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.
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.
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.