Florence was mentioned by the Telegraph among top 12 cities in Italy worth a visit, together with Rome, Milan and Venice. Every year around 16 mln tourists travel to Florence every year. What are travelers looking for? Well, let’s name just a few reasons.
Florence boasts of being cradle to Renaissance art and architecture with artworks of such big names as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Botticelli found in galleries, museums and churches in the city. Nevertheless, the cultural heritage goes far beyond the classical art and opera, in Florence tourists can also indulge in vibrant nightlife and contemporary art. Coming to Florence, make sure you have more than one day for this city. You might also want to check out local spots where you can taste the genuine Florentine steak and different sorts of gelato created in family-owned shops.
Together with our Florentine MeetnGreeters we are delighted to bring to you top 10 things to do in Florence, the home to the largest Rennaisance art collection, juicy bistecca fiorentina and gelato.
1. Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery houses the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art. The museum was founded in 1581 under the request of Granduca Francisco de’ Medici, and planned as judiciary and administrative offices. Open to public since 1765 Uffizi Gallery has been home to such world famous masterpieces as Venus de’ Medici, The Birth of Venus by Boticcelli, Bacchus by Caravaggio, Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael, and many more. Make sure you walk in the Vasari Corridor, which allows you to get from Uffizi Gallery to the Palazzo Pizzi on the other side of the river.
During high season, from May until September, it gets hard to buy museum tickets and stand in long lines, so it’s good practice to book museum tickets both for Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia in advance.
Opening hours: the Uffizi is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am till 6:50 pm. It’s closed on Mondays.
Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze, Italy.
2. Accademia Gallery
Galleria dell’Accademia is another main art museum in Florence. It was founded by Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Lorraine in the 14th century as a teaching facility for the Academy of Fine Arts students. In fact, Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the first teachers here. As of today, Galleria dell’Accademia houses a large collection of artworks, sculptures and paintings from the 1200s and 1500s by Giambologna, Pontormo, Botticelli and, of course, Michelangelo.
The main gem of Galleria dell’Accademia art collection is David by Michelangelo which was moved here from Palazzo Vecchio in 1873. Another popular masterpiece housed in the gallery is The Rape of Sabines by Giambologna impressively made from a single block of marble.
Opening hours: the Accademia is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:15 am till 6:50 pm. It’s closed on Mondays.
Address: Via Ricasoli, 66, 50122 Firenze, Italy
3. Touch the masterpiece – Duomo – Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
The Santa Maria del Fiore is a stunning Gothic cathedral dominating the panoramic view and rising over the whole Florence. It has the world’s largest Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century. In fact, it took two centuries for designers to finish their work on the cathedral, and four more centuries passed until Il Duomo was finally finished. The Santa Maria del Fiore is the 4th largest cathedral in the world, after St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the Duomo in Milan.
Today Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral houses artworks featuring more than six centuries.
Opening hours: Il Duomo is generally open from 10am till 5pm, however, this can vary depending on religious holidays. The cathedral is closed on January 1, Epiphany, Easter, and Christmas Day.
Address: Piazza Duomo, Florence, Italy.
4. Grab a true Florentine steak – il Latini & Ristorante del Fagioli
Having visited the magnificent Il Duomo and indulged into admiring Renaissance works of art, it’s just the right time for bistecca Fiorentina. The Florentine steak or T-bone steak is one of the dishes Florence is particularly famous for. The traditional Florentine beefsteak is cooked from either the Chianina or Maremmana breeds of cattle only. Thickly cut, a large piece of beef is grilled over a wood or charcoal fire.
The best places to savour the delicious bistecca Fiorentina would be Il Latini and Ristorante del Fagioli open since 1966. Ristorante Il Latini (Via Dei Palchetti 6/r, 50123, Florence, Italy (Duomo)) is traditionally chosen by tourists as the best place to try the Florentine steak and the restaurant keeps receiving flattering reviews from its visitors for the service and the quality of the food. So make sure you book a table here in advance.
Another great place to try bistecca Fiorentina is a family-run Ristorante del Fagioli (Corso dei Tintori, 47/r, Santa Croce, Florence, Italy). It is a traditional Italian trattoria with open-view kitchen. Ristorante del Fagioli is highly recommended by Conde Nast expert travelers.
5. Indulge into luxury shopping – the Mall and SPACE
Few travelers go to Italy without planning to buy some amazing designer shoes, handbags and clothes by the famous Italian brands. Italy has been always dominating the fashion industry with such big names as Versace, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, and D&G coming from this country. There are two luxury shopping outlets an hour away from Florence called The Mall (Via Europa 8, 50066 Leccio Reggello (FI)) and Prada Outlet (Loc. Levanella, S.S. 69, 52025 Montevarchi).
The Mall is open on Monday to Sunday from 10:00 am till 7:00 am. For the full list of brands and details about the outlet check here. Perhaps, it’s the largest outlet among the two. Prada Outlet is open Monday to Sunday from 10:30 am till 7:30 pm.
Here you can buy Italian luxury brands for prices 50% or more cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Another great part of it, is that if you are not a EU resident and you spend more than 155EUR on shopping, you are eligible for a tax refund which usually makes up 12% of your purchase. Though sometimes it depends on the type of brand and product you bought.
6. Admire the oldest bridge – Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is one of the main and oldest symbols of Florence. It used to be the only bridge across the Arno river until 1218. One thing that makes the Ponte Vecchio stand out from the rest is the fact that shops have been here since the 13th century. At the beginning, all types of shops could be found here, ranging from fishmonger’s to tanners. However, in 1593 Ferdinand I demanded that only jewelers and goldsmiths could see their goods there to improve wellbeing for all.
Another curious fact about the Ponte Vecchio is connected with the times of World War II. The story has it that Bennito Mussolini showed this historical bridge to Adolf Hitler as one of the best attractions to see in Florence. When the German troops fled from Florence, they destroyed all bridges, but the Ponte Vecchio.
But even if we ignore all this interesting facts and stories connected with the Ponte Vecchio, it is still worth a visit. Especially, in the evening with someone you love, as this is, perhaps, one of the most romantic views you can get in Florence.
7. Enjoy the best rooftop view – La Terrazza
Speaking about views, there is another place you might want to drop in at – La Terrazza (Vicolo dell’Oro, 6 | Hotel Continentale, 50123 , Florence, Italy). La Terrazza is a rooftop lounge bar with amazing views over Florence. Definitely worth visiting if you are looking forward to taking some stunning photos of Florence at sunset.
We wouldn’t advise to plan staying here for the whole evening as it’s one of the popular places, so usually it’s quite crowded and menu is pretty expensive here. However, why not grab a drink or two to enjoy the view and take photos, and then embark on a late evening walk around the Florence? This magnificent city has much is store for those who are eager to discover more.
8. Savour delicious ice-cream – Grom, Perche’ No & Vivoli
This part of the article is for everyone who considers him or herself a sweet tooth. Florence is believed to be the birthplace of gelato and is famous for its family-run institutions (and not only) where you can savour this amazing ice-cream, such as Perche’ No, Vivoli and Grom. Tastes differ, and there are plenty of other gelaterias in Florence all famous for their own approach to flavours and consistency of gelato, but we decided to opt for these three, so that you could make a choice yourself.
The Vivoli brothers (Via Isola delle Stinche 7R, 50122, Florence, Italy) began making gelato in 1932, so they have been around for quite a while to work out the best recipe for a gelato. Even though the gelateria is a bit hidden away from the main walking streets in Santa Croce, Vivoli is always crowded with enthusiasts keen to try their gelato.
Grom (Via del Campanile, Florence, Italy) is located just steps away from the Il Duomo. Gelato is sweet and smooth here. The Grom chain owners pride themselves on having their own farm, so they guarantee that their gelato is always fresh. Plus they treat their clients to a new special every month. It’s also one of the few gelaterias where they sell frappes in the summer and have gluten-free options on their menu.
Perche’ No!.. (Why not?) (Via Dei Tavolini 19r, 50122, Florence, Italy) is another wonderful place to plunge into the heaven of gelato lovers. They’ve been specializing in homemade gelato from 1939 and have always been popular with locals and travelers alike. Perche’ No have a special taste of the day chosen every single day, from English trifle and cheesecake, to ginger and pine nuts, and many more. Perche’ No is one of the few gelaterias which managed to develop a range of lactose-free gelatos.
9. Experience the local market atmosphere – Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
Another must do thing in Florence is to visit its local market. Most travelers will agree that the soul of the culture and city is clear and burning at its markets. Mercato Centrale is way too touristy, so we suggest going to Mercato Sant’Ambrogio (Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122, Florence, Italy). If you are looking for the authentic Florence away from crowds of tourists, this is the place to visit.
Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is the place where locals go shopping, so everything here is fresh and in abundance. They have a great selection of everything at the market here and many varieties of cheese, meat, seafood, vegetables, pasta, wine, and more. Mercato Sant’Ambrogio has been around since 1873 and managed to gain its popularity with locals. They also have some nice restaurants and gelaterias around Mercato Sant’Ambrogio where you can grab a very inexpensive lunch and enjoy a gelato for just 1.50EUR just around the corner.
10. Sip the best espresso – Chiaroscuro
Finally, you cannot consider yourself an experienced tourist in Italy, if you haven’t drunk the right espresso in the right way. Sipping espresso at a bar is Italy’s most sacred ritual. We suggest going to Chiaroscuro espresso bar (Via del Corso, 36r, 50122 Florence, Italy) to make sure you get everything right. It is located outside the church and has a rich selection of beans from more than 15 countries. At Chiaroscuro you can even find the exclusive kopi luwak from Indonesia.
It’s not customary to sit down and order an espresso, you should order it at the bar. It has to be drunk very quickly while the crema is still on top because it tends to thin out and disappear quickly. Oh, one of the main components of the right espresso ritual is to strike up a short conversation with a barista. Now you know it.
Espresso can be drunk at any time of day, so you are safe here. However, when you are in Italy, never by all means order a cappuccino after breakfast. People will start looking strangely at you if you drink it after 11am and might every deport you… I’m joking. But anyway, when in Rome, do as Romans do.
Do you have any other ideas about great things to do in Florence? Please leave your comments below. In any case, you always have our loyal local travel experts in Florence who’d be glad to give you any advice and help booking tickets or a table at a trattoria or gelateria. Enjoy your travel and stay tuned for more articles from MeetnGreetMe.