Things To Do In Florence
Florence is a magnificent city in Italy that reached its peak influence during the 1400’s. It was home to many of the greatest artists, architects, writers, and scientists of the Renaissance -- when so many new ideas blossomed in art and learning. The Galleria dell Academia is a versatile and impressive museum in the heart of Florence. Nothing can match the sense of wonder and privilege once you stand in front of Michelangelo’s greatest biblical artwork, the Statue of David. It is poetry in its pure state.
When To Go:
The months between May and September are the ideal time to visit the city. Summer is the peak season for tourism. This warm climate introduces art celebrations, al fresco dining and the right amount of sunlight to inspire art lovers -- and Florence is livelier around this time when the brilliant sunshine, fiestas and outdoor restaurants entice the tourist crowds. Yet, as temperatures (normal highs in the upper 80s) and tourist arrivals swell, so do lodging rates. Book your room a few months ahead of time to secure your spot.
These are the things to do when in the city of Florence:
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The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte
The Basilica of San Miniato al Monte is very old, built in the 11th century, and the nearby Benedictine monastery was constructed during the 14th century. In the shop you can buy liqueurs, honey and medicinal teas from herbs that the monks produce. Incidentally, in the cemetery of the Church of St. Minias rests the literary father of the long-nosed Pinocchio, the Italian writer Carlo Collodi. This beautiful basilica is quite far from the city center; to get here you must ride the most convenient means of public transport -- buses 12 and 13.
The church stands on a hill and you need to climb a lot of wide, white marble stairs to reach the facade, which is decorated with multicolored marble -- white, pinkish-red, and green, similar to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. From the foot of the church there are wonderful views of the River Arno, the Duomo and Florence's historic center.
This holy temple is dedicated to St. Minias, Florence’s first Christian martyr. The story goes that he refused to recognize the pagan idols, for which he lost his head. It is especially nice to go to church during summer because inside it is cool and peaceful. Due to the great distance from the city center and the steep climb to the church, there are few people. But there are a lot of artists, creating colorful paintings with views of Florence. Within the proximity of the church stands the Piazzale Michelangelo Florence main observation deck.
At the Piazzale Michelangelo -- located on one of the Florentine hills -- there is a really famous viewing platform from which many postcard pictures have been taken. Developed in 1869 by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi, Piazzale Michelangelo offers a lovely panoramic view of Florence, the Arno River, and other beauties of the Tuscan capital. The square itself is quite large, and at its center stands a monument -- a bronze copy of Michelangelo's David. The perimeter houses the counterparts of four more famous sculptures of the artist. It is an amazing place, a paradise for the soul! Here, you can spend hours looking at the city, to dream, to think only of a pleasant and carefree atmosphere, to unwind and relax.
The ideal time to visit is during sunset as the setting rays of the sun tickle the rooftops of the old houses. Surrounded by contemporary sculptures, the green public garden has benches where you can relax and enjoy the urban landscape. Sit along the steps with a bottle of wine while watching a performance of street musicians or walk along the observation deck that offers stunning views of the beautiful Florence. Here you can take a series of marvelous pictures and buy souvenirs.
Statue of David
The Statue of David by Michelangelo is ultimately the essence of the Renaissance. There are no words to describe the feeling you have when looking into the tunnel leading to the room of David. Nothing can prepare you for the shock that you feel when surrounded by the "prisons" to the sides of the main corridor that stood as silent guardians to protect him. Slowly as it progresses it becomes increasingly large and majestic, goose bumps and chills start to manifest and then all of a sudden you are facing something really amazing: it is hard to imagine that it is a human work, which is a piece of marble and not a demigod or a living being with a vibrant presence, setting an eye to his opponent Goliath.
The statue is the highest expression of human creativity -- unique, unreachable, and beyond perfection. The muscles are sculpted with great skill, following the grain of the marble; the veins in his hand are almost real and the perfection of the statue will leave you breathless. Michaelangelo has created an immortal work that people will continue admiring even beyond the passage of time. Visit this original work at the Galleria dell Accademia.
Piazza della Signoria
Some of the most famous sculptures in Florence are gathered in this open-air museum called the Piazza della Signoria: the Fountain of Neptune; a copy of the famous Statue of David, Hercules and Cacus; Perseus with the head of Medusa; the Rape of the Sabines; the equestrian statue of Cosimo I -- and the Palazzo Vecchio is here too. There is something for all tastes.
From this area you will also pass the famous Uffizi Gallery. Here it is best to visit not only in the evening when all the lights illuminate the exhibits, but also in the morning when the cafes and the city are just waking up. You can come here as early as 7 am when there is not yet a big crowd, and drink delicious coffee. Later in the day, look straight at David and to the right there is a good restaurant with delicious Florentine chops. Whatever time of the day, Italians know how to create the perfect atmosphere!
Piazza del Duomo
This wonderful place is located in the heart of the historic center of Florence. Here you will find the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore -- one of the largest and most beautiful in Europe -- and Giotto's Bell Tower, which is located next to the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Tourists are amazed to see so much wonder concentrated within the Piazza del Duomo, as here you will also find the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, and the ancient Confraternity of Mercy (founded in 1244). The artistic and architectural wonders continue within these buildings. It takes patience (for waiting in the inevitable lines) and time to fully enjoy all the attractions contained in this historic piazza.
Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)
Giotto’s Bell Tower is well worth a visit. The view is fantastic and worth the effort it takes to climb more than 414 steps. The entrance fee includes a visit to the crypt of the cathedral, the baptistery and the high dome. It is a masterpiece of Gothic art. The monument and the rich architectural decoration in polychrome marble are considered the most beautiful in Italy.
Giotto, who worked there for 3 years, designed the tower; then it was continued by A. Pisano and finally completed by Talenti in 1359. The interior is rather bare; the best feature is probably the intermediate balconies that allow you to stop and rest during the ascent. The problem is not the number of steps, but the narrow stairs that create long and annoying (and unregulated) traffic jams. The view is exciting and you can find all of Florence at your feet and the hills above the horizon.
At the Palazzo Vecchio, general admission is free and it includes a visit to the courtyard adorned with stucco and a painting that shows the wedding of Francesco de Medici and Joanna of Austria. In the middle there is a fountain with a beautiful small bronze angel and dolphin, created by Andrea del Verrocchio (a copy of the original which is inside). It is a landmark building built in the fourteenth century, when it hosted the court of the Medicis. Inside, you can learn so much about the history of the city, as well as the birth of the "Italian Renaissance".
The palace stands out among the buildings of the city -- particularly its tower (called the Tower of Arnolfo) that is almost 312 feet high; its construction was completed in the fourteenth century. There are about 200 steps to reach the top. On its facade, you can see a replica of David and a statue of Hercules, next to the fountain of Neptune. One can pay $12.75 to enter, climb the tower and see the majestic Salone dei Cinquecento, with paintings of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. The palace is very well preserved and a real pleasure for the senses.
Duomo - Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which means "flower of St. Mary" is the main cathedral of Florence. It is crowned with the largest brick dome in the world -- a brilliant creation of Brunelleschi. It is unusually elegant and grand at the same time, although the interior is somewhat more restrained when compared to others such as the Duomo of Siena. Although not a lavish Baroque style, the interior decoration is still stunningly beautiful. The dome is the recognized symbol of the city. From the bell tower, you will have a good view the entire city and the Tuscan mountains.
The majestic cathedral in the city center is striking in its beauty and scale. It has an air of the Middle Ages that entices tourists to explore and understand. The entire structure will not fit in the camera lens up close -- if you want to photograph the cathedral completely, you need to go some distance away - ideally to the Piazzale Michelangelo observation platform. The Duomo complex -- this building plus Giotto's Campanile and the Baptristy -- are listed among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
Baptistery of San Giovanni (Battistero)
The Baptistery of San Giovanni (Battistero) is an amazing octagonal Florentine building that is less touristy than the rest of the other attractions in this city even in high season. The inside of the cathedral is full of strict geometric patterns -- a harmonious interior, artfully decorated with amazing mosaics. But attention is drawn not so much to the whole cathedral but concentrated instead its three doors, one of which is the famous "Gates of Paradise".
These doors depict biblical scenes, cast using the latest technology of the times and completely covered in gold. The process was so subtle and so skillfully done that it deserves special attention and study. The original doors are now preserved in a museum setting and copies are installed for actual use. The Baptistery is highly recommended as one of the mandatory stops in the walk through the magnificent city of Florence.
The Basilica of Santa Croce
Florence is a city of stunning beauty and marvelous architecture. The Basilica of Santa Croce with its sixteen chapels is one of the largest churches in the city and best known for being the "Pantheon of Florence" -- because the graves of so many illustrious residents of the city are here. Here lie Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Rossini and many others. In addition, the interior has wonderful frescoes by Giotto and clear multicolored stained glass windows. Go to the right side of the Basilica of the Monastery, located toward the back in the first cloister you will find the Cappella dei Pazzi. This is a beautiful creation of Brunelleschi -- an early Renaissance masterpiece that was probably used as the chapter house for monks as well as a chapel.
The basilica's facade is a splendid example of Italian Neo-Gothic style and was designed by a Jewish architect who actually included a Star of David in his composition -- and was accorded a burial site under the porch of the building. The main structure is simple, based on the outline of the cross; legend says St Francis himself was the original founder. Arnolfo di Cambio is thought to have been the main architect -- and we know that he was among the first "humanists" to visit Rome and draw from it the stimuli to completely renovate the Western art in Florence. Entering the graveyard is like entering the abode of people who contributed, each in his own way, to the betterment of mankind. It is a place of retreat and reflection, but also admiration and recognition of human genius. The city of Florence has produced many of the most important minds of human history. The Basilica of Santa Croce is a real showpiece, not only for its grandeur but also for its symbolic value that is closely related to the literary and artistic culture of Florence and all of Italy.
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