Florence, Italy is the home of the Renaissance and is therefore the best place to find Renaissance art in all of Europe. From Michelangelo’s David to Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, Renaissance culture dominates the Florentine landscape. However, Florentine culture goes beyond its art; it encompasses the food, the fashion, and the people.
The best of Florence sits on the northern side of the Arno River. That isn’t to say that there aren’t wonderful sites south of the river. It merely means that the most iconic places in Florence rest north of the Arno. Perhaps the most iconic site, at least in size, is the Duomo. This massive cathedral, constructed in the Gothic style, boasts a colorful exterior. Furthermore, it is the first dome built since ancient Roman times. More importantly, the Duomo serves as a vital visual landmark to aid in one’s sightseeing. Nearly all of the major sites in Florence lie within a twenty minute radius of the Duomo.
Two of the most important of these sites are the Accademia, the site of Michelangelo’s David, and the Uffizzi Gallery, which houses the best collection of Italian art in the world. Located north of the Duomo at Via Ricasoli 60, the Accademia houses the famous David. This sculpture alone makes the Accademia worth a visit, but there are additional paintings and sculptures within the museum, most notably Michelangelo’s unfinished Prisoners. Stop in for a quick peek. It should only take an hour.
For a more comprehensive view of Italian art, head over to the Uffizzi Gallery. Located south of the Duomo past Piazza della Signoria, the Uffizzi Gallery consistently attracts a sizeable crowd. It is best to book online or buy a Firenze Card in order to expedite one’s trip to the gallery. Waiting in line is not ideal, particularly during summer months. The Uffizzi owns the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere. The paintings range from the Medieval period through the High Renaissance.
The Medieval paintings include works by famous masters Duccio, Cimabue, and Giotto among others. Early Renaissance works include Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano and Piero della Frencesca’s Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza. Perhaps the most famous works come from the Renaissance and High Renaissance eras. These include include works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci. Also found in the museum are select works by foreign artists from Flanders, Spain, and France, as well as a notable collection of classical sculptures produced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. If you are a fan of Italian art, the Uffizzi Gallery is not to be missed.
There numerous other sites in Florence such as the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall from Renaissance times, and the Ponte Vecchio, the most famous bridge in Florence where one can find all kinds of jewelry. South of the river, one should go to the Pitti Palace where one will find lush gardens and the second most impressive collection of paintings in Florence. The Pitti Palace’s Palatine Gallery houses works from the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael, and Titian. Its collection of Raphael paintings is impressive. In fact, only the Vatican has a greater number of Raphael works.
If those aren’t enough sites to see in Florence, simply get lost in the city. Walk the pedestrian zones and wander about until you find something you enjoy. There are stores, restaurants, and gelaterias everywhere in the city center and people constantly walk up and down the wide city streets. This makes Florence one of the best cities to relax and people watch. So sit back, relax, and take in the sites. You know you want to.