Travellers to Europe are in for a treat! It is home to cities that boast beauty, culture and must-see attractions. Florence is no different. See our top ten Florentine attractions for your next Italian holiday, as suggested by Tiziana, our expert local guide in Florence, Tuscany. Ready to get inspired for an Italian adventure? Prego, let’s go!
Piazzale Michelangelo is a lookout point from where you can see all of Florence. It was built by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi. It formed part of the rebuilding of the city walls in 1869. The terrace was meant to hold copies of Michelangelo’s works. It houses a bronze copy of the David. However, it never became the art destination its architect imagined. Instead, it was changed into an open space. Residents and visitors now go there to enjoy the view above Florence. The Piazzale Michelangelo is open daily between 09:30 and 13:00, and 15:00 and 19:00. Make sure to add it to your trip as admission is free. It can be reached by public transport or via walking routes.
Florence Cathedral (known in Italian as ll Duomo di Firenze) is officially known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). It is the main church in Florence and the famous dome was designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Construction began in 1296 and was only completed in 1436! Feeling brave? Climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome. Explore inside the cathedral and dome and you’ll see the famous art piece ‘The Last Judgement’ by artist Giorgio Vasari. There are also other attractions around the Piazza del Duomo to see including the Baptistery. The Muse dell ‘Opera Del Duomo is also in the area and still has many of the original statues from the cathedral. They are all must-sees!
The Centro Storico is the historical area between the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. If you love the idea of exploring Florence on foot, this is the place to be. The area is home to many of Florence’s main attractions including the Duomo, the Santa Croce and the Uffizi Gallery where you can see incredible Renaissance artworks.
The Piazza della Repubblica is one of the main squares in Florence. It is home to the Column of Abundance which carries the statue of Abbondanza (Abundance) on top of it. This column marks the exact centre of the city since Roman times. The area has been renovated a few times since the Middle Ages. It is a great spot to do souvenir shopping and view some street shows. You can watch the shows after sunset from the terrace of one of the cafes that line the square.
Did you know? The historical centre of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of Piazza Vecchio. This area has been an important backdrop to many historical moments since the 14th century. You’ll see many political sculptures such as Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus (1534), Nettuno (1575) and Giambologna’s statue of Duke Cosimo I (1595).
The Palazzo Vecchio is also Florence’s historic city hall. It was built on the ruins of a theatre from the times of the Roman Empire! You could easily spend an entire day exploring the area.
Italy’s most visited museum is situated right next to the Palazzo Vecchio. It holds a big collection of works from the Italian Renaissance period. Art lovers can look forward to works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and more. Interestingly, the Uffizi Gallery was not originally built as a museum. ‘Uffizi’ means offices in Italian. The building was intended to host the magistrates, a theatre and offices. This explains the unusual layout.
Travel tip: Expect long queues when you visit the Uffizi. Visitors are only allowed inside in small groups. This is so the art is safe and the mood is not disturbed. You can buy tickets online so you can skip the queue a little.
The famous ‘Old Bridge’ is located right in the centre of Florence. The current bridge has stood here since 1350 and is one of the city’s best-loved icons. It’s also the fifth structure built since the time of the Ancient Romans. Today the bridge is known for the jewellery shops and goldsmiths. They line both sides of the bridge as well as the Vasari Corridor. The corridor was built to allow the Medici family passage between the Palazzo Pitti and the Palazzo Vecchio.
Did you know? The 46 shops on the bridge used to be rented out by the government to cover their building costs. Many shops went to Butchers however this was changed when it became too smelly and impacted the area’s scenery.
The Accademia Gallery is at the top of the bucket list of every Renaissance art lover! It is home to some of Michelangelo’s most famous sculptures. These include the original David, St Matthew and Prisoners (also known as Slaves). There’s also a new collection of musical instruments that includes masterpieces by Bartolomeo Cristofori (the inventor of the piano).
The Santa Maria Novella Church is a sight to behold! It is one of the most important Gothic churches in the entire Tuscan region. It houses works of art, which includes Masaccio’s Trinità, Ghirlandaio’s Tornabuoni Chapel – the main chapel in the church.
The Basilica of Santa Croce is the main Franciscan church in Florence. Many Florentines have been buried here. These include Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei. It is home to some of Donatello’s work, one of his famous limestone works called Annunciation. Keep an eye out for the marble added in 1863.
Travel tip: See if you can make the annual soccer game played in costume on the Piazza Santa Croce. It’s an experience not to miss!
The San Lorenzo area in Florence is home to many attractions. Make a day of it and visit the Church of San Lorenzo and Biblioteca Laurenziana. Add the Medici chapels and the Mercato Centrale to your trip. The Mercato Centrale is a bustling market where you can rub shoulders with the locals. You can also enjoy some Florentine street food and shop affordable souvenirs.
These are just a few of the attractions that make Florence one of Italy’s best travel destinations! See them all on your next trip to Europe. Discover more of Italy on an exciting Expat Explore Italy Express rail tour! You’ll see the highlights of this incredible country on leisurely train trips between destinations. Did you miss your favourite must-see attraction in Florence? Share it with us in the comments!