Florence Pictures Guide, Firenze, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in Florence, Italy

Built originally by the Romans at the river’s narrowest point, Ponte Vecchio was washed away in a flood in 1117, then rebuilt in 1345. During World War II as the Germans retreated from Florence in 1944 all bridges were destroyed, except the Vecchio, supposedly on Hitler’s orders.

Florence Tourism

One of Europe’s most beautiful, walkable city centres and the capital of Tuscany, Florence (in Italian: Firenze) contains a mass of incredible structures, statues and a real best-of-medieval feel, if you can ignore the eternal scaffolding and tourist overload.

A big player historically, Firenze contains many artistic wonders in both stone and oils, inside and out, endless quirky details and spectacular interiors. It’s a must-see, but not in the summertime if possible, though the Bugcrew arrived there in July (by chance! ) and enjoyed the experience enormously in spite of the crowds.

Main Attractions

The best overview of Florence is from the hilltop of Piazzale Michelangelo, and the best time to be there is in the morning with the sun behind you. This is an excellent starting point for a walk around the city’s main sights.

Then it’s a short stroll beside the river to incredible Ponte Vecchio or a diversion left to visit the Palazzo Pitti. Cross the bridge and almost immediately you’ll be in Florence’s best square, della Signoria (photo below), with Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio museums only metres away.

Next it’s either a trot right to visit Santa Croce church and its tombs of medieval celebrities or 5 minutes up Via de Calzaiuoli to the Duomo area – Piazza di San Giovanni, to admire the elaborate exterior and the interiors of both the Duomo (free) and the Baptistry.

Palazzo Vechio

Statue of Perseus by Cellini, Florence, Italy

Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria Pictures, and Cellini’s Perseus with the head of Medusa.

Piazza della Signoria is another major attraction with its multitude of frequently grotesque statues such as Cellini’s Perseus, the Palazzo Vecchio museum and the adjacent, world famous Uffizi gallery.

Galleria degli Uffizi

Italy

Italy’s world famous Uffizi Gallery. Photo by Chris Wee.

The name Uffizi means offices in Italian as that was the original purpose of the building when it was constructed for Cosimo I de Medici between 1560-1581. Gradually these legal offices became a place to view and display Italian art and evolved into a popular spot for artists to hang out in the middle ages, among them Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
When the Medici clan finally lost its wealth and power the last Medici agreed to permit the building and its magnificent collections to become an art museum. In 1765 it was officially opened to the public.

Some of the masterpieces on show are Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus; Leonardo da Vinci’s The Annunciation; Piero di Cosimo’s Perseus Freeing Andromeda; Albrecht Dürer’s Adoration of the Magi; Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo; Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch; Titian’s Flora, Venus of Urbino; Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck; Caravaggio’s Bacchus, Sacrifice of Isaac, Medusa; Rembrandt’s self-portraits.

Uffizi is ranked 25th on the list of most visited art museums in the world, with nearly 2 million visitors annually (#1 is Paris’ Louvre, #2 London’s British Museum, #3 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art). Like other great museums the Uffizi building itself is a work of art and a joy to wander around – if the crowds are not too dense.

Il Duomo

Il Duomo interior, Florence, Italy

Il Duomo, Florence’s huge and colourful (mainly the exterior) cathedral.

Number one Florence attraction is the amazing, pink white and green Duomo cathedral (no charge to enter the interior) along with its glorious, neighbouring Baptistry doors and ceiling and Giotto’s spectacular Campanile tower with great city views if you can handle 400 steps.

Shopping

Shopping in Florence, Italy

Great value and style shopping in street markets as well as some shops.

A terrific shopping city, especially leather goods (gloves, bags, shoes, jackets), spectacle frames (made in Italy) with the famous Italian brands at accessible prices, fake Italian brands at astounding prices and a gorgeous environment in which to window shop.

The starting point has to be Ponte Vecchio’s jewellery shops, then, for designer shops just wander around Via Tornabuoni, Via Roma, Via della Vigna Nuova and Marcato Centrale along with all the Japanese tourists.

Florence weather is best from May- September

OK: July, August means mooing herds of tourists and some heat, though museum and church interiors make a great escape. Summer average temperatures range from 17C – 31C (63F-88F).
The wettest and coldest months generally are October, December, March, April.

By Car? Start Here: Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy

Not only Florence’s best viewpoint but Piazzale Michelangelo is also (IMHO) the best morning tour starting point and all-day free parking, a major plus as finding parking in the city generally is difficult, pricey and frequently incomprehensible while the core attractions are impossible to park near, though they are compactly located so all are within an easy walk of each other once you’re there.

Food

Naturally touristy locations are stuffed with poor value, mediocre food, so for a decent meal look for a place where locals are eating and try traditional dishes – which should be decently priced.
Beware ripoffs. A certain trattoria beside the Ponte Vecchio, for example, posts an attractive menu outside then presents a totally different one inside.
For a real $$$ blowout try Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri, or Il Pizzaiuolo for good value Neapolitan pizzas, and Da Ruggero trattoria for local food at local prices.

Getting there

• Fly to Pisa and take either train or bus to Florence. Trains run from Pisa Centrale station, cost under €10 and the journey takes about 1 hour. More train information.
• Fly to Florence’s own little airport, Peretola, with either Air Italy or Meridiana.
• Driving? A bit chaotic but possible. Day-tripping tourists can park for free in Piazzale Michelangelo if they get there early enough.