Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Florence—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.
Piazza del Duomo
The heart of Florence; climb the bell tower for sweeping views; see the octagonal Baptistery with its three sets of gilded bronze doors; visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, full of Gothic and Renaissance sculpture; and explore the Duomo, or cathedral, the city’s most iconic building. Fees at some sights. www.operaduomo.firenze.it
Galleria degli Uffizi
“Allow enough time to savor the world’s greatest gallery of Renaissance art—and don’t forget to look up at the marvelous frescoed hallway ceilings.”—Louise Fili, author, The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence. Countless Italian masterpieces, but also works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, and other leading European artists. Tip: Prebook tickets by phone or online. Fee. www.uffizi.org
Il Gelato Vivoli
“The city’s best gelateria, or ice-cream parlor, is Vivoli, near Santa Croce at Via Isola delle Stinche 7.”—David Gardner, proprietor, Baldovino restaurant and Hotel Villa Bordoni, Chianti. Tip: A cup, or tub (coppa), is better value than a cone (cono): Choose from different size tubs and remember you can ask for more than one flavor per tub. Tel. 39 055 292 334. www.vivoli.it
Franciscan basilica in the east of the city; countless paintings and other works of art, including fresco cycles by Giotto; many illustrious characters buried here, including Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. Tip: Admission to the church also covers the easily missed museum and Cappella dei Pazzi (Pazzi Chapel) next door. Fee. www.santacroce.firenze.it
Museo Nazionale del Bargello
“Visit the Bargello even if you’re not a fan of sculpture, because it also has numerous beautiful rooms devoted to the decorative and applied arts.”—Sally Roy, author, AAA Italy Travelbook. Italy’s leading gallery of Gothic, Renaissance, and other sculpture; works by Michelangelo and Donatello. Fee. www.polomuseale.firenze.it
Visit a market
“Don’t miss the Mercato Centrale, a vast covered market selling fruit, vegetables, olive oil, and dozens of other gastronomic treats.”—David Gardner. Tip: The Mercato Centrale is closed Sundays and after about 2 p.m. daily, except Saturdays in winter.
“The paintings here changed the course of art history.”—Luca Finardi, general manager, Hotel Helvetia & Bristol. Groundbreaking 15th-century fresco series by Masaccio and Masolino. Tel. 39 055 276 8224. Fee. www.comune.firenze.it.
Santa Maria Novella
“Don’t miss the Cappellone degli Spagnoli, a soaring frescoed chapel alongside the church.”—Jonathan Buckley, co-author, The Rough Guide to Florence & Siena. The city’s second major church after Santa Croce; Masaccio’s 15th-century painting of a Maestà is one of the city’s most important; several ravishing Renaissance fresco series; excellent small museum. www.smn.it
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Home to Michelangelo’s “David” and his four non finiti (unfinished) stone “Slaves”; also some paintings, including work by Botticelli. Tip: Arrive early to avoid long lines or prebook tickets through Firenze Musei. Tel. 39 055 294 883. Fee. www.gallerieaccademia.org/sito/home.html
Crypt and chapels containing tombs of many of the Medici family; major sculptures by Michelangelo. Tip: Visit the adjoining Church of San Lorenzo (separate entrance) with its paintings and the tomb of Donatello. Fee. www.polomuseale.firenze.it
“You’ll want to see the Galleria Palatina here, with much of the Medici’s former art collection, but don’t miss the adjoining Giardino di Boboli—it’s the best garden in the city.”—Anne Hanley, editor, Time Out Florence & Tuscany. Tip: Take advantage of combined tickets to see several museums within the palace. www.palazzopitti.it