“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” – Henry James, American writer.
Not one city in Italy feels the same like Florence. Nor will Florence feel the same as any other Italian city.
Italy is an amazingly diverse country with many different regions, each with its own traditions and cultural differences. It’s a perfect travel destination for city trips, stunning countryside road trips and lazy Mediterranean beach holidays.
When it comes to city trips, Florence is one of my favorite city travel destinations. Florence is a unique Italian city with many great points of interest to visit. You’ll be able to choose from plenty of things to do here during a multi-day city trip.Here’s a list of my favorite five places to visit in the city:
The bell tower(left) and Il Duomo(right) of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy
Il Duomo di Firenze
The massive Duomo of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is a famous icon of the Florence city skyline. The dome used to be the largest in the world until 1881. If you want, you can climb to the top for a great view of the city. Keep in mind that you’ll have to climb 463 tight steps for that.
The top of Il Duomo in Florence is the highest point in central Florence. If you still have some energy left, you can also climb the bell tower next to it, which offers a great perspective on the Duomo itself and another spectacular view on the city of Florence.
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
If you are looking for a romantic place in Florence, you are going to love Ponte Vecchio.
Ponte Vecchio is a famous bridge in Florence that crosses the river Arno. Many colorful houses & tiny jewelry shops decorate the sides of it.
This bridge will make you think about fairy tales & loves stories in the old Florentine city.
Jewellery shops and little houses on the sides of Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.
Little bits of interesting History about Ponte Vecchio
The bridge of Ponte Vecchio in Florence went through quite a lot of interesting stories.
In the early days of Florence, only simple wood was used for the construction of Ponte Vecchio. It was the only bridge in Florence during Roman times that crossed the river Arno.
After that, the exact story of the present construction of Ponte Vecchio remains a bit of a mystery.
Here are several facts about Ponte Vecchio in Florence:
Pretty bad stench
The famous bridge of Ponte Vecchio wasn’t always home to jewelers and goldsmiths.
At the first stage of the new construction, it was a workspace of fishermen and butchers. All the fish and meat on the bridge caused a pretty bad stench.
So it happened, that in 1593, Cosimo I de’ Medici – the Grand Duke of Florence – couldn’t bear the smell anymore.
Cosimo forbade the butchers and the fish sellers to sell their goods on Ponte Vecchio.
From that moment on, only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to sell their goods on this marvelous bridge.
The secret passage of Ponte Vecchio
At the very top of the bridge, there is a secret passage called the ‘Corridoio Vasariano’. It was originally built for the Medici family in old Florence.
The ‘secret’ passage allowed them to the bridge with ease from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti.
This way they didn’t have to walk through the busy crowd on the bridge upon which they ruled.
A Terrible Second World War
Bomber airplanes destroyed most bridges in Florence during the Second World War.
They threw bombs on the bridges as a strategic move to block transportation for the enemy. It’s an absolute miracle that the Ponte Vecchio in Florence survived completely.
Only a few building on the sides of the bridge were a bit destroyed by the bombing.
They say that Adolf Hitler and the Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini had secret meetings in 1938 in the secret passage (Corridoio Vasariano) over the bridge.
When a salesman in the old city of Florence couldn’t pay off his debt, soldiers would destroy (rotta) his/her market table (banca).
Without his ‘banca’, a salesman was set out of business because he had no more place to stall all his/her goods.
When this happened, Florentine people used the word ‘bancarotta’, or ‘broken table’.
This is where the present term ‘bankruptcy’ knows its roots.
A Little Tragic Love Story
At one side of the bridge, you will find a remarkable sign with an inscription of Dante.
The inscription tells a little tragic love story of a young nobleman with the name of ‘Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti’. The young man was about to marry a young Florentine girl but he left her for his only true love.
As a result, the family of his fiance was furious and killed Buondelmonte on the first Easter Monday of the year 1215.
They killed him when he was crossing the Ponte Vecchio unsuspiciously.
Best Coffee in Florence: Chiaroscuro Firenze
Travelers that enjoy good coffee will love Florence.
For Italian people, the lifestyle of drinking coffee has been a common habit for over three hundred years.
Right in the heart of Florence, there is a famous coffee shop called Chiaroscuro Firenze. It’s located only a couple of streets away from the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore.
The coffee shop of Chiaroscuro is a perfect place to sit down and enjoy an Italian coffee. Chiaroscuro Firenze offers a tremendous choice of the best quality coffees and at reasonable prices.
Their coffees are made by trained baristas who will gladly help you out with your choice.
The story of the first espresso
In fact, ‘espresso’ means that the ordered coffee can be made instantly. The first espresso has a link to an interesting piece of history.
How to recognize a good espresso
A good espresso contains 6 to 7 grams of coffee with 30 ml of hot water at a temperature of 95°C (203°F).
You can recognize an espresso by the light brown foam on top of it.
The high pressure of the hot water, when pressed through the coffee, creates this thick layer of foam. The strength of the foam can even hold a tablespoon of sugar for a couple of seconds.
Know your Italian coffees
When in Florence, you’ll want to know a thing or two about the type coffee you are ordering.This list will help you to understand what to order:
- ‘Caffè’, the espresso as we know it
- ‘Doppio’, a double espresso
- ‘Caffè macchiato’, espresso with milk foam
- ‘Caffè americano’, espresso with a cup of hot water
- ‘Cappuccino’, espresso with steamed milk and milk foam in a smaller cup
- ‘Cortado’, espresso with warm milk
- ‘Caffè Panna’, espresso with whipped cream
- ‘Ristretto’, a smaller and stronger espresso
- ‘Caffè lungo’, an espresso with a bigger volume
- ‘Caffè latte’, espresso with steamed milk
- ‘Latte macchiato’, espresso with a lot of milk and milk foam
The Uffizi Museum
When it comes to world-famous museums, you need to visit the Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy.
It’s one of the oldest museums in Europe and it showcases an amazing classic art collection.
The magnificent Uffizi museum is located in the Palazzo Degli Uffizi, right next to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.
The Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy.
A bit of History about the Uffizi Museum
The U-shaped Uffizi palace was built in 1560. Originally, the palace was designated to become government offices for the magistrates of Florence. Only the top floor was set up as an art gallery by Francisco de’ Medici.
Granduca Francisco de’ Medici commissioned the original construction and Giorgio Vasari was the architect of the Uffizi Museum in Florence.
The Medici family has constantly been extending the collection of the museum in the past.
What to find in the Uffizi Museum?
On the top floor of the Uffizi, you will find a huge collection of famous paintings dating from the middle ages, early renaissance, and baroque.
You will be able to find great names in the art collection here like Rubens, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli.
The Uffizi museum is a definite must-see place to visit when you’re in Florence.
Tip: when you visit the Uffizi, make sure you book a ticket in advance. Hence, if you don’t want to wait over an hour in a long queue. There is only one official website for buying your Uffizi tickets:
The website is run in partnership with Firenze Musei (http://www.firenzemusei.it), with whom you can also book your Uffizi tickets by telephone (+39 (0)55 294883.
Any other unofficial websites charge a booking fee.
Two of my favorite paintings in the Uffizi:
1. Medusa by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Caravaggio painted the Medusa for the Medici family around c.a. 1597. The Medici used the artwork as a symbol referring to the myth of Medusa to substantiate their power.
Medusa was a beautiful priestess in the temple of the goddess Athena, according to ancient Greek mythology.
The legends say that Medusa made love to Poseidon, the god of the sea, in Athena’s temple. This event made Athena, the goddess of the sky, furious.
But because Athena couldn’t stand up to Poseidon she took revenge on Medusa. She changed her hair into snakes and cursed her in such way that everybody who looked at her would turn to stone.
In the end, Perseus, the son of Zeus, beheaded Medusa with a shining shield that was given to him by the goddess Athena.
The shield helped him to avoid looking at Medusa so that he wouldn’t turn into stone. Perseus later offered Medusa’s head to Athena.
As a result, Athena wore Medusa’s head on her shield to turn her her enemies into solid stone.
2. The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
In 1482, Botticelli created a famous work of art that would take about three years to finish.
The birth of Venus is a stunning painting.
The artwork tells the story of the goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, when she had emerged from the sea.
In the painting, Venus is portrayed naked on a shell by the seashore.
The philosophic meaning of the painting explains the birth of love and the spiritual beauty as a driving force of life.
Piazza Della Signora
The wonderful scent of amazing Italian food hangs around one of the most important piazzas in Florence.
The Piazza Della Signora in Florence is surrounded by many good restaurants.
You can take a seat at one of the restaurants here and eat a lovely Italian meal on the piazza. Keep in mind that you will pay a little more because of the location you’re seated.
On the Piazza Della Signora, you will be able to find a few important buildings and monuments like the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi.
Other than that, right in the center of the Piazza Della Signora, you will find:
- The fountain of Neptune made by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
- The bronze knight of Cosimo I de Medici made by Giambologna
- An indoor gallery with stunning stone sculptures.
Good to know: On the Piazza Della Signora, you will find a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The original statue can be found in the Academia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence.