Looking at the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge, is worth the trip to Florence on its own.
This unique city is considered by many to be an open-air museum. And staring at the most famous bridge in Italy is an experience that pays you back for struggling through all the crowds and the confusion that characterize the ‘capital’ of Tuscany all around the year.
Florence’s palaces, churches and museums are home to some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world.
Three days in this city are enough to visit famous gems as the cathedral and its baptistery, the Accademia museum, the Uffizi museum and the Bargello, and the churches of San Lorenzo, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella.
I staredt my visit from the Uffizi, one of the most visited museums in the world. During the Roman period, it was the site of the ancient harbor. Now, it houses a wonderful palace, built by the Medici family who needed a gallery to show off their vast treasures.
From Michelangelo to Leonardo and from Botticelli to Giotto, the Uffizi is a labyrinth in which you can gladly lose yourself to enjoy all of the masterpieces within.
After a whole morning spent at the museum, I decided to have a walk in Oltrarno, the ‘new city’ beyond the river Arno, although in reality it’s not really ‘new’ at all.
Here, Palazzo Pitti – another Medici’s palace – and Boboli – a luxurious garden dating back to Renaissance welcome me with all Florence’s austerity, measure, love for precision and beauty.
At sunset, I headed out to have a look at Piazzale Michelangelo, a wonderful terrace with a magnificent view over Florence. Here the beauty is enough to bring some people to tears. And that’s what happened to me.
I spent the night at Hotel Principe, a 4-star hotel on the Lungarno, the road along the river. It offers free private parking and is close to all of the main sights of interest in the city. The staff are very professional and rooms are perfectly equipped.
On my second day in Florence, I combined shopping and the arts. The streets around Piazza della Signoria are packed with shoppers. The department store La Rinascente offers the best that Italy produces.
And many independent shops sell Italian leather; bags, clothes and shoes. Florence is famous for its leather. It’s an old tradition and its smell is easily recognizable floating around the city.
But, in the afternoon, I’m still hungry for more masterpieces. So, I head to Santa Croce, one of my favorite churches in the world.
Rebuilt for the Franciscan order in 1294, Santa Croce, the holy cross, is the burial place for the great and good in Florence. Michelangelo is buried here, as are Machiavelli, Rossini and Galileo Galilei.
Beautiful frescoes by Giotto in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels show scenes from the life of Saint Francis.
Here, in the heart of the city, you can feel what Florence is famous for. It has been imagined, designed, created and built by the greatest minds of all the times.
And that’s the same sense you get when you visit the Accademia museum, where the David di Michelangelo stands. Marble is everywhere, specifically marble from Carrara, another delightful town in Tuscany.
And the cathedral is made of marble too, as is the famous Campanile di Giotto, the bell tower.
But Florence guys are an artistic treasure too. So, I decide to spend the night at the YAG Bar and at the Tabasco. The first one is a crowded bar very close to Santa Croce. The second one is the oldest Italian gay club and is near the Uffizi museum.
On my third and last day in Florence, I spend my last hours enjoying the very best Tuscan food.
From cafes to trattorias – small independent restaurants – Florence is full of temptations. The greatest minds in history had well developed tastes for food and life’s other pleasures as well as for artistic and architectural treasures.
Try the lampredotto panini, a sandwich with a secret ingredient, in one of the many small shops near San Lorenzo. And you’ll know why Tuscany is so famous all over the world. It’s a matter of sight, smell and taste. It’s a unique combination of pleasures.
Arriving: Florence airport is very close to the city center. There are daily flights from London, Paris, Madrid and Berlin.
Sleeping: We recommend Hotel Principe.
Eating: Trattorias and small food stalls can be found all over the city. Local ‘fiorentina’ is a must. It’s an enormous grilled steak served with vegetables.
Gay life: Tabasco Disco Club and YAG bar are the most crowded venues in town.