There are probably thirty must-see sights throughout the city, but we’ve attempted the impossible and managed condense the list to just five. In no particular order, here are our picks for the finest places to see in Florence.
Offering a sublime panoramic view of Florence, Michelangelo Square has gazed down upon the city for 150 years from its seat on a hill to its south. The square is dedicated to the Renaissance genius Michelangelo and houses a hugely popular restaurant, but it is best known for what it shows you, rather than its own look. Its view over the city is utterly without rival, and sunset at the piazzale is a must.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the Piazza del Duomo is one of the places to see in Florence. The square itself contains some of Italy’s most admired sites, 3 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites in their own right. Considered by many to be the very heart of Florence, few parts of the city embody its character, culture and artistic brilliance like the Piazza.
After 140 years of painstaking construction, the masterful work of Arnolfo di Cambio was finally realized and now we are fortunate enough to have the Duomo di Firenze in our lives. Florence's main church and one of the most idolized building in the entire country, the cathedral is a work of art unto itself.
Situated just before the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, the Piazza is renowned as the beating heart of Florentine politics and the origin of the old Florentine Republic. In the shape of an L, the surrounding architecture is tasteful, quaint and attractive.
Stuffed to bursting with many of the finest, most priceless pieces of art from the Renaissance period, the Uffizi gallery is a museum of incalculable financial, historical and cultural value. You need to check it out - it will blow you away. It one of the largest and most well-known museums in all of Italy (and Europe) and it will be sitting right on your doorstep.
Every February, Florence plays host to a superb parade through its streets, with locals dressing fancifully in the wild colors of its olden days and celebrating their huge cultural and ethnic diversity. Prizes are awarded for the most original and inventive costumes, and dancers, live music and even mounted horse riders are all part of the experience - it’s unlike anything else you’ll do all year!
Probably the most original and inventive fireworks display you’ll see for quite some time. To give you an idea, Scoppio del Carro translates to English as "Explosion of the Cart"...
A fleet of white oxen are used to pull a 400-year old wagon (exceptionally designed and very elegant) through the city, before an artistic fireworks display is initiated from inside the structure. It’s as impressive as it is unusual, drawing massive crowds to its destination before the cathedral.
Founded almost 85 years ago, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is Italy’s oldest music festival. It was designed with the aim of reviving forgotten operas and displaying them (as well as contemporary ones) in new, "visually dramatic" productions. The shows take place in a few different performance/opera houses during April, May and June - they are quite sensational, so do your best to grab some tickets!
What would such a cultured and artistic city like Florence be without a dance festival?? Through June and July, the Estate Fiesolana is alight with music, poetry, cinema and, of course, dance. The experience of being inside a Roman amphitheatre where millions have sat before you enjoying the same extraordinary talent is quite humbling, and truly exciting.
Probably Florence’s simplest festival, the Festa di San Lorenzo involves a parade which wanders from piazzetta di Parte Guelfa to piazza San Lorenzo and back again! The parade is good fun, but the real treat is that in the evening, locals provide everyone with fresh, free lasagne and watermelon! This is followed by a night of dancing. Free food and dancing is the dream for most students!
Why shouldn’t students get to eat quality, healthy seafood on a budget? No reason at all really, and at Burro e Acciughe you can do just that! They have perfected the art of making high quality, simple seafood dishes with only the very freshest ingredients. Whether you’re there for lunch or dinner, the wine menu is always inexpensive and the cellar well-stocked!
While it appears almost as a grubby, bohemian-style den to the untrained eye, the quality of food inside is quite something. It’s gourmet dining without the excessive price tag - from soups, to salads and heavier dishes like pasta and slow-cooked meat, it caters to everyone. Il Santo Bevitore also do a cinnamon creme brulee which is to die for…
PS - next door is their wine bar, with tasty tapas and a huge selection of fine, inexpensive wines.
The Casa del Vino is located at 16 via dell'Ariento, hidden away near the San Lorenzo market, and surrounded by traditional Florentine tanners. It’s a wine-and-food-pairing restaurant, but every meal only costs around €10. The range of wines on offer is vast, so you’ll always be able to experiment with new bottles, without ever repeating yourself!
Time for real, traditional Florentine cuisine. For that, you’ll need to learn a few words of Italian and travel outside the city centre itself, through la Porta Romana and into the Oltrarno district. The Trattoria Ruggero menu is filled with classic Florentine cooking, like their brandy-infused ice cream, and the service is jovial, friendly and welcoming. Check it out and try not to be disappointed with all the not-quite-so-authentic eateries back in the centre! ;)
Rather than one single restaurant or bar, the San Lorenzo market is chockablock with independent Italian trattorias whose menus boast local and traditional Florentine dishes. Whether you’re there for pasta, fresh seafood, red meat or 3 servings of dessert with drinks, they’ve got you covered. Piazza di San Lorenzo is also just a gorgeous place, if you needed another reason to go there!