I’ve been to Florence twice. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My first trip there was in 2006, and I was blown away by the small streets, the impressive buildings, the great food, and of course, the gelato. I returned this year and found Florence just as beautiful. I wandered around parts I missed the first time and seriously pondered whether or not Florence might just be the most beautiful city on Earth.
For me, Florence is like stepping back in time. I feel like I’m in the 1500s every time I walk through the streets. Like I’ll bump into Da Vinci as I turn the next corner. Moreover, if you love art, which I do, the number of galleries here will keep you busy for weeks, though the biggest draws are the David and the Uffizi.
One of my favorite aspects of Florence is the food. I got to go on a market tour and learn about the food. One of my Twitter followers, Judy, runs a market tour in Florence and invited me along on her tour. As a foodie, I couldn’t resist. Wandering around the markets and learning about local vegetables, meats, and wines gave me an even bigger appreciation for Florence. I always knew this area of Italy was food oriented, but actually learning the details and the history was amazing. If you are in Florence, I would recommend her market tour.
Additionally, I love all the good gelato in Florence. I must snack three or four times a day on gelato. My favorite place is near the Duomo. It’s called Il Grandica Gelatrio. Try the apple — it’s delicious!
Yet there is more to Florence than just food (though that can be a lot of Florence). After you filled your stomach to capacity, here are some other things to do:
- The David: The David is one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. It is a lot bigger and more detailed than you think it would be. There aren’t many must-sees in the world but this is one. I saw it twice. It’s located in the Galleria Dell’Academia, where you can see many other sculptures by Michelangelo.
- Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio: This is Florence’s most famous square, in the heart of the historic center, with an open-air sculpture exhibit. It’s right near the Uffizi.
- Il Duomo: One of Florence’s most popular sites is the Duomo cathedral. This huge Gothic structure was begun in 1296. It’s one of the most popular churches in Italy. The inside is massive and very ornate. However, the real highlight is walking up to the roof (463 steps to the top). From there, you get the most panoramic view of Florence and its iconic red roofs.
- The Baptistery: The Baptistery of John the Baptist is one of Florence’s oldest buildings. It’s a real treat for architecture lovers and those who like religious history.
- Ponte Vecchio: The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, is Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only one surviving from Florence’s medieval days. The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry.
- Santa Croce: Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante. It’s an interesting thing to see if you have seen everything else.
- Galleria de Uffizi: The Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art. The most famous painting here is “The Birth of Venus,” and it draws the biggest crowd. Most of the art here is early Renaissance religious art, but toward the end of the gallery, there are some portraits and Dutch work. Buy tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines.
- The Piazzale Michelangelo: Head to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view of the city. It’s a good hike up a hill, but the view is absolutely stunning and you don’t need to pay for it like you do when going up the Duomo.
- Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace: Across the Ponte Vecchio is the Giardino di Boboli, a huge park on a hillside in the middle of Florence behind the Pitti Palace. Here you’ll find beautiful gardens and fountains and a great view of Florence. If you are looking to avoid the lines at the Doumo, this is a good alternative. There is also Pitti Palace, Florence’s largest palazzo, which once belonged to the Medici family.
Florence is one of the most popular destinations in Italy. The name sells itself. Most people have no idea what to do in Florence, but when they tell you about Italy, they always tell you about Florence. Florence brings to mind art, food, and wine. And I can tell you that it is a city worth spending a Saturday in. In fact, it’s a city worth spending a few Saturdays in. Even if people don’t love Florence as much as I do, no one ever walks away disappointed.