Best of Florence, Italy
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St. John Baptistery
Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, this baptistery is the oldest religious monument in Florence. Although its origin is unknown, it’s believed that it was built over the ruins of a Roman temple that dated back to the fourth or fifth century. Up until the 19th century, all Catholics in Florence were baptized here.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Florence, the Duomo is a cathedral built in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore. Visitors can climb to the top for amazing views of the city or explore the Gothic building’s amazing artwork, including Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgment. Self-guided tours are free, or you can pay about $2 per person for the audio tour.
Go shopping at the Mercato Centrale, or Central Market, in Florence. This two-level, indoor food market has butchers, fishmongers and delis on the first floor, and on the second floor, shops sell vegetables, fruits, cheese, homemade sauces and more. Don’t leave the market without tasting homemade mostarda, a spicy jam usually eaten with cheese or roasts.
Piazza San Lorenzo
Piazza San Lorenzo is the square in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. It is also a popular spot for locals and tourists to go shopping at the open market, visit the Cappelle Medicee, or stop by the Laurentian Library, a repository of more than 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 books.
Climb to the top of the Campanile, or bell tower, to get perfect views of the Duomo and Florence. Italian painter and architect Giotto di Bondone designed the 277-foot-tall structure, which is divided into five levels. It is often referred to as Giotto’s Campanile.
Piazza della Signoria
A popular meeting place for Florentines and tourists, the Piazza Della Signoria is a square located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall.
Fountain of Neptune
Located on Piazza Della Signoria in front the Palazzo Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune was used as a washbasin for laundry before the 16th century. The popular statue was restored in 2007 after vandals tried to climb it, damaging the trident and one of the hands.
Built over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the only remaining bridge in the city that was built during the 1300s. The others were destroyed during World War II. Ponte Vecchio is lined with shops that sell jewelry, art and souvenirs.
Galleria dell’ Academia
Thousands of tourists converge on the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture, the statue of David. In addition to works by Italian artists, the museum also has a section that displays musical instruments created by Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano, and a tenor viola made by Antonio Stradivari in 1690.
Galleria degli Uffizi
Art aficionados will appreciate visiting the Galleria Degli Uffizi. This museum is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in Europe and the world. Artwork created by well-respected artists such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci is on display here. Expect to wait up to five hours to get into the museum in July, during the city’s high tourist season.
Basilica of Santa Croce
While touring some of Florence’s popular churches, visitors may want to check out the Basilica of Santa Croce, located southeast of the Duomo. Well-known Italians such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried here.
Linguini Carbonara Pancetta
Foodies will definitely want to sample the traditional Italian cuisine offered at hundreds of restaurants in Florence, including linguine carbonara pancetta. Feeling really adventurous? Take a class at a local cooking school to learn how to make classic Italian dishes.
Built in 1869 and designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, Piazzale Michelangelo, or Michelangelo Square, is the perfect place to get panoramic views of Florence. Dedicated to the Italian artist and sculptor, it features copies of his work, including a replica of the statue David.
If you’re visiting Palazzo Pitti — once the home of Florentine banker Luca Pitti — then don’t miss out on strolling behind it through the Boboli Gardens, which house a collection of sculptures from the 16th through 18th centuries. It’s not uncommon to see these historical gardens undergo some form of restoration throughout the year to maintain the landscape and dozens of statues on site.