The Highlights of Florence

the highlights of florence

Take a hike: Cross the river Arno and head up hill toward Piazzale Michelangelo for fantastic views of the river and the Duomo. Get there just before sunset and snag a table at one of the outdoor cafes to enjoy an aperitivo al fresco while you watch twilight fall over the beautiful Tuscan city

Go to church: Visit Florence’s Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore topped with the landmark red Duomo built by Brunelleschi and St John’s Baptistery whose magnificent mosaic ceiling depicts scenes from the life of Jesus. Also, don’t miss Ghiberti’s ‘Gates of Paradise’ bronze relief sculpted doors on the east side of the building. Though they have been replaced with replicas, they are still just as stunning. Your entrance ticket also allows you to climb up Giotto’s Bell Tower for 360 degree views of the city skyline within 24 hours of purchase.

Eat with the locals: Escape the tourist trap cafes and head to the green metal roofed Mercato Centrale to wander the first floor shops piled high with bread and confectionary, fresh fish, fried food and rissoles, fruit and vegetables, meats and salamis, buffalo mozzarella, cheeses, chocolate and ice cream, fresh pasta, wines, lampredotto and sandwiches.

Get outdoors: Pack a picnic from goods you picked up at the Mercado and head across the river to wander the grounds of Boboli Gardens (open until 730pm in the summer, €7 entrance fee).

Admire some art: Florence is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance so art abounds here. Marvel at the wonder that is Michelangelo’s David, check out Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery, and the gallery of statues and the gorgeous fleur de lis painted and gilded ceilings of Palazzo Vecchio. For a one of a kind experience, book a tour that allows you access to the Vasari Corridor, the private elevated enclosed passageway built above the Ponte Vecchio, which now houses a unique collection of self portraits by some of the most famous masters of painting of the 16th to the 20th century.

Grab a slice: Of pizza of course! Dig into the thick piping hot cheesy slices at the pizzeria with no discernible name to the left of the Swatch store across from the Baptistery. A small staircase to the left leads down to some indoor seating but a better option is to get your slices to go and eat them out in the Piazza San Giovanni while you people watch.

Go shopping: Hit up the myriad of leather good shops that run along Borgo S. Jacopo and the jewelry shops that line the span of Ponte Vecchio for a unique souvenir.