Florence

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Florence's Centro Storico, or historical center, is set north of the picturesque Arno River. At twenty-five square blocks, it's easy to get around on foot. Also within walking distance is Oltrarno, the area south of the river – a much quieter alternative to the bumper-to-bumper tourists on the north side of the river.

Things to do in Florence

CCCS

The Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina (CCCS) is part of the Palazzo Strozzi Foundation and was created as a showcase for different approaches, practices and trends in contemporary art and culture both locally and internationally. The 11-room exhibition space is located in the former cellars under the magnificent courtyard of the Palazzo.

Palazzo Strozzi, Piazza Strozzi, Tuscany, 011-39-055-277-6461, www.strozzina.org
Tags: trendy | art | things to do | culture | museum

Galleria dell'Accademia

This a must-stop for Michelangelo's iconic David and his powerful unfinished slaves meant for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Yet most visitors fail to appreciate the museum's Gothic and Renaissance paintings and its remarkable collection of musical instruments. Late openings are usually scheduled on one or two nights weekly throughout the summer months.

58-60 Via Ricasoli, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8612, www.firenzemusei.it/accademia
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | history | museum

Mercato Centrale

This is the place to go for fresh local produce. From the market’s dozen stalls, put together a lunch of fruit, cheese, and bread and head to the Piazza della Signoria for a picnic.

Piazza di Marceto Centrale, Tuscany,
Tags: shopping | moderate | things to do | culinary

Mercato di San Lorenzo

Elbow your way through tourists and locals alike to shop hundreds of kiosks selling leather goods, cheap and designer fashions, and souvenirs. The 1874 indoor Mercato Centrale is the place to go for fresh local produce. From the market’s dozens of stalls, put together a lunch of fruit, cheese, and bread and head to a sunny piazza for a picnic.

Piazza San Lorenzo, Tuscany,
Tags: shopping | moderate | things to do | culinary | eclectic

Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Originally the headquarters of the town's top magistrate and prison, the Bargello became a museum in 1865 and now houses the most comprehensive collection of Donatello’s sculptural works, plus pieces by other Renaissance greats like Cellini, Verrocchio, Giambologna, Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Michelangelo. The ticket is a bargain and queues are not a problem. Closed 2nd and 4th Mondays. It’s a good idea to send an email (firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com) in advance to book tickets and find out any changes in opening hours. 

Via del Proconsolo 4, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8606, www.polomuseale.firenze.it/english/bargello
Tags: editor pick | great value | art | things to do | culture | history | museum

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

The present business dates from 1612, but the friars of nearby Santa Maria Novella had been running an apothecary shop since 1221. Most of the perfumes and body care products still produced and sold here were developed in the 1500s for Caterina de' Medici.

Via della Scala 16, Tuscany, 011-39-055-216-276, www.smnovella.it
Tags: shopping | expensive | things to do | perfume

Oltrarno

The Oltrarno is a maze of narrow streets and alleys that you should explore for the myriad craft shops where expert artisans are still keeping alive age-old working methods. From traditional silk weaving, wood carving, and paper marbling to the quaint workshops of young goldsmiths and tiny vintage fashion stores, there's enough here for every taste and for most pockets.

Tuscany, www.diladdarno.it
Tags: shopping | trendy | things to do | crafts | eclectic | vintage

Pineider

Francesco Pineider opened his first shop in Florence in 1774, and for more than two centuries the brand has been synonymous with hand-made paper, custom printing, engraved stationery, fine desk accessories, and luxury leather briefcases – a mix of style and quality that outlasts fleeting fashion trends.

Piazza della Signoria 13, Tuscany, 011-39-055-281-747, www.pineider.com
Tags: shopping | expensive | smart splurge | things to do

Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

Built by Luca Pitti and later bought by the Medici, the palace contains five museums: the Palatine Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Museo degli Argenti, and the Porcelain Museum. The 79-acre Boboli Gardens rank among the world's finest landscaped gardens. Buy the three-day combined ticket if you plan on visiting the whole complex.

Piazza Pitti 1, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8786, www.polomuseale.firenze.it
Tags: editor pick | art | things to do | history | museum

Ponte Vecchio

Florence's oldest, most iconic bridge vies with the Duomo for favorite city landmark. The tiny shops lining the Ponte Vecchio were once home to the city butchers and fishmongers, who use to dump the rotting leftovers into the river. Because of the smell, in 1593 Ferdinando I de' Medici decreed that they should be replaced with goldsmiths, which remain to this day.

Between Via Por Santa Maria and Via Guicciardini, Tuscany,
Tags: family | shopping | expensive | things to do | culture | history

Santa Croce

Famed as the Pantheon of Italian Greats, Florence’s Franciscan basilica houses the tombs of the likes of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo. Every nave, sacristy, and cloister contains masterpieces – notably Brunelleschi's Pazzi Chapel and Giotto's groundbreaking frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels. The unremarkable façade is a 19th-century addition.

Piazza Santa Croce 16, Tuscany, 011-39-055-246-6105, www.santacroceopera.it
Tags: art | things to do | culture | history | museum | religious

Scholarly Tours

You don’t have to be an art historian to appreciate the Renaissance masterpieces of Florence, but having one show you the city certainly ups the wow factor, especially for kids who are learning about Michelangelo for the first time. Founded by National Geographic writer Paul Bennett and designer Lani Bevacqua, Context Travel runs walking tours of Florence, Naples, and Rome that are led by scholars who are knowledgeable about art history and can also engage children. Learn about history and architecture on a treasure hunt, trace the past of artistic greats, or explore 15th-century life in historic homes.

Context Travel, 888-467-1986 (from the US), www.contexttravel.com
Tags: family | art | things to do | culture | architecture | history | tour

The Duomo

Santa Maria del Fiore was built to Arnolfo di Cambio's design starting September 8, 1296. Added in 1436, Brunelleschi's iconic dome is well worth both the almost $12 ticket and the 463-step climb. The remains of the former Santa Reparata cathedral can be seen at a lower level, while the façade dates from the 19th century.

Piazza del Duomo, Tuscany, 011-39-055-230-2885, www.operaduomo.firenze.it
Tags: editor pick | things to do | culture | history | museum | religious

Uffizi Gallery

Built by Vasari in 1560 as the Medici administrative offices (hence their name), the Uffizi are home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's Tondo Doni, Da Vinci’s Annunciation, and Caravaggio's Medusa to name but a few.  If you are an art lover, allow a full day, but even a dilettante can easily spend a few hours here. 

Piazzale degli Uffizi, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8651, www.uffizi.firenze.it
Tags: art | things to do | culture | history | museum

Vasari Corridor

Built in 1565 by Vasari to link Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti for the convenience (and safety) of the Medici, this private passageway offers unusual views over the city and is lined with illustrious self portraits. It can only be visited by joining a scheduled guided tour: well worth it if you can afford around $145 for the privilege.

Entrance through the Uffizi Gallery, Tuscany, 011-39-055-238-8651, en.firenze.waf.it
Tags: smart splurge | art | things to do | architecture | history

Via Tornabuoni / Via della Vigna Nuova / Via Strozzi

Along via Tornabuoni and the neighboring Via della Vigna Nuova and Via Strozzi you’ll find the high-end boutiques of Italian designers like Fendi, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada. But don't forget to check the local wares of international-caliber designers like Salvatore Ferragamo, Emilio Pucci, and Roberto Cavalli.

Via Tornabuoni and neighboring streets, Tuscany, www.vignanuovafirenze.it
Tags: shopping | expensive | things to do | eclectic | menswear

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