Florence's Top Ten Attractions
Florence, “the cradle of Renaissance”, is nestled in the valley of the Arno River, squeezed between the hills that made it famous. If its centre is full of works of art and buildings of great historical and architectural value, covering a period of time ranging from the early Middle Ages to the late twentieth century, the surrounding area is no different. The beauty of the landscape is characterised by villas, churches, monasteries and picturesque small towns.
But Florence is not just about the art, the centre is a paradise for shopping and entertainment with uniquely Italian boutiques, flavoursome cafes and a lively outdoor market. And as the evening draws in let’s not forget the numerous nightclubs, discos, American bars and meeting places including Florence’s very own Hard Rock Café; try the famous Negroni cocktail which was created in Florence about 100 years ago!
Let’s find out a top ten Florence attractions, chosen by a genuine local Florentine!
1- Duomo, Battistero and Torre di Giotto
The very first thing you see as soon as you arrive in Florence is its Duomo (cathedral). Its Neo Gothic exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble is incredibly detailed and simply breathtaking. In 1334 Giotto created a bell-tower in near perfect symphony with the Cathedral and the square's town space.
It offers spectacular views of Florence from the top, but beware there are no lifts and you must climb 414 steps to the summit of the Campanile. But it is surely worth it!
The Baptistery contains a reproduction of the famous golden “Gate of Paradise” by Ghiberti, with its stunningly beautiful golden doors.
2- Piazza della Signoria
This famous square has been the heart of Florence for centuries, in the shadow of the Palazzo Vecchio, built in 1299 by Arnolfo di Cambio, which was the residence of the “Signoria” from the XV century and then from 1540 became the Medici family home. Several beautiful statues from the Renaissance era decorate the Piazza della Signoria and it is next to the Uffizi Gallery.
3- Uffizi Gallery
The most famous museum in Florence, where you can breathe the Renaissance spirit and admire the Venus of Botticelli and many other masterpieces of Florentine art.
4- Santa Croce
Built in the end of the 13th century, the Gothic Church of Santa Croce contains the tombs of famous Florentines, such as Galileo and Michelangelo.
5- Piazzale Michelangelo
High above the city is Piazzale Michelangelo, located on a hill just south of the River Arno and the historic centre, and it offers a magnificent panoramic view of the city. The square contains a copy of Michelangelo's David statue as a tribute to one of Florence’s most important artists.
A very romantic place!
6- San Miniato al Monte is a basilica in Florence, central Italy, standing atop one of the highest points in the city, very close to Piazzale Michelangelo. It has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany and one of the most beautiful churches in Italy.
St. Miniato was renowned as the first evangeliser and Christian martyr in Florence. In about 250, he arrived in Florence and took up life as a hermit. He became a victim of the persecutions of the Emperor Decius and was beheaded. Legend says that, after his decapitation, he picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders and went to die in the cave on Monte alle Croci, which is now the location of the oratory and the church.
7- The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence's first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II). The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold jewelry and from the middle of the bridge you also have great views along the Arno River, views which are particularly stunning at sunset.
8- Piazza Santo Spirito
Piazza Santo Spirito is named after the Santo Spirito church, but it should derive its name from the spirited cafés and markets that call this square home. Located on the Oltrarno (across the Arno) side of Florence, Piazza Santo Spirito is favored by Florentines because of its daily food market, which is open from 8am to 2pm, and its relatively non-touristy bars, restaurants, and cafés.
9- Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti, connected to the Boboli Gardens, has been continually enhanced and expanded over the centuries becoming one of the most important artistic complexes in the city and now hosting eight of Florence’s richest museums, namely the Galleria Palatina, the Monumental Apartments, the Museo degli Argenti, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Museum of historic Berlin, the Porcelain Museum and the Carriage Museum.
10- Quartiere di San Frediano
In the old quarter of San Frediano where small streets open hungrily to reveal beautiful sixteenth-century palaces and literally dozens of Florence’s finest antique shops; and historic taverns and small restaurants which are always ready to serve you a helping of the famous ribollita, followed by a tender steak Fiorentina accompanied by a hearty glass of Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino.