The capital of the Renaissance keeps lots of secrets, attractions, as well as options/activities. Florence is an ideal destination for any season, as each one offers images of unique beauty. Some of the most important attractions are, of course, the Ponte Vecchio, the Cupola del Brunelleschi, the mysterious Palazzo Vecchio, the famous Ufizzi Gallery, the Michelangelo Square, with the most beautiful view of the city and more. You should also not miss out on a “dark” walk in the Vasari Corridor, a taste of the authentic Gelato and the chance to gaze at the marble statue of David, at the Accademia Gallery, for hours on end. Florence has a distinct kind of beauty that you will not find anywhere else in the world, while it offers lots of options to have a great time.
The paved Ponte Vecchio bridge is a hallmark for Florence, while it is one of the most famous and beautiful in the world. The bridge, since the 16th century, is flooded with small shops –mainly jewelry stores-, which take away part of its quaintness and charm. If you want to enjoy it, you should visit it either early in the morning or late at night, as it is extremely crowded during the rest of the day. But the most delightful time is during sunset, when it is transformed into a Renaissance fairytale thanks to the amazing colors of the sun that embrace it. Its appearance remains magical, when the floodlights paint its reflection on the Arno River, with all eyes staying glued on it..
Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
The know it all says: Hitler was so impressed by Ponte Vecchio that he ordered for all the bridges in the city to be blown up, apart from this one!
Santa Maria del Fiore (DUOMO) & More
The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is an entire chapter of the city. Entrance to the temple’s main body might be free, but for the other parts, such as the dome, the bell tower, the crypt, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Opera Duomo Museum, there is a –standard- fee. The Duomo Square features the forenamed monuments and it is flooded with thousands of people throughout the whole day.
Cupola del Brunelleschi (Dome)
Brunelleschi’s architectural masterpiece is in almost every photograph of Florence and it is another one of the city’s hallmarks. Until today, it is the largest dome, made of bricks and mortar, in the world and the third largest in size (among religious spaces). Both its architecture and structural form leave no-one unimpressed, although we would not say the same for the ascent to the top, which is achieved via 463 narrow steps. Nevertheless, the view from the top is overwhelming! (Booking is required at least 2 days before the visit.).
Open: Monday-Friday 08:30-19:00, Saturday 08:30-17:00 & Sunday 13:00-16:00
Florence looks like a well-written fairytale, completed in the best possible way by the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The temple is the most important religious monument in Florence and one of the most significant worldwide. Its interior adornment is simple and uninteresting, while its exterior beauty captures the visitor from the very first sight. For the temple’s main body entrance is Free, and there is a fee for the crypt and its famous dome.
Open: Monday-Saturday 10:00-17:00 & Sunday 13:30-16:30
Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery of San Giovanni is one of the oldest churches in the city. It is located in front of the Duomo and stands out due to its octagonal shape and stately marble architecture. But what draws all eyes –and flashes- is the door on the east side, created by Ghiberti, which Michelangelo labeled as “The Gates of Paradise” (the real ones are exhibited at the Opera Duomo Museum). Make sure you are there on the opening, otherwise the large crowds will not let you enjoy it.
Open: Monday-Friday 08:15-10:15 / 11:15-19:30, Saturday: 08:15-18:30, Sunday: 08:15-13:30
Giotto’s Bell Tower
This is probably the most beautiful bell tower in Italy. Giotto’s 85m tall masterpiece was designed more for decorative and not practical purposes, and there is a great emphasis on the exterior, with the dozens of reliefs that decorate its façade. But you should know that the 414 narrow, claustrophobic steps that you have to climb are not easy business. Nonetheless, at the top awaits a wonderful view of the city.
Open: Every day 08:15-19:00
The crypt is in the temple’s basement and holds parts of the old temple, on top of which Santa Maria del Fiore was built.
Open: Every day 10:00-17:00
Opera Duomo Museum
The modern Opera Duomo museum merges perfectly with the classical showpieces and together they offer one –immeasurably- pleasant experience. Inside you have the chance to see the way that the Duomo was built, as well as important works of art from the Renaissance. The greatest of them are Battistero’s original doors! You can look at them for hours…nobody will blame you!
Open: Every day 09:00-19:30, except the first Tuesday of every month.
Extra Tip: Visit them in the following order so that you avoid any hardship. 1) Baptistery of San Giovanni (08:15) 2) Giotto’s Bell Tower (09:00) 3) Opera Duomo Museum (10:30) 4) Cathedral (11:30) 5) Cupola del Brunelleschi (12:30, it requires booking so there is always the same number of people no matter when you visit it).
Suggested visit time: 6-7 hours
Open: See above
Cost: 15€ (combo ticket), Free with the Firenze Card. Notice: in order to go up the Dome you must have made reservation via the official website at least 5 days prior to your visit.
The know it all says: It took almost 140 years for the cathedral to be completed!
Tall cypresses rising from right and left along the road, endless vineyards, rustic houses, incredible quiet and wine gushing out from everywhere! Yes, we are talking about the luscious green countryside of Tuscany, which is a hallmark not only for the region, but the whole of Italy. Roaming around its narrow country roads you will see a landscape that seems like it was taken out of a fairytale, especially if the visit takes place during early autumn. The trip should have as the primary destination the famous Chianti with the renowned wine and the wonderful medieval castles. You can also have a picnic in one of the endless meadows, while you should not miss the wine tour, which will really immerse you in the region’s atmosphere.
Suggested visit time: Half a day
The know it all says: The neo-Italian language is based on the Tuscan dialect!
Florence remains ageless and unspoiled despite the centuries that have gone by. The city’s historic center is an open-air museum that can be explored effortlessly, always paired with a delicious gelato. In the center you will find temples, squares, statues and monuments as well as gelaterie, restaurants and modern clothing and footwear stores. But the secret is to escape the tourist crowds and get to know the narrow, untrodden –by tourists- streets. There, you will discover the magic of the Renaissance through big and small works of art, while you will also have the chance to drink some fine espresso. Finally, it is remarkable that in a city that the hordes of tourists flood its every street, cleanliness has a leading role.
Suggested visit time: 2-3 hours
The know it all says: In Florence reside 1/3 of the world’s art treasures! (UNESCO)
If it could be given a title this would be… “The entire city of Florence in a square”! The Michelangelo Square is to many –us included- the number one attraction of the city, and not unjustly. The climb up the hill might be a tad tiring, yet the view from above is what will take your breath away! In the center of the square, there is one more replica of the statue of David, but what steals the show is the unblocked view of the city. Furthermore, the relaxed attitude, the food trucks and the cafés around the square compose the ideal landscape for plenty of restful moments. But the epitome of magic comes at sunset! Just picture it…The Arno River, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and Duomo all wrapped-up in the light of the setting sun…! Welcome to Florence.
Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
The know it all says: Michelangelo’s fortune was estimated to be 50,000 florins, approximately 35,000,000 dollars!
In the heart of the historic center, at the Signoria Square, stands the city hall or otherwise known as Palazzo Vecchio. It is one of Florence’s most beautiful buildings, which is connected to the Ufizzi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti, through a secret passage (Vasari Corridor). The visit to Palazzo Vecchio is divided in three parts; the museum, the tower and the ancient roman theatre. Start at the museum with the famous hall of five hundred and the hall of maps, search for Dante’s mask and Inferno’s secret passageways. Then, go down to the basement to see the ruins of the ancient theatre, on top of which the old palace was built. Finally, climb the 416 steps of the tower to enjoy the wonderful panoramic view of the city. After you are finished with the tour, sit at the beautiful square for an espresso in the company of the statue of David (replica) and his gang! Make sure you also see it lit.
Suggested visit time: 3-3.5 hours
Open: Museum: Oct-Mar 09:00-19:00 / Apr-Sept 09:00-23:00 Every Thursday 09:00-14:00. Tower: Oct-Mar 10:00-17:00 / Apr-Sept 09:00-21:00 Every Thursday 09:00-14:00 (last entrance 30 minutes before closing time).
Cost: Museum: 10€, Reduced 8€ / Tower: 10€, Reduced 8€ / Combo: 14€, Reduced 12€, Free with the Firenze Card.
The know it all says: Inside the palace “hide” 100 turtles and a UFO!
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most important art spaces worldwide. The vast halls of the beautiful building feature important artworks by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and other great artists. The pieces transfer the visitor to the way of the Renaissance, while at the same time imbuing them with a sense of mystery about that era. The magic of Renaissance, with the painting colors and the perfectly carved sculptures, will entrance even those who are not friends of art. Of course, the first thing you have to do is the online booking, so that you do not have to wait in line for 2-4 hours or have purchased the Firenze Card (skip line). Finally, those of you who would like get additional information about what you see, should either buy a guidebook or pay for a tour guide.
Suggested visit time: 4-5 hours
Open: Tuesday-Sunday 08:15-18:35. Closed: every Monday – January 1st, May 1st & December 25th.
Cost: 2€ / person + 6€ (online booking) + 4.5€ for the Il Cosmo magico di Leonardo da Vinci, Free with the Firenze Card
The know it all says: In 1911, the famous painting of Mona Lisa was taken back from the Italian robber Vincenzo Peruggia and was hosted in the gallery for a period of time!
The secret passage that connects Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio is one very special DoDo that is worth following*. Nowadays, the route starts at the Ufizzi Gallery and ends at the Boboli gardens. As soon as you leave the gallery and enter the Vasari Corridor, you will step into a different dimension, as the atmosphere is very quiet and completely different from the rest of the gallery. The once royal passageway goes over Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River, through the Santa Felicita church and through many neighborhoods, while it offers an amazing view of the hills, the river, and the bridges, palaces and churches of the city. You can explore it only with an organized tour in groups of 10-15 people (booking required). It is a –inferno– route that you will never forget.
*Notice: The Vasari Corridor will remain closed until March of 2018 for maintenance purposes
Suggested visit time: 30 minutes – 1 hour only for the Vasari Corridor & 3 hours for Ufizzi + Vasari Corridor
Open: Closed until March of 2018, visit the site.
Cost: 60€ (Including entrance and tour around the Ufizzi gallery)
The know it all says: Along the path you will find more than 1,000 paintings of artists that do not exist in any other museum in the world!
Excursion to Pisa
Pisa is quite a small town, built around the Arno River, and it is yet another beautiful part of Tuscany. It has become known due to a construction error that created a huge impression all over the world. This is none other than the famous leaning tower of Pisa. The town has only 90,000 residents and bases its growth to the Middle Ages. Today, it makes for a pleasant excursion for those traveling to Florence or touring Tuscany. The most important attractions can be found in the lush green Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli) and they are the Baptistery (Battistero), the Cathedral (Duomo), the Tower of Pisa, the Cemetery (Camposanto Monumentale) and the Sinopie Museum. For those that want to devote some extra time, they can simply take a walk in the city center, where they will find palaces, medieval squares, bridges, the botanical garden, and dozens of options for coffee, gelato and good food.
Suggested visit time: 1 day
Cost: Square: Free – Tower: 18€ Camposanto: 5€ / Person – Monumentale: 5€ / Person – Duomo: Free – Battistero: 5€ / Person. Combo tickets: 1 Monument 5€ -> 2 Monuments 7€ -> 3 Monuments 8€
The know it all says: All the structures of the Square of Miracles have a slight inclination due to the ground’s composition!
Excursion to Cinque Terre
A one-day excursion to Cinque Terre is enough to convince you that it is one of the best places in Italy (the best according to many)! The Five Lands or the five colorful villages of the Italian Riviera have been established by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The place constantly gains ground, firstly due to the huge advertising campaign and secondly due to the uniqueness they present. The five fishing villages that compose it –from south to north- are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The thousands of tourists that visit it daily might have tainted the once pristine beauty of the area, yet they continue to gain –rapidly- ever more followers from all over the world, due to the wild, natural beauty, the picturesque trails and the crystal clear waters that invite you in.
Important: The villages are more beautiful early in the morning or late at night (i.e. when the thousands of visitors are not there). During those hours, your only company will be the locals and a few tourists that stay there (in reality they are quite a lot, but they will seem scarce compared to the hordes that flood the villages). If you can afford to spend 2-3 days, do it.
Suggested visit time: 1 day
The know it all says: The paths connecting the villages are 9km long!
Florence is to many the capital of ice-cream! Its father is considered to be Buontalenti, who introduced it to the locals’ lives for the first time in 1559. From then on, the iced dessert was never absent from the Florentines’ palate! The dozens of gelaterie that exist in the city will make you eat two to three gelatos a day! Their quality is very good, the materials are first-class and the flavors infinite. Try some of the ones that Travelen recommends and you will not regret it. And as far as calories are concerned, do not worry at all, as with a walk around the Ufizzi Gallery you will burn them all! Important: Keep away from the shops with “Ice cream” signs. Regular ice-cream has no place in the city of gelato.
Suggested visit time: –
Open: Every day
Cost: 2-6€ / person
The know it all says: Gelato contains less fat than ice-cream!
Bologna: All in red
The title is not random at all, as Bologna is a city living in red! Red buildings (terracotta brick), red paths, red alleys, and blood pleasure also hits red with so much food from its delicious cuisine and entertainment. The city is full of students, who keep it lively, while they fill the shops and squares every moment of the day and, especially, of night. The 100,000 (!) students can feel nothing short of lucky, as they study at the oldest university of the Western world, from which Dante and Copernicus graduated and where the great Umberto Eco taught. Bologna is not included in the top destinations for foreigners, as it does not have really significant monuments, such as the tower of Pisa or great galleries, like the Ufizzi. Nonetheless, it is one of the three best destinations for Italians, as it is ideal for entertainment, good food and tourist-less quiet.
Suggested visit time: 2 days
The know it all says: Bologna once had canals of 60km total length, which were covered up so that buildings and roads could be built!
Galleria dell Accademia
The second in visit rates museum, not only in Florence but the entire Italy, is the Galleria dell’ Accademia. It is close to the cathedral (Duomo), and is almost always combined with a visit to the Ufizzi Gallery. It might not have the splendor, the collections and the organization of Ufizzi, but it has a unique exhibit, which is enough to form endless lines. We are talking, of course, about the impressive marble statue of David, which Michelangelo sculpted and has been drawing all eyes for the past five centuries. In the Gallery, apart from religious sculptures and paintings, you can also admire the collection of musical instruments. Unfortunately, the big fee as well as the long wait might disappoint even the biggest art enthusiasts.
Notice: Do not give money to random “tour guides” in order to avoid waiting in line!
Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 08:15-18:50 Closed: Every Monday, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th
Cost: Standard 8€, Reduced 4€, Free on the first Sunday of every month, Free with the Firenze Card.
The know it all says: Two accurate replicas of David exist in two other spots in the city, in plain sight (Palazzo Vecchio and Michelangelo Square)!
Travelen.eu is regularly updated on ticket costs and operating hours, but you should always visit your choice of destination’s official site for confirmation.