Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the best and most famous lookouts for a stunning view of Florence, day or night, and best of all it is free! It just takes a little legwork and there are a few easy ways to get there.

One is a lovely walk along the south side of the river upstream towards the Torre San Niccolò, an old tower of the now destroyed medieval city walls which you can see jutting out over the rooftops from afar. Here, you are directly underneath the piazza, simply follow the looping ramps up to the top of the hill. Another nice walk is from the Porta San Miniato gateway, accessible from Via San Niccolò. Go through the gateway and up a short but steep street; in front of you is the “shortcut,” picturesque stone steps that will lead you straight up to the piazza in a matter of minutes. You will pass by the entrance to the lovely rose garden on the way up. Don’t forget to take a peek behind you to catch the growing panorama of Florence.

The other way up to the piazza, for those who are saving their energy, is to take the local bus number 12 or 13. Find them at the train station, near the taxi stand, either one will take you all the way up to Piazza Michelangelo for the cost of €1.20 a single ride (tickets must be purchased in advance at a tabaccheria, tobacconist).

From the piazza, a five minute stroll up past the church of San Salvatore will take you to the unique and beautiful monastery of San Miniato al Monte. With absolutely the best view of the city, San Miniato al Monte is a stunning example of original Tuscan Romanesque architecture dating from 1013. The monks still make honey, tisanes and liqueurs to sell to visitors and it is also possible to visit the church while the monks sing Gregorian chant at 5.30pm.

In the grounds surrounding the church there is a beautiful monumental cemetery laid out in the mid-1800’s and protected by the old defensive walls of the church designed by Michelangelo during the Siege of Florence in 1529-30.

A wonderful panoramic walk from San Miniato back to the centre of Florence can be enjoyed by turning left (with the church behind you) onto Viale Galileo, the tree lined boulevard. As the road winds along and you enjoy the shade of the trees there are the most splendid views of Florence until you reach Via di San Leonardo on your right. Taking this charming narrow street, look for the plaque on the wall of the first villa on your left that says Tchaikovsky lived here in 1878. Continuing along past beautiful villas and the tiny eleventh century church of San Leonardo in Arcetri you will come to the Forte Belvedere and the 13th century Porta San Giorgio. Here you can either go through the arch of the old city gate and straight down the hill to arrive at the Ponte Vecchio, or you can follow the old city wall to the right and back to the area of San Niccolò, below the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Uffizi Gallery

The “Galleria degli Uffizi” is one of the most famous museums in the world given the rich amount of unique artworks and masterpieces conserved within its walls, the majority from the Renaissance period. The main part of the collections were left by the Medici to the state of Tuscany so that they could “adorn the State, be of utility to the Public and attract the curiosity of Foreigners”.

Located in the heart of Florence, the Uffizi Gallery hosts works of art by great Italian artists such as Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello, just to name a few of the most famous. Its large collection has works from all centuries but a large part dates back to the periods between the 12th and 17th centuries.

The Uffizi Gallery is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Florence and Tuscany and welcomes over a million visitors each year. The Uffizi, together with the Vatican Museums in Rome, are the top two most visited museums in Italy by visitors from all across the world and the long lines at the museum’s entrance are almost as famous as its masterpieces!

Piazza della Signoria

The Piazza della Signoria has been the center of political life in Florence since the 14th century with the prominent Palazzo Vecchio overlooking the square. It was the scene of great triumphs, such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the Bonfire of the Vanities instigated by Savonarola, who was then himself burned at the stake here in 1498 after he was denounced by the Inquisition as a heretic. A marble circle inscription on the piazza shows the location where he was burned.

The sculptures in Piazza della Signoria bristle with political connotations, many of which are fiercely contradictory. The David (the original is in the Galleria dell’Accademia) by Michelangelo was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republic’s defiance of the tyrannical Medici.

Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus (1534) to the right of the David was appropriated by the Medici to show their physical power after their return from exile. The Nettuno (1575) by Ammannati celebrates the Medici’s maritime ambitions and Giambologna’s equestrian statue of Duke Cosimo I (1595) is an elegant portrait of the man who brought all of Tuscany under Medici military rule.

Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral is the heart of the city, both geographically and emotionally. It’s the pride of Florence, and one the most impressive churches in the world.  If you only have an hour to visit, spend it in Piazza Duomo and the surrounding streets. If you have more time, climb the dome for a breathtaking view of the city.

Florence Cathedral has been a symbol of grandeur since the time of its construction. Easily the largest church of its time, it was intended as a way to publicise the city’s wealth and power, and stand out from the cathedrals of rival cities Siena and Pisa.

This phenomenal church can seem almost too big. It towers above the narrow streets of the city centre, and is clearly visible from every direction, including the surrounding hills.

From up-close the cathedral of Florence is a feast for the eyes. It has three apses, crowned by miniature copies of the major dome and is flanked by the magnificent Gothic bell tower by Giotto. The marble facade is more recent. It was only finished in the 19th century, a stunning example of the Neo-Gothic style.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the piazza’s crowning glory. Although only a third as high as the Washington Monument, it was a miracle of medieval engineering, probably the tallest bell towers in Europe.

With 207 columns ranged around eight stories, Tower of Pisa looks like a massive wedding cake knocked precariously askew by a clumsy giant guest. The construction of Tower of Pisa began in August 1173 and continued for about 200 years due to the onset of a series of wars. Till today, the name of the architect is a mystery. Leaning Tower of Pisa and CathedralThe leaning Tower of Pisa was designed as a circular bell tower that would stand 185 feet high. It is constructed of white marble.

The tower has eight stories, including the chamber for the bells. The bottom story consists of 15 marble arches. Each of the next six stories contains 30 arches that surround the tower. The final story is the bell chamber itself, which has 16 arches. There is a 297 step spiral staircase inside the tower leading to the top. The top of the leaning tower of Pisa is about 17 feet off the vertical. The tower is also slightly curved from the attempts by various architects to keep it from leaning more or falling over.

Many ideas have been suggested to straighten the Tower of Pisa, including taking it apart stone by stone and rebuilding it at a different location. In the 1920s the foundations of the tower were injected with cement grouting that has stabilized the tower to some extent. Until recent years tourists were not allowed to climb the staircase inside the tower, due to consolidation work.

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