If you were given the choice to decide on one city to visit in Italy, the majority of people would probably pick Rome, perhaps Venice. Whilst thousands of people visit Florence each year, it’s still a bit of an afterthought in people’s Italy itineraries.
It’s ironic, then, that Florence becomes such a highlight for many people, and I’ve heard of so many coming away from Italy saying that it was their favorite place. It’s a little more low-key and relaxed than Rome or Venice, and Tuscany is one of those places that can, and absolutely will, sweep you away with its charm.
So if you’re planning a trip to Italy, make sure you definitely give plenty of your time to this gorgeous Italian city. Here’s our guide on what ‘Things to Do in Florence’.
Visit Florence Cathedral
There is no other picture in Florence quite as iconic as the stunning cathedral that dominates the city’s skyline. Construction for the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore started in 1296 and it wasn’t completely finished, dome and all, until nearly 150 years later. The Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, two other attractions located in the same square, add to this trio of masterpieces. All three have been named UNESCO World Heritage sites and are the historic center of this beautiful city.
The cathedral is unlike many others you’ll find around Europe, and what really gets to most visitors is the beautiful brickwork in shades of green and red, which isn’t a coloring you often find on a cathedral. Another fun fact – the dome on Florence Cathedral is the largest brick dome in the world.
See Michelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Accademia
Michelangelo’s statue of David is one of the most famous attractions in Florence, and possibly one of the most famous statues in the world. Every single tourist in Florence will flock to see the masterpiece at the Galleria dell’Accademia, and fortunately most come out with the opinion that the wait in line is completely worth it.
If art is your thing then there is no way that you should miss laying your eyes upon David’s exquisite detailing, and even if you’re not usually an art buff the statue is no less impressive. Tickets for the gallery cost €6.50, and here you can see other pieces of artwork aside from just David, so the price is extremely fair. Unfortunately you can’t take photos inside, but you can get a photo of the replica located close by in the Piazza della Signoria. But nothing beats the real thing.
Take a walk down Ponte Vecchio
As well as the Basilica, another classic piece of architecture in Florence that you must see is the Ponte Vecchio, the infamous bridge that you find in thousands of Florence photos. Otherwise known as ‘Old Bridge’ in English, the Ponte Vecchio is believed to have been built back in Roman times. One of the most famous points about this bridge it that it still have shops which line both sides all along it, something that you only see on very few bridges in other places in the world.
The most historically significant point about this bridge is that it was the only bridge in Florence left standing in World War II; all the others in the city were destroyed by the Germans, and many believe keeping this bridge was an order from Hitler himself.
Ponte Vecchio can get extremely busy during peak hours in the day and at weekends, so it’s always worth trying to be tactical about your visit here. The bridge is just as beautiful at night, so that could be the perfect time to see it, but also make sure you catch a glimpse in passing during the day, too, as the colors of the stores are dazzling in the daylight.
Dine on Tuscan food and wine
Tuscany is a region so rich in food and wine that it’s quite possible you’ll never want to leave for this very reason alone. There are so many places in Florence to eat that making a list would be completely futile, but keep your eyes peeled for traditional restaurants as you walk the streets – you’re definitely going to want to stop in one of these. It’s always worth asking your hotel about the best places to eat in the city, and they will definitely be able to give you some tips on Tuscan restaurants close by.
There are many vineyards just outside the city of Florence too, so make sure you have a look into some day tours to any of these so that you can sample some local wines. Nothing could be more perfect than sipping on Tuscan wine on a warm evening in the vineyards; that’s a must-do for any wine drinker visiting the city.
Stroll through Florence’s quaint streets and squares
To be honest, one of the best things to do in Florence is simply walk around. There are so many great places to see beautiful Renaissance architecture here, and you never have to go very far to find it. Take an afternoon just to meander around the streets and get lost in them, stopping every now and again for coffee or snacks, and take your time to explore the city without rhyme or reason. You will, no doubt, find your favorite part of the city this way, and stumble upon things you may never have found otherwise.
Take a trip up to San Miniato al Monte
Even though it might be overshadowed by the Basilica in the center of the city, the San Miniato al Monte is still a very impressive sight to behold, and as it’s located in one of the highest points in Florence, the views from up here are unbeatable. You have to battle quite a lot of steps to get up to this church, but as long as you take your time and aren’t in any rush, you will find yourself at the top before you know it.
You’ll be justly rewarded once you make it up there, that’s for sure. The church itself is considered to be one of the finest in Italy, with some incredible paintwork and mosaic on the interior walls. Even though the church is a beautiful sight to behold, the view across the city skyline that you find up here almost stole the show for me. You can look out across the top of the city here, and marvel in the stunning sight of Florence Cathedral as it rises way up above any other building in the city – creating Florence’s magical, signature skyline.
Somewhere to lay your head
After spending the day walk around this magical city, you will need somewhere to spend the night. Casa Howard Guest Houses is centrally located, within a few minutes walk from the train station, and is a great way to finish the day. The staff here are friendly and helpful, providing information on what to in the area. The rooms are comfortable and include complementary WiFi and satellite television. You will be delighted with this intimate and elegant premises.
Do you have any recommendations for things to do in Florence?