Five things to do in… Florence
In the heart of Tuscany, la dolce vita is to be found throughout one of Italy’s most beautiful cities…
Tuscany’s capital city features Renaissance masterpieces, stunning architecture and cool contemporary street art – and, of course, you’re sure to enjoy a warm Italian welcome.
1 climb the Duomo
If it’s a view you’re looking for, head to The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, better known as Il Duomo di Firenze. Famous for its iconic dome – the world’s largest until 1881 – the stunning frescoes on the interior are worth climbing the 476 stairs for. But be prepared to manoeuvre in some rather tight spaces to get there.
If you’re not out of puff, the adjacent Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) offers another spectacular vista. Climbing the Duomo costs €8, the Campanile €6. Queue-free tickets are available for €15.
2 explore on foot
Florence’s historic centre is small, so perfect for walking around. But it’s not all cobblestones and marble palaces – there’s plenty of greenery, too.
The terraced Boboli Gardens slope down behind the Palazzo Pitti (which houses several major museums). Once a lavish garden for the Medici family, it’s now a public park full of Renaissance and classical sculptures and hidden grottos, including the fairy-tale-esque Grotta di Buontalenti.
3 learn about leather
Florence has a long tradition of leather making, and there are plenty of places to buy it – whether from boutique shops or the market. But you’ll need to know your stuff to tell the difference between the real deal and fake-Italian. The Leather School in Santa Croce teaches the process, from sourcing to hand-sewing and dyeing. One-hour tours (€14 per person, max 20 people per group) run twice daily, Mon-Fri (email info@ scuoladelcuoio.com).
4 eat like a local
For Italian produce at its best, visit the covered food market Mercato Centrale, where you’ll find butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, fishmongers and sellers of local olive oil, honey, spices, truffles, wines and more.
Make the most of free samples and, if you plan on making big purchases to ship home, do haggle.
Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, which carries much of the same centuries-old history, is geared less to tourists and more to locals. Check it out.
5 Street art
Renaissance masterpieces notwithstanding, Florence has a lesser-known contemporary art scene. With streets and walls their canvas, artists like Clet Abraham add comic alterations to street signs. A mysterious artist called ‘Blub’ paints portraits of popular figures such as the Mona Lisa and Dante underwater wearing diving masks!
Walk in the Medici family’s footsteps at Boboli Gardens Tuck in to local delicacies at Mercato Centrale
You can climb Giotto’s Campanile