When the Duomo (Cathedral) was ordered constructed in 1200, it was a mammoth feat of engineering – no domed structure of its size had been built since the Roman era and no one was sure if they could do it again. Florence’s architects rose to the occasion and built the third largest Christian church in the world. The Duomo remains one of the most important buildings in Florence. A great experience is climbing up to the roof of the Duomo or its adjacent bell tower for spectacular 360-degree views of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Much of the artwork that was once housed in the museum is now kept in the adjacent Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, including sculptures by Donatello and Michelangelo.
Florence is blessed with more than 80 museums of fine art, owing to its central role in the art and trade world during the renaissance. All of the museums have long lines, but you can avoid them by booking your tickets in advance by phone or online for an additional fee.
The chief museums are the Uffizi, the Bargello, and the Accademia. Uffizi has a renowned collection of classical sculptures and renaissance paintings, including Boticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” Take a break from your visit in the café, which has great views of the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) from its balcony. The Bargello specializes in renaissance and mannerist sculpture, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Ammannati, and more. Michelangelo’s David is kept in the Accademia, as is his unfinished work The Slaves. David was originally kept in the square of the Palazzo Vecchio; the one there now is a replica.
The city maintains an informative web site about all of the museums in Florence, so you can check out what’s happening when you visit.
The Pitti Palace was originally the family home of the Medicis who ruled Florence for hundreds of years. It eventually became the home of the dukes of Tuscany and later the King of Italy. It’s now a public gallery of their collection of art and treasures, including a magnificent collections of porcelain and silver works. Just behind the palace are the Boboli Gardens, a beautifully landscaped garden with many monumental and intriguing outdoor sculptures, fountains, and grottoes. The elevated position also gives great city views.
The most famous bridge over the Arno River is also the only bridge in Florence that survived World War II – the German army destroyed all the others during their retreat. The old stone bridge is famous for the quaint shops that line its sides. Today, as it has been for hundreds of years, most of the shops are jewelers and art dealers. The bridge is spectacularly lit at night.
Some of history’s most famous Florentines are buried in this beautifully decorated church. Some of the most visited tombs are those of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Dante.