5 Things to do in Florence
Florence, Italy, needs to be on your travel bucket list. This beautiful city was the birthplace of the Renaissance, which means that it is literally full of brilliant art and architecture. One thing I love about Florence is that it’s small enough that if you stay near the city center, everything you could want to see is within an easy walking distance of your accommodations. While there’s enough to see and do to keep you quite busy for several days, here are five of my don’t-miss things to do in Florence, Italy.
5-Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)
The Duomo’s enormous red tile dome dominates the skyline of any photo you see of Florence, it’s the third largest church in Europe and it's not to be missed. You can climb up into the dome, but you must reserve a time to go. Your Duomo ticket (book online through the official Duomo website will get you into all of the Duomo monuments (cupola, bell tower, baptistery, Duomo museum and the Santa Reparata crypt) one time each over 72 hours from the time you first use your ticket. Entrance to the cathedral itself is always free.
One of the highlights of any visit to the Duomo is the museum across the street from the eastern (dome) end of the cathedral. The Opera Duomo Museum houses original sculptures and decoration from the cathedral and bell tower plus Ghiberti’s celebrated baptistery doors and a late Michelangelo Pieta.
Michaelangelo’s David is arguably one of the most well-known and celebrated sculptures in history. Do not miss your chance to see it in person at the Galleria dell’Accademia on your visit to Florence. This small art museum also holds Michelangelo’s four unfinished sculptures popularly known as the Prisoners.
To see these masterworks of sculpture with minimal crowding, book your ticket for the museum for the first timed entry of the day and book well in advance of your trip if possible. David is the one of the most-viewed pieces of art in the world, and timed entry tickets often sell out in advance.
The Ponte Vecchio (or Old Bridge) is one of the most iconic of Florence’s landmarks and dates from the mid-14th century. The bridge spans the Arno River and was once lined with butcher shops and tanneries, but is now lined with gold and jewelry shops. The Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that survived the German retreat during World War II, though they did make it unpassable for the pursuing allies. The Corridoio Vasariano, a long passageway which connects the Ufizzi (the art museum was once home to the Medici offices, hence the name) to the Pitti Palace, runs above the shops on the bridge.
2-Santa Croce and the leather school
This 13th-century church is the burial site of the great Michelangelo as well as Galileo Galilei, composer Giacomo Rossini and philosopher Machiavelli. Inside the church you can also find a memorial to Dante, though the Florentine poet is not buried there (since he was exiled from Florence). At Santa Croce keep a lookout for a plate on the wall, high up off the floor, showing the high-water mark from the devastating 1966 flood that covered the entirety of the historical center of Florence.
Behind Santa Croce you will find Scuola del Cuoi (the leather school) founded by the Franciscan friars of Santa Croce. The school still operates today, and there you can buy some of the finely made leather jackets, bags and accessories Florence is famous for. You can even watch some of the artisans at work on their creations.
The large, indoor Mercato Centrale (Central Market) resides in a 19th-century (brand new by Florence standards!) iron and glass building. The market is open late every day. You can dine in on bread and cheese, pizza, pasta, seafood, lampredotto (cow’s stomach), vegan/vegetarian dishes or find everything you need to assemble and carry out a spectacular picnic.