How long do you need to "see" Florence is an impossible question. Simply walking between the piazza's you will find an abundance of historic sites, sculptures and history. Enter Florence's museums and countless true works of classical art await. We have split this guide into three sections the first two cover the east and west of Florence's historic centre and walking is the only practical means of transport. The third south of the (Arno) river covers a wider area and will require transport.
|Basilica di Santa Croce||Dante's House||Bargello||Piazza della Signoria|
The Basilica di Santa Croce (1295-1442) is the largest Franciscan church in Florence and the final resting place of amongst others Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Rossini. Inside are frescoes by Giotto and in its precinct the Pazzi Chapel. The Bargello built in 1254 subsequently became the residence of Florence's chief magistrate in the 16th century, then a prison and now is a National Museum focusing on sculpture. North from here is Dante's House which is a museum dedicated to the life of the poet Dante Alighieri. A short walk from the Bargello is Florence's heart the Piazza della Signoria.
|Neptune's Fountain||Palazzo Vecchio||The Uffizi||The Uffizi|
Florence's Piazza della Signoria is surely the world's most dramatic open air display of great classic sculpture . Arriving from the Bargello is Neptune's Fountain (1563-65) by Bartolomeo Ammanati. Outside Florence's Palazzo Vecchio is a copy of Michelangelo's "David" in the location of the original sculpture (1504) which was moved inside the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873. Nearby is the covered but open Loggia della Signoria with further great sculptures. Next to the Palazzo Vecchio is the Uffizi Palace with paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and Raphael amongst others.
|View of river and The Uffizi||Ponte Vecchio||View from Ponte Vecchio||Ponte Vecchio|
Passing through the Uffizi you reach Florence's river the Arno and your first view of the 14th century Ponte Vecchio. It was the only bridge in Florence not to be blown up by the Nazis in 1944 and continues to be as it was originally designed a busy commercial thoroughfare with shops and great views of Florence.
|Ponte S. Trinita||Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni||Piazza Carlo Goldini||Piazza d'Ognissanti|
West of Ponte Vecchio is Ponte S. Trinita and on the north bank Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni (1570-72) with a Roman column in the centre of Piazza S.Trinita. Just east in Piazza d'Ognissanti is a staue of Hercules and the Lion.
|Basilica di S.Maria Novella||Basilica di San Lorenzo||Ospedale degli Innocenti|
The early 14th century Basilica di S.Maria Novella is at a busy intersection near Florence's train station. It is home to Masaccio's fresco of the Trinity (1428) notable as an early example of the correct representation of perspective and proportion. The Basilica di San Lorenzo (1425) was commissioned by Florence's leading medieval family the Medici and is the burial place of its leading members. Adjoining is the entrance to the Biblioteca Laurenziana Medicea in effect the Medici's private library.
Some distance north west is the Ospedale degli Innocenti Florence's original children's orphanage commissioned in 1419 but not completed until 1445. It remained in operation until 1875.
|Campanile di Giotto||Baptistery of San Giovanni||Cathedral and Baptistery|
Florence's Cathedral the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore comprises the Campanile di Giotto and the Baptistery of San Giovanni It was constructed on the site of the previous Cathedral Santa Reparata as a gesture of Florence's civic pride and was the largest in Europe at the time of its construction (commissioned 1296, dome completed in 1436).
|Basilica di S.Miniato al Monte||Basilica di S.Miniato al Monte||Chapel at rear of Basilica|
From its elevated position south of the Arno the Basilica di S.Miniato al Monte offers superb views down on to Florence's historic centre. According to legend it is named after a hermit monk beheaded on the orders of Emperor Decius in c.250AD who then placed his head back on his shoulders and returned to the location of his cave here, to die. Building commenced in the 11th century on the site of a former chapel. Its interior includes medieval frescoes and a fine Romanesque crypt. At its rear is a serene vaulted chapel Capella del Cardinale del Portogallo a place for gentle contemplation.
|Piazzale Michelangelo||View of City||Forte Belvedere||The World's Biggest Sofa?|
A 10 minute walk down steep steps and along lies the Piazzale Michelangelo with yet another copy of "David" in its centre and again great views of Florence. The Medicean Forte Belvedere was built as a city defence and in particular to protect the Pitti Palace at the end of the 16th century. It is now a venue used for exhibitions and concerts and has yet again great views of the surroundings and Florence itself.
|Palazzo Pitti||Basilica di S. Spirito||Ponte Alle Grazie||Certosa di Firenze|
Constructed in 1458 by the family of the same name the Palazzo Pitti was acquired by their rivals the Medici family in 1539 and was the official residence of Florence's rulers until 1919 when ownership was passed to the State and it then became one of Florence's main art galleries. The Basilica di San Spirito (1434-82) was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and houses a wood crucifix made by Michelangelo in 1493 and paintings including Filippino Lippi's Madonna with Child and Saints. From here you can cross back to the centre over the Ponte Alle Grazie a construction from the 1950's on the site of a bridge destroyed by the withdrawing German troops in 1944. The original 14th and 15th century structure was the longest bridge in Florence and would like the Ponte Vecchio have had buildings and shops along its length.
Three kilometres south of the city (regular buses) is the monastery of Certosa di Firenze (guided tours in Italian).