What to See in Florence: a Self-Guided Walking Tour
In the heart of Tuscany, referred to as the “cradle of the Renaissance”, lies the magnificent city of Florence. Let’s find out what to see in Florence!
Santa Maria Novella
The best way to reach Florence is, without a doubt, by train. Perfectly connected throughout Italy, both from small towns and large cities, the Santa Maria Novella station is right in the center.
As soon as you come out of the underpass, you’ll find yourself facing a magnificent example of Romanesque art: the Church of Santa Maria Novella. Inside the church, characterized by white and green marble on the façade, there is the Crucifix by Giotto, one of the works dating back to the artist’s youthful period. Looking at the Strozzi Chapel, you can admire the frescoes by Filippino Lippi, while in the main chapel we find the works of Ghirlandaio. In the Gondi Chapel, we find Brunelleschi’s Crucifix, but the major work preserved in this building is Masaccio’s Trinity.
Piazza del Duomo
Continuing on the street in front of the station, and lined with shops on both sides, we arrive in Piazza del Duomo. Some of the most famous landmarks in all of Italy are found here. The Duomo, with its white and green marble, leaves visitors breathless whether they are seeing for the first or for the hundredth time. Inside, the legacy of artists ranges from Giotto to Brunelleschi, from Vasari to Arnolfo di Cambio and so many others. Brunelleschi’s Dome is the tallest building in the whole city with Giotto’s bell tower next to it. In front of these two cultural and artistic giants we find the Baptistery, one of the oldest buildings in Florence.
Piazza della Signoria
Continuing the walk through the ancient streets of the city in the midst of shops and Renaissance art, we reach Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria. At 94 meters high, the Arnoldo Tower dominates the square. At the entrance of the Palace we find a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Piazza della Signoria was the center of Renaissance life, the scene of clashes between the Guelphs and Ghibellines and even today, still remains at the heart of city life.
Next to it, we find one of the most famous museums in the world: the Uffizi. There are so many precious works inside that it would be impossible to name them here. Suffice to say that works by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Rosso Fiorentino, and many others are found right here. In the first room that you visit entering the Uffizi, you can admire the three altarpieces of the Virgin and Child Enthroned by Cimabue, and others by Duccio di Buoninsegna and Giotto.
Among the absolute musts of what to see in Florence, you certainly cannot miss Ponte Vecchio. You can still find goldsmiths and jewelry shops along the entire bridge while in the past, there were mostly vegetable and butcher shops. The Vasari Corridor over Ponte Vecchio connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti. When this corridor was built, the merchants were driven out to make room for the artisans.
Basilica di Santa Croce
It is worth retracing your steps and heading towards another church rich in history and art: the Basilica of Santa Croce. To begin with, this church houses Michelangelo’s tomb and that of Galileo Galilei. Going beyond Michelangelo’s tomb, we find Dante’s cenotaph. You’ll also find Vittorio Alfieri, Antonio Canova, Niccolò Machiavelli, Ugo Foscolo and Gioacchino Rossini. However, this basilica is not only designed to accommodate the remains of famous Italians, it is a true work of art. Do not miss the chapels frescoed by Giotto with the life of St. Francis or the Pazzi chapel where the Crucifix by Cimabue is kept.
What to Eat in Florence
A must during any visit to Florence is absolutely the Florentine steak (bistecca alla Fiorentina): a massive steak seared on embers and served very rare. Other famous dishes are pappa al pomodoro, tripe, lampredotto and fegatelli. Tuscan cuisine is characterized by the simplicity and genuineness of both products and flavors.