Florence Sights-Our Top 10

Top Sights in Florence

(in Alphabetical order)

The timeless legacy of Florence comes from the 14th through 16th centuries when it surprised the world by becoming the most incredible breeding ground of wisdom and culture since Ancient Greece.  Dante, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Donatello and the divine Michelangelo all left a mark that permeates the consciousness, and to this day can be seen in the buildings, streets, palaces and museums of a city where elegant boutiques kiss the cheek of open air markets.


The Academy (Galleria dell’ Accademia)- This museum is filled with Renaissance paintings, but is most famous for two things: Michelangelo’s David and his unfinished Prisoners.  The David is one of the great symbols of the Renaissance which marked the return of man, not God, as the subject of art.  Looking like a realistic individual instead of an idealized being, this David builds on the art of the classical Greeks and surpasses it.  The story of David and Goliath had great meaning to the citizens of Florence who saw themselves in David as they overcame the giant neighboring cities of Pisa and Siena.  (David’s right hand which seems large is said to symbolize the hand of God granting power to slay the giant.)   The collection of early Florentine Renaissance painting is also very interesting.


Baptistery- This is Florence’s oldest building, dedicated to the city patron, and is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Tuscany.  The highlight of the interior is the mosaic ceiling depicting episodes from the Old Testament.  But the most significant highlight is its exterior bronze doors.  A competition held to design these doors was won by Ghiberti who created the 3 dimensional illusion of receding distance on a flat surface.  This was the first time this concept had been so successfully mastered.  The doors you see today are copies with the originals inside the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo.  Compare Ghiberti's doors with some of the runners up on the Baptistery. 


Duomo- This Gothic church has long been a symbol of Florence.  The striking neo-Gothic façade of pink, green, and white Tuscan marble is from 1870 .  (Most of the artwork from the church is now in the nearby museum.The cathedral's real marvel is the dome.  Designed by Brunelleschi, this Renaissance dome was the first built since ancient Roman times, and it became the model for subsequent domes for generations.  Climb the 463 steps to the top for a wonderful view of Florence, or climb to the top of the campanile (bell tower) designed by Giotto.  The campanile is less crowded and you get a view of the famous dome in addition to the view of Florence. 


Museo Nazionale del Bargello- This sculpture museum is located in a former prison.  It houses a vast collection of Renaissance statues among which are works by Ghilberti, Donatello and Michelangelo.  There is also an extraordinary collection of minor works; arms, ceramics, earthenware, bronzes as well as Medici family treasures.


Museo San Marco- The much talked about and controversial Dominican monk Savonarola lived in this Renaissance convent.  Located on the Piazza San Marco, this museum holds the greatest collection of frescos and paintings by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico.


Palazzo Vecchio- This palace was the home of the Medici family.  The interior is worth a visit if you are a true fan of Florentine art and history, but even if you're not you should step inside the courtyard.  Until 1873, Michelangelo’s David stood here.  Today a copy takes its place. 


Pitti Palace including Boboli Gardens and Museums-

Garden- It is hard for us to imagine today that a palace so near to the Medici's home might be considered a country retreat, but its location south of the Arno River, across the Ponte Vecchio, got them away from the smells and discomforts of the teaming medieval streets. Today this palace houses several museums.  Behind the palace are the Boboli Gardens designed in the 16th century - a grandiose example of classical Italian garden layout. 

Palatine Gallery- Located at the Pitti Palace, this museum has the largest collection of works by Raphael to be found anywhere in the world.  Also included are the living apartments of the Medicis. 

Modern Art Gallery- Located at the Pitti Palace, this is a collection of 19th and 20th century Tuscan paintings. 

Grand Ducal Treasures- Located at the Pitti Palace this is a collection of the Medici family jewels and other treasures.  


Ponte Vecchio- This famous bridge is lined with shops that traditionally sell gold and silver.  As you cross the bridge, notice the passageway above the shops that connected the Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace across the Arno River.  This was used by city leaders to escape danger in times of attack.   This is the only bridge over the Arno that the retreating Nazi forces did not blow up as they fled Florence.


Santa Croce Church- This 14th century church was started by St. Francis of Assisi and today holds the tombs of great Florentines.  Included are Michelangelo, Machiavelli, the composer Rossini, as well as a memorial to Dante.  The square in front of the church is popular with street vendors. 


Uffizi Gallery- This museum is the oldest and most important in Florence and it offers the greatest collection of Italian art in the world.  Some of the great artists whose works are on display here include: Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, Rubens, Titian, Michelangelo and Botticelli.  There are no official tours, so you should consider hiring a guide or buying a reference guide before you enter.  The museum itself is not large compared to other major museums, and the average person can see the most important pieces in less than two hours.  Only 600 people are allowed in at a time so either make a reservation, or visit after 6:00 PM. 


Florence deserves a minimum stay of 2 nights.  We realize that many people visit Florence as a day trip from cruise ships, so we offer Private Tours from Livorno to make the best of limited time.


Italy Museum Reservations

It is very important to plan which museums you will visit.  Many museums close on select days of the month and almost every museum is closed on Monday. 


It is strongly recommended that you make advance reservations to visit Italy's top museums.  Long lines during the day can waste more than 2 hours.  Advance reservations are accepted for museums in Florence including: The Uffizi, The Accademia, The Pitti Palace, and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. 


You can make reservations from the U.S. by calling (011) (39) 055 294 883#.   This reservation service is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, local time in Florence.  If you call during closed hours, a recorded message is available in Italian, followed by English.  There is a reservation fee in addition to the museum entrance fee for this service. 

Another alternative is to book your tickets on the internet. 




Tips for Church Visits in Italy

Most churches in Italy have a dress code.  No bare shoulders, no shorts, no dresses above the knee, and no bare feet or midriffs are allowedPlease come prepared, or you may be disappointed when you are turned away.  Some women travel with a large scarf that they can use to cover exposed shoulders or legs.  Men can cover tank tops with a t-shirt or use shorts with zip on legs.


Travels with Friends: Learn more about other European destinations and tips for traveling within Europe. www.TravelsWithFriends.com

Private Guides: See Europe and learn about its history with your own private guide.  www.PrivateGuidesInEurope.com 


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