Florence
Florence

10 things to do in Florence

Guide to visit Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance

As a Florentine I think it is quite an understatement to talk about only 10 things to see in Florence and in fact this article will be a fake 10 things to do because in reality I will mention many more. In this guide I will talk about a series of truly unmissable monuments and museums that certainly cannot be visited as they deserve in a day or two. I know that the now consolidated trend is to make short “hit and run” holidays, a day or two during the weekend and that’s it, but a city like Florence deserves to be visited much longer or possibly several times also because, and here I borrow Pupo’s (an italian singer) words, “in Florence on my word, you don’t see anything at once“.

Places to visit in Firenze

Duomo

One of the first things to do when visiting Florence is to go to Piazza del Duomo to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistery. To these three extraordinary monuments I also add the renewed Museo dell’Opera del Duomo where you can admire a spectacular reconstruction of the facade of the Duomo according to Arnolfo’s first project and the original doors of the baptistery.

The Duomo of Florence impresses both for its beauty and for its mammoth dimensions. When it was completed in 1436, this was the largest church in the world and it’s still one of the largest even today. An incredible work that required 140 years of work since the construction began in 1296. And a separate discussion must be made for the facade that was built in the nineteenth century.

We said of the dimensions: the Cathedral of Florence is 160 meters long, 95 wide at the height of the transept and reaches the incredible height of 116.5 meters with the cross placed on top of the dome. The Duomo is the tallest building in the whole city and in fact with its dome it characterizes the skyline of Florence more than any other monument.

Cathedral of Florence

Even if built in various eras, even distant from each other, the exterior of the Duomo appears fairly homogeneous thanks to the use of the same materials: white Carrara marble, green serpentine from Prato, red from Maremma and terracotta tiles. There are an infinite number of architectural elements, statues and decorations to be admired both on the facade and on the sides of the church but the part I personally love most is the apsidal area.

The Duomo has three large apses, topped with domes, in the center of which stands the mighty tympanum that supports the main dome. At the base of the tympanum, alternating with the domes of the apses, there are also four dead stands with a semicircular plan. The resulting effect is truly remarkable: an escalation of volumes that leads up to the element that more than any other characterizes the Duomo of Florence: Brunelleschi’s Dome.

The dome of the Duomo is an engineering miracle. In 1418, that is after 122 years from the start of construction, it was still not known how to complete the church which had a huge cavity 43 meters wide at the height of the crossing. To complicate matters there was also the height, about 60 meters, at which the dome was to be built. You understand that the technologies of that time were not the same ones we have today and the construction presented itself as prohibitive. Fortunately for us, the genius of Filippo Brunelleschi emerged who devised an innovative system for erecting the dome by building two domes, one internal and one external.

At the top of the dome there is an elegant lantern, with a panoramic terrace that can be visited, on the top of which you can admire a large golden ball and a cross. Just the ball is the protagonist of an anecdote and a curiosity: on January 27, 1601, it was struck by lightning and fell, damaging the dome, until it crashed to the ground; if you wander around Piazza del Duomo, you can find a marble disk on the ground that indicates the exact point where the ball crashed. I won’t tell you where it is, good hunting!

Brunelleschi's Dome

The interior of the Duomo is simpler than what one might expect. Upon entering you have a clear feeling of emptiness even if there are things to see. I avoid making a list of the various works of art and limit myself to pointing out the beautiful polychrome marble floor created by Baccio d’Agnolo, the impressive series of figured windows and above all the fabulous cycle of frescoes in the internal dome.

Initially it was thought to create a mosaic decoration, however this idea was discarded both for the costs and to avoid adding more weight to the dome. Now, considering that the dome weighs about 25,000 tons, it is difficult to think that a mosaic would have made the difference from that point of view, but at the time it was decided not to take any risks. Discarding the idea of ​​mosaics, it was decided to create a series of concentric frescoes inspired by the theme of the Last Judgment. The works began in 1572 and were entrusted to Giorgio Vasari, who however died leaving the work unfinished, so the task passed to Federico Zuccari who, in 1579, completed the cycle of frescoes.

I close this part dedicated to the Duomo with Giotto’s bell tower. The bell tower was built starting from 1298 under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio and in 1334 Giotto took over as master builder, a role he held until his death in 1337. In this period Giotto managed to give a clear imprint to the bell tower, especially for regarding decorative elements. After him the works were carried out by Andrea Pisano and then completed, in 1359, by Francesco Talenti. The result is a wonderful bell tower 85 meters high from the top of which you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Florence!

Baptistery

And right in front of the Duomo, we find the second point of our list: the Baptistery of San Giovanni. This is one of the oldest places of worship in the city and the doubts about its origin have fueled some theories and legends. For a long time, in fact, the Florentines believed that the Baptistery was a building from the Roman era, to be precise a temple dedicated to Mars that would only later be converted. The story is partly supported by the fact that marble and columns recovered from the ruins of Roman Florence were used in the construction of the Baptistery. Today it is thought that the current Baptistery was built between the 11th and 12th centuries as an extension of a previous baptistery.

Baptistery Duomo and Bell Tower

The Baptistery of San Giovanni has a typical octagonal plan and is covered by a dome with eight segments. Entirely covered with white and green marble, the exterior is divided into three horizontal bands with a decoration made of squares and arches interspersed with columns. Access is guaranteed by three wonderful portals: the South Gate, created by Andrea Pisano, the North Gate and the East Gate, the so-called “Paradise Gate” built by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Each of these doors has a series of panels respectively focused on the life of St. John and on the Virtues (South Gate), New Testament Stories, four evangelists and four doctors of the church (North Gate) and Old Testament Scenes (East Gate) .

The interior has a classic style with polychrome marble decorations on the walls and a very varied floor with geometric, phytomorphic and zoomorphic motifs. In the Baptistery there are several works of art and also an interesting sundial with the zodiac signs but what attracts the attention more than anything else are the mosaics that cover the interior of the dome. These mosaics are an authentic marvel, I think that they are one of the most beautiful things that can be admired in Florence. Made between the 13th and 14th centuries, the mosaics in the dome are a triumph of gold and depict the Christ the Judge, the Angelic Hierarchies, the Last Judgment, Stories of Genesis, Stories of Joseph, Stories of Mary and Christ and Stories of San John the Baptist. Other mosaics are found in the vault of the apse and in the galleries.

Mosaics in Baptistery
Mosaics in the dome of the Baptistery (Photo by MatthiasKabel / CC BY)

Galleria dell’Accademia

Founded in 1784 by Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, the Galleria dell’Accademia is the second most visited museum in Florence after the Uffizi. Inside there are works of art that cover a wide chronological period from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, including the world’s largest collection of statues made by Michelangelo, and a very important collection of historical musical instruments. Many of those who visit the Academy do it to see the David and certainly cannot be blamed, however, as we will see, the museum has much more to offer.

Galleria dell'Accademia of Florence

The museum tour begins with the so-called Sala del Colosso, which owes its name to the enormous plaster of one of the Dioscuri diMontecavallo that was once here but which is now in the gipsothèque of the Istituto d’Arte di Porta Romana. The room houses a large number of Florentine paintings made in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In a museum like this it is difficult to indicate what the most important works may be because we are faced with a series of absolute masterpieces made by masters such as Sandro Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Ghirlandaio, Paolo Uccello, Perugino and many others. Finally, in the center of the room you can admire the preparatory model for the Ratto delle Sabine by Giambologna (the statue is located in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria).

From the first room you can reach the Museo degli Strumenti Musicali which exhibits the collections of the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini. The museum, which originated from the Medici and Lorraine collections, includes a series of very rare and precious instruments including a violin, a viola and a cello made by the famous maestro Antonio Stradivari and a harpsichord by Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano.

From the Sala del Colosso there is also access to the Galleria dei Prigioni where there are six statues made by Michelangelo, the four Prigioni, the Pietà di Palestrina and the San Matteo, and other sixteenth-century works that accompany us up to the Tribune of the David. Michelangelo’s David needs no particular introduction: it is one of the most important and famous works of art in the world, one of the symbols of Florence and the Renaissance, a universal masterpiece. Made between 1501 and 1504, the statue symbolizes the victorious Florentine Republic over enemies. Originally, this 5.20 meter colossus was to be placed on one of the buttresses of the apse area of ​​the Duomo but, given how magnificent the result of Michelangelo’s work was, it was decided to place it in Piazza della Signoria where it would have been more visible. The transfer inside the Accademia Gallery, with the creation of the grandstand that houses it, dates back to 1872 and is linked to the need to preserve the statue. Around the David there are some works by Alessandro Allori and other masters of the mannerist school.

Michelangelo's David

Once the amazement and wonder for David has been overcome, the visit continues with the Gipsoteca Bartolini where numerous nineteenth-century sculptures and paintings are collected. Here, in addition to a large collection of chalks made by Lorenzo Bartolini, there are the works of artists linked to the Academy of Fine Arts.

From the plaster cast gallery we move on to the rooms which house the 14th and 15th century Florentine paintings, that is the Sala del Duecento e del primo Trecento, the Sala dei giotteschi and the Sala degli Orcagna. The museum tour takes us here to discover many authors such as Bernardo Daddi, Andrea Orcagna and Jacopo di Cione, in a succession of tables with a gold background. The other paintings in the gallery are located on the first floor where we continue with the painting of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries with authors of the caliber of Giovanni da Milano, Bicci di Lorenzo and Lorenzo Monaco.

Santa Maria Novella

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most beautiful and important churches in the city. Built starting from 1279 and finished in the fifteenth century, Santa Maria Novella has a Renaissance Gothic style with various architectural elements of classical inspiration. The facade is entirely covered with marble with the typical alternation between white marble and green serpentine. It is one of the main examples of the Florentine Renaissance and the great architect Leon Battista Alberti contributed to its realization, who was able to perfectly combine the pre-existing Gothic lines with the classic elements that can be admired at the top.

Santa Maria Novella

To such a beautiful facade corresponds an equally beautiful and interesting interior. Among many things, this church is important because it was the first in Florence where the typical elements of Gothic architecture were used. The internal space is divided into three naves covered by cross vaults with pointed arches decorated with two-tone white-green paintings. The width of the central nave generates the feeling that the church is composed of a single large hall while the decreasing size of the spans makes the church seem longer than it actually is (in any case we speak 99 meters!).

There are so many things to see here. In the central nave, suspended from the ground, you can admire the magnificent Crucifix made by Giotto around 1290. An absolute masterpiece, a work in which the master renews the iconography of the Christus patiens, that is, of the suffering Christ after the crucifixion, where we can appreciate a more naturalistic pose and details related to bleeding wounds. In the lunette of the counter-façade there is a Nativity by Botticelli while in the left nave there is the magnificent Trinity by Masaccio, one of the first works in which perspective was experimented.

Crucifix made by Giotto
Crucifix made by Giotto (Photo by Benjamín Núñez González / CC BY)

Along the transept there are a series of chapels that contain a real treasure of works of art. In the center, behind the high altar, there is the Cappella Maggiore (or Cappella Tornabuoni) with the crucifix by Giambologna and a magnificent cycle of frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio which Michelangelo perhaps also worked on. On the right there are the Cappella di Filippo Strozzi frescoed by Filippino Lippi with Stories of the lives of Saint Philip the Apostle and Saint John the Evangelist, the Cappella Bardi with frescoes attributed to the anonymous Bolognese painter Pseudo Dalmasio and the Cappella Rucellai with frescoes by the Maestro della Santa Cecilia and the statue of Madonna and child by Nino Pisano. On the left instead we find the Cappella Gondi which preserves the crucifix by Brunelleschi, the Cappella Gaddi with paintings and frescoes by Bronzino and Alessandro Allori and the Cappella Strozzi di Mantova with frescoes of the Orcagna inspired by the Divine Comedy.

Next to the church, in the convent rooms, there is the Museo di Santa Maria Novella which includes the Chiostro dei Morti, the Chiostro Verde, the Cappellone degli Spagnoli, the Cappella degli Ubriachi and the Refectory. The Chiostro Verde was built in 1350 by Fra Jacopo Talenti and frescoed by Paolo Uccello with scenes from the Old Testament. From the Cloister you enter the Chapter Room, also known as the Cappellone degli Spagnoli because it was used by the spanish Eleonora of Toledo, where you can admire a beautiful cycle of frescoes by Andrea Bonaiuto. Finally, in the refectory there are sacred vestments, goldsmiths, reliquaries and some works of art such as the Madonna Enthroned fresco by Andrea Bonaiuto.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella and the Museum of Santa Maria Novella can be visited with a single ticket. For more information, I refer you to the official website.

Chiostro Verde

Ponte Vecchio

An essential stop on any visit to Florence, Ponte Vecchio is a true symbol of the city. Famous all over the world, Ponte Vecchio is characterized by the presence of goldsmiths’ shops that are located on its sides giving it the appearance of a road rather than a bridge. This is certainly the aspect that more than any other is noticed of the bridge but it is another feature that makes it important from an architectural point of view: Ponte Vecchio is the first bridge in Europe to have been built on lowered arches, surpassing the model Roman based on round arches. This innovation made it possible to create a bridge with fewer arches capable of creating fewer obstacles to the river.

The first to build a bridge to cross the Arno were the Romans but, over the centuries, it was necessary to rebuild the bridge over and over again due to the floods. The current bridge dates back to 1345 and is probably the work of Taddeo Gaddi or Neri di Fioravante. We talked about the goldsmiths’ shops, but once in place of goldsmiths there were much less “noble” shops, that is, those of butchers who were moved on the bridge in 1442 so that they could dispose of all the processing waste directly in the river.

Ponte Vecchio

n 1565 the bridge was enriched with another very special element: the Vasari Corridor. The corridor is a one kilometer path that connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti and which crosses the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. Realized by Giorgio Vasari, the corridor was used by the Medici to move in complete tranquility from “home” (Palazzo Pitti) to “work” (Palazzo Vecchio, seat of the political and administrative power of the city). The Vasari Corridor will return to be visited in 2021 and I assure you that from its windows you can admire truly unique views!

With a small step forward, we arrive in 1593, when the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I de ‘Medici, tired of the bad smells he had to endure when crossing the corridor, decided to get rid of the butchers and replace them with the much more pleasant goldsmiths. Coming to recent history, in 1901 a monument was installed to the great sculptor Benvenuto Cellini created by Raffaello Romanelli while in 1944 Ponte Vecchio was involved in the events of the Second World War when he narrowly escaped destruction.

This is the only bridge in Florence that survived the devastation of the German army fleeing north. Many believe that the bridge survived at Hitler’s behest, but the reality is very different. Like all the other bridges in the city, Ponte Vecchio had also been mined but, a goldsmith’s aide, Burgasso, saw where the mines had been placed and defused them, saving the bridge from ruin. On that occasion many buildings were destroyed and even three of the four towers on the sides of the bridge collapsed.

Santa Croce

The Basilica of Santa Croce is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic art in Italy. Santa Croce is one of the largest and most important Franciscan churches and its foundation is linked to a visit to San Francesco d’Assisi in 1211. A few years later, his followers founded a first church which soon turned out to be too small. 1294, it was decided to completely rebuild the building by entrusting the project to the great architect and urban planner Arnolfo di Cambio. The works took many years to be completed also because in that period the city had to face various problems including the plague epidemic. However, around 1385 the church was completed, even though it was consecrated only in 1443.

Like other Florentine churches, see the Duomo and San Lorenzo, the Basilica of Santa Croce also had an unfinished facade for a long time. The current facade dates back to 1863 and was built by the architect Niccolò Matas who for the project was inspired by other Gothic-style churches such as the Siena cathedral and the Orvieto cathedral. The result is really beautiful with a decoration of white, green and red marbles arranged to form geometric designs. In the facade you can also admire some works of art such as the statues and the lunettes of the portals. Another truly remarkable statue is located right outside the church. I’m talking about the famous statue of Dante made by Enrico Pazzi in 1865. A particular aspect of the church are the arcades that open along the sides; the one on the left is clearly visible from the street while the one on the right overlooks the cloister of the convent.

Basilica of Santa Croce

The interior of the church is really very large, the main nave is 115 meters long and 38 wide, and only apparently simple. The construction of Santa Croce represented a real engineering challenge which provided an important precedent for the subsequent construction of the Duomo. Along the side aisles there are several classically inspired altars with paintings inspired by the theme of the Passion of Christ. The Basilica of Santa Croce is famous for being the burial place of illustrious men who made Florence and Italy great as Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Niccolò Machiavelli and Ugo Foscolo who in his poem Carme dei Sepolcri had defined Santa Croce “Tempio dell’Itale glorie” (Temple of glories of Italy). Another tomb present, that of Dante, is actually a cenotaph, that is, a funeral monument in his honor even if his body is buried in Ravenna.

In addition to the Cappella Maggiore, in the Basilica of Santa Croce there are many family chapels rich in frescoes and works of art. In the Cappella Maggiore you can admire a beautiful polyptych at the main altar, a crucifix painted by the Maestro di Figline and above all an extraordinary cycle of frescoes with Stories of the invention of the true cross, made by Agnolo Gaddi. Among the chapels on the right, the Cappella Peruzzi and the Cappella Bardi stand out, both frescoed by Giotto, the Cappella Baroncelli with frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi and the Cappella Castellani with works by Agnolo Gaddi, Mino da Fiesole and Niccolò Gerini. On the left are the Cappella Spinelli, the Cappella Capponi, the Cappella Ricasoli, the Cappella Pulci-Berardi and the Cappella Bardi di Vernio with frescoes by Maso di Banco and a triptych by Giovanni del Biondo. Still on the left, however, at the head of the transept, there is the Cappella dei Bardi di Vernio where an important crucifix by Donatello is kept, the Cappella Niccolini and the Cappella Machiavelli-Salviati. Last but not least, the Cappella dei Medici built by Michelozzo.

At the same time as the basilica, the Franciscan convent also developed, which today houses the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce. The rooms of the convent are of extraordinary beauty and preserve numerous works of art of absolute level. To visit the cloisters, the magnificent Cappella Pazzi, a Renaissance masterpiece signed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and the Refectory where you can admire a Crucifix by Cimabue.

Needless to say, I recommend that you also visit the museum in addition to the church. All information on timetables and tickets are on the website of the Opera di Santa Croce.

Cappella Pazzi
Cappella Pazzi (Photo by Rufus46 / CC BY)

Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio is another real symbol of the city of Florence. Historical seat of political power in the city, the building is both the seat of the municipality and a museum. Palazzo Vecchio is located in the beautiful Piazza della Signoria where you can admire many noble palaces, the Loggia dei Lanzi, a real open-air museum, and several statues such as the replica of David, the equestrian statue of Cosimo I and the Fontana del Nettuno.

Palazzo Vecchio as we see it today is the result of a long history of construction, reconstruction and expansion that has lasted over the centuries since the Roman era. In fact, as evidenced by archaeological excavations still in progress, the palace stands on the remains of the theater of the ancient Roman city of Florentia which are clearly visible when visiting the basement of the palace. Subsequently, in medieval times, here there was a palace owned by the Ghibelline Uberti family, which however was expelled from the city in 1260, when their faction was defeated on the Guelphs.

The construction of the first nucleus of the current palace dates back to the end of the thirteenth century when it was decided to build a seat for the city judiciary so, in 1299, Arnolfo di Cambio was commissioned to design the new Palazzo dei Priori (as it was called in that epoch) on the site of the old Uberti palace. The construction of the Palazzo dei Priori, inspired by the Palazzo dei Priori of  Volterra, was completed in 1315 incorporating the ancient tower of the Vacca which was used as a base for the facade tower, the famous Torre di Arnolfo.

Palazzo Vecchio of FlorenceThe Palace was enlarged both during the fourteenth century and in the following century, first by Gualtieri VI of Brienne and then by Cosimo de’ Medici (also known as Cosimo il Vecchio). A major renovation dates back to 1540 when Cosimo I de’ Medici, at the time Duke of Florence, decided to make the palace his residence. In 1565, when Cosimo moved his home to Palazzo Pitti, the palace changed its name to the definitive “Palazzo Vecchio”. The last expansion dates back to the end of the 16th century, when the last changes were made to the rear of the complex.

Palazzo Vecchio is imposing and solid with its magnificent tower that stands up to 94 meters high, the rustic ashlar cladding, the corbels and the battlements typical of medieval castles. On the facade you can see a series of coats of arms relating to the political life of fourteenth-century Florence. Inside, the building is partly occupied by the offices of the municipality and partly used as a museum. The ground floor develops around three courtyards and has various access doors. The first courtyard was designed in 1453 by Michelozzo and subsequently embellished by Vasari with various decorations. In the center there is a beautiful fountain with a valuable Verrocchio statue while from the left side you enter the Sala d’Arme.

Courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio

The second courtyard, also called cortile della dogana, is characterized by sturdy pillars that serve to support the Salone dei Cinquecento which is located on the first floor. The ticket office is located here, while a monumental staircase placed between the two courtyards leads to the upper floors where the rooms that can be visited with the museum ticket are located. Inside Palazzo Vecchio there are many rooms to visit, each with a story to tell. I advise you to visit the museum by taking a guided tour; a few years ago I participated in a visit of the percorsi segreti (secret paths) that led us through the rooms of the building to discover unique environments such as the Studiolo of Francesco I, the Salone dei Cinquecento and in the wooden attic of the Salone, protagonist of some scenes of the movie “Inferno”.

Attic of Palazzo Vecchio

The highlight of any tour at Palazzo Vecchio can only be a visit to the Salone dei Cinquecento. The hall was built in 1494 by Simone del Pollaiolo with the aim of welcoming the city council consisting of 500 people. In this regard, it was necessary to build a very large room and in fact the Hall measures 54 meters in length, 23 in width and 18 in height. Two superstars as Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci were commissioned to fresco the walls of the room, respectively portraying the Battle of Cascina and the Battle of Anghiari who had seen Florence triumph over his enemies. Unfortunately neither of the two works was completed and in the 16th century Vasari was entrusted with the task of creating six huge paintings representing the victories against Pisa and Siena. It is not known for sure if behind these paintings there are still some traces of the frescoes of Michelangelo and Leonardo but around this hypothesis over time several interesting stories have been nourished. No less beautiful and important is the decoration of the ceiling consisting of 39 panels with the scene of glorification as the Grand Duke of Florence and Tuscany and important episodes from the life of Cosimo I. In the Hall there are several sculptural works such as the statues of Bandinelli, the Labors of Hercules by Vincenzo de’ Rossi and especially the marble group The genius of Victory made by Michelangelo.

Salone dei Cinquecento
Salone dei Cinquecento (Photo by Benjamín Núñez González / CC BY)

Uffizi

With over two million visitors a year, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the most visited museums in Italy and worldwide. The vastness and quality of its collections largely justify these numbers. Founded in 1560 with the aim of bringing together the offices of the Florentine judiciary in a single building, the Uffizi have over time evolved into a museum. In 1581 Francesco I de’ Medici transformed the loggia on the top floor into a personal art gallery in which he collected his extraordinary collection which was composed of paintings, statues, armor, miniatures, goldsmiths, precious stones and much more. In the same year, Buontalenti built the Tribuna, the core of the Medici gallery, inspired by the Tower of the Winds in Athens, of which it takes up the octagonal plan.

When in 1737 the Medici family died out, the collections, which in the meantime had grown considerably, passed to the Lorraine family, the new Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The Lorraines carried out major reorganization works on the gallery and in 1769, Pietro Leopoldo decided to open it to the public. Since then the Uffizi has evolved a lot and with the project still underway in the Nuovi Uffizi, the museum will be significantly expanded and equipped with new exhibition spaces.

Usually what interests visitors are the great masterpieces exhibited in the rooms, but also the architecture of the Uffizi deserves to be admired. The complex consists of two large parallel buildings connected by a shorter element to form a “U” that surrounds the square which opens in the direction of Piazza della Signoria. Arriving at the Uffizi, visitors imagine that the facade of the gallery is the one you can see from the square but in reality the main facade is the one facing the river Arno. The building has a classic style, specifically Doric, and is spread over three levels: porch, main floor and loggia. Inside there are different environments for each other in terms of shapes and dimensions even if on the outside the trend of windows and architectural elements would suggest the opposite.

Uffizi

The Uffizi collections are among the largest and most important in the world. Walking through its corridors and its halls, there is a unique show with the works of the greatest masters of each era that follow one another without stopping. Here are the most important collection existing on the Florentine Renaissance, valuable works of sculpture, an incomparable collection of drawings and prints and more generally a collection of works ranging from the twelfth to the eighteenth century. Among the absolute protagonists of the Uffizi, there are Giotto and his master Cimabue, Sandro Botticelli with his two most famous works Primavera and the Birth of Venus, Michelangelo with the Tondo Doni, Leonardo with the Annunciation and the incomplete Adoration of the Magi, Raphael, Titian with the Venus of Urbino, Piero della Francesca with the Double portrait of the Dukes of Urbino, Dürer, Caravaggio with the Medusa, Rubens, Rembrant and many others.

As you can imagine, the risk of incurring long lines to enter the Uffizi is very concrete indeed. I recommend that you book your tickets in advance and maybe visit them with an organized tour. For information on opening hours and tickets I leave you the link to the official website.

Palazzo Pitti

Among the numerous historic buildings and noble residences that are in Florence, Palazzo Pitti stands out for its colossal dimensions and for the fabulous garden connected to it: the Boboli Gardens. The palace takes its name from the Pitti family who built it around the middle of the fifteenth century. At that time the banker Luca Pitti rivaled the Medici for supremacy in the city and for this reason he decided to build a palace that could obscure the palace that the Medici had had built by Michelozzo (Palazzo Medici Riccardi). According to Vasari, Pitti turned to Brunelleschi for the project of his new home and the work would later be carried out by Luca Fancelli.

Unfortunately for them, the Pitti went into great financial difficulties and, in 1549, were forced to sell the building to Eleonora di Toledo and Cosimo I de’ Medici. The Medici started a series of works to extend the building which originally consisted only of the central part of the current complex with 7 windows on the first and second floors. Starting from 1560 Bartolomeo Ammannati began to expand the building also creating the new three-storey courtyard and the monumental staircase for the noble floor. In 1565, Vasari built the Vasari Corridor and in the following years the Cappella delle Reliquie, the Fontana del Carciofo, the Grotta di Mosè and the Grotta del Buontalenti were built. Between 1618 and 1631, two descendants of Buontalenti, Giulio and Alfonso Parigi, took care of lengthening the facade while in the eighteenth century Giuseppe Ruggeri added the two lateral wings that embrace the square.

Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti (Photo by Gianni CaredduCC BY)

This was for centuries the dignified residence of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Medici first and Lorraine then, and for a short period the palace was also inhabited by Napoleon Bonaparte, during his government over Italy, and by the Savoy family between 1865 and 1871, when Florence was the capital of the Regno d’Italia. Today Palazzo Pitti is part of the Uffizi Galleries and is home to various museums: the Tesoro dei Granduchi, the Galleria Palatina and the Appartamenti Reali e Imperiali, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the Museo della Moda e del Costume and the Museo delle Porcellane.

Better known as the Museo degli Argenti, which was its official name until a few years ago, the Tesoro dei Granduchi develops along numerous rooms located on the ground floor and mezzanine of Palazzo Pitti. The museum houses a huge collection of priceless objects of inestimable value from the Medici and Lorraine collections, in particular goldsmith’s, silverware, crystals, precious stones and ivory objects: in short, a real treasure!

Going up to the first floor of the building, the noble floor, you reach the Galleria Palatina and the Appartamenti Reali e Imperiali. The gallery preserves the incredible collection of paintings by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany: a collection so vast that in the rooms the paintings are exhibited with an impressive density. Here you can admire the works of artists of the calibre of Botticelli, Raffaello, Andrea del Sarto, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Rubens.

The Galleria d’Arte Moderna is located on the second floor and houses an important collection of works ranging from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. The museum displays neoclassical paintings and statues and a significant collection of works by the Macchiaioli and Italian artists who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries. Among the most important names are Francesco Hayez, Antonio Canova, Giovanni Dupré, Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega and Telemaco Signorini.

The Museo della Moda e del Costume is located in the Palazzina della Meridiana, located in the south wing of Palazzo Pitti. Founded in 1983, this is the first Italian state museum dedicated to the history of fashion. In the museum you can admire a vast collection of clothes and accessories that document the evolution of fashion over the past five centuries. Both for the large amount of pieces that make up the collection and for conservation reasons, the exhibition is periodically renewed with new works.

The refined Casino del Cavaliere, located on the Boboli hill, is the seat of the Museo delle Porcellane (Porcelain Museum) which was inaugurated in 1973. The collection of this museum is made up of unique pieces, some very old, coming largely from the properties of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and the Savoy. The pieces on display come from the most important European manufactures and were created specifically for the Grand Ducal court or donated by other rulers.

If you visit Palazzo Pitti, I can only advise you to take a tour also in the Boboli Gardens. Considered one of the most important examples of an Italian garden, the Boboli Gardens are a real open-air museum. The garden, which occupies an area of ​​about 45,000 square meters, has a great botanical, architectural and artistic heritage with works from various eras, even contemporary. Among the various things, I recommend you visit the Anfiteatro, the Fontana del Nettuno, the Kaffeehaus, the Giardino del Cavaliere and stroll along the Viottolone until you reach the Vasca dell’Isola.

Boboli Gardens Viottolone
Boboli Gardens (Photo by Dimitris KamarasCC BY)

Piazzale Michelangelo

As a last thing to see, I did not choose one of the main monuments of Florence (and there would still be several to talk about), but a place from which to see: Piazzale Michelangelo. And what there is to see from here is Florence, in all its splendor and in its most typical skyline. From here you can admire a very wide panorama that embraces Forte Belvedere, Ponte Vecchio and the Lungarni, Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, the Bargello, the Badia Fiorentina, the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Synagogue, the Tower of San Niccolò (which is located right them below) and much more.

This wonderful panoramic terrace was built by the architect Giuseppe Poggi in 1869 in the context of the works carried out when Florence became the capital of Italy. In addition to the panoramic terrace, Poggi designed a loggia in neoclassical style which was supposed to contain Michelangelo’s works but which was later used as a restaurant. On the other hand, in the center of the square there are bronze copies of David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapels.

View from Piazzale Michelangelo

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