Next was Florence – the second city on my 5 cities in 5 nights Italian trip. I wasn’t staying far from Florence’s main train station, Santa Maria Novella, which meant I was quite close to the centre. If you’re heading there soon or if the city is on your travel bucket list, here are my top 5 things to see and do in Florence, Italy.
1. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
No trip to Florence is complete if you don’t (at least) see the amazing Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – or Duomo as it’s more commonly known. It towers above Piazzale el Duomo (the square in which it’s located) along with the Baptistery; Giotto’s Bell Tower or ‘campanile’; the Cathedral Museum; Brunelleschi’s Dome (‘cupola’), and the The Crypt of Santa Reparata.
Completed in the 14th century, it’s the third largest church in the world after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul’s in London. I was simply in awe of its beautiful architecture.
You’ll gaze (mouth slightly open I’m sure), for a few minutes at its white and emerald green marble exterior, intricately painted to cover its vast shell. You’ll be astounded at how grand this building is.
Its presence is definitely felt throughout the city as you’re able to see the cathedral’s dome and bell tower peek above rooftops as you wander through the streets of Florence.
- Check each area within the square as the cathedral, bell tower, baptistery, dome, crypt and museum, all have different opening times.
2. The Uffizi Gallery
What can I say about the Uffizi Gallery. Well, firstly you must leave time in your itinerary to visit this splendid museum. If you’re not a huge fan of art museums or galleries in general, it will be a lot to take in.
The works of art – including paintings and sculptures – span hundreds of years. But regardless of whether you enjoy art or not, there will be something in the Uffizi that you’ll find interesting.
To save time (and the long queues), you should consider booking your ticket in advance. I booked mine online and it definitely made getting into the gallery a lot easier and quicker. When you do this, you’ll need to have a rough idea of your schedule in advance since you’ll have to choose a specific time slot.
If you decide to visit last minute like I did, just pick a day and time and commit. Try to book a time earlier in the day as it’s likely to be less crowded.
In some cases, you won’t necessarily save money doing it this way, it’s just more convenient than going on each individual museums website. You can purchase tickets on the day but be prepared to wait!
Tip – if you’re interested, you can also book combo tickets for other museums while in the city. Many online sites like Weekend In Italy, offer tickets to pair the Uffizi with the likes of National Academia or Duomo Museum.
Entry and opening times
- At the time of writing, Uffizi opens from about 8.15am – 6.50pm Tuesday to Sunday. The gallery is closed on Monday’s and on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December every year. On the first Sunday of every month entry to State Museums in Italy are free of charge. This means they’ll be busy so get there early!
3. Ponte Vecchio
Take a stroll along Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge, a medieval stone bridge lined mostly with jewellery and souvenir shops. However, it’s not just the shops which may appeal, but the view out to the opposite bridges and across the river.
4. San Lorenzo Market
Always buzzing with people, San Lorenzo Market is a cool place to wander through if you have time. With both indoor and outdoor areas, it pretty much has everything you need in one place.
The market is mostly filled with leather goods with the outdoor area stalls are filled with bags, belts, scarfs, hats, souvenirs and local crafts.
Leather, leather, leather!
If you’re looking for a slightly different souvenir to take home, then the market could make a good starting point.
The indoor area is a colourful bed of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and chicken. Combine both and you’ve got what you need for a weekly shop. If you’re in Florence and on a self-catering basis in a hotel, the market may come in handy!
Entry and opening times
The market is open daily from 8am-12am with no entry fee.
5. Go for pizza!
Need I say any more? You’re in Italy so grab a pizza! You’ll find plenty of places and there are quite a handful not too far from Pitti Palace.