Florence: What to do & See

Let me start by saying this: No matter how long you spend in Florence, it doesn’t really matter. It’s unlikely that you will see everything on your itinerary. With a well-planned itinerary, you will make a significant dent. Everything else will have to wait until your next visit to Tuscany.

Although I may make a run for the Uffizi and the San Lorenzo Church while I’m in Florence it doesn’t necessarily mean they should be on your must-see lists. This is a quick overview of Florence’s major attractions. You can also check out some lesser-known sights to help you make your own list. You should always go to the top because if you don’t, it will make you feel like your trip was not successful. You can start at the top, and then work your way down during your time in Florence. You can go back to where you started the previous time you visited Florence.

Although this list isn’t exhaustive – not by any means – it will give you an idea of where to begin your itinerary planning. For every place I visit, I like to add a few unusual attractions to my must-see lists. This gives me something to talk about afterwards, and it is often overlooked and less crowded. It is a pleasant escape from the main attractions.

My Florence travel guide will help you plan your trip.

Florence’s Top Attractions

  • Uffizi Gallery is Florence’s most prestigious art gallery. It also houses one of the largest art collections in the world, with many masterpieces that you will recognize immediately. It is not uncommon to have long lines, especially during high season. If you have the opportunity, you should buy this ticket in advance.
  • Accademia Gallery – While replicas of Michelangelo’s “David” are all over Florence, the original is preserved in a gallery that was created just for him.
  • Duomo is Florence’s stunning multi-colored cathedral. Although the exterior is more elaborately decorated than the interior, you can still climb inside the dome to enjoy great views and a lesson on 15th-century engineering.
  • Giotto’s Tower – The tower that is adjacent to the Duomo offers beautiful views for those who climb up to the top.
  • Baptistery The squat structure in front of Duomo is most well-known for its one-piece bronze doors. However, the replicas can be easily identified by the large crowd that gathers around them.
  • Ponte Vecchio– This bridge is the only one in Florence that was not destroyed or damaged during World War II. It is lined by jewelry shops and goldsmiths.
  • Bargello The Bargello Museum, which is housed in an old jail, contains many sculptural masterpieces including some of Michelangelo’s earliest works.
  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo After the 1966 flood, most of the artwork from the Duomo was destroyed. It was rebuilt and displayed in the Duomo Museum. This is also where Ghiberti’s original panels are kept for the Baptistery doors.
  • Palazzo Vecchio – Before the ruling Medici families moved across the river and to the Pitti Palace they lived in the Palazzo Vecchio. The Palazzo Vecchio today houses a museum that spans three floors.
  • Piazza della Signoria The large piazza right in front of Palazzo Vecchio forms one of the city’s central squares. The Loggia dei Lanzi is an outdoor sculpture gallery that leads to the Uffizi courtyard.
  • Vasari corridor – This corridor was constructed to link the Uffizi on the Arno River and the Pitti Palace on another side. It was intended to allow nobles such as the Medici to walk between the two without having to cross the (then) dirty streets of Florence. Visitors can only visit it on guided tours.
  • Pitti Palace – The Medici built Pitti Palace on opposite bank of the Arno River in order to escape the growing crowds of the city center. The palace houses many museums today.
  • Boboli Gardens – Behind the Pitti Palace is the vast Boboli Gardens, which were once the private (enormous backyard) of the Medici.
  • Santa Croce Many of Florence’s most illustrious residents are buried here, including Galileo and Michelangelo. The former monastery, now a school of leather-working, is located behind the church. Watch the skilled artisans in action, using centuries-old techniques.
  • Orsanmichele This former church and granary is now a museum.
  • San Lorenzo – The facade of the Church of San Lorenzo is incomplete. It hides the treasures inside, such as the Michelangelo sculptures at the Medici Chapel or the Laurentian Library.
  • San Miniato al Monte This jewel-box church is high atop a hill overlooking Florence. It’s decorated with 13th-century mosaics.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo To capture the postcard-perfect view of Florence, head up to this piazza in the hills of Oltrarno.
  • Piazza della Repubblica– Once home to Florence’s ancient Roman forum. The Piazza della Repubblica now has cafes and a traditional carousel.
  • Mercato Centrale – Florence has many outdoor markets. However, the Mercato Centrale indoor market is a two-story indoor market with food vendors and places to purchase prepared foods. This makes it a great stop on a day trip for supplies for picnics.

Guided Tours of Florence

Florence’s Most Strange Attractions

  • La Specola– This is easily one of the most unusual attractions in Florence and Tuscany. The Museum of La Specola houses a large collection of anatomical models made of wax that were used in medical schools to help students diagnose illnesses. These models often depict diseases and are very detailed.
  • Museo Galileo– Science geeks need to have this museum on the list. But if you are looking for something a little different in everything, then find the display that contains one of Galileo’s fingers.
  • Ferragamo Museum The famous shoe designer Ferragamo has its headquarters in Florence. There’s also a Ferragamo Museum there. You’ll also find shoes that were made for stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland among the many exhibits.
  • Fontana del Porcellino – On the one side of the Mercato Nuovo, you’ll see a bronze statue depicting a boar with a well-polished nose. The legend behind this fountain is that you can rub the nose of the boar to get good luck.
  • Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy This is not the type of pharmacy you would visit if you are sick. This pharmacy is the oldest in the world. It also has a small museum that displays antique pharmaceutical tools. You can also purchase their fancy perfumes and scented soap.
  • Savonarola’s Stake Marker — One of the paving stones in the Piazza della Signoria has a red, round and inscribed design. This is the place where Savonarola, a fanatical monk was burned at stake in 1498.
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