Florence, the “Renaissance City,” is packed with attractions for the tourist, which is why it is such as popular destination. It is considered the capital of Tuscany, and, besides the wealth of activities in the city, provides a convenient base of operations for an exploration of the entire region. It is also located between Rome and Venice, and also between Rome and Milan, so is normally included in many Italian itineraries. The following are my favorite things to do in and around this great city.
1. Admire Michelangelo’s David — A visit to the Galleria dell’ Academia, where the incredible sculpture of David is displayed, is a required stop for any visitor to this city. The sculpture is perhaps the most famous in the world, and captures the genius of this amazing artist.
2. Visit the Duomo — Florence’s cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Its characteristic green, pink, and white marble exterior is positively breathtaking. The Bruneleschi is a symbol of the city and dominates the familiar skyline.
3. Shop on the Ponte Vecchio — This characteristic covered bridge over the Arno River is lined with shops selling expensive leather goods and jewelry.
4. Take a Walk Through the Boboli Gardens — The gardens are adjacent to the Pitti Palace, across the river from the city center, and provide welcome relief from the crowds of tourists. Don’t expect flowers here, but there are numerous paths and plenty of shade, as well as many scultures to appreciate.
5. Get Nostalgic at the Santa Croce Church — This impressive church is best known as the final resting place for many of Florence’s and the world’s greatest citizens, such as, Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and many others.
6. Visit the Uffizi Gallery — Here is one of the world’s greatest art museums, once the collection of the Medici family. Artists represented include Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Giotto, and numerous others.
7. Stop and Relax in the Piazza della Signoria — This square is one of the most popular in all of Florence. Besides the usual sidewalk cafes, there is a veritable sculpure garden of significant art, including a copy of Michelangelo’s David, the Rape of the Sabine Women, by Giambologna, and Perseus, by Cellini.
8. Look Closely at Ghiberti’s Baptistry Doors — These bronze doors, opposite the Duomo, depict Biblical scenes, such as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden.
9. Visit Santa Maria Novella Church — The church dates to approximately 1300 AD and is easily recognized because of its distinctive architecture and striped exterior. The interior is also worth some time.
10. Admire the View from Piazza Michelangelo — South of the city lies this popular square, famous because it contains another copy of the David, and also for the great views of the city.
11. Take a Side Trip to San Gimignano — An adorable village, south of Florence, San Gimignano is famous for its many towers, once symbols of stature and wealth in the community.
12. Follow the Wine Route Through Chianti — The area just south of Florence is the home of Chianti, one of the most famous of the Italian wines. Many villages and wineries can be seen along the route.
13. Excursion to Lucca — This is another characteristic and charming Tuscan village. It lies west of Florence and can be combined with a visit to Pisa, which is situated further west, near the coast.
14. Take in a Horse Race at Siena — Once one of the most powerful city-states in Italy, this lovely hilltop city hosts the Palio, a horse race around the city’s beautiful central square, Piazza del Campo. But even if you cannot be here for the race, this town makes a wonderful stopover between Florence and Rome.
15. Check Out San Lorenzo Church — This is another of Florence’s venerable religious establishments. It sits to the northwest of the Duomo.
16. Have Gelato — Italy’s delicious ice cream is available at many spots in town and must be experienced while here in Florence.