes here. Verdi, Rossini, Puccini are just a few Opera classics that will reverberate through the Church with acoustics you will never forget.
Florence is perhaps one of the most cosmopolitan cities in all of Europe, and therefore far from slacking when it comes to dressing well. Italian gentlemen wander around plazas in cool linen trousers with suave fedoras whilst the women strut in perfectly fitting dresses that keep them looking cool. Compete with the Europe style by Via de' Tornabuoni, where you’ll find the main boutiques to help you find your new wardrobe! Shop windows are laden with bright-colored silk garments and trendy handbags that you won’t be able to leave empty-handed.
Basilica of San Miniato al Monte
Built atop a hill overlooking the town of Florence, the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is a must-visit spot on your short trip. The Romanesque church has a facade made of green and white marble, just a teaser as to what lies inside. There are dozens or mosaics and marble in-laid in the interior of the building, depicting various religious scenes. The Basilica contains tombs of important religious figures in Florentine which are thoughtfully decorated with Italian frescoes. Head to this spot for stunning views over Florence and to appreciate the architecture of this intricate church!
The Tuscan region of Chianti is known for producing some of the finest red wines in the world. While tasting the gastronomical delights of the region, it seems unfair to leave out the delicious wines too. Escape to the Tuscan hills where cyprus and olive trees grow, and indulge in the delights of the region with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll be shown two iconic wineries and be allowed to try a plethora of wines. Book here to ensure a smooth experience!
Mercato delle Cascine
There is no doubt that Europe does flea markets best, therefore, it seems fitting to find a few treasures when in the glamorous region of Florence. Located in Cascine Park, you will find a market full of antique treasures and vintage clothing. The market is open every Tuesday from 7am - 2pm, making it the perfect morning activity. Why not bag a silk scarf or vintage leather jacket from independent sellers at the market. A souvenir you won’t forget!
Where to Eat:
SE·STO on Arno - a cosmopolitan luxury rooftop bar and restaurant with views over the tranquil river and the iconic spots in Florence. Relax with an Aperol Spritz in hand, and graze on the fresh olives whilst you take in your surroundings!
4 Leoni - an Italian trattoria focused on modernized classic Italian dishes. If you’re looking for fresh seasonal produce and clever combinations, this is the place to go!
Where to Stay in Florence:
Budget - Hotel Balcony
Fully equipped with a quaint terrace where you can enjoy breakfast or a negroni whilst looking out towards the Duomo!
Mid-range - Hotel Margaret
Just 500m away from Santa Maria Novella train station making it the ideal location for a quick trip.
Luxury - II Guelfo Bianco
A stylish hotel with tranquil interiors and fully equipped with a bar. Being just 500m away from the famous Duomo, there is no finer place to stay.
Now that you are well and truly familiar with the layout of Florence, it is the perfect time to do some obscure sightseeing. Why not bring back a luxury olive oil or balsamic vinegar for yourself or your family from the eclectic Bottega del Chianti shop. The wacky exterior will lure you in as well as the charm of the owners. Once you have stocked up on deli provisions, head to the Duomo to catch a peak of the mythical bull’s head that contains a sordid history. Weave through the busy streets, admiring the quirky street sign art that is perfectly dotted around the city. Cross the cloudy blue waters of the Arno, locking on a love locket as you do so. Finally, to ensure eternal good luck, rub the nose of the famous Bronze Pig, and I assure you, you will be back!
La Bottega del Chianti
La Bottega del Chianti is a quaint and quirky deli shop located on Borgo Santi Apostoli. The busy exterior lures you into this gastronomical haven, leaving you to wonder what lies inside. Selling a range of Italian classics such as olive oils, balsamic and wine, you won’t leave here empty-handed!
The Bull and the Baker
Santa Maria del Fiore, where the Duomo proudly stands, has an interesting hidden emblem on its exterior. On the building's left side, towards the direction of Via Ricasoli, you will see the face of a scornful bull carved in the cornice. Legends has it that the bull's head is a nod to all the animals that died during the construction of the great building. However, I choose to believe the tale that states the building's stone mason had an affair with a shopkeeper's wife. When the husband caught wind of the infidelity, he put a stop to their affair. However, the stonemason carved the head of a bull, with horns angrily pointing towards its audience, as a symbol of his envy and revenge for being abandoned.
Florence Street Sign Art
As you wander through the chic streets of Florence, you may recognise the strange street signs that line the roads. Clet Abraham is a prolific street artist in Florence turning mundane stop signs into exciting and comic works of art. Abraham contorts turn right signs in arrows that shoot hearts or stop signs into love letters. Keep an eye out as your stroll around the city, capturing these little delights.
Pad-Locks of Love on the Arno
Trade in your lockets on Pont des Arts for the Ponte Vecchio that stretches over the river Arno. There is not a more romantic location than the birthplace of the renaissance. Buy a Florentine-style locket from the various tourist shops and place your locket on the Ponte Vecchio, which looks over the teal water diving the plains of terracotta buildings.
The Walled-In Window
Despite not appearing to be anything special, the walled-in window on Via dei Servi has quite a story. The window is part of the Palazzo Puccci residence where nobleman Pandolfo Pucci lived. Pucci was removed from the court for misbehaviour, and so his revenge plot began. Two assassins were assigned to this window to murder the Medici who ordered Pucci’s dismissal. Despite his efforts, the plan did not go as planned, and Pucci was instead condemned to death along with the assassins. The window was walled in to ensure no other assassination attempts were tried.
Gates of Paradise
When weaving your way through the crowds of tourists around the Duomo, step back and admire the Porta del Paradiso in front of the famous Basilica. These three bronze doors, created by Artist
Opificio delle Pietre Dure
The Opificio delle Pietre Dure is a semi-precious stone workshop that has been a core artistic landmark in the city for centuries. Founded in 1588, this workshop is one of the most important places for restoration and teaching in Florence’s art scene. Visit here and admire the various stones and materials used to create and restore the beautiful buildings of Florence. Perhaps one of the most famous items commissioned here was a grand structured designed by Ferdinand I to house the graves of the Medici dynasty in the Chapel of the Princes in the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Visit here to learn more about Florence’s artistic history!
You cannot visit Florence without patting the nose of the Bronze Pig; it is simply bad luck! The boar is a bronze statue that has become a symbol of Florence, partly due to its likeness to the Medici family’s coat of arms emblem. Tourists can place a coin in the boar's mouth and rub its nose for good luck. Don’t miss out on some good fortune when on your trip!
Where to Eat:
Trattoria La Casalinga is the place to go if you are in need of a wholesome family meal. The restaurant was founded in 1963 and the two owners continue to make outrageously good pasta dishes for their loyal customers
Osteria Delle Tre Panche is a restaurant located on the banks of the Arno. The cleverly crafted menu has a variety of meat dishes, demonstrating the region's finest ingredients. Book this restaurant for the most romantic dining spot.
Where to Stay in Florence:
Budget - Hotel San Lorenzo
An understated hotel, equipped with everything you may need for a trip to Firenze!
Mid-range - Forest Guest House
A mere 300m away from the Accademia Gallery. You will be as comfortable as possible in simple and minimal bedrooms.
Luxury - Hotel Gioia
A historical Florentine building just a short walk away from the city center, the ideal location for an efficient few days of travelling!