How to Take Over Florence (Tourist Edition)

By: Victor Sanchez

In this article I want to share my experience, having lived in Florence for more than a year, and write about how you can take over Florence in 5 simple stops. I realize some people hate crowds and dislike ‘following the crowd’ but in this section I want to list some of the most important places in Florence that you just cannot go without visiting.

But first things first, to start off this guide-like article I have to talk about the very first step: getting to Florence. I imagine most Americans would fly into Italy, that is if you’re coming all the way from the States, and so you’ll have to deal with airports. If you choose to fly, you can land at either the Florence airport “Amerigo Vespucci” that’s located not far from the downtown area, locally called as the center of the city or ‘centro’, or you can also fly to the Pisa airport “Galileo Galilei” which is used for many European flights and many of the low cost flights arrive here. There are many ways to get from the airport in Pisa to Florence since they have different shuttle services and they also have a very efficient train service. So here is a list of five places that get must-see status:

1. The ‘Duomo di Firenze’

The dome of Florence is, without doubt, the most iconic of the landmarks that one can find in Florence. It’s located right in ‘centro’in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and has amazing paintings and decorations inside the church. You can even climb up the dome and you get a beautiful view of the city and its buildings. If you want to go above and beyond what I list here, I recommend scheduling your visit in a way that you get to see the sunset when you climb up those steps because it is absolutely breathtaking.

2. Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria

Not far from the dome is the famous Palazzo Vecchio, which literally translates to ‘old palace’. The building has had many different names but it is, by tradition, the center of the political power of the city. It is currently the town hall of Florence but the ‘palace’used to be the house of the ruling family of the city (the most famous being the Medici family). The building has a very deep and important meaning to the city and its citizens, so it is definitely a must-see. It also holds many different works of art and occasionally hosts different short term art shows. This spectacular building also overlooks one of the biggest plazas in the city: Piazza della Signoria. Here you can find many of the most famous sculptures open to the public, these are of course copies just for display, but it complements the plaza perfectly.

3. Ponte Vecchio

One simply cannot go to Florence and not visit the ponte vecchio. It has many different jewelry stores and you can spend the day shopping in the bridge and in the area. However, the ponte vecchio is dear to locals because of its strong and sturdy construction. This bridge has held its place against floods and even wars, having survived the invasion of the German armies during the Second World War. It is absolutely spectacular at night and during special holidays you can even see delightful fireworks.

4. Piazzale Michelangelo

Our next stop is away from the downtown area, but it holds must-see status nonetheless. This amazing plaza located in the “Oltrarno”area which means ‘beyond the Arno’is dedicated to the famous sculptor of the Renaissance, Michelangelo, of course. This area is past the Arno, which is the river that we can find in Florence, and it has a spectacular panoramic view of the city. It also had different copies of the works of Michelangelo and has some charming and authentic restaurants in the area.

Didn’t get to visit the immense Uffizi gallery? Didn’t get a chance to stand in line to peek at Michelangelo’s David? If you didn’t get to see the museums, because I deliberately did not mention them in this guide, make sure you visit one last place for good luck!

5. The ‘Mercato nuovo’

This lovely market is located in a piazza that goes by the same name, not far from the duomo and it has the famous ‘procellino’. This famous character is a bronze pig that is known because it is said to bring good fortune to tourists. You rub the pig’s nose for good luck, and the locals say that it brings not only good luck, but it will also work its magic in a way that the tourist visiting will be sure to return to Florence by the powers of the magical ‘procellino’.

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