Despite its Renaissance heritage, it remains a vibrant city of the 21st century, where locals continue to walk their dogs, go about their business and do that very Italian thing of heading to the city centre to both "see and be seen" by day and night.
Alongside the jewels of Renaissance art and architecture, there is evidence of Florence as a thriving centre for contemporary art and music. Whilst there, we ventured into unexpected galleries alive with contemorary sculptures, paintings and photography, as well as enjoying many buskers and musicians young and old, offering an ecclectic, engaging mix of arts around the old city centre.
Florence is an easy city to get around on foot, as the major sites and attractions are contained within the small historic zone. There is a good public transport system, should you tire of walking. Fares are included if you purchase the extremely convenient, money saving 1 or 3 day Florence Museum Pass, available at the Tourismo outlets.
We spent a hectic three days here and barely scratched the surface. If you can manage a week or longer, then all the better!
- The Duormo and Baptistry (iconic Renaissance Domed Cathedral)
- Ponte Vecchio (Renaissance pedestrian bridge full of quiant shops and live performers)
- The Church of Santa Maria Novella and its intruiging art and liturgical museum. Interiors here eclipse the grandeur of the Duormos!
- Affizi Gallery
- Galleria Palentina in Pallazo Pitti
- The Boboli Gardens established by the Medici familly, with amazing views back across the magnificent World Heritage Listed City and beyond to the Tuscan Hills.
- Pallazo Vecchio
- Pallazo Strozzi
- Simply walk and enjoy all that Florence has to offer!
- Expect to cue for entry to attractions even during the shoulder seasons of Autumn and Spring.
- Organised tours are given priority entry to key attractions first thing in the morning. If you are travelling independantly don't head for them before 11am.
- The Florence Museum pass gives you priority entry, after the tour groups over other ticket holders.
- If one cue is too long, head to a less popular attraction, enjoy it and return later to iconic places like the Affizi.
- For a free view of the interior of the Duormo head to mass. You'll get a chance to sit and contemplate this amazing building, as well as get off your feet a while and avoid the crowds. There were 7 in the congregation the day we went. Enter through the rear, not front tourist door. Times for mass are displayed on a board outside the Duormo. Be prepared to stay for the entire service and copy the gestures of the religious devotees if you are not Catholic. English services are held on Saturdays at 2.00pm
- Find a cafe you can afford and enjoy and become a regular. The local staff will give you tips on places most travellers neglect to venture to
- Unless you want a gelati, several stories high, that is a meal in itself, order a "piccolo" (small).
- The Italian aperatiff "Spritz" is worth trying, if you enjoy a long cool, not too sweet, nor too alcoholic alternative to beer or wine.
- Stay in the historic centre to avoid public transport costs and to enjoy the night time ambience of the town centre.
- Hotel Bigallo is located right opposite the Duormo and was fabulous and affordable. Check Tripadvisor and Bookings.com for it and similar options!