This article is about my now TOP Florence tourist attractions. Firenze, a Renaissance jewelry is a city I am totally obsessed with. So, I’ve already visit it three times and cannot wait to the next meeting with the Lorenzo the Magnificent‘s beloved city. Florence is an historic city that is very much alive and the present melts with the past in the most mesmerizing way.
It’s just unbelievable cozy to drink a Prosecco right near the Santa Maria del Fiore Dome. Each time I have the urge to pinch myself: it is real? It is here? It is so natural to just stay here surrounded by centuries of history?
Florence’s historical center is very compact, so you can totally explore it in one day. And also to take a nice lunch in a beautiful Osteria, to enjoy a Prosecco in a terrace (or an Aperol Spritz, or a nice Tuscan wine). This only in case you don’t enter the most important museums.
While in Italy, I absolutely love to stay hours in museums and churches and to visit some over and over again. Nevertheless, I am totally aware not everybody feels the same. Therefore, my advice will be to stay for two days, if you wanna visit the most important attractions and also to wander the streets, to do some shopping and to dine in the Italian style, meaning taking your time.
Florence is the city where Reinessence was born and spread around Italy and Europe. This was possible as the rulers sponsored the science progress and the artists (like all over Italy) ordering expensive works for the public buildings.
Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci were among the favorite artists of Lorenzo di Medici, the Magnificent. Lorenzo was a real Reinessence Prince: cultivated, very smart, patron of Arts, a very good diplomat and politician, powerful ruler and also one of the richest Italian Price, as Medici family were commercials. Very good ones.
The Whole Historic Center of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Since 1982
10. Piazzale Michelangelo – Michelangelo Square
Michelangelo Square is the place to see to enjoy the most beautiful panoramic view of Florence. Here there are some street vendors and also a copy of the statue David by Michelangelo (the original is in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which can also be visited). The road to the top is good to be done on foot, is special.
Do: walk to the Top, as the journey is as beautiful as the view. About 30 minutes from Ponte Vecchio, by foot.
9 Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce churches
Placed side by side, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are two Gothic masterpieces.
Santa Maria Novella
Santa Maria Novella is the church of the Dominican monks. Its building started in 1246 and was completed more than a century later. It is the way they do it back then: one started to build something and was more probably that not even his grandchildren will see it finished. They had vision and patience and well, love to do something, to dedicate to. Anyway, they were good in doing these masterpieces, as many last through centuries, or millennia, like Santa Sofia, first built in 325 in Constantinople, then final 537, so almost 1500 years and you still can visit it and is unbelievable.
Do: enjoy the silence and the peace of this place and admire the 600 years old frescoes.
Santa Croce is the church of Franciscans monks order. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world and the building of the actual basilica started in 1294. The plan of the church reproduce an Egyptian cross. The church is splendid, adorned with Giotto frescoes. It is the place where are buried many much beloved sons of the Duchy of Florence, as here rest many sons loved the city like Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Niccolo Machiavelli, the composer Rossini (Il barbiere di Siviglia, L’italiana in Algeri, Otello etc) and the philosopher Gentile.
8 San Lorenzo Basilica and Laurenziana Library
San Lorenzo Basilica is the oldest church in Florence, dating back in 393. The present form is from the fifteenth century when the Di Medici family transformed it completely. San Lorenzo was for long time Firenze’s Cathedral and contains many works by Donatello, who is buried in the basilica.
Near the church is Medicea Laurenziana Library, founded by Pope Clement VII (a Medici, 1478-1534). The Medici library houses over 15,000 manuscripts that belonged to the family. Is open to the public, yet the hours change all the time, so you must check prior to your visit.
7 Medici Family Pharmacy – Santa Maria Novella
Although recently celebrated 400 years of history, the pharmacy is much older, related to the Dominicans, who have started to prepare various potions in 1221. Then became famous and in 1612 was opened to the public under the patronage of Medici family.
You may have seen this place: in films such as Hannibal with Antony Hopkins and Casyno Royale (James Bond series). As you step in, prepare to be amazed by the beauty of this place and also its scents. All the products are craft made, essential oils, renewed worldwide for the quality. I also love the packaging: stylized that looks like a few hundred years.
Caterina de Medici and Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella S. P. A.
Meaning “The Workshop of Perfumery and Pharmacy Santa Maria Novella”. Is the place where the infamous Catherine de Medici purchased her famous bottles of poison. She was very much feared and she is believed to have poisoned so many, including Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre, the mother of Henry the IV, with the poison placed inside some gloves. Queen Catherine de Medici was the ones behind the Night of St. Bartholomew’s, one of the bloodiest events in France History, when 5000 – 30 000 Huguenots around France were massacred.
Do: buy perfumes, teas, mints, liqueurs, shampoos, creams, water flowers, soaps, fragrances and just about anything related to the care and pampering.
Where? Next to the Santa Maria Novella Central Station. See more on Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy website.
6 Piazza della Signoria and The Old Palace
Piazza della Signoria is a beautiful medieval square in the Florence’s center. The place is very animated, you can always find lots of people in here. The Old Palace was for seven centuries the city administration office and still serves as the seat of the City Council, but can be visited.
Do: admire the beautiful statues in front of the Old palace and take a drink at Rivore, a beautiful coffee shop.
5 The Old Bridge – Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio, over Arno river is one of Florence most admired and loved symbols. This bridge is unique and was built in 1345. Yet, it is not the first bridge built in this exact place: there were bridges here even in the time of Etruscan’s (last Etruscan’s cities were absorbed by the Romans around 100 BC).
So The Old Bridge is in the narrowest point of Arno river, that cross the city. Starting 1345 some stores were opened in here, at the beginning being fish merchants, butchers, tanners. Starting 1593 only the jewelers were allowed in here and so is today. Benvenuto Cellini is only one of the famous Florentine goldsmiths. Of course everything in here is very expensive, yet the finest quality.
4 Pitti Palace- Palazzo Pitti and its Art Gallery and Gardens
Pitti Palace is preferred by many, over Medici palace. It is more fancy, you have more things to see. It is beautiful, majestic and the Boboli Gardens are amazing. This palace was the residence of Medici family starting 1540. Is the place where Maria di Medici was born in 1575. She was the wife of Henric IV , Queen of France and Regent after Henric died poisoned (allegedly by her, as Henric mistress Gabrielle d’Estrées was overshadowing her, being seen as the true Queen of France). So, Mary was Regent till her son, Ludovic XIII was Major yet kept the power some time after he was crowned.
Here you can admire many Rafael paintings and also Tizian, Rubens, Tintoretto and Caravaggio.
3. Palazzo Medici Riccardi – Palace
Medici-Riccardi palace was the residence of Medici family. They ruled Firenze for over three centuries, gave mankind two Paps and queens and kings to France. They were patrons to Arts, to Science. And this is the place where all this started. The palace was built between 1444 – 1462 for Cosimo de Medici (father of Lorenzo the Magnificent and first powerful Medici).
I love this palace as it is rough, majestic, strong, ageless. The palace impress with its thick walls and keeps between its walls some of the powerful vibes of the past.
Here you can admire the Chapel of the Magi, with the beautiful frescoes depicting Lorenzo the Magnificent and its brother, Cosimo Giuliano.
2. Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery is one of the TOP galleries, famous worldwide. You will see here the most beautiful Reinessence masterpieces and others from different centuries. I”ll just say that are paintings of the titans like Raphael, Botticelli, Tiziano, Leonardo, Michalangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt van Dyk, Rubens. And more.
To avoid the ques (in the summer you can even spend a few hours queuing) book online tickets in advance. The Galleries are closed on Mondays.
Do: The gallery itself is enough to have a visit in Firenze. Out of the season you don’t need to book in advance and is the best time to visit Uffizi, as there are so few others around. You can take your time. Once, in the middle of November, I had the impression that the Galleries are mine. Priceless.
1. Florence Cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore – Il Duomo di Firenze
Santa Maria del Fiore is a Gothic-Roman XII-XIV centuries Cathedral, located in Piazza del Duomo. Part of the complex is also the Baptistery ( in front of the cathedral is the oldest building of Florence) with the Gates of Paradise and Giotto’s Campanile (Campanile – the Bell tower). The beautiful and enormous dome (114,5 meters, 375,7 feet) was built by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The building itself is huge: 8 300 sqm/ 89 340 square feet. It is the fourth cathedral of Europe in terms of its size, its construction beginning in 1296 and was completed in 1436. I developed an attachment toward this basilica. Each time I am here I feel the same astonishment and joy. I feel like I’ve been here before.
Do: stop for a treat in a terrace near the Cathedral.
Climb on top of the Dome, climbing 463 stairs, as there is no elevator and admire Florence from above.
If you have time, you can also visit Orsanmichele, Bargello National Museum, Galleria dell’Accademia and so many more, there are around 70 museums in Florence alone. Yep, that’s true.
Then, maybe you are interested to purchase the Florence card, as they say 72 hours, 72 Museums, 72 euros.