Italy is full of incredible cities like Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, and so many more. I was very lucky to be able to visit those first three plus a couple smaller cities like Siena and Verona. The culture of Italy as a whole was very similar, but like any other country each city had its own unique feel and characteristics. If you missed it, I did an article on What to Do in Rome. There was an overwhelming amount of history in the Eternal City and it seemed like the whole place was distinguished by that history, government, and religion. While I loved Italy’s capital and would go back in a heartbeat, the next stop on my Europe trip absolutely blew me away.
I did a lot of research about each city I was going to visit before my trip, but nothing I found did Florence justice. It had a small town feel even though it’s considered the capital of the Tuscan region. While Rome felt incredibly fast-paced, Florence was a breath of fresh air. I don’t know if it was the wine or the artistic culture but my whole experience in Florence felt so laid back. Plus it was the perfect home-base to explore beautiful Tuscany.
There are SO MANY reasons that you should visit Florence and I hope to convince you with this one post that you must. 🙂 I don’t think it will be too much of a challenge.
The Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, the Duomo. These are just a few examples of the artwork and collections on display in this incredible city. The Uffizi contains multiple pieces that I studied in Art History like Birth of Venus by Botticelli, Madonna Enthroned by Cimabue, plus work from da Vinci and Michelangelo. Pro Tip: Visit an hour/hour and a half before closing and you’ll have the whole place to yourself even in peak season.
The Galleria dell’Accademia is most well known for Michelangelo’s David which is an impressive sight. Even more impressive in my opinion is the Duomo which dominates the city skyline. This structure is an artistic, architectural, and engineering marvel. I’ll spare you the details, but basically Brunelleschi’s design was years ahead of his time.
The way this dome is constructed is by a dome inside a dome. If you want to climb to the top be sure to purchase tickets in advance because they will sell out during peak season. On the climb, the stairs are located between the two dome structures that provide support for the top half of the building.
Between all the galleries and architecture, Florence is one of the best places to enjoy Renaissance art in Italy.
Day Trips for Days
There are all kinds of options for day trips depending on what you are interested in. Love wine? Head out into the Tuscan countryside to enjoy local wineries. Love the beach? Take the train or drive out to Cinque Terre and enjoy the rocky coastline. Enjoy history? Take a day trip to Rome. Yes, many times it’s the other way around, but there are no rules here. Want the perfect Instagram photo? Go to Pisa and take the iconic photo of yourself holding the tower up.
No matter what you like to do on vacation, there is a day trip for you. Depending on the length of your stay, I would incorporate a couple day trips because the surrounding area is so interesting.
“Small” Town with Big Character
Florence is technically considered a “small town” in Italy. It’s all relative because the town of about 380,000 people seemed huge to this small-town girl of less than 3,000. No matter what you classify the town as one thing is for sure, that it has a huge character.
The people who live there were so friendly. All the bartenders, shop owners, and folks we ran into were always genuine and willing to offer advice. After I left the Uffizi Gallery one night, I walked around the corner and there was an orchestra performing a free concert in the courtyard. It’s things like this that make a trip memorable.
The last part about this town that I so enjoyed was the atmosphere. It is a total artist’s town. After the hustle & bustle of Rome, Florence was totally laid-back. It’s like no one had a care in the world.
Did someone say wine? One of my favorite things to do while traveling is try local wine. And what better place to do this than in the motherland of Italy!? Especially in the heart of Tuscany. My favorite is a red called Chianti. Be sure and try it out when you visit, you will not be disappointed.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Within about a 2.5 hour radius of Florence there are 13 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites. These include cathedrals, historic city centers, and beautiful countryside locations. Some of the more well known sites are Cinque Terre (highly recommend), historic city centers of Florence and Siena, Pisa, and the Medici Villas.
It is so important to visit these sites. Isn’t a major reason for travel to learn about the culture and history of other places? Cultural sites give us insight into how society came to be like it is today. In other words, learning about the past helps you understand the present. And it’s much more fun to learn through experiences than by sitting in a classroom.
So why visit Florence? Did I convince you to plan your next trip here?
Florence was my favorite Italian city and one that I constantly recommend that people visit. No matter if it’s for a day or for a week, this is a special vacation spot with unique characteristics. If you’ve ever been to Florence I’d love to know what you thought was unique about it! Leave it in a comment below.