Florence is the birthplace of Renaissance, bursting with culture and smaller than Rome can be easily visited on foot.
The city centre is divided by the Arno river that is crossed by eight bridges: the most central and famous is Ponte Vecchio, Old Bridge, with a zillion of shops that traditionally sell jewelry.
Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, the biggest collection of Italian paintings with pieces of art from artists such as Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Botticelli etc. Galileo Science Museum is located closely, gathering some of the most important scientific tools of the world.
Heading north, in the medieval heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria centre of the political life. The most important building is the Palazzo Vecchio seat of the government that with its high tower is a symbol of city as well as the Duomo’s dome. Still in the square other important attractions are the Loggia dei Lanzi with Cellini’s Statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa, and the Ammannati’s Fountain of Neptune.
In the same neighborhood is also located the Bargello, former prison of the city and nowadays sculpture museum. Pretty close is also Dante’s House, father of the Italian language and author of The Divine Comedy.
In Piazza del Duomo there are three major sights: the Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is one of the largest cathedral in the world, you can climb its characteristic Dome that has been designed by the architect Filippo Brunelleschi. The Campanile (Giotto’s Tower) hosts 12 bells and was designed by Giotto although he died before its completion. The Baptistery, octagonal building dedicated to the Patron of Florence Giovanni Battista, is totally worth a visit, its bronze doors were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Enjoy your stroll around the streets while eating a homemade gelato, there are several gelaterie around the city, just choose those you want to try! Another must-try of Tuscan tradition is Bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-bone Steak or Florentine Steak) a big grilled steak served really rare and flavored with salt, pepper and olive oil.
A visit to the Accademia Gallery is indispensable, it houses the most famous statue in the world, Michelangelo’s David. Worthy of attention is also the Santa Croce Church, the major Franciscan church in Florence, is located in Piazza Santa Croce, where were laid to rest personalities such as Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Ghiberti, and Michelangelo. Worth of attention is also the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Dominican church and one of the most important churches in Florence. In the same neighborhood is located the oldest historical pharmacy and perfumery in Europe: Officina profumo-farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
On the other side of the river, in the Oltrarno you’ll find Pitti Palace which was once the residence of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and of the Medici’s family. It hosts several galleries and museums (Palatine Gallery, Gallery of Costume, Modern Art Gallery, Museum of Silver). Behind the palace stroll around Boboli’s Garden a classic example of Italian Gardens.
A major landmark is Piazzale Michelangelo where you will experience a breathtaking panorama of the city.
What/where to eat
Traditional Florentine and Tuscan cuisine is one of the tastiest and comes from poor and simple but very substantial recipes. Florentine steak is the undisputed queen of the Tuscan gastronomic tradition, but there are also other delicious dishes such as ribollita, “pappa al pomodoro” (a tomato soup), Florentine tripe and lampredotto which is usually served inside a sandwich as street food. Finally the desserts, with the typical cantucci and the Florentine schiacciata. You can taste traditional specialties in various modern restaurants, trattorias and the characteristic “buche” of the traditional places usually obtained from the cellars. For a quick snack I recommend you visit the San Lorenzo market, where you can buy local specialties among sandwiches and other gastronomic delights. For a lunch I recommend the following restaurants and shops, all located in the central area:
Amici di Ponte Vecchio. Near the famous bridge, a small shop where you can buy focaccias and sandwiches with salami and traditional products, ideal for a quick meal.
Trippaio del Porcellino. An informal kiosk where you can enjoy the delicious sandwich with lampredotto.
La Buchetta Food & Wine Restaurant. A typical restaurant housed in a 15th century building where traditional dishes are accompanied by contemporary specialties. Try the Florentine steaks, cheeses and Tuscan salami.
Trattoria Toscana Sergio Gozzi. Frequented by the Tuscans, an authentic trattoria, with simple and homemade dishes. Excellent for trying tomato soup.
Brac. Have you ever dreamed of having lunch surrounded by shelves of books? At the Brac bookshop, bar and restaurant you can enjoy exclusively vegetarian and very innovative cuisine in a welcoming environment.
For an aperitif or dinner you have various proposals:
the Laurus Hotel, the Baglioni or the Grand Hotel Minerva. These are some of the hotels in Florence that open their terraces to non-guests in the summer, allowing you to enjoy a cocktail and an aperitif overlooking the rooftops of Florence.
Moyo. In the heart of Florence there is one of the most loved places by Florentines, famous for its buffet that includes first courses, cold cuts and cheeses and numerous vegetarian and vegan proposals.
I ’Tuscani. A restaurant that has various locations throughout Florence, excellent for tasting Florentine steak, Tuscan salami and cheeses.
La Mènagère. If you love a little chic and romantic places, you are in the right place: it is a restaurant created from a 19th century shop that offers an innovative and modern menu, with seasonal ingredients. It also includes a bar and a flower shop.
What/where to buy
A souvenir or gift can not miss during a trip to Florence and in the city you will find every type of shop to buy souvenirs and typical products. Among the most popular gifts there are traditional sweets : cantucci to pair with Vin Santo, zuccotto or Florentine schiacciata. Even a good bottle of Chianti or others Tuscan wines can be a good purchase for a return meat dinner.
Since the Renaissance, Florence has been the city renowned for its master goldsmiths, who created real works of art now kept in the museum of Palazzo Pitti. Along the Ponte Vecchio there are shops that exclusively sell jewelry. But Florence is also renowned for quality craftsmanship, with numerous shops selling decorative glass items, furnishings made with fine fabrics and tapestries, handmade footwear and elegant leather goods such as gloves, in different colours. The area around Piazza Santa Croce is a concentration of leather shops and workshops, where you can buy quality bags, jackets and belts.If you are passionate about perfumes, beauty products and body care, do not miss a visit to the historic herbalists and perfumeries of the city. Perfume is an art that was born in Florence several centuries ago and was once entrusted to pharmacists, so much so that today some Florentine pharmacies have preserved this tradition.
Via de ‘Tornabuoni is synonymous with high fashion brands, with boutiques from Gucci, Armani, Ferragamo, Versace, Prada, etc., and the same type of shops dot the streets around Piazza Repubblica, including Via Calzaiuoli and Via Roma, where is located one of the fashion landmark shops of Italy: Luisa Via Roma. Among the most historic and particular shops you can visit there are:
Signum is a small shop that sells quality products following the ancient craft traditions: you can find splendid postcards, posters and prints, letter papers, and many other objects.
Profumeria Inglese. A historic shop born in 1843 and now a popular tourist destination not only for its quality products but also for its precious interiors and its ancient charm.
Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella. It is the oldest pharmacy in Europe and it is worth visiting not only for the products but also for the almost “museum” environment, decorated with frescoes and ancient details. On sale you will find liqueurs of the Camaldolese monks, perfumes, herbal products and sweets.
San Lorenzo market. Having become an attraction, it is divided into two sections: an indoor food market and an outdoor part with souvenirs, clothing and other items for sale. Also excellent for a lunch.