FLORENCE

Florence, advice and info on Tuscany's capital city

florence

The Tuscan capital city is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Politically, economically, and culturally it was just about the most important city in Europe for something approaching 250 years and not forgetting it was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance

The best way to explore Florence is on foot as the town centre is very compact. Its size and convenient setting make it a great base for exploring this part of central Tuscany.


ACCOMMODATION

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– If you'd prefer to be in the centre of things then stay at a hotel in the city centre, (here are some of our favourite Florence Hotels available from our hotels partner) . Enjoy its unique Italian city atmosphere on foot and then go on day trips by car or train, exploring the wonderful Tuscan countryside nearby.

Whichever you choose, you're sure to enjoy this stunning Tuscan city.

ABOUT FLORENCE

The map below shows the city and its surroundings.



Our BEST TUSCANY APPS page also has lots more useful Florence info.

Florentines reinvented money - in the form of the gold florin - which was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages"

The Florentines - perhaps most notably Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1466) and Leon Batist'Alberti (1404 - 1472) - invented both Renaissance and neoclassical architecture, which revolutionized the way Rome, London and Paris and every other major city in Europe - from Barcelona to St. Petersburg - were built. This video shows some of the most beautiful buildings and sights in Florence.





Florentine scientists including Gallileo pioneered the study of subjects such as optics, ballistics, astronomy and anatomy. However, Florence is probably most famous for its art and artists, from Arnolfo and Cimabue to Giotto, Nanni di Banco, and Uccello; through Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello and Massaccio and the various della Robbias; through Fra Angelico and Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, and on to Michelangelo and Leonardo, the Florentines dominated the visual arts like nobody before or since.

And that is just a small part of what went on in this city, which, incredibly never had a population above 60,000 during this golden period, which influenced so much of the world.

GET ABOUT

Most of the major tourist sights in Florence are within easy walking distance of each other. It is possible to walk from one end of the historic centre of Florence to the other - North-South or East-West in a half hour. Walking is not only an easy way to get around, it also offers the chance to 'take in' much more of the city life. Some of the streets in central Florence are closed off to traffic, but beware of the scooters! This is a very small, very compact city that really needs to be seen by foot. And, of course, if you need to, you can always buy a great new pair of shoes in Florence! You can download a free IPOD guide to Florence here.

SEE

Florence has over 80 museums and galleries, housing masterpieces from its long artistic history. The Uffizi art gallery is the most famous, but if you have time there are many others.

- Galleria degli Uffizi, Piazzale degli Uffizi, +39 055 294883, Tu-Su 8:15 am-6:50 pm. Justly one of the world's most famous fine art museums. The collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures from classical antiquity are superb.

-Bargello (Officially The National Museum of Bargello), Via de Proconsolo 4, +39 055 294883, 8:15 am -6 pm Tuesday - Sunday and the 1st, 3rd & 5th Monday of each month. Closed the 2nd & 4th Monday of each month as well as May 1st.. This museum houses one of the best examples of Renaissance and Mannerist sculpture. The works of many great Renaissance sculptors are on display here, including Michelangelo. The museum is located near Piazza della Signoria and can be seen in a few hours.

- Accademia Gallery, Via Ricasoli 58-60, Tuesday - Sunday 8:15 am - 6:50 pm. Highlights are Michelangelo's David and the unfinished Slaves. edit

- Pitti Palace. On the quieter south bank of the Arno. The former Medici family palace contains galleries of their art and treasures. The Boboli gardens behind the palazzo offer wonderful walks and excellent views of the city and the countryside south of the city.

- Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Piazza de Doumo 9 (Directly behind the dome end of the cathedral), Reservations +39 055 230 2885. The Cathedral Museum, with artworks formerly in the Duomo and surrounding religious buildings, including sculptures by Donatello, another version of the Pietà (different from that one of Saint Peter's Basilica, in Vatican, Rome) by Michelangelo, and the losing entries in the famous contest held in 1401 to design the doors of the Baptistery. Models and drawings of the Cathedral.

- Institute and Museum of the History of Science

, This museum shows the evolution of the instruments used in various scientific fields such as Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Astronomy. The room of Galileo Galilei shows some of his original instruments as well as models from his drawings. In a rather macabre twist the museum also has the middle finger of Galileo's right hand on display.

OTHER SIGHTS

- Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo di Firenze is the city's beautiful cathedral, the symbol of the city. Brunelleschi's huge dome was an engineering feat of the rennaissance. A statue of Brunelleschi is sited in the piazza, with his figure looking upwards towards his dome. It is possible to climb the Dome (entrance on the side of the church), which has 464 steps.

- Giotto's Tower- adjacent to the Duomo, you can climb the 414 steps to the top of the tower for a magnificent 360 degree view of the Duomo, Florence, and the surrounding area.

- Baptistery - famous for bronze doors by Andrea Pisano (14th century) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (15th century) and a beautiful interior the vault of which is decorated with 13th century mosaics (the only medieval set of mosaics in the city.

- Palazzo Vecchio - old city palace/city hall, adorned with fine art. The replica of Michelangelo's "David" is placed outside the main door in the original location of the statue, which is a symbol of the Comune of Florence. The site displays an important collection of Renaissance sculptures and paintings.

- Ponte Vecchio - the oldest and most famous bridge over the Arno; the only Florentine bridge to survive WW2. The Ponte Vecchio (literally "old bridge") is lined with shops, traditionally mostly jewellers since the days of the Medici.

- Santa Croce church contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and many other notables in addition to artistic decorations. There is also great artwork in the church.

- Santa Maria Novella, near the train station, is a beautiful church and contains great artwork, including a recently restored Trinity by Masaccio. Also, the Chiostro Verde, to your left when facing the front entrance of the church, contains frescoes by Paolo Uccello which are quite unusual in style and well worth seeing.

- San Lorenzo the facade of this church was never completed, giving it a striking, rustic appearance. Inside the church is pure Renaissance neo-classical splendor. If you go around the back of the church, there is a separate entrance to the Medici chapels. Be sure to check out the stunning burial chapel of the princes and the sacristy down the corridor. The small sacristy is blessed with the presence of nine Michelangelo sculptures.

- Boboli Gardens, elaborately landscaped and with many interesting sculptures, behind the Pitti Palace. Wonderful city views. Don't miss the Bardini gardens. Entrance to that is included in the combination ticket price for the Boboli, and it's a short walk from the Boboli Gardens. There are great views of the Duomo from the Bardini gardens.

- Piazzale Michelangelo - Hilltop piazza with a great view of the city (go there by bus) or climb the stairs and paths from the Lungarno della Zecca.

- San Miniato al Monte

, uphill from Piazzale Michelangelo. The Sacristy contains frescoes by Spinello Aretino. In the cemetery near this church there are graves of famous people of Florence, including Carlo Lorenzi - author of the famous Pinocchio.

DO

- Climb the Duomo or Campanile. Traverse the winding staircases inside the duomo or the nearby bell tower to see some of the best views of Florence.

- Stroll the Boboli Gardens. These extensive gardens behind the Pitti palace provide excellent views of the city of Florence and numerous sculptures in a relaxed environment.

- Watch the street performers by the Uffizi, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. In the evenings street performers often put on a show here. Performances can range from violin duets to people dressed as sculptures. A nice place to stop while you eat your after-dinner gelato.

- Enjoy the view

from the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a big square on a hill. Worth doing on a summer’s evening to admire the city as the sun sets and the lights come on.

EAT

Tuscan food is famous worldwide, Florentine steaks, beans, soups, pasta, the list is endless and all washed down with a glass or two of Chianti! Here are a few suggestions for places to eat.

There are numerous caffè and pasticcerie where you can find excellent sandwiches. Pizza sold by weight is an equally excellent solution for budget dining, as is any caffè displaying a "Primi" card in its window where you'll find pastas and other dishes at reasonable prices. The delis (rosticcerie) are very affordable (and the food is often quite good), and some also have dining tables if you don't want to take away.


BUDGET

- Il Vegetariano, Via delle Ruote, 30 r. Tel: 055/475030. A welcoming budget restaurant that serves delicious and healthy food to a nice mix of locals and tourists. Daily changing menu with vegan and gluten-free items clearly marked, many luscious desserts on display, salads, soups, hearty brown bread, and a good selection of coffee, tea, wine, beer, and liqueurs.

- I Fratellini, Via dei Cimatori, 38R. Nothing but the essentials: panini and wine from a tiny hole in the wall. Patrons eat on the sidewalk while resting their glass of wine on small shelves nested along the street wall.

- Oil Shoppe, Via S. Egidio 22r, This quaint deli has affordable ( hot and cold sandwiches made with a variety of meats, sauces and fresh vegetables. It is open from 10.30 in the morning to whenever the bread runs out, which is usually between 6 and 7 in the evening.

- Trattoria Mario, Via Rosina 2/R (near Piazza Mercato Centrale); Tel. 055 218550 (no bookings) The restaurant opens for lunch and they sit you with other people walking into the restaurant. There is a menu on the wall and the food is great and if you can, save room for a secondi (meat course).

- Trattoria Le Mossacce, Via Del Proconsolo, 55R, 055 294361. Lunch until 2 pm, Dinner starting at 7 pm. Local produce and meats are prepared simply using traditional recipes and time-honoured tradition. Some pastas are made fresh daily, so ask for the daily special.

- Leonardo

, Via de' Pecori 11, 055 284446. 11:45-14:45 for lunch, 18:45-21:45 for dinner. Closed on Saturday. A cozy self-service restaurant at the corner of Via de' Pecori and Via de' Vecchietti. About 2 minutes walk from Duomo.

MID RANGE

- al Tranvai, Piazza T.Tasso, 14 r, Tel 055 225197. An excellent restaurant for authentic Tuscan fare away from the tourist centre. This place gets very busy around 8 pm with the locals so be there a bit before. Very traditional Tuscan food at decent prices.

- Il Latini Restaurant, Via dei Palchetti, 6r, 055 210916. You actually are seated at a table with other people and that is the fun of the restaurant. The owner visits each table and everyone is in a great mood. It is the combination of all that is mentioned above plus the personalities of the waiters make it a fun place to eat, visit and enjoy the whole Florentine experience. At 7:30PM when it opens, you will see a crowd outside the restaurant trying to be first in line - even with reservations.

- Osteria dell'Agnolo, Borgo S. Lorenzo, 24r 055.211326, The owner is helpful and friendly, and the food is good and reasonably priced compared to other restaurants in Florence. The bisteccha alla fiorentina and the trippa are great choices for dinner, home made lemon mouse with melon ice cream is a fine dessert.

- Palle d'Oro

, Via S. Antonino, 43/45R 055 288383. Three generations of the same family have managed the restaurant, which specialises in Tuscany traditional food. Quality of food is excellent, since not only are they good cooks, but also use very good quality ingredients.


FINE DINING

- Restaurant Terrazza Brunelleschi, Piazza Unità Italiana, 6 - 50123 Florence. +39.055.23580 . From the Panoramic "Terrazza Brunelleschi" Restaurant you can catch all of Florence in a glimpse: the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore designed by Brunelleschi and Giotto's famous campanile, the roofs of the centuries old buildings of the historical centre and the green hills that surround the city on the horizon.

- Enoteca Pinchiorri, Via Ghibellina, 87 - 50122 Florence. +39 055 242777 Situated in the centre, it is one of the most expensive and exclusive restaurants in Florence. Depending on your tastes in wine , the bill can easily reach well into the hundreds of Euros (or more!). An unforgettable experience!

- Il Cibreo, Via Dei Macci, 118/R - 50122 Florence, +39 055 234 11 00 In the centre near Santa Croce. Vast and great choice of Tuscan food, with highly selected ingredients. Also worth checking out the latest Cibreo venture “Il teatro del sale”, a restaurant/theatre just across the road. Fantastic food and various “performances” after.



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