Photos and tips on what to see and do in Florence, Italy.

Florence, Italy header 2
We spent 3 days in Florence. We covered the usual tourist “must see’s” and also took an interesting tour that most wouldn’t be aware of. Here is a quick recap:

The Duomo: Wow, magnificent from the outside, it is the focal point of Florence. We saw it flying into the city and were blown away by it’s sheer size. What is most surprising however about the Duomo is that it is rather bland on the inside (nothing like the stupendous Duomo in Siena). The ceiling is the highlight. The Duomo has a tower that can be climbed. But instead, I’d recommend that you climb the Campanile which has the better views (see below).

The Campanile: the tower right next to the dome is really worth climbing for great views. The views are more impressive than those from the Duomo (because you can look out over the Duomo from the campanile). It is also a more pleasant experience – less people, larger passageways, airier. You can get to the top in half the time it takes to climb up the Duomo. A must-do in Florence for the fantastic views.

I just summarized in 2 short paragraphs what took an entire afternoon to line up for and climb.

The dome of the duomo, Florence, Italy

The duomo, Florence, Italy

Below: the ceiling of the Duomo

ceiling of the Duomo, Florence, Italy

 

We had a tour the next day. Taste Florence has a 4 hour walking tour around the center of Florence. We met up with our guide Christina at the St. Lorenzo church. We spent the first 2 hours exploring the St. Lorenzo market where we sampled Olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Christina explained everything; the processes involved, the various denominations of quality, the strict controls of the Italian food industry, the marketing of Italian products overseas. We always knew Italians loved their food and wine, but it is amazing to what point the Italian authorities go to control quality. Let’s face it, Italians are known to have a very relaxed attitude about things; they park their cars on sidewalks (sometimes facing the opposite way from which they came), they don’t care so much about cleanliness or organization (see Italian trains for perfect examples of both these points). But when it comes to food and wine everything is regulated and monitored to an incredible degree.

St. Lorenzo church, Florence, Italy

Above – St. Lorenzo church and outdoor market.

taste florence tour, florence, Italy

After 2 hours at the St. Lorenzo market, we continued on to a Gelato shop close to the duomo where we sampled 5 different kinds of gelato. Then the highlight: wine tasting. Again, Christina explained the different wine making regions of Italy and the various denominations, she really knows her stuff.

Overall, an excellent tour, I would recommend it to anyone. A food tour, either organized or on your own (you can visit the Lorenzo market by yourself if on a tighter budget) is another ‘must’ in Florence.
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It was a beautiful day and we took advantage to see the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old bridge (described as “Europe’s oldest wholly-stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge”).

Below: Our first glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

 

I had saved the museums for the last full day in Florence. I don’t particularly like going to museums. Too many people. I hate shuffling around with hordes of people. One of the things I constantly said in Italy was “ah shit, look, there’s hordes of people in line” or “oh no, more hordes” which always got a response from Lissette because it sounded like “whores” more than “hordes” coming out of my mouth. She was still also getting sick of me talking like an Italian which I mentioned in an earlier post. When you hear people talking a certain way you sometimes unintentionally pick up a few mannerisms. So somehow, somewhere along this trip, I ended up being the guy articulating with his hands while saying stuff like “mama mia, looka da whores, dey all ova da place. Eh!”. It wasn’t cool with Lissette.

Michelangelo's David, Florence, ItalyI had pre-bought tickets at both the Academia (where Michelangelo’s David is) and the Uffizi which is one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world. As expected, there were hordes. I can sum up our museum day in a couple of short lines. 1. The Academia. Statue of David is impressive, bigger in person then I imagined. The detail is very impressive, his hands and feet seem a little large in relation. There were a lot of other sculptures in the museum but a lot just looked like discarded heads, bodies, and arms (kind of like the leftovers from a KFC meal). 2. The Uffizi. We did the express tour and managed it in less than an hour. I know it’s supposed to be famous and all, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. I had been much more impressed in Venice seeing the huge frescos in the Doge’s palace. Even the Alte Pinakothek in Munich impressed me more. But what made it thoroughly unenjoyable for us was the layout of the Uffizi, small rooms and corridors with those hordes of people. It felt claustrophobic. .

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We walked up to Piazza Michelangelo for great views over the city (the first photo on this post was taken there as are some below). Lots of stairs, but the views are so worth it.

city views from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy

views from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

views from Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy

Views over Florence, Piazza Michelangelo
Below: another photo of the Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte Vecchio at sunset, Florence, Italy

More views from around the city:

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
Above: Palazzo Vecchio                                                             Below: Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica, Florence, Italy
The Duomo at night, Florence, Italy
Above: More views of the Duomo

We did a lot of walking that last day. Florence really is an incredibly  gorgeous city.
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We splurged and stayed at the “Il Guelfo Bianco”. Beautiful hotel. I’d give it a 4 out of 5 and would stay here again just for the location.

Il Guelfo Bianco, Florence, Italy
We also broke all the rules – there’s a McDonald’s right next to the hotel and we had one night when we just wanted to veg out in front of the tv.

New McDonald's Spokesman

Above: Hey McDonalds – I’m between jobs. How about hiring me as your new spokesman?

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Check out our Destination Guide on Italy for travel tips and highlights

 

Have you been to Florence? What were your highlights?

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Comments

  1. Gorgeous post! I loved Florence and also found it to be really photogenic. It’s a wonderful but tiring city to do so much walking!
    Jessica J. Hill recently posted…10 Liveable Cities Around the WorldMy Profile

  2. Wonderful post – and amazing photos too! I’ve never been to Florence, but it is on my list of places I want to see:)
    Lori recently posted…View over the Alps from the AirplaneMy Profile

  3. Great photos of Florence. If you make it back, you might also enjoy the viewpoint from the Boboli Gardens.
    Jennifer recently posted…Easy Hiking in Vintgar GorgeMy Profile

  4. Beautiful pictures :) I absolutely loved Florence, and indeed we have similar pictures, especially the one from Piazzale Michelangelo!
    Nita recently posted…Thailand’s SunsetsMy Profile

  5. I am aching to visit Italy but I am waiting until we can do it right, a minimum of 3 months. The last photo just cracks me up. We are currently road tripping across the U.S.A. and I swear there is a McDonald’s on each and every highway on/off ramp. Those arches are everywhere!!
    Patti recently posted…When Harry Met Sally & Auld Lang Syne ~My Profile

  6. Some great insights on how to see Florence – will put this to good use on my trip there :)
    Suzanne (Travelbunny) recently posted…Tips for Visiting Reykjavik – Iceland’s Capital of CoolMy Profile

  7. Hi, I went to Italy in November 2013, with my daughter. If you really don’t want the hordes of people, then a week after the high tourist season ends is the time to go! The weather in Florence was a little less predictable than Rome,( which was high 70′s), we had a pretty severe storm go through Florence the afternoon that we got there. The temps were in the 50′s, low 60′s, easily comfortable with all the walking you do. The Pitti Palace is another place to visit, but really, only if you like museums, there’s like three in there, and the Boboli Gardens are behind the palace. I really loved walking those hilly streets on the Palace side of the river, it’s more homes, less touristy. Didn’t you love the street art on the signs?

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