Florence is probably the quintessential city of art and every tourist that arrives in Italy normally includes it in their itinerary (and rightly so!) It’s historic centre has been declared Heritage of the Humanity of UNESCO and it is the city that has given birth to the Renaissance and the Italian language.
From 1400 Florence has been governed by the Medici family (the so called “Signoria”) who gave lustre to the city by converging the best artists, academics and philosophers of their time in Florence; Michelangelo Buonarotti, Sandro Botticelli, Galileo Galilei, Filippo Brunalleschi and Leonardo da Vinci, all of whom made Florence one of the most important and prestigious cities in the world giving it countless palaces, museums and artworks.
But Florence is also beautiful for its magnificent geographical position, nestled at the centre of a flat plain surrounded by rolling hills from where you can enjoy the most spectacular views of the city (for example form San Miniato al Monte and Fiesole) The modern Florence is an elegant city full of artisans and hand craft shops, luxury boutiques and historic cafés all on the bed of the river Arno.
The choice of what to do in Florence and its places to visit is obviously gruelling; if you only have a few days I would definitely concentrate on the following itinerary:
The Uffizi Gallery
Designed by Vasari, the Uffizi art gallery is one of the most important museums in the world. Originally conceived as the judicial offices of Florence and slowly enriched with works of art by the Medici family until it eventually became a museum in XVIII century after the downfall of the family. Since then it has not stopped amazing visitors from all over the world. On its inside you will be able to admire the “birth of Venere” by Botticelli, The Annunciation of Leonardo di Vinci and many other famous masterpieces from the art Renaissance which you find in art history books. If you are visiting for the first time and you want to be sure not to miss the most important works of art you can opt for a private visit of the Uffizi which will also allow you to skip the queue.
If you prefer a visit on your own you are advised to buy your tickets before from the only official authorised dealer. (http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/venue.aspx ); entry is in timeslots of 15 minutes. Be careful as on the internet you will find many other websites selling tickets on-line and these are not authorised dealers who load the price of tickets by up to 20 euros more!
From the Uffizi the tour of the Vasariano Corridor starts, a raised route that which allows the members of the Medici family to get around freely and without danger from the Old Palace to the Pitti Palace via the Old Bridge. This route which today holds a part of the collection of the Uffizi works from ‘600 and ‘700 as well as the self-portraits of the artists with visitation only by pre-booking and in small groups (for more information ask at the Uffizi ticket office)
The Historic City Centre
A walk through the centre of Florence is a trip through time, you almost expect to see Dante or Leonardo pop out from one minute to the next. The starting point is Ponte Vecchio, one of the most unique bridges in the world, which brings to mind Rialto Bridge in Venice but with the characteristic jewellery shops in small little houses constructed on it. From there you pass the columns of the Uffizi, aiming for the Piazza della Signoria, the heart and symbol of the city, with the majestic Old Palace (Palazzo Vecchio), the copy of David by Michaelangelo (the original can be admired at the Accademia Gallery) as well as the Loggia dei Lanzi. Near there you won’t have difficulty finding the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral with her majestic dome. The enormous Duomo is magnificently equipped by the Giotto Bell Tower, one of the most beautiful in all of Italy, by Battistero di San Giovanni with it’s well known bronze doors one of which is the door of heaven by Lorenzo Ghiberti. If in the meantime, you have worked up an appetite you can nourish yourself in the new S. Lorenzo Market recently refurbished and set up to accommodate various tasty homemade food stores as well as restaurants and pizzerias, where you can taste all the Tuscan excellence in one common alimentary space (found on the inside is even an Eataly corner open until midnight!)
Directly in front of the S. Lorenzo Church you should stop and visit the Cappelle Medicee; there is the New Sacristy constructed by Michaelangelo and the great bell tower by Principi completely covered in marble and semi-precious stones where the great dukes of Tuscany are buried with their families. Returning towards the Arno, you can end your tour at Santa Croce, one of the most beautiful manifestations of gothic Italy, with masterpieces like the Cappella dei Pazzi di Brunelleschi. Santa Croce is also called the “the temple of Ital-glory” because the following are buried here: Donatello, Michaelangelo, Galielo Galieli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Guglielmo Marconi, Enrico Fermi, Luigi Cherubini, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gioachino Rossini, Leon Battista Alberti, Ugo Foscolo and many others.