Lisa Owen

Tucked away in the centre of Italy lies the historical city of Florence. Florence started its life in 59 BC and it was once the centre of political and economic power in Italy.

If you’re visiting Italy, Florence is sure to be on your itinerary – so here are seven fun things to see and do.

florence

Visit Florence’s Piazza Michelangelo lookout

The Piazza Michelangelo lookout is one of Florence’s key sights – and for good reason. The lookout on the south bank of the Arno River offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

You can see the river with its photogenic bridges, as well as the dome and bell tower of the famous Duomo cathedral.

To reach the lookout, walk through the city centre, cross the river at Ponte alle Grazie and follow the signs up to the lookout.

duomo cupola

Climb to the top of the Duomo cupola

Climbing up to the cupola of Florence’s Duomo is on the must do list of most Florence visitors.

The Duomo (also known as the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral) is the world’s 4th largest cathedral and parts of the beautiful building date back to 1296. It’s constructed of green, white and pink marble. The dome was built between 1418 and 1434.

The number of people in the cupola at any one time is limited, so visitors are given a time slot for their turn. Avoid missing out on a visit by buying your ticket in advance online – especially if you’re visiting in the popular summer months.

Be warned that you have to climb 463 steps to reach the top of the dome.

Tickets cost €18 but allow entry to five monuments including the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Baptistry of San Giovanni.

Tickets can be bought online here: www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it/

ponte vecchio

Walk along the Arno River promenade and check out the Ponte Vecchio

One of Florence’s most popular sights is the Ponte Vecchio (Vecchio Bridge) on the Arno River. The bridge is a photogenic part of Florence, and one of its oldest structures.

Ponte Vecchio is lucky to still be in existence. Florence was almost completely destroyed by strategic bombing in WWII, but the bridge was spared because of its historical significance.

It’s also one of only three bridges in the world that features shops. It used to be occupied by butcher and blacksmith shops, but is now home to jewellers.

The best view of the bridge itself is from the adjacent bridges.

florence museum

Get your art fix at Florence’s museums

Art lovers should make a beeline for the Uffizi Gallery which houses works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Da Vinci and many more famous Italian artists.

You can also visit the original ‘David’ sculpture inside the Accademia Gallery (but you have to book your ticket online) – or just go see the copy in Piazza Signoria.

Each gallery costs €8 to enter. Both are closed on Mondays.

Sample Italian food at the Central Market

Florence’s central market is a popular spot for visitors and tourists alike.

The food court on the first floor of the market offers reasonable prices for anything from pasta and pizza to arancini balls. It’s open daily from 10am to midnight.

On the ground floor you’ll find local products to cook up your own feast ranging from fruit and vegetables, meats and cheese. You can also pick up some limoncello. The ground floor stalls are open from 7am-2pm Monday to Saturday.

Outside the market is the San Lorenzo market – a street market selling souvenirs, clothes and leather products.

florence markets

Take a day trip to nearby Tuscan towns

During your stay in Florence, it’s worth making a day trip out to the nearby Tuscan towns of Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Lucca.

Reaching each of these towns is easily done by train.

Siena and San Gimignano can be done together on a long day trip. First take the train to Siena from Florence’s main train station. It’s best to buy the ticket the day before.

Siena’s train station is located about 2km from the city centre but it’s a pretty walk past the city walls and up through the historical centre to the main square, Piazza del Campo.

You can climb the 500 steps to the top of Torre del Mangia for a beautiful view over Siena’s old town.

To get to San Gimignano from Siena, get on the train heading back to Florence (listed as Firenze) and get off at Poggibonsi. Catch a bus from outside the train station up to San Gimignano. It should take about 15 minutes. Return back to Poggibonsi train station to get back to Florence. Trains running to Florence run hourly.

San Gimignano is famous for its towers. At one time, there was 76 towers in San Gimignano as rival families competed to build the tallest tower. Unfortunately only 13 towers now remain, but you can climb the stairs to reach the top of the tallest tower.   

Pisa needs no introduction – of course you’re going there to check out its leaning tower.

After you’ve taken the token shot of holding the leaning tower up – why not head over to nearby Lucca and walk around the city walls.

Take a winery tour

Florence serves as a hub to take a winery tour to the nearby Chianti region.

You can take a relaxing tour through the rolling hills of the Tuscan landscape and sample the wine and food the region is famous for.

Things You Should Know

  • Florence is best explored on foot with all the main sights close to each other.
  • Florence is well connected to other Italian cities by train and bus.
  • Tours are offered from Florence to visit nearby cities such as Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa, but it’s also possible to do independently by train.
  • Florence is one Italian city that gets very busy in the summer months of June, July and August. If visiting in peak season, it’s a good idea to plan accommodation and any trains and buses in advance, as well as your visit to the Duomo.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 70 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.