Florence

“Architectural Feats, Renaissance Art, and Designer Chic.” - Reviewed by Deborah

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  • Lisa says: “People-watching at its finest outside the Duomo, aperitivo in hand, taking a rest from boutique shopping.”
  • Miguel says: “Even a slice of pizza in Florence has a certain air of sophistication. Must try the truffle gnocchi or steak florentine.
  • Deb says: “Take a padlock to Ponte Vecchio and chain it to the bridge’s railings while declaring undying love to your better half – just don’t get caught!”

Florence, or Firenze as she’s known in Italy, might be small, but she’s mighty fine and packed from piazza to pizza-stand with art, fashion, culture, history and plenty to satisfy even the most experienced taste buds. Spend more than a day here and you will be left in no doubt as to why it’s claimed that Florence ushered Italy (and Europe) out of the dark ages and into the renaissance.

The city’s attraction density in the pedestrian Centro Storico is through the roof and there are few destinations that could boast a better ratio of renaissance masterpieces per square meter. Whether you spend just a few days for a superficial yet inspiring overview of the city’s charms or a few weeks to partake in cooking courses, Italian language lessons or art history classes, Florence is sure to win your heart and remain on your list of places you want to see again before meeting your maker.

With or without a private guide or even a guidebook, you will stumble upon most of the city’s top hotspots without walking more than 15 minutes radiating from Filippo Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Even if you were to try to get lost (let’s say to miss your flight and stay a bit longer), it is nigh impossible as the iconic russet shades of Florence Cathedral’s dome will help you find your bearings.

Florence being a western mecca for culture seekers, you can be sure that any visit during the summer months or on weekends will be accompanied by more than a few like-minded souls, many of whom snake somewhat bewilderedly though the destination following a rather weary guide on a pit-stop “10 days, 10 cities” tour of Europe (we kid you not!).

The best way to live, breathe and gorge Florence is to spend at least three nights or more in the area. This gives you time to structure your days to arrive to the historic centre before 11am in the morning to take photos ahead of the crowds and stay later in the afternoon for a cheeky aperitivo and late dinner. Another great tip is to make reservations at the museums or buy a museum pass to save you the long lines in the midday sun.

LOCATION

  • Tuscany, central Italy
  • Florence airport is about 20 minutes from the centre of Florence
  • 15 minutes from Tuscany’s multiple wine regions
  • Pisa and Lucca about 1 hour 30 minutes

EXPERIENCES

Sightseeing – This city is a living museum with piazzas, open-air sculpture galleries and monuments around every corner. With or without a guide, sightseeing is easy on foot. Must-see sights include:

  • Florence Cathedral
  • Florence Baptistery
  • Ponte Vecchio (bridge)
  • Palazzo Vecchio
  • Piazzale Michelangelo

Museums – You need a month of Sundays to enjoy all the museums in Florence. Few cities pack so much art into such a small space. Top picks are:

  • The Uffizi Gallery (Byzantine and Renaissance art)
  • Galleria dell’ Accademia (For Michelangelo’s original David)
  • Museo di Storia della Scienza (Science Museum)
  • Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Opera and Theatre – For Opera, concerts and theatre, you won’t be disappointed; Florence has a number of venues, and music lovers should certainly consider visiting from the end of April through June for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino music festival.

Walking and Cycling Tours – The whole city is easily walkable or you can rent bicycles and join a tour.  There is no shortage of expert polyglot guides.

Gastronomy – Discover the many local and regional dishes with hundreds of restaurants to suit every taste and budget.

Wine Tastings – As Tuscany’s capital, you will be spoiled for choice for wine tasting tours, with options for day tours to Chianti, Montepulciano and Montalcino.

Shopping – Boutiques and specialty shops selling everything from local designer clothing and vintage shoes to unique Italian commodities such as leather items, silk ties, ceramics, handmade stationery and jewellery.