Florence was our last stop on our little tour of Italy last fall and I must say, it was a great last stop! I really didn’t have anything planned for us to do in Florence other than explore whatever sights we could in two days. Florence is such a walkable city – everything seems pretty compact, so if you are walking around the city only for a day, you really will get to see a lot in a short period of time.
Our hotel gave us a handy map of the city so we could easily see where all the main sights were. Being our first time in Florence, we definitely wanted to see as many of them as we could.
THE DUOMO – CATHEDRALE SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
The Duomo is pretty much the focal point in the iconic view of the Florence skyline. The beautiful red dome sticks out from the middle of the city in all her glory. The cathedral is probably one of the most impressive structures I have ever seen. It took 140 years to build from start to finish, and it’s easy to see why. The detail that went into building it does not go unnoticed, and the beautiful pink, green, and while marbles used the decorate the entire outside walls of the church are just gorgeous. All I can say is “wow.” You have to be there and see it for yourself and stand in awe.
Entry into the cathedral is free! If you want to explore the cathedral more in depth, you can purchase an OPA pass for €15, which includes entry to the cupola, bell tower, baptistery, crypt below cathedral, and Opera del Duomo Museum. Once inside the cathedral, you’ll find numerous statues and my favorite part (of the interior), the frescoes of Vasari and Zuccari’s Last Judgement inside of the dome. If you’re planning on going up to the top of the Duomo, it’s a climb up 463 stairs to the top to admire the frescoes up close.
Another completely free activity in Florence is to venture over to the Ponte Vecchio (literally translated to “Old Bridge”), the oldest bridge in Florence. The bridge is lined with vendors of jewelry and souvenirs and it can get a little crowded, so if you aren’t interested in purchasing jewelry, then you can walk right on through just to say crossed the Ponte Vecchio! However, the jewelry is pretty sparkly. I’m not a huge fan of jewelry, but even I couldn’t help but walk a slow pace to admire all the goods.
THE BEST VIEW OF FLORENCE? – PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO
Getting up to Piazzale Michelangelo is a little bit of a hike, but the view is 100% worth it! If you really want that shot of the Florence skyline, this is the place to come for it. Oh, and did I mention this is another completely free activity?! Florence sure is a good place to be on a budget.
Next time we are here, I plan on getting up here for the sunset. Can you imagine how beautiful it would be to see the sun setting on this city?
If you are up at Piazzale Michelangelo, be sure to also check out the Church of San Miniato. I loved admiring the churches all over Europe because the beautiful craftsmanship it took to build them is entirely evident. Each one is so unique.
PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA/PALAZZO VECCHIO
Visiting Piazza della Signoria is pretty much like visiting a free outdoor art gallery. I think we saw the largest collection of statues here (at least of the places we went to, other than Boboli Gardens). Palazzo Vecchio (the city’s town hall) is also located here, and you can tour the Palazzo Vecchio Museum as well (which just happens to be right next to the Uffizi). Tickets start at €8 depending on the entry and tours you want to take. You can find more info on tickets here.
In the Piazza, you can find statues such as the Fountain of Nettuno (Neptune) and Perseus with the head of Medusa, among many others. There certainly is no lack of nude statues around here! The human body is pretty celebrated in Europe.
We didn’t have enough time to check out the Uffizi inside, but I can imagine how amazing all that Renaissance era art is inside. It looks pretty massive from the outside! Tickets to the Uffizi start at €8, and if there are special exhibits during your visit, they can run up to €16.50. Reservations to the museum are recommended, and reservation fees start at €4, depending on how you go about reserving them. You can visit their official site here and also purchase tickets here.
If seeing the Statue of David is on your Florence agenda, you’ll want to visit the Galleria Academia. You’ll know you are in the right place when you see the long line out the door. David is very popular!
Similar to the Uffizi, tickets to the Academia start at €8, and if there are special exhibits during your visit, they can run up to €16.50. Reservations to the Uffizi are also recommended, with reservation fees starting at €4. You can purchase tickets in advance here.
Or, you can head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view of Florence AND to view this replica Statue of David in bronze cast. That was a close as we came to David!
GIARDINO BOBOLI (BOBOLI GARDENS)
We spent a half day wandering through this expansive garden, so a separate post is definitely warranted. However, if you get the chance, there are a lot of statues and beautiful scenery to admire in the gardens. Because of the sheer size of this place, I would definitely recommend devoting a half day to a full day for Boboli, as your ticket can also get you entry to other parts of Palazzo Pitti, the Porcelain museum, and the costume museum. We paid €10 at the entrance for access to the gardens, the Porcelain museum, and the costume gallery (though we didn’t end up making it there).
Tip for those interested in exploring the many museums: there is the Firenze Card that is valid for 72 hours that gets you access to all the museums on their list and priority entry, meaning you don’t have to wait in the long lines. It is a little steep at €72, so you better make sure you are going to get your money’s worth and dash like mad to each of the museums. I can see how this would be super helpful in the high season (April through October, approximately); however, if you are visiting in the low season, it might not make much sense to get the card. When we were there in November, the only long line we saw was for the Galleria Academia and it really wasn’t that long at the time. You’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s a worthy investment! If you are interested in learning more about the Firenze Card, visit their official website here.
This is really a small sampling of the many things you can do when visiting Florence. I hope to be able to explore so much more next time we are there! If you are interested in more ideas for exploring Florence, check out the Visit Florence website.
Also, you can watch our Florence video to see what we were up to!