Without question, Florence is Italy’s historic and artistic treasure. Every street or square at the city’s heart seems to hold at least one museum, church, palace, or garden, filled with magnificent works of art. If you are an art lover, these three itineraries are for you: discover paintings, frescoes, statues, and architectural masterpieces created by geniuses such as Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, and many others. Just immerse yourself in the riches of Florence for three unforgettable days!
Florence owes much of its splendor to the powerful Medici family, the long line of collectors, lovers of the arts, science, and culture, who ruled Florence and Tuscany from 1434 to 1737. Their lineage gave birth to three popes and two queens of France. Their patronage attracted the most important artists and engineers of the period to Florence. The life and works of these brilliant minds and hands affected the rest of Italy and the world profoundly, ferrying western culture from the medieval darkness to the light of the Renaissance.
Thanks to the Medici, Florence is the proud home to the most important art collection in Italy, the Uffizi Gallery. This museum is the indispensable starting point for the art lover's visit to Florence. Masterpieces such as Michelangelo's Tondo Doni, the Birth of Venus, or the Allegory of Spring by Botticelli stand out among the many magnificent works on view in the three corridors of the museum. From the golden glow of the period of Byzantine influence to the discovery of perspective, from anatomical studies to the play of light and shadow and the almost photographic representation of the subject, you'll experience the history of painting come alive. For a thorough visit to the Uffizi Gallery, we recommend you set aside at least three hours. Be sure to make the most of your visit by ordering the audio guide, or booking a guided tour.
The second “must” on your itinerary through the treasures of Florence is the Cathedral Complex of Santa Maria del Fiore, dominated by Brunelleschi's majestic dome. An engineering feat of great difficulty, still the largest brick dome the world, this vast cupola continues to be the subject of studies searching to understand the secrets. Combine visits to the Museo dell'Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore + The Dome by Brunelleschi, and you'll be able to admire the wooden models that illustrate the construction challenges, along with some of the Duomo's original statues and ornaments. On view is also Michelangelo's famous “Bandini Pietà” with the figure of Nicodemus, believed to be a self-portrait of the artist.
Don't stop at the Cathedral! Just opposite the magnificent facade of the Duomo, discover the Baptistery, beautifully decorated with white and green Romanesque marble, manneristic sculptural groups, Byzantine and medieval mosaics, and of course its famous and imposing bronze Gothic style doors by Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Want more? Then we recommend you stay in the area and finish your first day with a visit to the Museo Galileo Galilei. A stone's throw from the Uffizi, this museum is an ode to the history of science: there is a priceless wealth of tools and experimental devices, many of them used or even created by the master for his astronomical studies.
The most famous sculptor in the world is undoubtedly Michelangelo Buonarroti, born in Tuscany and raised in the Florentine workshop of Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo became one of the most powerful symbols of the Renaissance, first in Florence and later in papal Rome. His most famous work is the David, for the imposing size of the sculpture made from a single piece of marble as well as for the anatomic perfection. The David dominated the Piazza della Signoria, but was replaced by a copy and moved to safety inside the Accademia Gallery. The gallery is worth visiting to see the whole series of works by Michelangelo, including the Prisoners. Of enormous artistic value in spite of the fact that they are incomplete, the Prisoners perfectly represent the idea the master had of sculpture: "characters trapped in the marble, waiting to be 'freed' by the hand of the sculptor." Do not miss the collection of plaster casts!
If you are fond of Michelangelo, the itinerary we call A Day with Michelangelo will take you to the Maestro's places in Florence, and you'll discover his work and the imprint that still marks the Renaissance city. The day begins at the Accademia Gallery and passes through the Museum Opera del Duomo, to the Medici Chapels with the Chapel of the Princes, designed to house the remains of the Medici family, which is definitely worth a visit on its own! From there, you'll continue to the Casa Buonarroti (which houses early works and the rich family collection), to the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo is buried. This walking tour will also allow you to discover beautiful views and hidden corners of Florence.
The entire complex of the Basilica of Santa Croce is worth a closer look. It is one of the most beautiful churches of Florence and the largest Franciscan church in the world. Also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, as many important artists, writers, and scientists, including Galileo Galilei, Gioachino Rossini, and Machiavelli are buried here. Beautiful frescoes decorate the various chapels as well as the Cappella de' Pazzi in the cloisters. The visit is not particularly long and the many nearby shops and restaurants on the Piazza Santa Croce are the ideal way to end your day.
However, if you haven't had enough yet, the Bargello Museum can be reached in less than ten minutes. This museum is another unmissable site for lovers of sculpture. The Bargello houses the beautiful bronze statue of the David by Donatello, as well as pottery, historic weapons, and jewelry. You can choose between two alternative routes for the short distance from Santa Croce to the Bargello: the straight path leads you through the Borgo dei Greci (a small street full of great leather shops), until you take a right onto the Via del Proconsolo and notice the imposing building (a former prison) that houses the museum. A second option is to take Via Verdi on the right, and then turn left onto the Via Ghibellina, one of the most lively and famous streets in Florence. Here's a tip for your dinner: Leaving the Bargello, return onto the Via Ghibellina. You'll come to the intersection with Via Isole delle Stinche next to the Teatro Verdi. There you will find Il Caffè Italiano, which - despite of its name - prepares one of the best pizzas in Florence!
Besides being an unparalleled sculptor, Michelangelo was a talented painter, with a deep passion for the fresco technique. His paintings are almost all in Rome, where he was called into the service of the Popes – and created among many other masterpieces including the Sistine Chapel. Yet one of Michelangelo's frescoes was to remain in Florence: The Battle of Cascina was commissioned to decorate one side of the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio, at the same time as the Battle of Anghiari, a commission assigned instead to his rival Leonardo da Vinci. The works were never completed, but recent studies seem to have unearthed the remains of Leonardo's.
The complex of the Palazzo Vecchio deserves a part of your day: centuries of power and intrigue in Florence are enclosed within its thick walls, as well as great cultural treasures. You have various options for your discovery of the Palazzo Vecchio: from Access Arnolfo Tower & Video Guide Palazzo Vecchio Combo, for the stunning view over Piazza della Signoria, to the special visit to the Palazzo Vecchio Secret Passages, or to the Quartieri Monumentali, which holds works by Michelangelo, Donatello, and many others.
From the very centrally located Piazza della Signoria, head straight north, passing straight through Via Calzaiuoli, Piazza Duomo, and Via Cavour (about 10 minutes on foot). You'll reach Piazza San Marco, where the San Marco Museum is home to an absolute highlight of your Florence art experience: a series of frescoes by Fra Angelico, commissioned by Cosimo de'Medici around 1440. The museum is located in the old Dominican convent, where the original cells of the monks, decorated by Fra Angelico himself, are still preserved. While you're in the area, stop a moment to admire one of the finest libraries of Florence, the Biblioteca Marucelliana located Via Cavour 43: Take a peek at the Sala di Lettura (reading room) and the Sala dei Ricercatori (Room of the Researchers) – filled with wonderful old books and the atmosphere of a temple of knowledge!
Looking for a practical experience out of the ordinary? If you love painting and want a break from looking at art, you can experience a Private Fresco Painting Lesson (two half days) in the Florentine workshop of a master. Learn one of the oldest art techniques of humanity and create your own work of art in the bottega (workshop) of a true artisan. This is your opportunity to step into the shoes of Michelangelo for a day or two!
To end your "Three days of Art in Florence" the grand way, we suggest you head across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti (walk from the Uffizi Gallery to the Ponte Vecchio and go straight for 200 meters). The Palazzo Pitti was first the residence of the Medici, then of the Lorena, and then finally of the King of Italy when Florence was capital of Italy. Discover a rich collection of paintings at the Palatine Gallery, including masterpieces by Titian and beautiful paintings by Raphael. Stroll through the impressive halls decorated by Pietro Benvenuti and Luigi Sabatelli, and visit the Gallery of Modern Art upstairs. If besides painting you love nature, take a walk through the adjacent Boboli Gardens (separate ticket required). Relax as you take in the green spaces and geometric Italian garden, decorated with statues and fountains. No wonder that the Boboli is the most popular Florentine park, with its cool shade and panoramic views onto the center of Florence and the Tuscan hills!
Still in need of an intriguing experience? The Wine and Food area helps! Browse our gastronomic section, you'll find lots of ideas.