Welcome to Florence
Florence is a sun-baked tapestry of art and life. It is cool Renaissance churches and tiny side streets, glowing, ancient paintings and stone bridges thronging with wasp-buzzing Vespas, classical marble sculpture, gleaming white amongst the cypresses, and waiters swooping through the pavement tables with trays of cappuccinos. Florence may be the world’s greatest art gallery, but it is also a living city, with its own character and drive. One of its most charming traits is how simple it is to dive into the flow of its architecturally breathtaking streets.
Even if the guide book accidentally plunged into the Arno, it wouldn’t matter- by walking, it’s possible to see all the city’s glories unfold before you. The flourishes, carvings and statues are all on public display, endlessly photographed and touched and remarked upon, yet never losing their ability to astound. Statues, palaces and churches lie around every corner- a narrow alleyway of busy cafes will suddenly open into a vast plaza, shadowed by another great classical edifice, or a wander across a crowded bridge will reveal another gallery, crammed with world-famous works of Art. In this proliferation of riches, Florence can be overwhelming, and it’s wise not to try to do too much. Simply sitting in a café in the shadow of the Duomo eating a cold gelato delivers as much Florentine atmosphere as any cultural tour, and in this golden and pink city, crossed by the satin waters of the Arno, just standing and staring is often all that needs to be done.
Trattoria Ponte Vecchio
Il Santo Bevitore
Le Volpi e L'Uva
A Room With A View- EM Forster
Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
Dark Water - Robert Clarke
Death in Florence (Inspector Bordelli 4) by Marco Vichi and Stephen Sartarell
A Room With A View
Tea With Mussolini
Under The Tuscan Sun
Francesca Caccini: O Viva Rosa
A visit to the Uffizzi may be essential, but is not necessarily joyous. The gallery is immense, hot and almost continually crowded with tour groups and art lovers of all nations. Split your visit into sections if possible, never attempt to ‘do’ the whole thing in one day, and view the art in order of preference, rather than the gallery’s vast, chronological stretches. A pre-consulted guidebook is a huge help.
Michaelangelo’s David is in the Accademia, bestriding tour groups like a Colossus. Be prepared for queues and crowds around the statue- you will not be alone in silent contemplation.
Like any major city, there are pickpockets in Florence, and it’s important to be careful in areas around the station and the main tourist routes. Paranoia, however, is unnecessary- just keep your bag zipped and firmly ignore beggars. “Vattene” – go away- is a useful word.
Break sightseeing into at most, just two attractions a day- trying to do too much will simply be exhausting and overwhelming. Santa Croce and the Duomo, or the Uffizi and the Pitti, will easily fill a day. Break for coffee and snacks regularly- cafes around the major attractions can be very expensive, so venturing further into residential areas can save a fortune.
Wear comfortable shoes and sun-block- in Summer, Florence can be boiling, and much of the city rewards walking rather than public transport or taxis, as there is so much to see.
Florence is comparatively good for wheelchair users- the city is fairly flat, and attractions are close together, while the Uffizzi and the Accademia offer free admission. Book ahead to let them know.
If you intend to visit several galleries and museums, invest in a Firenze Pass, which allows free access to transport and museums, including special exhibitions, for 72 hours. Museums include the Uffizzi, Accademia, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. The card costs €50.