Best 10 (+1) Attractions to Visit in Florence

October 21, 2014
Enrico Catani

Known as one of the greatest travel destinations in the world, Florence is internationally esteemed for its high concentration of Renaissance art and architecture. In fact, the city is also known as the “Cradle of Renaissance”, as it gave birth to this artistic movement.
Capital of the enchanting Tuscany region, the compact historic centre of Florence is a sort of amazing outdoor museum, as it is crowded with amazing attractions such as imposing cathedrals and basilicas, picturesque squares, narrow alleys filled with handicraft shops, and hundreds of beautifully preserved monuments and palaces.
So, here’s an overview, brought you by ItalyXP, of the top 10 (+1) tourist attractions that visitors must see in Florence.

Florence Cathedral

The imposing Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore ("Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower" in English,) is the main Cathedral in the city of Florence. Also known simply as the Duomo of Florence, it was built in 1296 on the site of the 7th century Church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be visited in the crypt.
Its world-famous dome, which dominates the whole historic centre, was added in the 15th century on a project of Filippo Brunelleschi, the most important architect of the early Renaissance.
The internal walls of the Dome are wonderfully frescoed by the greatest artists of that period. Another important part of the Cathedral complex are the 278 feet high Campanile (or Bell Tower) and the octagon-shaped Saint John’s Baptistery, one of Florence’s oldest buildings.
Being the icon of the city and one of the most renowned monuments in Italy, a tour of the Cathedral (which includes visit to the crypt, the Baptistery and the Campanile) is a prerequisite for any visitor in Florence!

Uffizi Gallery

This world-famous gallery is one of the most visited places in Italy, with over 1.5 million visitors each year, and among the oldest and most important art museums in Europe.
The Uffizi Gallery is located on the top floor of the Uffizi Palace, a U-shaped majestic building designed in 16thcentury by Giorgio Vasari. In its interior is housed an artistic heritage of inestimable value, which includes thousands of paintings, from Medieval to contemporary times, as well as hundreds of monumental statues and lots of other pieces of art. Wandering through the halls of the gallery you’ll have the opportunity to admire some absolute masterpieces made by the greatest artists of all time, such as Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca and more.
The Uffizi Gallery is a must-see for art lovers (but not only), but better to be visited through a guided group tour or, if you want something more intimate and exclusive, a private tour!

Piazza della Signoria

This incredible square was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also known as the Palazzo Vecchio, which stands prominent in the centre of the square. Since its foundation, in the end of the 13th century, this L-shaped square has been the centre of the Florentine political and administrative life. 
Over the centuries, some of the original traits of the square have disappeared, such as the ancient brick paving, but even today Piazza della Signoria still maintains its unique magnificence: although not that vast as some other squares in other Tuscan cities (like Siena), it is extremely lively, and considered one of the main meeting hubs for both locals and tourists, just as it was in the past.
To discover all the secrets and legends about this amazing square, don't miss a guided tour of the centre of Florence.

Signoria Square in Florence

Ponte Vecchio

Universally considered one of the main icons of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio (which literally means “old bridge”) is the oldest of the city’s six bridges across the Arno River.
The Ponte Vecchio is believed to have been first built in Roman Times, and over the centuries it has been damaged several times by flooding of the river and wars. But fortunately, its majestic silhouette has arrived intact to the present day.
Since the 13th century there have been stores of all kind, crowded along its portico. Later on, those shops have been continuously altered with external terraces and raised parts, extending towards the river and transforming the original Ponte Vecchio’s structure into a chaotic and asymmetric (yet fascinating) bridge.
Always open to the public, the Ponte Vecchio makes a very suggestive route for a nice stroll, especially with the romantic evening light. Don’t miss a visit to this historical bridge during your tour of Florence!

Basilica of the Holy Cross

Known as the Basilica di Santa Croce in Italian, the Holy Cross is one of the oldest Franciscan basilicas and, in terms of its dimensions, also one of the most magnificent in all of Florence. The current building was built in 1294 for the Franciscan Order, although according to the legend it was founded by Saint Francis himself.
Located on the vast Piazza Santa Croce, it is known for its great artistic wealth and for being the burial place for some illustrious Florentine personalities, such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.
The chapels in its interior are beautifully decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Francis and other famous biblical episodes.
The Basilica of the Holy Cross is a must-see during your romantic tour of Florence.

Boboli Gardens

The Boboli Gardens is a monumental park in the centre of Florence, created by the Medici Family in the 16th century. It is located right behind the Palazzo Pitti, which originally was the principal residence of the grand ducal family but today houses several important museums.
This enchanting green oasis is one of the earliest Italianesque gardens, filled with sculptures, Roman antiquities, fountains and natural caves. The complex has passed through several stages of enlargement and restructuring works, and over the centuries it has been enriched with more and more art works.
 The Boboli Gardens is the perfect place for escaping the summer heat or for admiring the beautiful colors of autumn and spring. 

Galleria dell'Accademia

The Accademia Gallery (“Accademia della Galleria” in Italian) is the second most visited museum in  Florence (the first being the Uffizi Gallery) and every year is assaulted by thousands and thousands of tourists. 
   Instituted in 1784, the Accademia Gallery is surprisingly small compared to other famous museums in Italy, but it boasts an impressive artistic heritage, especially because it houses what is considered the most important sculpture in the world: the David, a magnificent giant marble statue, over 4 meters tall, created by artist Michelangelo Buonarroti.
However, even if the vast majority of people come exclusively for this giant marble statue, there are several other amazing art masterpieces to see in the Accademia Gallery, and you can visit them through a guided group tour or - if you want something more intimate and exclusive - a private tour!

Palazzo Vecchio

The castle-like silhouette, with its tall tower and crenellated walls, has made the Palazzo Vecchio one of the most famous Florentine landmarks.
Built at the beginning of the 14th century, the Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence. The current building stands where once was an ancient theatre of the Roman colony, dating back to the 1st century, whose ruins can be visited in the underground floor of the palace.
The harsh exterior architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio hides a luxurious interior, with vast halls beautifully adorned with frescoes, decorations and monumental sculptures. Don’t miss a visit to this amazing building!

View of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria

Mercato Nuovo

The Mercato Nuovo (literally “new market”) is a covered market located in the historic centre of Florence, just a few steps from the Piazza della Signoria. It is so called to distinguish it from the Mercato Vecchio (literally “old market”), which was completely demolished, along with the Ghetto,to make way for the Piazza della Repubblica.
The imposing portico – or “loggia” – was built in the middle of the 16th century for the vendors of silks and luxury goods such as jewelries. However, today is mostly intended for the sale of leather goods and souvenirs.
The biggest attraction of the Mercato Nuovo is the Fontana del Porcellino (Piglet Fountain), , a bronze sculpture depicting a wild boar, which is why the square is often colloquially referred as the Piazza del Porcellino. According to tradition, rubbing the animal’s nose would ensure a visitor to return to Florence!
Note: the fountain in the Mercato Nuovo is just a replica of the original one, dating back to the 16th century, which is housed in the Palazzo Pitti.

Vasari Corridor

Built in 1564 on design of Giorgio Vasari, by order of the Medici Family, the Vasari Corridor is one of the hidden gems of Florence. It consists in an elevated passage-way that begins on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio, snakes its way through the Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio, to finally join the Pitti Palace.
Almost one kilometer long, the Vasari Corridor holds over a thousand paintings, all dating from the 17th century and 18th centuries, as well as an important collection of self-portraits.  
The entrance to the Corridor is located on the first floor within the Uffizi Gallery, but it is set up as a separate area: its unmarked door often escapes the attention of most visitors that crowd the Uffizi every day, ignoring that behind that featureless door stands a great treasure!
The Vasari Corridor is always closed to the public, and it can only be visited upon reservation on a guided tour (which includes skip-the-line tickets to the Uffizi Gallery!).

(+1) Piazzale Michelangelo

Built in 1869, this large square is nestled atop a hill: the perfect place to enjoy a breathtaking view of Florence’s skyline and the surrounding rolling hills. Despite being a little bit far from the historic centre, as it’s located on the other side of the Arno River, the Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most popular sites in the city, beloved by among both tourists and locals.
The Piazzale Michelangelo is dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti, the most famous Renaissance artist in Florence: at the centre of the square stands a bronze replica of his masterpiece, the “David” (the original marble statue can be admired in the Accademia Gallery).
This monumental terrace offers terrific picture opportunities, as you can admire the Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral’s Dome and many other attractions of Florence: a must-visit place for your panoramic tour of Florence.

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