When it comes to Italy, you can’t really go wrong. Whether your main destination is Rome, Milan, or Venice, every city has a different experience to offer. Among all those beautiful places, there is one that stands out as the beautiful, stunning birthplace of Renaissance: Florence.
From its bridges and fountains to the vast galleries filled with works of art and the awe-inspiring cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the capital of Tuscany is filled with unique spots that make you relive its greatest era, the Renaissance. There are many places in Italy where you can see fragments of this era, but Florence is its capital.
Following the footsteps of the Medici
When in Florence, the first thing to do in order to experience a whiff of history, is to take a stroll down the most famous bridge that crosses the river Arno, the Ponte Vecchio (literally The Old Bridge). Filled with shops on both its sides, the bridge is much older than the Renaissance era. However, it was rebuilt to its current state around 1350, after floods had destroyed a great part of it. The shops that are built on both sides of the bridge used to be inhabited by butchers, but changed to goldsmiths on orders of the Medici family, the most powerful family of Renaissance Florence.
Once you step off the bridge, head towards the Uffizi Gallery for an experience you are not going to forget. This museum is a piece of art and history itself. Its construction began under orders of Cosimo I de’ Medici, and was originally to be used as administrative offices. Over the years, parts of the building were used to exhibit various works of art commissioned by the Medici family, and gradually art occupied more and more space. By the 17th century, the Uffizi had officially been turned into a gallery, said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, one of the most renowned and beautiful paintings of the world, is on exhibit here, along with many works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
As long as you’re around the gallery, it is a great idea to visit the heart of medieval and Renaissance Florence, which is the Piazza della Signoria. There are quite a few things to admire around the piazza. You will probably notice the Loggia dei Lanzi, a beautiful, open, arched building full of marble statues. Notice the two stone lions guarding the statues; this is the emblem of the Medici family, the so-called ‘godfathers’ of Renaissance. The most impressive building here, however, is the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), built around 1300 as a building for the political representatives of the city, and still used as a Town Hall today. If you have enough time to spare, visit the tower along with the palazzo. The view of the Old City is beautiful from up there, and you will also have the chance to enter the cell where Cosimo de’ Medici was briefly imprisoned by his political enemies.
Just outside the Palazzo stands Michelangelo’s David; remember, though, that this is only a replica. If you want to admire the original work, you’ll have to visit Galleria dell’Accademia, where you will find many more of Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Close to David lies the fountain of Neptune. Currently under restoration (April 2017), it was created by Bartolomeo Ammannati in 1565, and is a massive work of art, so tall that is occasionally called ‘The White Giant’ by the locals.
A dome like no other
Head over to the Piazza Del Duomo and take some time to appreciate the beauty of Florence’s cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. Although the cathedral itself was constructed well before the beginning of Renaissance, it remained without a dome for over fifty years, until Brunelleschi took over, designed and built the current dome, which is considered an architectural masterpiece. 114 meters high, the Duomo is accessible, and the view from its top is absolutely breathtaking.
If there’s one last thing you have time to visit, the church of Santa Croce is the place to be. This beautiful Renaissance church is the final resting place of Michelangelo, who specifically requested to be buried here, and his tomb is in itself a work of art. Galileo has also been buried in Santa Croce, and you can find Machiavelli’s and Dante’s cenotaphs. The church holds a beautiful and peaceful garden, ideal for a hot spring day.
As the sun sets after a day full of art and history, don’t forget to enjoy the incredible Tuscan sunset. On the other side of the river Arno, up on the hill, lies a beautiful little piazza that overlooks the city. It is called Piazzale Michelangelo, and it is guaranteed to provide you with the best view of the city, as the buildings turn gold and purple under the setting sun. This is just a glimpse of Florence, the birthplace of Renaissance and so many amazing artists, and it is guaranteed to capture your heart and make you come back over and over.
This is a guest post by Ioanna Tatari.
Ioanna loves two things the most; reading and traveling. Her personal motto is “dive into the deep”, and , true to that, she “escapes” as often as possible, whether by plane, train or car. Italy is by far her favorite destination, but her wish is to travel to as many places as possible throughout her life.