5 Things to Do in Florence, Italy

May 26, 2016

Florence, the capital of Italy's Tuscany region, is another fascinating city that's worth traveling to when in Europe.  Aside from being widely known as the birthplace of the Renaissance period, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has also served as a home to many world class masterpieces made by renowned geniuses in the field of art and architecture.    

Unlike the Eternal City of Rome, where most attractions can be best described as "majestic," Florence is pretty much all about narrow streets, small hatchback cars, bikes, motorbikes, and minibuses-- in short, anything tiny and cute!  It's such a charming place!  Not to mention it also exudes a classic ambiance that would make you feel as if you've time-traveled to hundreds of years ago.  It's like a city that was frozen in time.  Vintage.  Timeless.  Romantic.  Absolutely an ideal place that would make a perfect honeymoon destination! 

I actually wish we had more time to explore the place.  Our very hectic itinerary, coupled with a very short 2-night stay in the city, didn't give us enough opportunity to look into what their major attractions (aka museums) had to offer.  In addition, most, if not all, the churches in the city are also not open to the public for free -- yes, you have to pay for an entrance fee to see its interior!  

Since we didn't have the luxury of time to stay for long in one attraction, we have decided that it would be best for us not to enter the museums and churches anymore.  (Had we not been in a hurry, perhaps we could have spent a few euros for these, but that wasn't the case.  Come to think of it, it won't be "sulit" anyway to pay for something which you can't give that much time and attention to, right?) So what we did instead was to go on a DIY walking tour!  

Exploring Florence by foot can be both easy and confusing.  Easy in the sense that you'll see a lot of signage on the streets that direct tourists to the most popular attractions in the city.  And confusing (especially around Duomo area), because their narrow streets and towering apartments look very similar to each other (it somewhat looked like a maze to me).  So if you're planning to go on a walking tour, better prepare your map or gps to avoid getting lost!

Anyway, here are the top 5 things that we did in this quaint city which made our short stay truly memorable and worthwhile:

1.  Relax and enjoy the picturesque view of Florence from Piazzale Michaelangelo and San Miniato al Monte.  These two are my most favorite attractions in the city.  It's just a bit of a challenge to climb up the stairs to reach the view deck, especially if you have to carry a stroller (the struggle of touring with a toddler is real!!!), but the breathtaking sight from the top is definitely worth it!  I don't know if it's just me, but I really do find places with a scenic landscape such as this very romantic!

***These attractions are open to the public free of charge.  You can take bus #13 from Santa Maria Novella train station if you wish to spare yourself from climbing the stairs.  San Miniato al Monte, however, is sitting atop one of the highest points in Tuscany, so you still need to climb a few steps to reach the Romanesque church.

2.  Appreciate Art and Architecture.  The city of Florence, more popularly known as "Cradle of the Renaissance," is a great place to learn about European history and recognize the timeless beauty of classic art and architecture.  It houses the world's most famous art galleries (Uffizi Gallery, Pitti Palace, and Palazzo Vecchio) and showcases the typical Renaissance-style of architecture (The Duomo and Baptistery).  

Walking around the heart of Florence made me feel like I was on a long-overdue field trip of my Literature class with Ma'am Cariaso.  This place had brought back so many memories of my life as a HS student.  I can still remember, 16 years ago, I only used to read all about the Renaissance era in my English book.  Seeing it in person was just surreal!  It was magical!  And I'm grateful!

Uffizi Gallery, one of the world's top museums, serves as a home to the most important works of the Renaissance period.

Palazzo Pitti used to be the largest and most impressive private residence in the city of Florence before it got converted to become the art museum that it is today.

Palazzo Vecchio.  This fortress-like building in front of Piazza Della Signoria functions as a city hall and a museum at the same time.

The Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), more commonly called "The Duomo," is the world's largest dome made of brick and mortar.

An obligatory family photo in front of the famous Florence Cathedral.

This octagon-shaped San Giovanni Baptistery is considered as one of the oldest buildings in the city.

Orsanmichele Church and Museum

My husband can't help but admire the sculptures in the upper level of Orsanmichele museum.

3.  Shop at the Ponte Vecchio.  I know, you must probably be scratching your head in disbelief to find such unappealing structure in my list of "must-see" in Florence.  I was confused too, initially.  But after learning its history -- being Florence's oldest bridge and the only bridge to have survived WWII -- I have finally come to understand why this place has been a constant favorite among tourists.  Apart from its historical significance, I guess, it's the joy of (window) shopping for jewelries and expensive Rolex watches which drive the people to flock here.

4.  Indulge in a scoop or two of Italy's gelato just because.  You know, I believe, happiness need not to be justified.  So I guess, this part is pretty much self-explanatory. *wink*

5.  Have fun on a carousel ride at Piazza Della Repubblica.  For those traveling with a kid(s), visiting this plaza is definitely a must!  You know, toddlers don't get as excited as adults do when it comes to traveling.  They just won't show interest in centuries old buildings, paintings, etc.  What's more likely to get their attention are the pigeons, ice cream, or those people playing musical instruments on the streets.  Kids need to be kids even when they're on a Europe tour.  They deserve to have a break from all the boring history and literature stuff Florence has to offer.  So this!  I'm equally certain your kids would come hugging and kissing you in gratitude for giving them such a treat!

That's basically what our Florence tour is all about!  I hope you enjoyed our photos! Will be sharing more of our travel adventures in Tuscany, particularly Pisa, in my next post.  Til then!  Ciao!

***For more photos, stories, and tips about our adventures in Europe, you may check the following blog posts: 

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