In the late Middle Ages, Florence was the shining center of European commerce and finance and is still considered the cradle of the Renaissance. The Medici dynasty, whose members made the city one of the richest cities in the world in the 15th and 16th centuries, has a huge share in Florence’s influence on contemporary society.
Leonardo das Vinci lived here for many years in his youth, Galileo Galilei resided as a court mathematician of the Medici in their palaces, Niccolò Machiavelli wrote here his famous work Il Principe (“the prince”) and Michelangelo lived his art in the buildings of the city and make The Florence attractions are so popular.
No wonder that the very small city center today has the center with the second most tourists per square meter – more rush to the hotspots of a destination, there is only in Venice.
Which famous buildings, monuments, museums and squares you must have seen, you’ll learn in the next post.
Basilica Santa Croce
On the walls of the aisles are the tombs of:
- Niccolò Machiavelli,
- Galileo Galilei,
- Gioachino Rossini
- and a cenotaph for Dante Alighieri.
Basilica San Miniato al Monte
At the highest point of the city, a hill south of the Arno River, lies the Basilica of San Miniato. The church is one of Italy’s most beautiful churches by far and impresses in particular by its facade: the three-aisled church is covered with green and white marble.
The San Miniato al Monte bears the honorary title “Basilica Minor”, which, for example, also holds the church of San Zeno Maggiore in Verona. The Pope gives this title to churches that are of particular importance to the region and the Catholic Church in order to emphasize this relevance.
Once, the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge over the Arno, served as an important trading route for butchers and tanners. Today, jewelers and goldsmiths are in the shops on the bridge, which is one of the most architecturally interesting buildings and landmarks in the city.
Tip: The crowds on the bridge during the day is enormous, especially during the peak season there are countless tourists. In the evening it gets a bit quieter and you can stroll undisturbed along in the evening sun even more golden than already shining showcase.
The construction of the Palazzo Vecchios started in 1299 under the supervision of architect Arnolfo di Cambio. Fifteen years later, the Florentine Parliament, also known as the “Signoria”, moved into Palazzo Vecchio. However, the palace not only served as a workplace, members of parliament also lived in the palace privately, which explains the fortified architecture of the building. From 1540, the Medici also appreciated the security offered by the Palazzo Vecchio.
In the Hall of the Five Hundred, which once served as a meeting and celebration room, there is an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci.
Today, the city hall of Florence is located in the Palazzo Vecchio. Interesting: The Fürth Town Hall in Middle Franconia was modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio. In addition, the town hall in the Polish Opole resembles the Palazzo in Florence. Not only the palace, but the entire appearance of the city, is decisively shaped by the tower of the Palazzos: At 94 meters high tower in honor of the builder “Arnolfo Tower” towers over the Roofs of the surrounding buildings.
Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
If you are off the beaten track and are crossing the very compact inner city limits, you just have to ask for directions to the Duomo to get back into the middle of the action. Already from a distance you can see the fourth largest church in the world between the streets.
Characteristic of the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore is its imposing dome, a masterpiece of the early Renaissance. Another highlight of the cathedral is the bell tower “Campanile di Giotto” on the west facade of the building.
Galleria degli Uffizi
Not only the paintings shown in the museum, already the building itself into a true work of art. Already at the time of the Medici artists were promoted in this historical building, whose actual purpose was the accommodation of ministries and offices. These were given their own workshops here. It is assumed, for example, that the Italian instrument maker Cristofori built a prototype of today’s famous piano in the workshops on the ground floor of the Uffizi Gallery in 1694.
Nowadays you can see famous works such as the “Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli and the “Self Portrait” by Raphael. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation” is also part of the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi behind the Palazzo Vecchio.
Tip: If you want to avoid long waiting times, we recommend that you buy an online ticketing ticket in advance.
The Palazzo Pitti in Florence, also called the “Pitti Palace”, now houses several museums. This includes:
- Galleria Palatina (Medici painting collection)
- Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Pictures of Classicism to Neoclassicism)
- the Costume Gallery (Galleria del Costume)
- the Porcelain Museum (Museo delle Porcellane)
- the Silver Museum (Museo degli Argenti)
- the royal apartments (Appartamenti Reali)
- the Carriage Museum (Museo delle Carrozze)
The palace was built from 1458 for the merchant Luca Pitti, by which the building also got its name. From the 16th century, the Medicis used the palace as official residence. Even if the facade looks a little “cool”, it’s worth looking behind it.
On the south side of the palace is the Boboli Garden, one of the most famous Italian gardens of the 16th century. Most impressive is the sculpture collection. Various garden temples, caves and nymphs give the park a unique character.
Tip: At the highest elevation of the garden you can enjoy a great view over the entire city.
Basilica di Santo Spirito
The Basilica di Santo Spirito is the second church in Florence to receive the papal title “Basilica minor”. A very special attraction inside the church in the district of Oltrarno is the cross of Michelangelo in one of the 38 side chapels of the church.
Forte di Belvedere
Most of the Forte di Belvedere is called just “Belvedere”. The full name, however, reveals what this attraction is about: the term “forte” always describes a kind of fortress in Italian. The Belvedere is one of two fortresses in Florence that once served to protect the Medici family. Client of the building was Grand Duke Ferdinando I de ‘Medici in the 16th century. Together with the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Garden, the fortress is on the south side of the Arno.
Tip: The view from the fortress to the city offers some beautiful photo opportunities thanks to the elevated position.
Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
Fancy one of the most valuable manuscript collections in the world? Then a visit to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in the convent of San Lorenzo, the former house church of the Medici, almost mandatory. The museum has a stock of approximately 150,000 books. Among them are 15th-century incunabula (prints), prints from the 16th century, about 11,000 manuscripts and about 2,500 papyri. One of the most valuable pieces of the Biblioteca Medicea is the book of hours Lorenzo I, which dates back to 1485.
The idiosyncratic anteroom with magnificent staircase was designed by Michelangelo, on whose account the subsequent Sala Grande, the reading tubes and the wooden ceiling of the library go.
The central square in Florence is dominated by cafés, bars and masses of souvenir stalls. Especially worth seeing, however, are the bronze copies of some of Michelangelo’s works.
Tip: The sunset on Piazzale Michelangelo’s expansive terrace is more than romantic. From here you can enjoy a great view of various sights that are shrouded by the setting sun in a garment of light and shade.
Battistero di San Giovanni
The baptistery dedicated to John the Baptist is a real feast for the eyes, thanks to the marble cladding typical of the city. Particularly impressive are the bronze portals and the octagonal mosaic dome of the Battistero di San Giovanni.
By the way: The baptistery is the oldest building in the city. Excavations under and around the structure reveal remains of ancient Roman buildings and mosaic floors dating back to the 1st and 3rd centuries. It was first mentioned in a church dedicated to John the Baptist and opposite the bishop’s palace at that time, around the year 897. The current form of the building probably goes back to the early 11th century.
The Museo Galileo is dedicated to mathematical and scientific phenomena. Of course, especially the achievements of the famous philosopher, mathematician, engineer, physicist, astronomer and cosmologist are presented. Galileo Galilei came from an impoverished Florentine patrician family, was born in 1564 in Pisa, but lived continuously in Florence from the 1570s.
A highlight of the museum is the original telescope Galileos. Not less worth seeing are the various mathematical devices and elaborate planetary models.
The Medici Chapel consists of the “Cappella dei Principi” and the “Sagrestia Nuova”. Both parts belong to the Basilica di San Lorenzo and can be reached via the crypt at the back of the church.
The Sagrestia Nuova (“New Sacristy”) was the first work of Michelangelo, in which he showed his unrivaled artistic and sculptural skills. The Medici tombs of Lorenzo di Piero de ‘Medici (Duke of Urbino) and Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (Duke of Nemours) were also designed by Michelangelo.
The Cappella dei Principi (“Princely Chapel”) was built by the Medicean house architect Bernardo Buontalenti and consists of a large vaulted, octagonal hall. Here are all the grave lies of those Medici who have found no place in the Sagrestia Nuova. In total, nearly fifty (less significant) members of the Florentine dynasty are buried in the crypt.
Although Palazzo Vecchio is Florence’s most well-known palace, Palazzo Davanzati is one of the most beautiful of its kind. The museum is furnished with original furniture, paintings and everyday objects that reflect the typical Florentine house from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
After the building in the Via Porta Rossa was extensively renovated, the magnificent murals in the parrot parlor and the men’s and ladies’ chamber are once again among the must-see museums.
The construction of the Palazzo Rucellais was commissioned in the middle of the 15th century by the namesake Giovanni Rucellai (banker, patron of the arts). Today, the building is one of the most important buildings of the Florentine Renaissance. Unfortunately, you can not visit the Palazzo from the inside, as it is still inhabited by descendants of the Rucellai family. A beautiful photo opportunity is the exterior of the palace, designed by the architect Leon Battista Alberti, but always.
Ponte Santa Trìnita
It is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance bridges in Italy: the Ponte Santa Trinita, which connects the northern and southern banks of the Arno. The first draft of the 100 meter long bridge dates from the 13th century. However, when the original wooden structure was destroyed several times, it was decided 571 to a new building in its present form.
The Ponte Santa Trinita received its name from the nearby Chiesa della Santa Trinita (Church of the Holy Trinity).
Basilica di Santa Maria Novella
The Basilica Santa Maria Novella is just opposite the named after her station in the northwest of the old town. The gothic church and monastery are characterized by the typical Florentine marble on the façade and numerous frescoes inside the church.
Do not miss: a visit to the green cloister and the Spanish chapel!
Giardino dei Semplici
If you want to really breathe in Florence, you should visit the Giardino dei Semplici, also known as “Orto Botanico di Firenze”. The city’s botanical garden was created in 1545 by Cosimo di Medici and is now administered by the University of Florence. The third oldest garden in Europe hosts about 9,000 different plant species. Except on Wednesdays you can visit the garden daily between 10: 00-19: 00.
The church Orsanmichele or Or San Michele (formerly “San Michele in Orto”, z.Dt. “San Michele in the garden” or “Garden of San Michele”) is located in the heart of the Florentine old town and once served as a granary. In the basement of the two- or three-storey building is today the art museum Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele.
From the outside, the sacral building has little to do with the other churches of the city, because the facade is dominated not by the marble typical for Florence, but by sandstone. One of the highlights inside the church is the Marian altar with the marble tabernacle “Madonna delle Grazie”.