“A city that defines beauty”, one day in Tuscany’s fabulous Florence is only a taste and just not enough…
Using Pisa as a base for twelve days to explore other areas in Tuscany over Christmas and New Year’s day, it’s an easy train trip to travel to Florence.
Founded during Roman times and as a centre of commerce, Florence is renown as a Renaissance town and it’s not long before you – together with the 10-million tourists visiting each year – understand why.
This Tuscan city of beauty gave birth to famous painters, artists, astronomers, and sculptures.
Almost 500 traditional art and workshops adorn the cobbled alleyways and streets of Florence – passion is what Florence’s artisans possess.
Florence allures and overwhelms with elegance and finesse whilst promising the fussiest traveller a deluge of centuries-old history, art, culture, refinement, and down-to-earth locals.
What to see
It’s impossible to appreciate what Florence has to offer in just one day, so if you’re strapped for time, here are a few must-see sights.
Home to the Uffizi Gallery, which houses priceless masterpieces from Botticelli, Raphael, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and of course Michelangelo’s 5-metre sculpture of King David – if you have a spare day then definitely go. Visiting in 1985, there isn’t time today.
Founded by Dominican monks in the 1200s, the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is thought to be the oldest pharmacy in the world and still produces perfumes.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Battistero di San Giovanni, Giotto’s Campanile
This imposing and iconic complex of exquisite ancient craftsmanship comprising the cathedral, baptistery, and bell tower, which exudes charm and grace is what first draws visitors to Florence.
With construction commencing in 1296 the cathedral was completed in 1436 and is ‘one of Italy’s largest churches’.
Started in 1059 and completed in 1128, the hexagonal baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence.
Standing at 14.45-metres, why not climb the bell tower’s (Giotto’s Campanile) 414 steep steps if you’re feeling energetic. An unforgettable panorama of Florence awaits…
Cupola del Brunelleschi
Be enchanted by the famous red dome of Cupola del Brunelleschi, which dates back to 1418 and if you have time, you can climb its steps to the top for an exceptional vista.
Leonardo Da Vinci Museum
Whilst you’re at the Duomo, make your way to the captivating Leonardo Da Vinci Museum (€7 entry) to learn about Da Vinci’s incredible inventions. This interactive museum is sure to blow your mind.
Spending a few hours lost in Da Vinci’s marvellous inventions is easy to do in this museum.
Palazzo Medici Riccardi
The Renaissance palace built between 1444 and 1484 is free entry, so sees many visiting the superb inner courtyard…
The opulent courtyard opens on to meticulous walled gardens, which provide a brief sanctuary away from the maddening crowd.
You may come across this unique marble sculpture if you look hard enough.
A museum also awaits but this isn’t free entry.
Heavy ancient doors close the gardens in and local street life out…
Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
Florence abounds in wonderful piazzas to stop, rest, and absorb amazing art and sculptures just as in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata.
The fountain’s bizarre bronze sculpture, demonic in appearance was completed by the Renaissance sculptor Pietro Tacca.
Purposely built in the Renaissance style, the square’s symmetry provides harmony whilst its stunning art depicts religious and bygone battle scenes.
Another angle of the impressive fountain’s figurines…
A commanding bronze equestrian sculpture of Tuscany’s Grand Duke – Ferdinando I de’ Medici graces the square’s centre.
Steeped in tumultuous history especially during WWII, when the Nazis bombed every bridge across the River Arno in Florence except the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno divides Florence in two as it does in Pisa.
Enjoy a 50-minute guided boat trip along the peaceful Arno or just amble its historical scenic banks, free of charge.
The many reconstructed bridges provide varying vantage points of Florence.
Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze
Founded in 1714 and opened to the public in 1747, you’ll find the National Central Library of Florence in the Piazza dei Cavalleggeri and is the largest library in Italy.
Wander with me through local alleyways and street scenes in Florence…
Working in marine grade polished stainless steel, contemporary sculpture Clessidra by Helidon Xhixha is a strong contrast reflecting Renaissance art in Florence.
Soaring medieval arches provide gorgeous backdrops on a passeggiata (stroll).
The Trenitalia travel (€8.60 one-way) from Pisa heads east across Tuscany and takes around an hour through picturesque villages.
Once at the train station in Florence, walk across the road and mingle with the crowd heading to the city centre and sights.
Where to eat
Delicious food abounds in Florence with too many choices, so your best bet is to pick something and just go for it…
Salumificio Anzuini – La Macelleria
Probably unchanged since 1929, the aromas permeating out of this vintage shop curls around your nose and beckons you in for a taste.
For the price-conscious, stay off the main squares when buying food as you’ll pay exorbitant prices for average-quality food.
Teatro Niccolini Caffè
On via Ricasoli 3/5, this gorgeous cafe serves wonderful coffee and snacks. Meals are also served.
If you’re waiting on a train to anywhere, then this very groovy swish bar on Piazza della Stazione 50, with excellent and friendly staff, offers wonderful ambience to rest for a cocktail (€7+) and savoury, after walking your feet off in Florence.
Meals are also offered, but we’re too early in the evening. Opening hours are from 07:00 am – 12:00 am.
I’m sure the meals are excellent. From your seat across the restaurant, you can watch the chef creating his magic in the kitchen – very cool.
On via de’Neri 48/R, this restaurant is a little pricier but serves great coffee (€1.20+) and excellent panini (€5.50).
Light lunches, Aperitivi, and dinner are also served in the lovely modern surrounds with friendly staff.
With barely a full day in Florence and still so much to see, it’s time to catch the train back to Pisa and rest the weary feet in the comfortable apartment.