Florence, Italy, is the capital city of Tuscany. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is entirely accessible by foot. As the home of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is uber-rich in priceless art work and jaw-dropping architecture. Our Florence itinerary is very museum heavy, with three almost three solid days of museums. The amount of tourists and sheer volume of priceless artwork can be a bit overwhelming so we recommend, especially when traveling with kids, researching in advance a few key pieces you wish to see at any given museum, and then place a time cap for each stop. Certainly, you can add hours or days as you wish. Also, spending all your time on foot in these museums helps combat the daily indulgences of Cannoli and Gelato.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Also known as the Florence Duomo or Cathedral, this Roman Catholic Cathedral took well over a century to build. It's Gothic architecture is particularly remarkable with it's green, pink, and white marble lines. For a great view of Florence, climb 463 steps to the top of the Dome. Giotto's Bell Tower, nearly 85 meters high, is similarly offers beautiful views as a reward for your efforts. Note: tickets for both towers must be purchased in advance for specific time slot.
The Uffizi: A "must do" while in Florence, the Uffizi is the epitome of Renaissance art, culture, and history. Constructed between 1560 and 1580, the building that houses this museum was designed by Giorgio Vasari. Collections include art work by Michelangelo, Raffaello, Leonardo, Caravaggio and others. To avoid lines and most crowds, buy tickets in advance and arrive when the museum opens.
Piazza della Signoria & Museo Nazionale del Bargello. These two points of interest are within a block of each other and a few minutes by foot from the Uffizi. Also known as the Palazzo Vecchio, the Piazza della Signoria has been known as the center of political life in Florence since the 15th Century. The Museo Nazionale del Bargello holds thousands of works of art from Florence's plethora of famous Renaissance artists, including Donatello's bronze David, created between 1430 and 1440 (photo right).
Galleria Dell’Accademia and Basilica di Santa Croce: The Gallery of the Academy of Florence holds Michelangelo's David, along with a large collection of other sculptures and priceless works of arts. Viewing the David involves working your way through crowds but it is worth the effort. The Basilica di Santa Croce is Roman Catholic Church built between 1294 and 1442. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world and holds the burial remains of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and many more of Florence's famous former inhabitants.
Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, & Ponte Vecchio: Walk across the Ponte Vecchio on your way to the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace. This bridge dates back to the 10th Century and the bridge in it's current form dates back to 1565. Shops have lined the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th Century, though it is now entirely a tourist attraction. From there, walk to the Boboli Gardens, a historic manicured park first established in 18th Century by the Medici Family. From there, visit the Palazo Pitti, the former residence of Tuscany's ruling families during the Renaissance.
Day Trip to Pisa: By high speed rail, Pisa is just 50 minutes outside of Florence. We stopped here on our way from Cinque Terre to Florence, though a day trip from Florence would work as well. Our short visit included visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa which certainly is a sight to see. The crowds were large so unless seeing the Tower is on your bucket list, this stop could be skipped.
Where We Stayed
Air BnB: There are many options available to stay right near the Duomo, which we recommend. The neighborhood is centrally located and most everything can be accessed by foot from here. (photo credit right: AirBnB listing) The Duomo neighborhood also has plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops, all within a few blocks.
Where We Ate
We do not have any particular restaurant recommendations for Florence, however, we do recommend eating all the Cannoli and Gelato you can eat. Whether sitting in a nice café or buying from a coffee vendor on the corner, we never had a bad Cannoli. The hunt for a good Gelato was equally successful except that if you choose Gelateria's off the main tourist roads, the prices are much better.