Florence can be considered a huge open air museum with no entry fee, where you don’t always have to purchase a ticket to enjoy the artistic masterpieces of the great Masters of the past and priceless works. All you need to do is just around to be impressed by the beauty of the city and its richness.
Florence offers a large artistic and cultural panorama with many museums, squares, gardens, buildings, streets which should be present in your itinerary discovering one of the most beautiful Renaissance city in the world. But generally your time is limited, right? And you can’t visit everything you’d like to in the few days you do have…. so we’ve made a list of the definite “must-sees” in Florence! Include these in your visit to make the most of few days you do have in this splendid Renaissance city !
1. Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is set a few meters from the Piazza Duomo and Ponte Vecchio (the “Old Bridge”). Here you will be able to admire the impressive Palazzo Vecchio with its Torre di Arnolfo lately open again to the public to allow guests to enjoy a wonderful cityscape. To the right, enjoy the statues housed under the Loggia del Lanzi and the Uffizi Gallery (if you have time, we recommend giving at least 2 hours to the museum).
2. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world, it crosses the Arno River at its most narrow point to connect both sides of Florence. Since the 16th century, it has housed exclusive gold jewelry shops!
Among the shops you will find two panoramic terraces, both offering a splendid view on the river and “Lungarno”, the streets that run along the river. The one to the west has a statue dedicated to Benvenuto Cellini, a very famous Florentine goldsmith while the other side has Vasari Corridor running over the shops!
3. Piazza Duomo
A few steps from the Piazza della Signoria, you’ll find the magnificent Piazza Duomo, with its majestic Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral which displays both Gothic and Renaissance features, the famous Cupola by the genius architect Brunelleschi, the bell tower by Giotto (another great Florentine master) and the Baptistery of San Giovanni with the copy of the “Gates of Paradise” facing the Duomo (the real one is inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, behind the cathedral).
4. Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is the place to go to for one of the best panoramic views of Florence! Designed by Giuseppe Poggi, it is the ideal place to head to to enjoy a very romantic view of Florence at sunset. As the name makes you suppose, the square is dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti, genius sculptor and painter.
To get to the Piazzale by car you have to take the Viale Michelangelo, otherwise on foot take the stairs and ramps from Piazza Poggi in the neighborhood of Saint Niccolò, right behind the medieval tower.
5. Piazza Santa Croce and the Basilica
Piazza Santa Croce is one of the most important squares in Florence, dominated by the neo-Gothic Basilica di Santa Croce, created for the Franciscans in the 9th century. It is famous for being the final resting place of many famous people, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Ugo Foscolo, Gioachino Rossini, Leon Battista Alberti, Vittorio Alfieri and many others.
Since the Renaissance, the square has been the setting for many important city celebrations and fun events, including the Calcio Storico Fiorentino which takes place every June.
6. Piazza Santa Maria Novella
Piazza Santa Maria Novella is just in front of the S. M. Novella train station – but as you leave the train station, what you see if the back of the Santa Maria Novella Church. You need to cross the wide square and go into the square to admire it and the church’s facade, home to the the Dominican order in Florence.
In the square, two obelisks stand on turtles created by Giambologna and date back to the 1500s – their present location dates back to 1608 in honor of the wedding of Cosimo II and Margherita d’Austria.
Within the church, you will find many masterpieces but the main ones which have significant importance in the history of art are the frescoes in the Tornabuoni Chapel by Domenico Ghirlandaio and the Trinity by Masaccio.
7. Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti is across the Arno River in what is called the Oltrarno and hosts 5 important Florentine museums. To the back, you’ll find the splendid Boboli Garden which offers many statues, geometric lawns and terraces as well as a beautiful pond at one end. The garden is on a hill so be prepared for a little bit of a climb – well worth the view you get of Florence!
These are top picks of must-sees in Florence – considering there is so much to see and do in Florence, the list could have contained many more but for those with limited time and energies, these are the ones you really have to see when visiting the splendid “cradle of the Renaissance”!