Awarded Top 10 city to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
Cradle of the Renaissance, romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible, Florence (Firenze) is a place to feast on world-class art and gourmet Tuscan cuisine.
Art & Architecture
Few cities are so compact in size or so packed with extraordinary art and architecture masterpieces at every turn. The urban fabric of this small city, on the banks of the Arno river in northeastern Tuscany, has hardly changed since the Renaissance and its narrow cobbled streets are a cinematic feast of elegant 15th- and 16th-century palazzi (palaces), medieval candle-lit chapels, fresco-decorated churches, marble basilicas and world-class art museums brimming with paintings and sculptures by Botticcelli, Michelangelo et al. Unsurprisingly, the entire city centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Italy's fashion industry was born and bred here. Homegrown designers Guccio Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo opened haute-couture boutiques in Florence in the 1920s and shopping in the Tuscan capital has been stylish ever since. A-lister fashion houses lace Via de' Tornabuoni and a Pandora's box of specialist boutiques selling all manner of beautiful objects parade alongside family-run botteghe (workshops) in a glorious tangle of medieval backstreets. Watch fourth-generation Florentine goldsmiths and shoemakers at work, buy artisan scents evocative of the Florentine countryside and Tuscan sea breeze, and know the tag 'Fiorentina' is one of the finest international labels going.
Food & Wine
Quality produce sourced locally, seasonally and sustainably is the holy trinity and Florentines share an enormous pride in their culinary tradition. Their city, surrounded by wine-rich hills, is a gourmet paradise where eating and drinking exceedingly well is mandatory. Be it a traditional bowl of earthy ribollita (bean, bread and veg soup), a tripe panino at a family-run food truck or a blue T-bone steak served in a market trattoria unchanged since 1915, dining in Florence is timeless and memorable. Raw cuisine, fish bistros, craft cocktails and the dazzling creativity of modern young Tuscan chefs add contemporary edge.
La Dolce Vita
Stand on a bridge over the Arno several times in a day and the light and mood changes every time. At sunset hike to Piazzale Michelangelo to be dazzled by a palette embracing every known shade of soft pink, orange and fiery amber. Surprisingly small as it is, Florence looms large on the world's 'must-sees' list – and not just for its unmatched treasure chest of art. Rich in culture, backdropped by history and anchored by family, faith and food, the Florentine lifestyle is enviably sweet. Enjoy a go-slow afternoon passeggiata, indulge in an aperitivo at dusk, savour la dolce vita…
Why I love Florence
By Nicola Williams, Writer
Florence is made for walking, which suits me perfectly, but what never ceases to amaze me is its overwhelming beauty. It's impossible not to be completely and utterly seduced by the sheer size and grandeur of Brunelleschi's red cathedral dome on Piazza del Duomo; by the sensual beauty of a stash of lesser-known Michelangelo sculptures that no one really talks about (forget David – Dawn and Dusk sends shivers down my spine); by the hopelessly romantic city light that turns the Arno and its bridges into a portfolio of Turner canvases during my early-morning runs. Swoon.
Florence: Voted Top 10 City as Best in Travel 2022
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Home to the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art, Florence's premier gallery occupies the vast U-shaped Palazzo degli Uffizi (1560–80), built as government offices. The collection, bequeathed to the city by the Medici family in 1743 on condition that it never leave Florence, contains some of Italy's best-known paintings, including a room full of Botticelli masterpieces. A combined ticket (valid three days) with Palazzo Pitti, Giardino di Boboli and Museo Archeologico is available for €38/21 (€18/11 November to February).
The striking green-and-white marble facade of 13th- to 15th-century Basilica di Santa Maria Novella fronts an entire monastical complex, comprising romantic church cloisters and a frescoed chapel. The basilica itself is a treasure chest of artistic masterpieces, climaxing with frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio. The lower section of the basilica's striped marbled facade is transitional from Romanesque to Gothic; the upper section and the main doorway (1456–70) were designed by Leon Battista Alberti. Book in advance online to avoid queues.
This fortress palace, with its crenellations and 94m-high tower, was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio between 1298 and 1314 for the signoria (city government). Today it is home to the mayor's office and the municipal council. From the top of the Torre d'Arnolfo (tower), you can revel in unforgettable views. Inside, Michelangelo's Genio della Vittoria (Spirit of Victory) sculpture graces the Salone dei Cinquecento, a magnificent painted hall created for the city's 15th-century ruling Consiglio dei Cinquecento (Council of 500).
At the heart of Florence's university area sits Chiesa di San Marco and an adjoining 15th-century Dominican monastery where both gifted painter Fra' Angelico (c 1395–1455) and the sharp-tongued Savonarola piously served God. Today the monastery, aka one of Florence's most spiritually uplifting museums, showcases the work of Fra' Angelico. After centuries of being known as 'Il Beato Angelico' (literally 'The Blessed Angelic One') or simply 'Il Beato' (The Blessed), the Renaissance's most blessed religious painter was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1984.
Florence's duomo is the city's most iconic landmark. Capped by Filippo Brunelleschi's red-tiled cupola, it's a staggering construction whose breathtaking pink, white and green marble facade and graceful campanile dominate the Renaissance cityscape. Sienese architect Arnolfo di Cambio began work on it in 1296, but construction took almost 150 years and it wasn't consecrated until 1436. In the echoing interior, look out for frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari and up to 44 stained-glass windows.
This awe-inspiring story of how the duomo and its cupola came to life is told in this well-executed museum. Among its sacred and liturgical treasures are the baptistry's original doors: the gloriously golden, 16m-tall gilded bronze Porta del Paradiso (Doors of Paradise; 1425–52) designed by Ghiberti for the eastern entrance; the northern doors (1402–24), also by Ghiberti; and – from the end of 2019 – the spectacular Porta Sud (South Door; 1330-36) by Andrea Pisano, illustrating the story of John the Baptist.
A Renaissance masterpiece, the duomo's cupola – 91m high and 45.5m wide – was built between 1420 and 1436. Filippo Brunelleschi, taking inspiration from the Pantheon in Rome, designed a distinctive octagonal form of inner and outer concentric domes that rests on the drum of the cathedral rather than the roof itself. Four million bricks were used, laid in consecutive rings according to a vertical herringbone pattern. Advance reservations, online or at the cathedral's Piazza di San Giovanni ticket office, are obligatory.
A queue marks the door to this gallery, built to house one of the Renaissance's most iconic masterpieces, Michelangelo's David. But the world's most famous statue is worth the wait. The subtle detail – the veins in his sinewy arms, the leg muscles, the change in expression as you move around the statue – is impressive. Carved from a single block of marble, Michelangelo's most famous work was his most challenging – he didn't choose the marble himself and it was veined.
Nowhere is Medici conceit expressed so explicitly as in the Medici Chapels. Adorned with granite, marble, semiprecious stones and some of Michelangelo's most beautiful sculptures, it is the burial place of 49 dynasty members. Francesco I lies in the dark, imposing Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of Princes) alongside Ferdinando I and II and Cosimo I, II and III. Lorenzo Il Magnifico is buried in the graceful Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy), which was Michelangelo's first architectural work.