The most beautiful city in Italy? Perhaps. For more than 2000 years Florence - Firenze - has been an important centre in this part of Italy, not just a capital of Tuscany, but briefly (from 1865 to 1870) also capital of the infant Kingdom of Italy. And it was in the 19th century that foreigners first began to rhapsodise its charms. For English poets and writers, such as the Brownings and EM Forster, Florence was a refreshing counter to the stolidity of Anglo-Saxon life.
This was the city of Dante Alighieri, Boccaccio and Michelangelo, of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Donatello, and also of Galileo, Machiavelli and the Medicis. An extraordinary fusion of artistic creativity, political sophistication and scientific progress, this was in short the cradle of the Renaissance ... most of what we now value as European high culture was born here.
Below is our full menu of Florence attractions, and further down you can see some greater detail on sights that are most likely already on your 'must-see' lists. At the base of the page is a map showing locations, with booking and information links.
Must sees include the Uffizi Gallery, of course. One of the world's great art galleries and museums, it was begun for Cosimo I de Medici in 1560. The 'U' shaped structure was once the offices - uffizi - of the Medici administration. Each generation of Medici added to the family's extraordinary personal art collection, which was then housed in the Uffizi.
The collection was bequeathed to the people of Florence - the condition being that it could never leave the city. In the 19th century, much of the statuary was transferred to the Bargello and other pieces to the Museo Archeologico.
We have skip-the-queue tickets (as well as cheaper 'combo' Uffizi + Accademia - David - tickets), Uffizi Gallery guided tours, or you may opt to discover the Uffizi as part of a longer Florence guided tour.
Equally essential during your time in Florence is a visit to the Accademia (Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze), if only because this is the home to Michelangelo's David - perhaps the most famous single statue in world art.
There is of course much more. There is a small collection of works by Michelangelo, and some important pieces of Renaissance art. The focus here is on major Florentine painters from the 15th and 16th centuries, among them Andrea del Sarto, Sandro Botticelli, Paolo Uccello and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
The Pitti Palace - Palazzo Pitti is a vast, visually striking building located a short way to the south of the Arno, Florence's river - the chances are you'll arrive at the Pitti having crossed the river via the Ponte Vecchio, the 'old bridge'.
The palace, now the largest museum complex in Florence, was the original town residence of banker Luca Pitti, and dates to the 1450's. It is a largely Renaissance building, standing as testimony to the vast wealth of bankers across the ages. But it is the Medici family that went on to leave their mark, having purchased it in 1549, making it their home. It became a treasure-house, a wondrous store of art that grew with each generation of the ruling Medici clan, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Briefly used as a headquarters by Napoleon, the palace and its treasure were gifted to the Italian people in 1919. Now home to the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern art, the Silver Museum and the Costume Gallery, these are are able to be visited with a single Pitti Palace Galleries ticket; the palace's grand grounds, the Boboli Gardens, can be visited with a separate ticket, one that also covers the Bardini Gardens and the Porcelain Museum.
Florence Cathedral - Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - more commonly known as 'Il Duomo' or 'Il Duomo di Firenze' is the main church of Florence, and the building that dominates the skyline, Brunelleschi's dome - Cupola - appearing as it does at the end of the vista presented by countless streets leading into the centre of town.
The exterior is faced with layer after layer of coloured - green, white and pink - marble, with the inside being a vast, seemingly empty, gothic chamber.
The cathedral, when referenced, is typically grouped together with the complex of buildings that include the Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile, belltower; not for nothing are these three buildings grouped as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We offer a variety of guided tours, from a quick introduction to 'just' the cathedral to longer tours that take in the Baptistery, the Cathedral Museum, even the stonemasons workshop.
Florence's Santa Croce Church rejoices in the alternative nomination 'Tempio dell'Itale Glorie' - Temple of Italian Glories - due to it being the final resting place of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo, amongst many others.
The church is located in Piazza Santa Croce, a short walk from Piazza dell Signoria, home to the Palazzo Vecchio. Construction work began in the late 13th century but both the neo-gothic facade and the clock-tower were added much later, in the 19th century. Interestingly, given proximity to the Palazzo Vecchio, the church was originally outside the city walls, built on marshland, and this low-level situation meant that Santa Croce was badly damaged by the 1966 floods.
The church has a great many ornate chapels, with frescoes from Giotto and followers; tickets for Santa Croce cover both the church, its museum, the Capella Pazzi and cloisters.
The Palazzo Vecchio is, rather mundanely, given its appearance, the Town Hall of Florence, but this is no shabby municipal eyesore, rather a magnificent stone palace, started in 1299 and the work of Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and Santa Croce church.
Built for defence, the foursquare, solid edifice is enhanced by its simple clocktower; until 1873 the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio was rendered exceptionally notable for being home to (the original) Davide by Michelangelo. The sculpture was moved to the Accademia and the statue of David that now graces the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica, erected in 1910.
We offer a range of Palazzo Vecchio guided tours, historical, thematic and 'secret'!
The Bargello - known variously as the Palazzo del Bargello, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, and the Palazzo del Popolo, is one of the oldest buildings in Florence, and a one-time barracks and prison.
Today it's 'the one with the sculptures', as opposed to the Uffizi, 'the one with the paintings', and is home to pieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, Sansovino, the Della Robbias, and Bernini, to name but a very few.
The Bargello is inevitably much quieter than David at the Academy or the Uffizi Gallery, and is often, most fairly, referred to as Florence's 'hidden gem' - buy tickets here.
The Vasari Corridor - Corridoio Vasariano - is an approximately one-kilometre long 'secret' passage way that, via a series of long, elevated galleries and passageways, connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Boboli Gardens and the Palazzo Pitti, piggy-backing the Ponte Vecchio on the way.
From designs by Vasari, construction took less than six months in 1564, and the end result was an aerial walkway that allowed Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici to glide above the great unwashed of the Florentine public as he, quite literally, walked to his office from home!
Access is always limited - space is obviously the deciding factor - but this is surely one of the most unusual display galleries in Florence (or anywhere else, for that matter), housing over 1000 paintings and works of art along its walls. View our Vasari Corridor guided tours here.
The Brancacci Chapel - Cappella dei Brancacci is the very definition of an off-the-beaten-track hidden gem, home as it is to one of the most remarkable series of frescoes outside of the Vatican.
The chapel is part of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, located in the Oltrarno area of Florence, a 15 to 20 minute walk away from the Pitti Palace. It's a small chapel, and only limited numbers of visitors are allowed at any one time.
The remarkable fresco cycle is a striking departure from medieval tradition, using instead new Renaissance approaches to space, light and perspective. Book tickets here.
The Medici Chapels - Cappelle Medicee - are to be found at the Basilica of San Lorenzo in central Florence, and are another monument to the wealth and influence of the ubiquitous Medici clan.
Probably most noted for the Sagrestia Nuova, this chapel was designed by Michelangelo and is home to some of his most famous sculptures, notably his Madonna and child.
Many of the Medici's have their tombs here - Lorenzo's is decorated by Michelangelo's Dawn and Dusk, with his Day and Night mirroring it. Make your ticket reservations here.
The map below shows the location of Florence's main galleries, museums and places to visit - click the markers for booking, information and review links.
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