Best Places to Visit in Florence
Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, is an art lover’s dream and an incredible base from which to explore the neighbouring regions. The legendary destination of Tuscany is home to a rich collection of cities, towns, villages, and countryside that will transport you far from the stresses and strains of modern-day life.
Things to do in and around Florence
Packed full of ornate palaces and churches and historic piazzas, Florence is like a living museum opening a window to the past. To take in the entire city, you can either visit Piazzale Michelangelo to the south or Fiesole to the north (or both) for views over the whole of Florence.
As it contains some of the world’s most legendary artwork, the city’s art galleries are a must-see. Accademia Gallery houses none other than Michelangelo’s David, an icon in both the historic and art world. Carved from marble and standing at 14ft tall, this statue is a triumph of proportion and detail and it is no wonder that it garners such universal respect. Michelangelo’s statues of slaves can also be found in the gallery as well as works by Botticelli and Domenico.
You can continue your artistic exploration of Florence in the Uffizi Gallery. Housing works by Michelangelo and Botticelli, this gallery also contains works by Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio. Highlights include Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus as well as the astounding Vasari Corridor. This corridor is one of the longest ever made and stretches an incredible one kilometre connecting the Uffizi to the Pitti Palace.
The city of Florence is an architectural wonderland with dazzling sights around every corner. An essential destination is the Florence Duomo which dominates the skyline. Like many popular tourist spots in the city queue times can be long but by booking onto a tour you can skip these easily. Other highlights to include in your Florence itinerary include the Basilica of Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio. After exploring the town’s buildings, you can take a stroll to the Arno River and visit the Ponte Vecchio which crosses it. This medieval bridge is lined with shops and is one of the most famous bridges in the world.
Of course, Florence is just one of the incredible places that Tuscany has to offer and the rest of the region is filled with gems that have to be seen and experienced. Situated just over an hour’s drive west of Florence is the home of the instantly recognisable Leaning Tower of Pisa. Though mostly known for the iconic tower, Pisa offers so much more than the opportunity to take ‘that’ photo. The Square of Miracles is the heart of the city and there you will find the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, one of the best examples of Pisan Romanesque architecture. The Camposanto and Baptistery also sit on the square and these three structures are central to religious life in the city.
Further north is Cinque Terre national park, a collection of 5 towns clinging to the hillside. All the towns are connected by train and can be visited in one day if you wish. Begin at 8th century Riomaggiore before travelling to the olive groves and farms of Manarola and then venturing to the peaceful Corniglia. The largest beach in Cinque Terre can be found in Monterosso and the town also features narrow streets lined with cafes and shops. The fifth town of Vernazza is the perfect ending to a day travelling the Cinque Terre and a stroll along the beaches and harbour can be wonderfully topped off with dinner and drinks in the square.
If historical towns are your destination of choice, then look no further than Siena. This medieval city and UNESCO world heritage site lying south of Florence dates from the 12th and has hardly changed since its construction. It will feel as though you are stepping back in time as you visit the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo and the cathedral whose façade is adorned with sculptures and filled with striped columns. A 40-minute drive north from Siena will find you in another UNESCO town, San Gimignano. From here you will enjoy hillside views and a wide selection of boutique shops.
Other activities to do around Florence
With Tuscany boasting 7 UNESCO world heritage sites you will find it easy to plan a busy itinerary but here are some suggestions for extra experiences to consider factoring in.
1. Biking around Tuscany
Take a slower tour of the Tuscan countryside by hiring a bicycle or joining a guided tour. These will allow you to not only see the countryside but also feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. Enjoy a picnic under olive and cypress trees and take in the Mediterranean scenery.
2. Visit a winery
Tuscany is proud of what its vineyards produce and the wine emerging from this region is widely prized. Visit one of the wineries in the Chianti region where enthusiastic producers will provide you with delicious snacks as they talk about their quality wines. Dinner and drinks packages can be found at many of these locations too.
3. Hire a Vespa
We’ve all seen films based in Italy where the protagonists travel the streets on colourful scooters so why not recreate these scenes with you as the star. If you’ve not driven a scooter before then joining a tour will ensure you’re properly trained before you embark on your journey. A scooter tour is a unique and authentic way to explore beautiful Florence and its surrounding areas.