10 Must See’s in Florence, Italy
The city is rich in history, the culture is unbeatable, and the food and wine are to die for.
This past spring semester, I had the incredible opportunity to live in the beautiful city of Florence, Italy for four months. Florence quickly became my home away from home and is, in my opinion, the best city in the world. I traveled to 10 countries during my time abroad, but I was always excited to get back home to Florence on Sunday nights. The city is rich in history, the culture is unbeatable, and the food and wine are to die for. Whether you are in Florence for months, or for only a few days, here are the top 10 things you must see.
10. Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery dates back to the 1500s, when Giorgio Vasari started it for the prominent Medici family, and is one of the most famous museums in the world. The majority of the art housed here was left by the Medici’s and dates back to the Renaissance. The Uffizi is located right in Florence’s historic center, with beautiful views of the River Arno. The gallery is home to masterpieces from some of Italy’s most famous artists, including Botticelli, Michelangelo and da Vinci to name a few.
9. Mercato Centrale
Florence’s Mercato Centrale, or “Central Market,” is one of the greatest gems of this city. The two-story warehouse-looking building acts as a market on the ground floor, with stands and vendors selling fresh produce, meats, fish, pasta, and more. Restaurant chefs and cafe owners frequent the market bright and early each morning to get their fresh ingredients for the day. My apartment in Florence was a three minute walk to the market, so I loved doing my food shopping there. The top floor of the market features what I would describe as an upscale food court, offering everything from fresh pizza and pasta, to a full wine bar. The market is full and bustling from open to close and is something every visitor to Florence should experience.
8. San Lorenzo Leather Market
Located just outside the Mercato Centrale is the San Lorenzo Leather Market. Featuring dozens, if not hundreds of vendors, it is a shopping stop that should be on every tourist’s list. The market is full of beautiful leather bags, wallets, belts, jewelry, jackets, scarves, and souvenirs. Part of truly experiencing the leather market is bargaining with the vendors, as there are no real set prices in the market. I needed to buy another suitcase when it was time to come home because of all the shopping I did here.
7. Piazza della Repubblica
The Piazza della Repubblica is one of the city squares in Florence and contains some of the most modern parts of Florence. The square is the site of the forum, when present-day Florence was an ancient Roman city. However, during the Risanamento period, when Florence was the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871, large parts of the ancient city center were demolished and rebuilt to appear more modern. The column in the square dates back to the 15th century and marks what was the city center of Ancient Roman Florence. Today, the square is home to restaurants, shops, and cafes. My abroad school was located here, so it became one of my favorite places in the city. It is a great place to sit, people watch, and enjoy everything going on around you. You can almost always catch a street performer or two, and riding the carousel in the middle of the square is a must-do!
6. The Arno River
The Arno runs through Florence and its banks offer some of the most beautiful views in the city. I loved walking along the river at sunset, or sitting on a ledge and watching the rowers go by. However, I think the best view of the river is from the wine store and restaurant Signorvino, located right along the river. With outdoor seating hanging over the water, sitting out here with a glass of wine is an experience like no other. My friends and I loved going after our classes to sit, have a drink and appetizers (“aperitivo”in Italy), and take in the beauty around us.
5. Michelangelo’s David
Michelangelo’s David is one of the most famous masterpieces in the world and represents the height of the Italian Renaissance. After its completion in 1504, the statue was placed outdoors in the Piazza della Signoria, but was moved to its current location in the Accademia Gallery in 1873. Today, a replica stands outdoors in the square where the original once was. The Accademia houses many renaissance paintings and other works by Michelangelo, but visitors line up to see David. Standing at the base of such an iconic piece of art is truly amazing and something every visitor to Florence should experience.
4. Giotto’s Campanile
Located in the Piazza del Duomo is Giotto’s Campanile, or bell tower. Visitors can climb the 400+ steps to the top and experience one of the best views Florence has to offer. The climb is difficult to say the least, but the incredible view from the top makes all the huffing and puffing worth it. The bell tower, along with the baptistry and the Duomo, make up the Florence Cathedral and are the most iconic landmarks in the city.
3. Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo is a square located outside the historic center of Florence and is a hike to get to, but offers the most breathtaking panoramic view of the city you will ever see. Although accessible by car, part of the experience is the hike to the top. There, you are greeted by a 360 degree view of Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. To get the full experience, go right before sunset and bring a bottle of wine to drink as you sit on the steps and watch the city light up as it grows dark.
2. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is Florence’s most famous bridge and is one of the most visited landmarks in the city. Today, it is home to jewelry vendors, but the bridge was once full of butchers. To avoid having to walk amongst commoners, Cosimo de’ Medici had a private corridor constructed above the bridge, connecting the Palazzo Pitti, the palace once home to the Medici family, to Palazzo Vecchio, where Medici worked. Medici prohibited butchers from selling on the bridge, and jewelry merchants took their place and are still there today. Take a stroll and do some shopping along this famous landmark!
1. The Duomo
The Florence Cathedral, more commonly referred to as The Duomo, is the most iconic and recognizable landmark in Florence. When people picture Florence, they picture the Duomo. Construction began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. Brunelleschi engineered the famous dome that has given the cathedral its common name and is the world’s largest brick dome. Located in the Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral, along with the bell tower and baptistry buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited place in Florence. Admission into the cathedral is free, so visiting this historic site is the top must-see in Florence.