The Italian region of Tuscany really fascinates me. Ever since I watched the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun”, I told myself that if ever I’d get a chance to visit Italy, Tuscany should be number one on the list.
A few years ago, I had a chance to fly to Florence from Barcelona and got my first taste of my Tuscan life dream. The birthplace of the renaissance and (known as) the home of Leonardo da Vinci, to be excited to start exploring this city (as an architect and artist) is an understatement.
As someone who travels solo, the first thing I always do is to walk around the city. What I love about Florence is that almost every known sites are walking distance from each other. From the famous Duomo to it’s picture perfect Ponte Vecchio.
Though they can be considered as touristy, these places are a must visit when your in town especially if you have a limited time in the city.
Here are some of the places to go to if you are visiting Florence for the first time either on a solo trip or in a luxury vacation in Tuscany.
PIAZZA DEL DUOMO
I think everyone who visits Florence never missed walking around this piazza. The location of the famous Duomo Cathedral, you can just stroll around and be amazed at the details of the cathedral’s exterior architecture or listen to random violinist playing in the street.
Tip: try to comeback in the evening as the plaza becomes very dramatic with the lights on.
DUOMO ( CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FLORE)
I am putting this on the list because I missed this. I didn’t go inside the cathedral because I was lazy (ugggh—learn from my experience) and I regret this. To see the historical dome by Filippo Brunelleschi (which is the largest bricked dome ever constructed) alone is a worthy reason why the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flore is a must visit.
Tip: After visiting the cathedral, do a quick work out by climbing the Giotto’s bell tower to see a panoramic view of the whole city.
The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) is the most famous bridge over Florence’s Arno River. Probably the most photographed spot in Florence next to the Duomo. Almost every postcard/poster shop sells a photo of this bridge. It has been a subject as well of many artists and painters in the city.
What I like about this bridge compared to other European bridges is that, like the olden times, it still housed several shops along it but instead of butchers, shop spaces are now occupied mostly by jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops.
Tip: Go to Ponte Santa Trinita to get a postcard- like image of the Ponte Vecchio
The Accedemia Gallery is well noted as the home of Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of David. At an overwhelming height of 5.17 meters, this statue represents the biblical hero David. It is not allowed take photos inside the gallery, but the image of David will definitely be imprinted in your mind. Also, there are several replicas around the city which you can take photos for souvenir.
To know more about the story of David and how it was transported around the city, watch the documentary located inside the gallery (the facts about this history is very interesting).
There are also other art pieces from a number of Florentine artists that are being showcased inside the gallery. Compared to the Uffizi (below), the Accademia is smaller and more specialized.
TIP: Arrive early because the queue to get the ticket can be very long especially on peak season.
I mentioned about replicas of the statue of David (found in Accademia), one of those replicas can be found at the Piazzale Michelangelo.
I really didn’t research about this during my trip, so it is safe to say that I discovered this accidentally. After a few days of roaming around the city center, I thought of just walking on the opposite side of the Arno river when I found a pathway going on a hilly part of the bank. Then —-YES I found myself standing at the piazza with the bronze replica of the David on one side while the panoramic view of the whole of Florence on the other.
Tip: Just go here and you’ll never regret it.
Uffizi Gallery is the main art museum in Florence (or even in the whole Tuscany region). Think of it as the Louvre of Florence. It is located at a walking distance between the city’s historic center and the Ponte Vecchio.
As the birthplace city of the renaissance period, you can imagine already the richness of the art pieces being housed in the gallery.
Tip: Hmmmm because it is Italy’s most visited museum, booking ticket online is a must. I didn’t do this, so I waited almost 4-hours.
AQUA AL 2
Lastly, with all the walking done, definitely you will need to fuel your body. Italy offers one of the best local cuisines in the world and it will be shameful if you will not try the city’s best dishes.
Everywhere you go will find gelato stores which prices ranges from 1 to 2 euros (YUM).
For a whole hearty meal a friend of mine suggested a restaurant called Aqua Al 2. A very cozy Italian restaurant found at the heart of the city center. The best to try is there pasta platter (piatti primo sampler), a sample plate of 5 pastas served individually. This can also be shared.
Tip: check out the plates on the walls. Famous celebrities who ate in the restaurant sign these plates.
I considered Florence as my favorite Italian city, as an artist and an architect, The moment I stepped out of the bus from the airport and walked on its cobbled street I already felt at home.
Have you been to Florence? Any tip for those who will visit it for the first time? Shout it out in the comment section below.