Top 10 Things to Do on a Florence Vacation
The “Athens of the Middle Ages”, “Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance” or just Firenze to locals, the city of Florence is a fundamental destination amid Italy travel packages. The capital of the Tuscan region its art, architecture, food and wine have created a feeling of richness attracting visitors worldwide. This beautiful city once dominated by various rulers is now a challenge for impending tourists wandering its streets. So, with so much landscape to capture your attention, try including these 10 things to do in Florence Italy as part of your city conquering strategy.
1. Revel in Renaissance Art
The Uffizi Gallery will quench your artistic thirst as you travel its 45 museum halls. Created by the Medici back in the 16th century, it is arguably the second most important museum in Italy after the Vatican museum in Rome. Available among private tours of Florence, works of art by Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian (just to name a few) are housed within its walls. Be sure to see some of the museums most frequented pieces such as ‘Madonna with Child and Two Angels” by Lippi and ‘Bacchus’ by Caravaggio.
2. Join the Action in the Piazza della Signoria
This beautiful open piazza is a great beginning to the many Florence walking tours available. As a focal point to the history of the Florentine Republic, it is located near top Florence Italy attractions such as Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza del Duomo. Serving as a gateway to the Uffizi Gallery, it is also surrounded by different statues and at the Loggia dei Lanzi (an amazing outdoor sculpture gallery) the statue of Perseus with the head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini can be seen. To rest your feet, drop into any of the numerous restaurant and bars onsite or recline on the steps of the Loggia for outstanding people watching.
3. Wander the Palazzo Vecchio
Built between the 13th and 14th centuries and originally designed by Amolfo di Cambio, the Palazzo Vecchio was once the seat of the Priors. Now a standing piece of architectural art, it can be toured for its many frescoes and rooms dedicated to the personalities of various Medici family members. The Lily Chamber and the Audience Chamber are visitor favorites but the small chapel of the princess on the second floor (decorated by Bronzino) has its own unique charm. When exiting the building, be sure to stroll by the 16th century ‘Fountain of Neptune’ by Bartolomeo Ammannati, which was commissioned by the family for the wedding of Francesco I de’ Medici.
4. Do a 360 turn at the Baptistery
The Baptistery is one of Florence’s most important religious buildings and was dedicated to the patron saint, John the Baptist. When inside, peer up at the dome to marvel at the extravagant mosaic showing scenes such as the Angelic Hierarchies, Genesis, Life of Christ and the Last Judgment. The interior of the Baptistery is also filled with works of art and heavy with historical and religious associations. An example of Tuscan Romanesque style dating back to the 11th century, you can also see the elaborate wall-tomb of Pope John XXIII as designed by Donatello and Michelozzo.
5. Indulge in a Luxury Hotel
As all wonderful days in the city must end, rest your head in a slice of decadence at one of the 5 star hotels of Florence. To remain among the history sites of the city, try the Grand Hotel Villa Medici. This elegant and historical hotel is conveniently and centrally located to touring. Want more of a private feeling from Florence hotels? Reserve a room at the Relais Santa Croce and enjoy an intimate 18th century residence with all the modern comforts of home.
6. Learn how to ‘Mangia’
Eating is an important part of the lives of those in Italy, so why not bring back this fantastic cuisine to friends and family. As part of your Florence Italy tours, take a cooking class that includes how Florentines buy their produce. Starting at the Central Market of San Lorenzo, off the beaten path of tourists, learn how to select fresh ingredients before taking them back for preparation. Meeting the butchers, bakers and farmers selling vegetables from their garden will give you a local feel of life in Florence. Back in the kitchen, secrets will be revealed on how to create homemade pasta, bruschetta or other well-known Italian dishes.
7. Travel like the Medici along the Vasari Corridor
A path less traveled, this secret passageway was built by Vasari for Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1565 linking the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. The Corridor can be seen stretching across the Ponte Vecchio and was a means for the Medici family to cross the Arno River without wading through the working class crowds of their time. In 1593, the jewelry stores that tourists so love were brought to the bridge on command of Ferdinando, the Medici heir who thought that the previous tenants of butchers were too smelly. It also served as storage for precious art from the Uffizi Gallery during WWII but overall is an interesting way to take a peek into the lives of the historical elite.
8. Sneak away to the Oltrano
Across the most famous bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio, is the more “intimate” area and small town feel of Oltrano. A place filled with its own touch of history and art heritage you can walk about to the monuments, palaces and parks such as: Pitti Palace, the Old Bridge, Santo Spirito Square and the Gardens of Boboli. Oltrano also showcases handcraft shops, artisan workshops, mosaic-makers, wood carvers, gilders and goldsmiths carrying on a century-old tradition of both spirit and working methods. In typical Italian fashion, restaurants and cafes are available for much needed breaks during your vacation.
9. Take Time to Enjoy the Flowers
The Giardino di Boboli, or Boboli Gardens,is a magnificent site extending from the hill behind the Pitti Palace to Porta Romana. Enriched over time by the Medici and Lorraine families its meadows, avenues and small groves provide stunning panoramic views. Open to the public in 1776, these gardens became an outdoor museum with their Roman 16th and 17th century statues and fountains spread amongst the many decorative complexes. For the best view, journey uphill to the Knights Garden and take a photograph from its terrace of the surrounding area.
10. Say ‘Salud’ Among Wine Connoisseurs
An area known for its wine, Florence wine tours are a perfect addition to your time spent under the Tuscan sun. If you prefer staying in the city, join a wine tasting at an Enoteca at the heart of Florence where a Sommelier will hand select the wine and food pairings for the day. For more adventure, extend your tour to the Chianti countryside to towns such as Greve and Castellina. There you will visit local vineyards while sampling special wines and learning about the production of this most alluring beverage.