Walking Tour of Florence
Florence, Italy is the cradle of the Renaissance and, as such, probably has more masterpieces from this period concentrated in its Centro than anywhere else in the world. Fortunately, the city center is fairly compact, allowing visitors to see the best of the city in just a few days. My walking tour incorporates what I consider to be the top attractions of Florence. Because of the many stops, this walk should be stretched out to last at least two days since much of each day will be spent in museums.
Begin at the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore), a symbol of the city and one of the most beautiful churches in the world. The pink, green and white marble of the exterior is positively stunning. Brunnelleschi’s famous orange-tiled dome was the largest of its kind when built in 1463 AD. Across from the main entrance is the Baptistry, with its incredible East Doors designed by Ghiberti, may have been constructed in the 4th century AD. The Campanile was built by Giotto, another Renaissance heavy-weight.
From the Piazza del Duomo, take Via Ricasoli north to the Galleria dell’Accademia which contains Michelangelo’s orginal David sculpture, perhaps the most famous sculpture in the world. Order tickets ahead since this is one of Florence’s most popular attractions. After your visit, retrace your steps back toward the Duomo, then turn right onto Via de Pucci which leads to the Piazza de San Lorenzo and the San Lorenzo Church which contains the Medici Chapel and other designs by Michelangelo.
When finished, leave the church and turn left (west) from the piazza on Via del Canto di Medici, then left again on Via del Giglio. Continue to the Via dei Bianchi and take a right. Cross the busy area ahead to reach the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella which contains another well-known church, Santa Maria Novella. The distinctive green and white stripes and its unusual facade design simply entice visitors to enter the beautiful Gothic interior with its famous frescoes.
Exit and turn right onto Via Degli Avelli which changes names several times before it ends at Via della Spada. Turn left here and again at Via Degli Strozzi which brings you to the Piazza della Repubblica, site of the old Roman Forum. Continue straight across the square and walk eastward on Via del Speziali, then turn right on Via del Calzaiuoli which empties into Florence’s most famous square, Piazza della Signoria. This gathering place is renowned because of the scultures which decorate its southern section. Here visitors will find a copy of Michelangelo’s David, Cellini’s Perseus, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, and the distinctive Neptune fountain. Also on the square is Florence’s Town Hall, the Palazzo Vecchio which sits next to the Uffizi Gallery, one of the world’s most important museums (once again, be sure to get tickets prior to your arrival to avoid the long lines).
After the museum visit, continue southward beside the Uffizi to the river. Turn right and walk along the Arno admiring the distinctive Ponte Vecchio, a covered bridge over the river lined with shops.
If time permits, cross the bridge and walk uphill alongside the Via de’Guicciardini to the Pitti Palace and its grounds, the Boboli Gardens. Otherwise walk back along the northern bank of the river, eastward, then turn left at the next bridge, on the Via de’ Benci which leads to the Piazza di Santa Croce and Florence’s second most famous church, Santa Croce. The building resembles the Duomo but is noteworthy more for the people buried inside. Here are the tombs of famous Florentines like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Ghiberti. Rossini and a beautiful monument to Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy.
From here, walk westward from the piazza on Via dell’ Anguillara, then turn right on Via del Proconsolo. Another famous museum, the Bargello is on the right. It contains more Renaissance masterpieces such as, Donatello’s David, and Giambologna’s Mercury. After your visit turn right and this street will lead back to the rear of the Duomo, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and the starting point of the walk.