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What to see in Florence Italy

Updated on June 19, 2013
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Florence Italy:
Florence, Italy

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Being an American, whenever I thought about Italy I would think about the buildings being so detailed and the people being incredibly nice. The streets being full of the awesome art folk and the open air markets being in full bloom.

After living in Italy for 3 years, I have to admit that it was NOT like I had dreamed it would be. We went all over the place and we only found one place that was my perfect image of Italy. That place was Florence, Italy (or Firenze as it is in Italian).

In Florence I was able to see the incredible architecture and details on the cathedrals and other buildings. I saw my first sidewalk art and was amazed at how close it was to the actual pictures. The open air markets were in full bloom (even though it was sprinkling a little rain every now and then). And the Italian people were so friendly! I even bought this really cool tour book at one of the little shops they had on the corner. This book gave me seven different itineraries that were fully illustrated and in color. It also had a map of the city that we used to make sure we were going the right way. The best part was it only cost me 4.50 Euro and was well worth the money we paid.

Before heading to Florence I knew of two places I really wanted to see. The Ponte Vecchio and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
 Giotto's Bell-TowerThe tallest part of the CathedralDetails on the CathedralThe front of the CathedralThe door known as Ghiberti's "Paradise" that is on the Baptistry buildingA side view of the CathedralAnother front fiew of the Cathedral
 Giotto's Bell-Tower
Giotto's Bell-Tower | Source
The tallest part of the Cathedral
The tallest part of the Cathedral | Source
Details on the Cathedral
Details on the Cathedral | Source
The front of the Cathedral
The front of the Cathedral | Source
The door known as Ghiberti's "Paradise" that is on the Baptistry building
The door known as Ghiberti's "Paradise" that is on the Baptistry building | Source
A side view of the Cathedral
A side view of the Cathedral | Source
Another front fiew of the Cathedral
Another front fiew of the Cathedral | Source

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church in Florence, Italy. It is one of the largest churches in all of Italy and has the largest brick dome ever constructed. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in different shades of green and pink. These are bordered by white marble making this church one of the most amazing creations in Italy.

The cathedral complex includes the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile, all of which are a major tourist attraction to anyone visiting the Tuscany region. There are 44 stained glass windows in the church which holds many different kinds of art work and sculptures dating back as late as the 14th century.

The Baptistery is one of the most beautiful examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany. It was built in the eleventh century and has an octagonal shape with a pyramid roof. The facing is the same green and white marble as the cathedral. There are three bronze doors on the Baptistery. The first door illustrates stories from the life of John the Baptist and the Cardinal and Theological Virtues. The second illustrates Stories from the New Testament, the Gospels and Doctors of the Church. The third door is a series of ten panels depicting Stories from the Old Testament. Michelangelo admired this door the most and said it was "the door of Paradise".

Giotto's Companile (Giotto's bell tower) is 84.70 meters high and is a magnificent example of Floentine Gothic style. The base of the bell tower is decorated by valuable sculptures and by two bas-reliefs with hexagonal plaques depicting: Stories from Genesis, the History of Human Labour, The Planets, The Virtues, The Liberal Arts and The Sacraments. All were done by the eminent sculptors of that time: Andera Pisano, Luca della Robbia, Arnoldo Arnoldi and Donatello. Today the originals are in the Cathedral Museum but were replace by copies.

The Cathedral Museum houses sculptures, gold work, embroidery, models and designs which were found in the Baptistery, the Duomo and the Bell Tower. At the centre of the stairs is the famous Pieta by Michelangelo. It is an unfinished and dramatic work sculpted for his own memorial chapel which he wished to be built in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. There are works from Arnolfo di Cambio, Donatello, Nanni de Banco, Luca della Robbia and Andrea Pisano. The Museum also preserves priceless paintings, reliquaries, holy robes, a well-known sixteenth-century drawing of a reconstruction of the Duomo's original facade, a wooden model of the dome lantern and in two rooms, especially set up on the ground floor, the tools used by Brunelleschi to build the dome.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The fiume Arno (Arno river)Another picture of the fiume ArnoThe famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge)Another picture of the Ponte VecchioThe whole Ponte VecchioLocks of Love
The fiume Arno (Arno river)
The fiume Arno (Arno river) | Source
Another picture of the fiume Arno
Another picture of the fiume Arno | Source
The famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge)
The famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) | Source
Another picture of the Ponte Vecchio
Another picture of the Ponte Vecchio | Source
The whole Ponte Vecchio
The whole Ponte Vecchio | Source
Locks of Love
Locks of Love | Source

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is a Medieval stone closed, arch bridge that was built over the narrowest point on the Arno River. It has several shops built along it. It is said that the concept of bankruptcy originated here. When a merchant couldn't pay his debts, the table he used to sell his goods was physically broken by soldiers and his practice was called "bancorotto" (broken bank in English). Not having a table anymore the merchant was not allowed to sell anything.

Today most of the tenants in the shops on the bridge are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.

In the middle of the bridge there are some open arch areas, on both sides of the bridge, that you can look out over the Arno River and get some incredible pictures.

All along the Ponte Vecchio many people have hung padlocks with their initials on them on chains and railings. This tradition is popularly connected to the idea of love and lovers. By locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, the lovers became eternally bonded. As long as the lock never came off the chain railings, their love would last forever. Because thousands of padlocks have been spoiling or damaging the structure of the centuries-old bridge, there is now a sign that mentions a 50 Euro fine for those caught locking something to the chains or railings. This is not the only place in Italy that does this. Every where we went that there was water, whether it was the sea or a river, there were padlocks on all chains or even around light poles. It has become a huge tradition to those that visit the Tuscany region.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Basilica of S. CroceHeading over to see the carousel in the piazzaMy oldest daughter on the carouselThe street drawers were incredibleAnother street drawingOne of the many wedding dresses on display in Atelier Aimee storeOne of the many places they had open air markets
The Basilica of S. Croce
The Basilica of S. Croce | Source
Heading over to see the carousel in the piazza
Heading over to see the carousel in the piazza | Source
My oldest daughter on the carousel
My oldest daughter on the carousel | Source
The street drawers were incredible
The street drawers were incredible | Source
Another street drawing
Another street drawing | Source
One of the many wedding dresses on display in Atelier Aimee store
One of the many wedding dresses on display in Atelier Aimee store | Source
One of the many places they had open air markets
One of the many places they had open air markets | Source

Other Sights To See

There are so many other sights to see in Florence.

The Basilica of Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan church in Florence. It is situated on the Piazza di Santa Croce which is about 800 metres south east of the Duomo. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini. It is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories. In the piazza they had open food markets set up with candy, meats, cheeses and other Italian dishes.

There is an incredible carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica. It cost us 1.50 Euro for one kid to ride and they had plenty of benches to sit on and watch the kids. There were also a ton of open air markets with fruits, vegetables, and my favorite one, honey!

Along via de' Calzaiuoli (a street that goes away from the Duomo) there were many different stores to stop and look at. There were also sidewalk/street painters. I had never seen these before and they were incredible. It amazed me how people would be sure to walk around the paintings and respected what the drawers has done. There were also many open air markets along this street that had everything you could imagine. From scarfs to toys to jewelry and clothes, you can find something for everyone at an Italian open air market.

My favorite shop of the day was the Atelier Aimee Montenapoleone store. It is this amazing bridal store that had the most beautiful wedding dresses EVER. I love how their window display added the Italian colors to the dresses too. Made it even more memorable for me.

Some other sights that are a must see while in Florence, Italy include: The Statue of David by Michelangelo (inside the gallery of the academy), The Pitti Palace, the Bargello Palace, Piazzale Michelangelo and the Russian Orthodox Church. All of these sights are within a walking distance from the Ponte Vecchio so find a place to park, pay for an all day parking spot, and have an incredible experience touring the wonderful Fierenze, Italy!

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO FLORENCE, ITALY?

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    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      bridalletter - I'm glad you enjoyed my hub! When we went we packed a picnic lunch and sat in a park to eat. My daughter is alergic to all nuts and a lot of Italian dishes are made with some type of nut so it was always easiest for us to pack our own meals. As far as the best gelato, we went to a place right around the corner from the Cathedral called Gelateria Grom on via del Campinile. They had some unique flavors when we were there :) If you make it there I hope you have a wonderful time!!!! Thanks for the comment :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      bdegiulio - Thanks for the wonderful comment :) Florence was my favorite Italian city by far!!!

    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 

      5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      Thank you for the insight not often shared, you know many of us fantasize about Italy. It is my dream vacation. I think this will be the most special to see. What was your favorite place to eat and where is the best gelato?

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Cassy, This is an excellent tour of Florence. We really loved Florence also and would love to go back someday. Your pictures are wonderful. I'm voting this up and sharing. Great job.

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      leahlefler - If you ever get back that way, Florence is a must!!! Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Oh, this makes me want to travel to Florence! I have never been anywhere south of Turin - we went skiing in the Via Lattea, but never saw the rest of Italy. Florence is beautiful!

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      lindacee - I'm not sure about an enitre book but definately a few chapters :) I'm glad we were able to go to Florence, it is the perfect Italian City (through my eyes anyways). Thanks for the comment :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      teaches12345 - Florence is definately a place that enhance your romantic lifestyle. If you can ever make the trip it will be well worth it! Thanks for the comment :)

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      I adore Florence. Spent just short of a week there and could have stayed several more weeks to take in everything. You are so right, it is the quintessential Italian city. Better visited when not crawling with tourists! Your Hub covered all the must-see sights. I'm sure you could do an entire book on this magical city! Well done!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I see by your poll that most of have not been to Florence but would love to be there! What a beautiful city and certainly invites you to enhance your romantic lifestyle.

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      rfmoran - Hey, it sure is :) How awesome! Thanks for stopping by and the comment :) I'm glad you enjoyed my hub!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      6 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Great Hub. Makes me nostalgic for Florence, a city that I love. In my profile photo that's the Ponte alle Grazie behind me. Beautiful pictures.

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      greatstuff - Ya know, I would love to go back too but like you there are so many place I want to see that I haven't yet that it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list! Maybe one day we will both get back there :) Thanks for the comment!

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 

      6 years ago from Malaysia

      I love Florence; it is my favorite Italian city. I was there years ago, in 1974, when I was studying in the UK. I have been dreaming of going back but so many other places yet to visit, so I kept postponing the trip to Italy.

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Sunshine625 - That is really awesome that your daughter and her husband are traveling through Europe this month! I really loved it when I lived there. I hope they have a wonderful trip! There will also be some hubs on Rome, Venice, Verona and Pisa within this week :) Thanks for stopping by and the comment :)

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Mhatter99 - stay tuned, more Italian hubs coming soon :) Thanks for stopping by!

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      Thanks Riverfish24 :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      My daughter and her husband are traveling through Europe this month and they are scheduled to be in Florence on July 13th. Perfect timing for this hub! I am going to share it with them. Thank you for creating this awesome, informative article!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. wonderful and picturesque tour

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 

      6 years ago from United States

      Beautiful hub! Love the detail and format.

    • CassyLu1981 profile imageAUTHOR

      CassyLu1981 

      6 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      J. Frank Dunkin - I'm glad you enjoyed Firenze as much as I did. Definately one of my favorite places as well. I'll be doing hubs on Venice, Rome, Verona and a few more as well :) Hope you enjoy all the hubs I do! Thanks for the comment :)

    • J. Frank Dunkin profile image

      Joseph Franklin Dunkin Jr 

      6 years ago from Foley, Alabama

      Nicely done. I found Firenze to be one of the most interesting places in all of Italy... but the Lake Como region is my favorite, especially Bellagio. Great article. Will be following you for more about my favorite country.

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