Florence is one of Italy’s most famous cities. It’s the capital of Tuscany, a region famous for its green and rolling hills. It is indeed a beautiful city, and it dates back to Roman times. The Renaissance was the time when the city really flourished, it was the centre of art, culture and politics. The notorious De’Medici family had their seat here, and Machiavelli wrote the work that made his name infamous – Il Principe.
The most famous sight in Italy, as in many other major cities, is its Duomo (or Cathedral, in English). Whilst the Milan Duomo is quite obviously Gothic from the outside, the Florence Duomo is hard to describe. Some say it looks like a paper pop-up model, because it’s decorated in an unusual way. Others say it looks almost two-dimensional against the bright blue skyline. It’s very colourful, as it has pink and green lines all over the stones. These beautiful borders lead up to a red tile roof, very typical of both Florence and Tuscany.
Now, as it was in the old days, the Piazza del Duomo is the heart of the city. Here you’ll find many touristy shops and restaurants, but beware! As in any busy city, watch out for pickpockets and people trying to make money from newcomers. But you’ll be fine, if you keep an eye out for your stuff.
Florence, like Bologna, is relatively small for a city. So happily, you can walk everywhere! A stone’s throw from the Piazza is the Accademia, a sculpture gallery that wouldn’t be famous if it weren’t for its chief occupant – Michaelangelo’s David. This incredible statue was built out of just one block of marble, and it looks totally seamless. It’s a bit pricey to enter, and the queue is huge, so if you want to get in you must book online!
Walk across the famous “old bridge” which crosses the Arno River, and you’ll find the Palazzo Pitti. Although it’s an oddly square and symmetrical building, it’s very beautiful inside, and they run a lot of exhibitions there. There’s an exhibition on fashion, art, and even one about silver. However, the Boboli Gardens of the palace are the main attraction these days, and they offer both a little bit of a break from the city and a great panoramic view of it.
Also in Florence you’ll find a number of fantastic gelaterias, and the organic one in the Piazza del Duomo is fantastic – they do the most unusual flavours and they make their own cones in front of you. There’s sometimes a short queue outside, but don’t worry, it’s worth the 5/10 minute wait.
Conveniently, Florence is just an hour away from Pisa on the train, so if you get bored you can always do that too. In Pisa, there isn’t much to see, apart from the leaning tower and adjacent church. The town is small, and because there isn’t much else to see, all the tourists flock to this little square to get a glimpse of the tower. It’s absolutely packed, so if you don’t like crowds, it might not be the best place for you! However, even if you only stop in for an hour, it’s worth it just to see the landmark.
Florence is more of a place to “be” than to “see”, so you may only want to stay a few days. In this travel diary, it’s the last place of our Italian leg, and now we take the 8 hour journey up to Innsbruck in Austria to get some fresh mountain air. See you then!
Image credit: Alice Barnes-Brown