Top Things to Do in Florence Italy
It’s so easy to lose yourself in Florence with its invaluable art and cultural treasures, amazing architecture, and buzzworthy hotels, food, and beverages. When Condé Nast released its 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards for the Best City in Europe last November, Florence topped the list, outranking Rome (#8) and Venice (#10).
Whether you’re traveling to Florence for the first time or coming back to cross off more Florence must-do’s from your travel bucket list, here’s a comprehensive list of things to do in Florence, Italy.
Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore
Upon arriving in Florence, get your bearings atop the oldest and most iconic Florentine cathedral. As Italy’s largest cathedral, it’s no surprise why it took 140 years to build the dazzling dome. It was first planned in 1294 by the famous 13th century architect Arnolfo di Cambi. Outside, the dome is made of lovely red tiles, giving it an elegant, nostalgic look. Inside, visitors are greeted by fantastic tile work and glass windows created by Donatello. Tourists who are in good shape can take the 463 steps to reach the top of the cathedral for a sweeping view of all of Florence and a peek at the Last Judgment frescoes designed by Giorgio Vasari.
It is ambitious to cram the rich contents of a gallery made up of two floors and 45 halls in one day. To get a glimpse of Uffizi’s most unbeatable collection, try to concentrate on the second floor. Of all the paintings displayed in the gallery, the must-see masterpieces are Madonna and Child by Giotto, Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli and Doni Tondo, Michelangelo’s sole painting in Florence. On your way out, take a good look at Titian’s most controversial painting, Venus of Urbino, which is stored on the first floor. Most visitors miss one of Uffizi’s best features, the Vasari Corridor. There you will find self-portraits of the masters only seen by discerning tourists who booked a tour (through Uffizi’s website) ahead of their visit.
Whether you are an amateur or professional cook, you can get exclusive lessons on cooking and wine-tasting Tuscan style. Florence, the Tuscan capital, has no shortage of restaurants that offer visitors terrific tutorials on food and wine preparation. Famous chef Arturo Dori shares his expertise in whipping up Tuscan classics. Before your trip to Florence, inquire ahead on how to join his cooking classes to secure a slot. Those who join the program leave Florence knowing its delicacies a little better than most visitors do.
Books, booze, board games, and coffee in one spot? La Citè is everything you can ask for in a dream hangout in Tuscany’s capital city. For many tourists and locals looking for a spot to unwind, study, play, or just chill out, La Citè comes highly recommended. Visitors rave about the lovely music and inviting vibe at this cafe. Most tourists are happy to choose and buy a book from the collections displayed in the bookstore-cafe. It’s a favorite among locals and travelers, and it’s easy to see why.
Voted by USA Today as the number one hotel in Florence, Portrait Firenze offers the most sweeping views of the city. Book a suite with riverside views, and soak up the city’s finest attractions, including Ponte Vecchio. While staying here, guests can sample sumptuous Italian cuisine at Borgo San Jacopo, light snacks at Caffè dell’Oro, or relax with some drinks at the La Terrazza Lounge Bar. Tired after a full day of sightseeing? Get a pampering spa treatment from White Iris Beauty Spa to recharge for another day of jam-packed Florence tours.
The Medici Family is an influential family of bankers who commissioned most masterpieces for their own enjoyment, including Boboli Gardens. The 111-acre gardens have fountains, grottoes, rose gardens, an amphitheatre, and more to boast. If you dig deeper, this Florentine garden was simply built as a playground for Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Tuscany’s Grand Duke. Of course, he couldn’t have done it without the help of Vasari and Buontalenti.
The Galleria dell’Accademia houses magnificent artwork and historic masterpieces, but most people wait in an epic line to marvel at Michelangelo’s David. It still looks pristine thanks to a €400,000 bath in 2003. Why is the figure so famous? For one, it’s made by Michelangelo, a popular artist even during his time. But most importantly, the statue symbolizes Florence’s dominance as a city-state, despite being surrounded by giants – the neighbouring rivals. For such a famous attraction, it’s always a smart move to arrive early, or better yet, book ahead through Firenze Musei for exclusive, fast entry.
Travel Tip: If you intend to squeeze in visits to more than one museums, it’s best to get a Firenze Card, which gives you 72-hour access to a sizable number of museums and attractions. Some tourist stops require you to book your visit in advance, like the Accademia and Uffizi Gallery.