Florence is a huge holiday destination for many Brits, full of stunning views and attractions. If you don't fancy lounging on a beach this year and are looking for an interesting destination to visit, then a holiday in Florence could well be the place for you!
The Piazza della Signoria
The "Piazza della Signoria" is one of Florence’s most influential squares set in the centre of the city. The square is greatly influenced by one wing of the “Uffizu Gallery” and the beautiful city hall the “Palazzo Vecchio”. It is Florence’s main meeting place for both tourists and locals alike and it is the frequent venue for fairs, concerts and rallies. It has been at the centre of Political life since the 14th century with feasts and public tournaments taking place here. It was transformed into an almost open-air museum during the 16th century with the introduction of several outstanding statues created by some of the most well-known Florentine artists of the time. Most of the statues currently on view are copies of the originals which have been moved indoors for their preservation and security. The most famous statues on display are a copy of “Michelangelo’s David”, “Baccio Bandinelli’s Heracles and Cacus”, “Giabbologna’s Grand Duke Cosimo I “ and the “Rape of a Sabine” and Cellini’s “Perseus and Medusa”. Taking centre stage of the piazza is the magnificent “Neptune Fountain” which is decorated with fine sculptures of ancient mythical creatures and a Neptune statue with a face resembling that of “Cosimo I de’ Medici”.
The Uffizi Gallery
Situated off the “Piazza della Signoria” in the centre of Florence is the must see “Uffizi gallery” designed by the famous architect “Vasari” and built by the wealthy Medici Family in 1560. The collection began in 1574 and currently houses much of the Medici family’s private collection with the majority dating from the 12th to 17th centuries. The finest and most precious paintings are works by the Italian Renaissance artists although sections are also devoted to fine works of art by foreign artists. Adorning the beautifully decorated corridors with its frescoed painted ceilings is a splendid collection of Roman sculptures. Each year over one million visitors make the pilgrimage to one of the greatest collections of art in the world, so it can get extremely busy with long lines of tourists the inevitable consequence of its own success. To minimize you’re waiting time make sure to book online in advance of your visit. The hidden walkway built by the Medici Family in 1564 linking the Uffizzi with the Pitti Palace can only be viewed on Pre booked tours so to avoid disappointment you will need to book early. There is so much to admire that one trip to the Ufizzi is seldom enough time to see all the great masterpieces exhibited.
The "Duomo": Florence's cathedral
One of the most dominate images of Florence’s skyline is undoubtedly the dome of cathedral “Santa Maria del Fiore” known more commonly as the “Duomo”. This gigantic gothic structure took many centuries to complete and is one of mans greatest achievements to their Christian Faith. Construction work began in the 13th century and it was not until the 15th century that the prominent feature of the dome was added. The raising of this the largest dome in the world at that time was a miracle of engineering being completed without the aid of scaffolding! The dome is actually constructed in 2 layers, an inner dome and a outer weatherproof shell. It is possible to view the breath taking frescoes of “Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement” close up, if you don’t mind climbing over 400 steps. One of the true masterpieces of the entire Renaissance movement surely has to be the incredible “Guilded Dome”. The exterior appearance of the “Duomo” is dominated by a decorative variety of white, green and pink marble bands in a repeating pattern. The inside is dominated by the splendid stain glass windows and magnificent arches rising up 75 feet, while marble designed to resemble a giant cross makes up the floor.
Camourflaged amongst narrow winding streets is the Gallery of the Academy “Galleria dell'Accademia” a large museum exhibiting many exciting masterpieces and musical instruments which was added to the complex in the 1960’s. Most people seek out the museum to view its main asset the worlds most famous and outstanding sculpture “Michelangelo’s David”. It was moved here from the “Piazza della Signoria” in 1873 to prevent its deterioration and in order to safeguard it, a copy of the statue now stands where the original was formerly displayed. Michelangelo was given a huge block of marble at the age of 26 and over the next three years he sculptured the work of art we see today. Viewed in its setting within the gallery can be quite an emotional experience, to see this masterpiece, an incredible technical accomplishment is awe inspiring. The gallery also houses five other sculptures by the master himself, the unfinished prisoners known as “Slaves” and “St.Matthew”. The gallery also has an outstanding collection of Gothic and Renaissance masterpieces some of which were once in the collection of the Medici’s, as well as fine sculptures.
Ponte Vecchio is the most famous and oldest of Florences six bridges that cross the River Arno and one of the city’s most photographed attractions. Constructed in 1565 with 3 stone arches it stands on the remains of an old wooden bridge that occupied the same position since Roman times. Cosimo I de' Medici the Duke of Florence had Vasari the famous architect of the time design him a corridor to link the “Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi gallery” to the “Pitti Palace” on the other side of the river. Today this is a museum that you can visit through the Uffizi museum on pre-booked guided tours. The sides of the bridge were used originally for food shops but by the closing stages of the 15th century these shops were given over to silversmiths and goldsmiths. Midway across the bridge there is an opening which allows gorgeous views of the River Arno and beyond and is a favourite spot for tourists to take a selfie or two.
The Palazzo Pitti
One of Florence’s largest Architectural constructions is the enormous “Palazzo Pitti” built in 1457 originally for the Pitti family it consisted of the middle section of the present palace. The estate was obtained by the wealthy Medici family who converted it into their main residence. During this conversion the Palace was altered and side wings were added doubling the internal space available to the Medic’s. During later improvements overseen by Cosimo II de' Medici the opening up of the views and the layout of the piazza were undertaken transforming the palace into a monumental late Renaissance construction. Two additional wings were added by the “House of Lorraine” in the beginning of the 18th century. The luxurious decorations and stupendous art collections were added to continually over time to leave a palace of incredible quality. The lavish and expensive interiors house an important collection of museums with incredible collections of fine Renaissance and Baroque 16th and 17th century masterpieces. The Royal Apartments contain fine furnishings and splendid decorations from a 19th century remodeling phase. While the silver museum on the ground floor exhibits a huge collection of personal household treasures of the Medici’s and the top floor houses the Modern Art collection mostly from 19th and 20th century Tuscan artists.
One of the most splendid gardens in Europe and a must see place to visit when in Florence. The huge garden continues from the hill behind the “Pitti Palace” to Porta Romana in the distance, it is one of Italy’s largest and most stylish gardens. The gardens were designed by “Niccolò Pericoli” who Cosimo I de´ Medici hired to produce a masterpiece of garden architecture. The Boboli gardens took from 1550 to 1558 to complete and became the blueprint for most of the European Royal gardens that followed including the beautiful gardens of Versailles. Both the Medici and Lorraine families added to the gardens over the years enriching it with beautiful meadows, small groves and avenues producing incredible panoramic vistas. The gardens were further enriched with the introduction of Roman and 16th and 17th century statues of outstanding quality and detail. The gardens were completed with the addition of the “Lawn of Columns”, the “Lemonary” and the “Coffeehouse”. The beautiful and tranquil “Garden of the Knight” can be located at the brow of the hill near Fort belvedere with a small palace that exhibits fine works of Porcelain.
The Piazzale Michelangelo
One of the most attractive and beautiful places to visit when in Florence has to be “Michelangelo Square” known locally as “Piazzale Michelangelo”. Take the zigzag path leading from the 14th century “Porta San Niccolò” gate near the River Arno to the pedestrianized Piazzale Michelangelo. From here you have one of the most impressive vistas of the city with a clear view of the most important attractions of Florence, Ponte Vecchio, Diomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. The square is in honour of the greatest Renaissance artist of all time “Michelangelo Buonarroti”. The centre of the square is adorned with his most famous piece of work “The David” made out of bronze and set on a large plinth with figurative statues portraying, twilight, dawn, day and night. Due to its popularity it is often crowed but well worth visiting to enjoy the fantastic panoramic views across the city and the Tuscan Hills beyond.
Want to find out more about Florence? Make sure to read our overview. Had enough of checking in to a small hotel room? Fancy renting a home away from home? These guys have the answer....