Florence is truly a feast for the senses. Everywhere you walk, everywhere you look, everything you taste is a masterpiece! This is the cradle of the Renaissance where the Italian language was formalized.
Julius Caesar founded Florentina in 59 BC. In the 14th century, the Medici family began its reign of power making it the strongest financial center of Europe. Never monarchs, the Medici family did produce four Popes of the Catholic Church, and we have them to thank for the fabulous city of art and architecture we enjoy today.
Florence feels like a small town. When you stay in the Centro Storico, all the gems are at your doorstep. There’s nothing better than taking your time walking the streets, no matter the season, enjoying every ounce of what surrounds you. It took me four visits before I even went in The Uffizi!
A long weekend is the perfect amount of time for the MUST GO’s. I’ve visited Florence five times and never grow tired of a weekend here, whether a solo trip of shopping and writing or a romantic weekend.
Soak in the Renaissance
- The Duomo: This breathtaking group of structures stands with the Duomo and Campanile towering over the city. Started in 1296, it wasn’t complete until 1436 with Brunelleschi’s masterpiece of a dome (he won a 1420 design competition to build it as nobody could figure out how to build a dome so large). It’s worth the climb to the top on a sunny day for 360 views around Florence.
- Galleria dell’Accademia: Here stands Michelangelo’s GREAT David. Make sure you reserve tickets to avoid long lines.
- The Uffizi: THE place to see Renaissance art from Giotto to Botticelli (Birth of Venus), Leonardo da Vince (The Annunciation) to Michelangelo (Holy Family). Originally the Uffizi, or offices, of the ruling Medici family, it has over 1700 works on display. Get tickets in advance to avoid hours of waiting and try to go on a weekday when it’s not as crowded inside.
- Piazza della Signoria: Often called Florence’s public living room, its packed with cafes where you can enjoy a cappuccino or aperitif while marveling at the beauty of the Palazzo Vecchio and the outdoor sculpture gallery (including a replica of David, the original used to stand here).
- Ponte Vecchio: Spanning the Arno River, this bridge was built in 1354 and leads across to Pitti Palace. Its so beautiful even Hitler ordered it spared from destruction in WWII. Now lined with jewelry shops (I picked out my beautiful engagement ring here!), until the 16th century it was full of butchers. Fun to see at night as all the closed shops look like little treasure chests. Peer over the side of the bridge by the statue of Cellini (Florence’s famous goldsmith) and you’ll see big masses of locks hooked up together. The legend goes that men bring their lovers here to profess their commitment, lock up a lock together, then throw the keys in the Arno to be together forever. :)
- Santa Croce: Lovely church with tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo.
- Pitti Palace: Florence’s royal family, The Medici’s, home from 1560-1860. Beautiful gardens in the Spring and Summer.
More on Florence tomorrow… Italian Treasure Hunting and a Taste of Tuscan’s Finest.