Florence is a city for artists, history buffs, shopaholics, and foodies. A must-see in Italy, Florence has a lot to see over the course of a long weekend.
Art and History
Florence was at the heart of the Italian Renaissance and the largest city in the region of Tuscany, which means today, visitors can drink in the areas rich history and vast amount of art.
The first place to visit in Florence is the city's iconic marble church, the Duomo. Situated in the heart of the city, this 13th century church is breath taking on the inside and out. You'll want to take photos of the intricate stonework and stained glass windows. Keep in mind that shoulders and knees must be covered when inside, so dress accordingly.
While you're still dressed conservatively, walk on over to the Basilica di Santa Croce. This ornate church is the resting place for many celebrities including Michelangelo and Galileo. It has more stained glass windows, which I love, and lots of Renaissance art. Photography is not allowed in either church, but the outsides are definitely picture-worthy.
Keeping with the Renaissance-theme, check out the Uffizi Galleries. This museum is home to one of the world's largest and most famous collections of Renaissance art that will make any art or history lover's trip. One of the Uffizi's biggest highlights is Michelangelo's "David" sculpture. A replica of the statue can also be seen in the Piazzale Michelangelo for those looking to see the statue without waiting in line for the museum.
Another way to see famous art without buying a ticket is to visit the Piazza della Signoria. This square has tens of statues on display that you can pose in front of. Situated between the Duomo, Basilica di Santa Croce, and the Uffizi Galleries, this square is a great place to meet up with others and regroup before hitting your next destination.
Florence's convenient location has made it a center of commerce for hundreds of years. These days the city and the region are famous for leatherwork. From coats to shoes to bags, Florentine leather is highly sought after wold-wide and a great souvenir to take home for yourself or your loved ones. The outdoor markets are meant for haggling, so be sure to have cash and the confidence to talk deals.
The first market to check out is the Mercate Nuovo. This sprawling outdoor market is lined by additional shops, and is a shopper's dream come true. The market sells lots of leather goods and touristy trinkets. Plus it has something money can't buy, good luck! Legend has it that anyone who rubs the nose of the market's wild boar statue will be granted good fortune, so make sure to visit it before you leave.
If you didn't find anything at the Mercate Nuovo, try visiting the Mercato del Porcellino. It is another outdoor market that sells leatherwork, artwork, and other items that would make great souvenirs. Regardless of what market you're at, be sure to take a good look at what you're buying to make sure the price matches the quality since knock-offs are pretty common.
Try ending the day on the Point di Veccio. While not an outdoor market, this bridge is famous for its jewelry stores, and sells items ranging from thousand euro diamond rings to twenty euro cameo necklaces. If you're not looking for new gems, it is still worth a visit, especially around sunset, just for the view.
You can't visit anywhere in Italy and not try the local food. It is to die for, and Florence is no exception.
The first thing you have to try is Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine Steak. It melts in your mouth and will raise your steak standards forever. Keep in mind that Florentine Steak is cooked only one way, lots of pink, so don't ask the chef to make yours well done.
Next, gelato! While all of Italy is known for gelato, Florence is especially yummy. The city is home to lots of gelatorias and famous for offering lots of unique flavors.
You can't go to the heart of Tuscany and not try the wine! The region is known for their red wine, and there are plenty of local vineyards to try. You can ask your server or experiment with the wine list on your own. Even if you're not a big fan of wine, try a Chianti. You traveled all this way, you don't want to miss out on a big part of the Florentine culture.
Outside of the City
If you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a morning or an afternoon, you should hike up to the Basilica San Miniato al Monte. It is a long walk, so be sure to bring water and good shoes, but the view from the top is well worth it. Plus, It might be your only chance to visit a church in Florence without a big crowd.
Enjoy your trip!