What to do in Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy -- "Firenze" in Italian -- was the center of the Italian Renaissance, and home to many famous artists, including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Today it's brimming with art and culture, and is a fascinating city to visit!

Top places to go in Florence

Shops hang off the side of the medieval Ponte Vecchio.  Photos by Deanna Keahey.
Shops hang off the side of the medieval Ponte Vecchio. Photos by Deanna Keahey.
The Duomo in Florence. Photo by MJ-Davies (flickr)
The Duomo in Florence. Photo by MJ-Davies (flickr)
David by Michaelangelo. Photo by jay8085 (flickr)
David by Michaelangelo. Photo by jay8085 (flickr)
Tuscan scene. Photo by Reading Is My Heroin (flickr)
Tuscan scene. Photo by Reading Is My Heroin (flickr)

Florence is simply steeped in history. It's truly amazing how such a concentration of the world's great thinkers collected in this small city in the 14th century, and the Renaissance that started here spread throughout Europe. Art, science, literature, and politics -- revolutionary advances in all these fields were happening, and Florence was the center of this thinker's hotbed.

  • The Ponte Vecchio (Italian for "old bridge"), does indeed live up to its name, and more. Spanning the Arno River, this this medieval bridge has rows of shops hanging off the side of the bridge. In the old days, these were butchers and fishmongers. Now they house premiere goldsmiths and jewelers, with merchandise worth ogling.
  • The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (commonly referred to as "The Duomo") is the cathedral of Florence, and its dome towers over the rest of the Florentine skyline. The exterior has clean, elegant patterns of white, pink and green marble. Engineering such an enormous dome was a feat unknown elsewhere at that time -- another development in science from the Renaissance days.
  • Michelangelo's David is one of his greatest works of art, and one of the best-known statues in the world. "The David" is a powerful marble sculpture of the young David from the biblical conflict with Goliath. It is now viewed as a symbol of youthful human beauty and strength.
  • Florence is the primary city of Tuscany, a region of Italy famous for beautiful scenery,medieval hill towns, and Chianti wine. If you've got the time, it well worth doing a little exploring. Check out Siena (Florence's arch-rival city during the Renaissance), or Pisa(home of the famous leaning tower). Both are easy to do by train from Florence as a day trip.
  • The Uffizi Museum is a must for art-lovers -- arguably the finest collection of Italian Renaissance art in the world. You'll find a large collection with paintings by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Masaccio, and many more. Buy museum tickets online to avoid long lines.

Top things to do in Florence

A souvenir shop in Florence. Photo by Hellebardius (flickr)
A souvenir shop in Florence. Photo by Hellebardius (flickr)
Shopping street in Florence, Italy. Photo by Eustaquio Santimano (flickr)
Shopping street in Florence, Italy. Photo by Eustaquio Santimano (flickr)
A trattoria in Florence. Photo by star5112 (flickr)
A trattoria in Florence. Photo by star5112 (flickr)
  • Shopping, anyone? Florence has a wealth of shops selling top-quality (and some not-so-top quality, so beware) goods. You'll find designer fashions with well-known names like Gucci, Prada, and Roberto Cavalli. The city is home to the famous Salvatore Ferragamo. You'll find fabulous Italian shoes, elegant leather goods, colorful silks, and amazing jewelry.
  • If you're blowing your wad on the trip itself, not the designer duds once you get here, Florence is also a great city for buying souvenirs, and gifts for the folks back home. Check out the street markets, where you could find a bargain. With colorful stalls displaying a huge variety of products, you'll want your camera with you, too.
  • When you have shopped 'till you're ready to drop, where better to take the weight off your feet than just across the Ponte Vecchio, in the area known as Oltrarno. You'll find numerous restaurants and wine bars in this back street area of the city. It's not quite the normal tourist path, and there's a feeling of authenticity here.
  • After returning to your hotel for a quick freshen-up, why not take in Florence by night? You could have dinner at a trattoria (tavern), then check out one of the city's clubs or live music venues. As an alternative, you could do what the Italians do -- go from bar to bar, enjoying a drink and some snacks at each. Keep your eyes open for posters in public areas about what events are taking place while you're here.

Explore Florence, Italy

show route and directions
A markerPonte Vecchio, Florence, Italy -
Ponte Vecchio, 50125 Florence, Italy
[get directions]

B markerThe Duomo, Florence, Italy -
Giotto's Campanile, Piazza del Duomo, 0, 50122 Florence, Italy
[get directions]

C markerUffizi Museum, Florence, Italy -
Florence Gallery, Galleria degli Uffizi, Piazzale degli Uffizi, 50122 Florence, Italy
[get directions]

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Comments? 30 comments

sligobay profile image

sligobay 8 years ago from east of the equator

Hello Happy Explorer, Gioto's bronze doors are another artistic sight to behold. In addition to Michaelangelo's 'David', the city is a warehouse of marble sculptures chiseled by him. It is truly the sculptor's Mecca. Wresting an historic city into modern transport schemes inevitably detracts from the past but global warming demands energy saving solutions or there will be no need for history.Cheers, sligobay

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Sligobay - About the new Florence tram lines, it does seem like one of those cases where there's no good solution. Surely the traffic roaring past the Duomo now already causes a lot of vibration, and a lot more corrosive pollution, too. However, I'm not sure why they have to run it right by the Duomo instead of a couple of blocks away. Knowing the streets in that area, perhaps there aren't many that are straight & wide enough for the trams? Thanks for the comments! - Deanna.

tinyteddy profile image

tinyteddy 8 years ago from INDIA

what to do in florence? romance of course

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi tinyteddy -

Good thought! For those who are lucky in love (at least temporarily!), Florence is definitely an ideal place to enjoy that romance. (-:

Thanks! - Deanna.

ram_m profile image

ram_m 8 years ago from India

A great hub on Florence. I think the city is also associated with the Medici's and Machiavelli. I'am not very sure, but certainly you can probably throw some light on this

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Ram_m -

You're absolutely right -- Florence is indeed associated with the Medici's and Machiavelli. The Medici family were very powerful and wealthy, and they were a major factor in how Florence became the birthplace of the Italian renaissance.

Thanks for your comment! - Deanna.

PaulieWalnuts profile image

PaulieWalnuts 8 years ago from Chicago

Great job! I have fond memories of when I and my sculpture class visited l'Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, where the David" is located among others of Michelangelo's pieces and we all burst out in tears! What a moving experience! Thanks for reminding me of a truly awesome time 20 years ago!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 8 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Paulie -

Thanks for the note! "The David" really is awesome, and must have been especially inspiring to a sculpture class! I loved Michelangelo's concept of revealing the sculpture from within the block of marble. Nobody's ever done it quite like him!

Pisa Car Hire 7 years ago

Florence is one of the places in the world I love the most, it looks as thou it was painted rather than built

knell63 profile image

knell63 7 years ago from Umbria, Italy

Enjoyed the read,

I totally adore Florence, my favourite place is the English Cemetery, its such a peaceful place amid all the chaos of a major city and full of interesting foreignors who moved to live and ultimtely die in the city.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney

Everyone says the Uffizi is a must but I really wish we hadn't bothered. Queuing took up half our day and once we were inside, we found it quite outdatd and disappointing. And queuing for half the day meant we missed out on seeing some other landmark sites.


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Marisa - Too bad you had such a long line. I've added a link in this hub where you can get museum tickets online. It's so much more convenient if you have the tickets in advance!

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

Thanks! We were touring so weren't sure when we were due to arrive - but next time we're planning to stay in one place for a while, so we'll be able to take advantage of the online service.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

I'm visiting Florence soon, and it was good to read your tips. Thanks!

theazorean profile image

theazorean 6 years ago from Florence, Italy

Ciao. Nice article! I'm an art historian and I've been working in educational tourism here in Florence for six years(I live in the Oltrarno and love it). I write historical fiction about the city. Do you live here, too?

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Amanda - Have fun on your trip!

Theazorean - I wish I still lived there! I love Italy, and Florence in particular. Historical fiction sounds interesting and fun - what's your book? It's always great to get new perspectives on a place you're visiting.

Varenya profile image

Varenya 6 years ago

Hi, very good hub! Can i suggest to include in a visit of Florence, the Gardens of Boboli? They are quite exquisite and funny, like a maze full of beautiful statues and sceneries...

Juliette Morgan profile image

Juliette Morgan 6 years ago

Hello lovely hub, a pleasure to read. I remember walking across that bridge, brings it all back to me - had dinner in a domed restaurant high up with spectacular views over the city - can't recall the restaurant name but it was quite famous and well worth the visit. Thanks, Juliette.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Varenya - Good suggestion about the Boboli Gardens! That's another wonderful place.

Juliette - Florence really is such an atmospheric place, isn't it? And walking across the bridge in the evening is a special moment. Thanks!

camere a tema 5 years ago

Hello I live in Tuscany and I am really glad to see that people who live abroad know so well my land, have you prepared a good tour itinerary for us Italians themselves!Well Done!!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Thanks camere a tema! Tuscany is simply breathtaking and it's no wonder there's many of us who write about your land.

M. Bab Pollard profile image

M. Bab Pollard 5 years ago from Chicago

Double-down on Siena. Well worth a day trip as I noted in one of my Hubs.

alghero airport car hire 5 years ago

Resources such as the one you mentioned here will be extremely helpful to myself! I will publish a hyperlink to this page on my particular blog. I am sure my site visitors will come across that quite valuable

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

M. Bab Pollard!- Yes Siena is indeed worth the trip. I've had a fabulous time. Thanks for dropping by.

alghero airport car hire - I'm glad you found this hub helpful. I share about my trips because I love traveling and Italy is one of my favorite destinations. Thanks for linking!

Alghero car rental 5 years ago

I found this resource very helpful; I am going to Florence next week indeed, thanks!

applejuic3 profile image

applejuic3 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

once again, your hubs only impress me more and more. you definitely know what you are talking about when it comes to these cities and once again, thank you for taking the time to put these pieces together.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Alghero car rental - I'm glad you found this hub helpful. Have a safe trip!

applejuic3 - I can see you've been visiting my hubs for Italy. Thank you for kind comments. I hub often about Italy because there's so many wonderful things to share.

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travelholidays profile image

travelholidays 3 years ago from India

Great hub . Michelangelo image is awesome . Thanks to 'happyexplorer' for sharing this post

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