One of the most written about cities in Italy, Florence (Firenze) has a strange effect on visitors. Travellers who normally loathe art galleries queue for hours to get into them, and people with no interest in Renaissance architecture start raving about tiered facades and frescoed apses. The list of its famous sons reads like a Renaissance Who's Who – under M alone you'll find Medici,Machiavelli and Michelangelo – and its celebrated cityscape lingers in the memory long after you've left town.
- Many hold that Florentia was founded around 59 BC, but archaeological evidence suggests an earlier village, possibly established by the Etruscans around 200 BC.
- A rich merchant city by the 12th century, Florence grew into a powerful city-state under the Medici family, its cultural, artistic and political fecundity culminating in the 15th-century Renaissance.
- The Medici were succeeded in the 18th century by the French House of Lorraine, which ruled until 1860 when the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. From 1865 to 1870, Florence was, in fact, capital of the fledgling kingdom.
When walking up to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo) you will just stop and gasp at the incredible size and beauty of this city’s famous icon and wonder how any man could create it. Just wandering around the outside of the cathedral can be enough for some, but you can go inside for free. If you want to pay for the experience, the dome can be climbed for views over the city, but if you don’t like cramped spaces – be warned, it can get very tight!
2. Michelangelo’s Lookout
Michelangelo’s lookout is located across the river upon a steep hill making it the best place for a panoramic view of the Old Town. At the top you will see food stalls selling various items such as wine and nibbles to be enjoyed. This is the spot where couples usually come to enjoy a romantic sunset over the city on a clear day.
3. Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is the square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio with lots of restaurants and shops to visit. There are several sculptures in and around the square like an open-air museum, such as a copy of the famous David statue, a bronze equestrian statue of Cosimo, the Medici Lions and many others.
Uffizi, meaning offices in Italian, was the Medici family’s old offices. Nowadays it is one of the most famous, oldest and visited art galleries in the world with many masterpieces inside by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael. Get your tickets in advance at ticket offices or get in early as the queues can be quite long.
5. Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio survived damage from WWII and is just one of three bridges in the world that contain shops. The shops along the bridge used to be butchers and other smelly shops, but the Medici family didn’t love the smell drifting into their offices, so changed them over to jewellery shops. Above the bridge there is a secret walkway, built by the Medici family connecting the bridge to their offices. Nowadays one souvenir item people buy when visiting city is jewellery.
1. Trattoria Sostanza
Good food has been consistently coming out of this old traditional restaurant since it opened its doors in 1871. A great place to try bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak) that is cooked over a wood burning stove out the back or the artichoke tart.
2. Gelateria Dei Neri
The best and most traditional gelateria in town, Gelateria Dei Neri serves weird and fresh flavours such as ricotta with fig or chocolate with orange. They also have granite and semi-freddo if you have overloaded on Italian ice-cream.
3. Due Fratellini
Due Fratellini is a hidden gem of a sandwich bar that is literally a hole in the wall drawing in large crowds. For just a few euros you can choose one of many freshly made sandwiches and just a couple of euros more you can get a glass of house wine to go with it, bargain! Customers generally line up, collect their order then sit in the streets enjoying their food.
4. The Clubhouse
A great cake house that sells macaroons and other yummy sweets. Try the torte semolina, a specialty in Tuscany.
5. Mercati Centrale
The best place to try local specialties is always at a market and the food at Mercati Centrale will make you dream of moving to Italy. There are artisan cafes located upstairs where you can try well-prepared food or downstairs you can sample lots of local products such as fresh cheeses, fruits, breads, cakes and oils. Make sure you try the tripe sandwich that can be bought from the Nerbone store.
If you want to dress up and hit the town, YAB club is the best place to go and dance the night away. There is always loads going on at YAB so check out the website to see if there’s any night you’re interested in going to.
2. Full Up
This club has been around in Florence since the 70’s. The club has been recently refurnished to appeal to a younger crowd but you can still hear music from the disco era and its musical roots. Something a little different than your usual club.
3. Red Garter
The Red Garter is a happening club labelled as an American bar that has karaoke or other activities every night of the week and is popular with mostly tourists, with the odd local thrown in. They play sports on a big screen in the restaurant adjacent to the bar and have specials on for different events.
4. Space Club
Space Club is a trendy place to dance with a large club and bar in a 70’s theme. The club features popular DJ’s from around the world and also plays music with electronic beats and RnB style. Be aware that this club has a card/system; you don't pay cover when you arrive.
Astor is a coffee shop during the day and at night transforms into a club with tasty cocktails and pumping dance music. Conveniently located in the centre of town next to the Duomo, you can go for coffee in the afternoon after sightseeing and then watch as it slowly transforms into a club at night.
Click the coloured pins to find out how to get here
Definitely go to the Red Garter Bar, we had so much fun with our group that night."