FIRENZE! (& the top 10 things to do there)
Florence, Florence, Florence!
This city is famous world-wide a lot of the best, most wonderful things in life. Here are just a few:
*Food (namely infamous steaks and gelato!)
But of course, there's so much to see and do it would take weeks to see it all. (Which is why living in Italy for a few weeks as an English nanny is the best way to see everything it but not everyone always has that luxury.)
To simplify it for you, I'll tell you the Top Ten Things to Do and See in Florence.
Here's a map so you can plan your journey in the best way possible. Just because of the long lines to museums and the way they can complicate your trip, (which I've explained previously) I suggest seeing the David first. Then you can follow the list and connect the dots so you use your time in the most efficient way.
Of course, you can do it in whatever order you'd like. Also, your agenda might change based on where you're staying and how long you'll be visiting. So use this guide but just as that, a guide. Feel free to change it as you see fit :)
Top Ten Things to Do and See in Florence
Map is courtesy of Orangesmile.com, a very helpful website full of city maps. I circled the spots on my list so those are added.
1. The David at the Galleria dell'Accademia.
The Accademia is open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm. This means it is CLOSED on Mondays. For more info about the museum, its hours, or to book tickets, click here.
Luckily, the museum is not far from the Duomo. Which leads me to my number 2...
Photo credit: Diana May (my sister-in-law
who was with us). For more of her work,
check out her blog here!
2. The Duomo
This is the dome part of Florence's main cathedral (see number 3).
Although its construction was finished in 1436, it's still the "largest brick dome ever constructed" (Wikipedia).
Let's just say Filippo Brunelleschi wasn't just an artistic genius -- he was an engineering whiz too.
Not only is this whole thing beautiful to look at, but getting to the top of it is an adventure. (If you're claustrophobic, I wouldn't recommend it.) The staircase is narrow and winding and there are usually many people in front of you and behind. Check out the picture to give you an idea.
But if you can make it up, the view from the top -- not to mention the close-up view of the paintings on the dome's ceiling -- is absolutely spectacular. Words don't do it justice.
3. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (or "Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers" aka Florence Cathedral)
The cathedral and the bapitstery (see number 4) are both located in the Piazza di Duomo.
Entrance to the cathedral is free but be sure that you are dressed appropriately. This means no short shorts and your shoulders must be covered.
I remember studying this cathedral in Art History and being amazed at how people could build something so large and magnificent such a long ago. And now, I can say that seeing the cathedral in person did not disappoint.
4. Baptistery of St. John
This is one of my favorite parts of Florence because of the beautiful Gates of Paradise and their history.
So back in the day (1401 to be exact), there was a big competition for the commission of designing the baptistery's doors.
After a preliminary round, a jury chose seven artists as semifinalists. Some of these were Donatello, Filippo Brunelleschi (see number 2), and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Ghiberti ended up winning the commission which was pretty big deal since he was only 21.
By the time he was done with the doors, he was twice as old as when he started. The panels are New Testament scenes from the life of Christ. The detail on each one is spectacular. I suggest if you're heading to see the David early in the morning and the baptistery is on the way, pause to get a good look since later in the day, crowds can block you from getting a nice close-up view of the doors.
5. Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)
Located in the Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio is pretty cool. It's the city's town hall and has a copy of Michelangelo's David in front of it.
The inside holds a lot of art, but not a lot of it is super well known. I think it's worth a peek inside but not worth the time to see everything inside the building (unless you're a major art buff and you can't get enough of that stuff).
The fountain to the left of the building is also worth a mention; it's called The Fountain of Neptune and is the work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati.
Despite the artistic effort that went into creating the fountain, Florentines apprently didn't
appreciate it very much, calling it
"the white giant" and even using it as Photo credit: Georges Jansoone
a place to wash laundry in the late
6. Loggia dei Lanzi
Right between Palazzo Vecchio (see number 5) and the Uffizi Gallery (see number 8) is the Loggia dei Lanzi. It's the covered gallery with many famous statues in it.
As we were looking at the amazing works of art such as Hercules Slaying a Centaur by Giambologna (this was a few weeks before), my mom said to me, "But these aren't the REAL statues. They've got to be replicas to be just out here and not in a museum."
I told her that no, the statues we were looking at are the original things! Needless to say, we had to ask the guard there before she believed me.
They are the real deal.
My absolute favorite is Rape of the Sabine women (pictured below). In my book, Giambologna is up in the ranks of Michelangelo!
7. Il Gato e La Volpe
By now, you're probably starving. Which means it's time for Il Gato e La Volpe! Aka The Cat and the Fox. This trattoria (like a restaurante, but a little cheaper, and more home cooking feel) was recommended to me by a local friend from Pisa.
Honestly, every single one of his
recommendations turned out AMAZING so I figured this one would be pretty good too. But I was wrong. It was absolutely delicious and even better than I expected!! Just go there and try it. My favorites were the calzones and the gnocchi but it's always fun to experiment, right?
8. The Uffizi Gallery
Sidenote: The Alcoves
One of the best parts about the world-famous museum called the Uffizi is actually something you see before you even enter the doors. The alcoves lining the street the outside of the Uffizi are super awesome and they highlight some of the most famous Italians. Ranging from brilliant minds like Da Vinci to Ghiberti, the alcoves are fun to look at as you walk by. Plus here's fun fact: Where did America get its name?? You guessed it! Amerigo Vespucci, picture above and to the left.
The Uffizi is open Tuesday through Sunday, 8:15 am – 6:50 pm. This means it is CLOSED on Mondays. For more information about this incredible museum, check out the official website here.
I'm not sure if it's fair to put this on this list...the Uffizi is so amazing that you would need MANY hours to see everything and appreciate it without rushing. So although it's on this list that is ideally done in a day, I would give the Uffizi its own day :)
Unless however, you're not really into art.
And for my favorite pieces which are currently on display in the Uffizi, check out the list here.
9. Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge)
This is one of the most famous attractions in Florence.
The famous bridge spans over the Arno River and is known for having shops built along it. A long time ago, butchers once occupied these shops but today, the bridge's shops are generally jewelry shops.
Another interesting thing about Ponte Vecchio is the many padlocks that adorn the railings. This tradition is pretty recent for the old bridge; lovers write their names on the padlock, lock it to the bridge, and then throw the key into the river.
Although these padlocks are fun to look at, I wouldn't suggest adding any to the bridge. Not only is it not your property and you can get a hefty fine (€160!), but each year, thousands of these locks have to be removed due to the added weight on the bridge and its structures.
The statue of Benvenuto Cellini is
home to many of these lovers' padlocks.
10. Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square)
This spot is located on the other side of the Arno. From the square, you have a beautiful view of the entire of city of Florence, the Arno, old walls, and countryside of Tuscany.
This picture is from partway up the steep path to the Piazza.
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