We love Italy and the best place that encapsulates everything that is wonderful about Italia is Florence (or Firenze to use it’s native name).
As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is home to some of the most stunning architecture, sculpture and fine art that that has ever been produced. Away from the culture though you then have the food, the weather and the beautiful Italian landscapes which surround the city. So here’s just a few of the highlights that you can expect to see if you decide to visit:
First and foremost, Florence is a city of architecture. Every where you look around the city historical buildings catch your eye. The skyline is pierced by two marvels of Italian architecture that you won’t be able to miss. The first is the Palazzo Vecchio – the historic political heart of the city. The impressive fortress/palace has been standing since 1299 AD, and looks out onto the Piazza della Signoria.
A short walk away is the dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (or duomo for short). Designed by Brunelleschi, it’s an archiectural marvel and is still the largest masonry dome in the world. Although it’s not for the faint hearted tourists can pay to ascend the cathedral steps and walk around the base of the dome for a spectacular view of the city and it’s surroundings.
As with most of Italy the food and drink you can buy is simply stunning. Depending on your budget and tastes, you can get a veritable feast of takeaway foods or enjoy the cuisines in the local restaurants. Often it’s easier to stay away from the tourist hot-spots and head down the side streets to discover some of the best Italian restaurants – all for a cheaper price.
If you’re planning on cooking for yourselves, then head over to the Mercato Centrale which really is a feast for the eyes. From here, you can pick almost every ingredient you can need from delicious Parma hams, freshly baked bread and a delicious array of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The one other location that we have to recommend is Grom, an gelato shop just on the Via del Campanile near the Duomo. It offers the most fantastic variety of ice cream with an incredible selection of different flavours which change each month. Ricotta, black cherries and pistachio is on the menu for the this month!
Of course no visit to Florence would be complete without a visit to the world famous Uffizi gallery.From here you can experience some of the finest works of art by names such as Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Raphael. It’s possibly most famous for Sandro Botticelli’s paintings; Primavera and The Birth of Venus.
Of course, due to the popularity of the gallery entrance queses are long, so it’s well worth having an early start and getting down there for when it opens.
The other main attractions associated with Florence is of course Michaengelo’s David. The collasal marble statue is housed just north of the centre of the city in the Galleria dell’Accademia. However, if you’d like to avoid the crowds there is a lifesize replica which sits outside the Palazzo Vechio.
There are over 70 churches dotted around the city where you can see some some of the finest architecture and artistis commisions. The most popular church is of course the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which is as impressive inside as it looks from the outside. Admission is free, although farily busy at times.
An excellent alternative is to visit the Basicalla Santa Maria Novella where, for a small charge, you can comfortably see a lot of the art in a lot more detail, plus you can view the cloisters. The church is also connected to the oldest running pharmacy in the world, where a short walk away from the main cathedral you can see and buy a variety of products – all in the most luxurious settings.
If the hustle and bustle of the tourists get too much for you, then it’s well worth taking a trip south across the River Arno and paying a visit to the Boboli Gardens. The gardens cover over 45k square metres and offer a stunning collection of sculptures all set within the lush peaceful surroundings of the classical Italian gardens. To top it off you can easily see the surrounding Tuscan countryside with it’s tall cypress trees and the rich soil of the fields – making you feel a million miles from home.
This is only just a sample of some of the wonderful things you can do in the city. If you’d like to see more details about what Florence has to offer, or to see some of the stunning surrouding towns in Tuscany head over to the Visit Florence website.
If you fancy heading south to Rome, the capital city of Italy, then click on the link here to see what you can explore.