Florence, or Firenze,
is a city of pure magic and history. The artist inside of me is always drawn to places of historical context, and there is no better place than Firenze. It's my DisneyWorld. It is home to the one and only Italian Renaissance. What is the Italian Renaissance? Take Leonardo da Vinci, multiply him by Michelangelo, add a hint of Raphael, a dash of Galileo, then mix it all together with Brunelleschi, and you barely have scratched the surface of the Italian Renaissance. As my favorite city in Europe, it is hard to limit a mere three days to explore this incredible city, but it can be done.
Wear comfy shoes. You will be walking and climbing and walking some more. The early bird gets the worm. Morning is the most wonderful time in Firenze. The streets are bare, the crowds are limited, and the city is yours. If you are a coffee lover, there is no cappuccino like an Italian cappuccino. After noon, order espresso. Art and Science rules Florence. It is home to the masters, so brush up on your art history. Google: Medici. Wine is cheaper than water. Consider the FirenzeCard for the art and history obsessed. Purchase your museums and historical sites tickets in advance. Depending on season, tickets sell out. Many museums require you to arrive at a very strict time slot. Do not be late. Have a scarf ready to enter churches and historical sites--many require sleeves and knees covered. Do not buy trinkets from street salesmen. It is socially acceptable to eat gelato in 15 minute intervals until you go into sugar shock. Did I emphasize comfy shoes? K.
8:15 am: Giotto's Bell Tower vs The Dome:
One of the most magnificent sites in Europe is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Located in the Piazza del Duomo, the cathedral sits among the Baptistry and Giotto's Bell Tower. For two of the best views of the entire city, you can climb both the Dome (Duomo) of the Cathedral and Giotto's Bell Tower. But, which to choose? I highly suggest Giotto's Bell Tower. It is almost as tall as the dome, and all of your views include the entire Cathedral and Duomo. (TIP: Pace yourself if you are claustrophobic, its a tight climb, but the Bell Tower offers points of relief as you climb.) If you're lucky and plan it right, the bells will chime while you're atop the tower. I won't spoil how amazing that feels. KEEP YOUR TICKET (it allows you access to multiple historical sites for 48 hours, and you're visiting the Baptistry tomorrow morning).
10:00 am: Galleria dell'Accademia
MICHELANGELO'S DAVID. Need I say more? Just go see it. It will blow your mind. Ok?
12:00 pm: Pasta (& Wine)
One thing Italy is not short of is pasta (& wine). Eat it. Eat all of it. Get your carbs, you'll need your energy for the rest of the day. If you're on a diet, get off it.
3:00 pm: Ponte Vecchio
Take a stroll across the Arno River on this medieval masterpiece. It truly is the most lovely bridge in the world. It's lined with gold shops and art dealers (AND amazing photo ops). Make sure to see the Ponte Vecchio from all sides, and look out for lovers' padlocks.
4:00 pm: Gelato
You'll need a little boost, and now is the time for GELATO. What diet? Like I said earlier, it is perfectly acceptable to eat as much gelato as humanly possible. Every day. Every single day. Shit, every few minutes if you feel like it. Recommendations: Venchi on the Via Calzaiuoli
5:00 pm: Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is and has always been the source of power and civility in Firenze. The former Palazzo della Signoria was home to the ruling body of the Republic of Florence. Now it is home to the wondrous and notorious Hall of the 500, as well as the original home of Michelangelo's David, and many other Renaissance masterpieces. It's current look is attributed to the godfather of the Italian Renaissance, Cosimo de' Medici. Thanks, my man.
7:30 pm: Dinner (& More Wine)
After completing the Palazzo Vecchio, it's time to chow down. Unlike most tour guides, I will tell you to eat in the Piazza della Signoria. Directly outside of the museum, the square is lined with outdoor eateries. Is it a tourist trap? Yes. Is the food amazing? YES. And, how amazing is dinner with a little view? Suggestions: Florentine Steak (it's huge, be prepared to split)
Continue on the wine or gelato train by popping in the various bars and shops that line the narrow streets. Check out evening street performances or historical sites by night for a totally different view.
8:00 am: Cappuccino and Pastries
Stop by the Piazza del Duomo (because you'll never get enough of the views) for a true Italian breakfast. Get it "take away" style and wander the piazza.
9:00 am: Baptistry of San Giovanni
Did you remember to keep your ticket from Giotto's Bell Tower? You'll need it to enter the Baptistry. Located in the Piazza del Duomo, The Baptistry of San Giovanni is not to be missed. This historical site does not take long to visit, but the gold mosaic dome will forever remain in your memory. Make sure to stop by the East Door, also know as the Gates of Paradise, created by Ghiberti.
10:00 am: Snack Time
Aka, gelato time. Recommendations: Coronas Cafe on the Via dei Calzaiuoli
11:00 am: Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most prominent and most visited art museums in the world. It is home to world-renown masterpieces by great Italian artists such as Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Raffael. It remains a mecca for all Italian Renaissance enthusiasts. Allow yourself time here, the museum is one of the largest in world and is filled with not only art, but spectacular views of the surrounding Tuscan landscapes. Must-see Masterpieces: Spring by Botticelli, Doni Tondo by Michelangelo, Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael, Bacchus by Caravaggio, Venus of Urbino by Titian, and Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.
3:00 pm: Pasta (& Wine)
After feeding your soul at the Uffizi Gallery, its time to feed your stomach with pasta.
5:00 pm: Walking to Piazzale Michelangelo for Sunset
Remember those comfy shoes? They are essential for this walk. Piazzale Michelangelo is the most magical panoramic viewpoint of the entire city. (TIP: Don't have cellular data? Follow the brown signs indicating historical landmarks to find your way.) Allow yourself, at the very minimum, one hour to reach the top. Then, as the sun sets, let your imagination run wild to a time where the greatest minds created the greatest masterpieces in history.
You might be completely exhausted after walking to the Piazzale Michelangelo, but grab a bite or some drinks down the hill and relax.
9:00 am: Palazzo Pitti and The Boboli Gardens
If you are staying in the city center, this is a perfect time to revisit and walk along the Ponte Vecchio, which leads directly to the "Pitti Palace." The Palazzo Pitti is divided into four museums: the Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments on the first floor; the Modern Art Gallery on the second floor; the Treasury of the Grand Dukes on the ground floor; and the Costume and Fashion Museum on the second floor. The Palace is unbelievably extravagant, filled with masterpieces, chandeliers, and exquisite style. Take your time through these corridors, for there is so much to see. When you're done touring the Palace, grab a snack at the cafe and make your way to the Boboli Gardens. The Boboli Gardens are located directly behind Pitti Palace. Attributed to the Medici Family, these vast green gardens are a real outdoor museum, populated by ancient and Renaissance statues and grottos.
1:00 pm: More Pasta? (& Wine?)
Am I right?
3:00 pm: Basilica di Santa Croce
Santa Croce is a beautiful basilica and the burial sites of Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and many more of the Italian greats. The stunning facade mimics that of Santa Maria del Fiore, and it is legend that St. Francis founded this Franciscan Church himself. The church contains masterpieces by Donatello, Vasari, Cimabue, Giotto, and many more.
Rest Of The Day
Get lost. Wander. The streets of Firenze are the most picturesque to truly lose yourself in. There is a museum or historical site at every corner for every one! Done with museums? Shopping. All the shopping. Especially for leather goods. (TIP: DO NOT GET SWINDLED. Many "leather" salesmen sell fake leather goods. Brush up on how to spot a fake). Recommendations: Dante's House, Galileo Museum, San Lorenzo Market
If you have questions or would like more reccomendations, comment below!