Things to Do in Florence, Italy: Explore the Artistic Gems of Florence
Arts & Culture
As an art enthusiast, Florence was a city I had dreamed of visiting. From the moment I first laid eyes on the breathtaking Duomo, tears welled up and I knew this was a city that resonated with my soul. Ever since, I have been captivated by Florence's rich history and its role in the Renaissance. I am thrilled to share with you some of the hidden art treasures of this enchanting city, where not just the famous galleries await your discovery, but more so the off-the-beaten-path art galleries and smaller museums.
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Where to stay in Florence, Italy
Bernini Palace Hotel
Experience the timeless elegance and historic allure of Hotel Bernini Palace, where classic Florentine charm, luxurious accommodations and a prime location near Florence's iconic landmarks create a memorable stay in the heart of the city.
$100 resort / hotel credit.
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Grand Hotel Minerva
Trendy hotel in Florence with a sun terrace and a seasonal outdoor rooftop pool.
Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, Florence
Hilltop property in a former 15th-century monastery with elegant rooms and villas.
$90 food / beverage credit.
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Things to do in Florence, Italy
My favorite way to experience a city is by exploring at leisure with no set destination in mind or to take the time to walk instead of using transportation. This allows me the chance to see a different piece of the city that I might have missed.
One way I like to incorporate this type of activity is by walking or taking a run along the banks of the Arno River, taking time to explore the vibrant street art and hidden sculptures that adorn the city's walls.
Artistic walking exploration of Oltrarno
Venture across the Ponte Vecchio to the Oltrarno district, where you'll discover eclectic art studios, independent galleries and emerging contemporary art spaces. I love finding new artist to support, and being inspired by the new things people are creating. Stop in to Palazzo Pitti to see classics by some of my favorite artists : Raphael, Renoir, Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Botticelli. Or if contemporary art is your preference be sure to stop into Forte di Belvedere a 16th century fortress.
Spend an afternoon sketching in the Boboli Gardens
Find inspiration in the serene Boboli Gardens, an oasis of greenery dotted with sculptures, enjoy a picnic and indulge your artistic side by capturing the beauty of these gardens on paper. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a slower day after exploring the city in the morning.
For those seeking a deeper connection with Florence's rich artistic legacy, consider venturing into these art museums in addition to visits to the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia Gallery.
Museo del Bargello
Once a medieval palace, Museo del Bargello houses an impressive collection of Renaissance sculptures and decorative arts. While most venture to Florence to see Michelangelo’s David at the Accadamia, if you want to admire Donatello’s Bronze sculpted David you must schedule a visit to Museo del Bargello. The serene ambiance allows you to appreciate each masterpiece housed in this collection showcasing without distraction.
Located within the Dominican convent of San Marco, this museum features an inspiring collection of religious art. Admire the works of Fra Angelico and immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of the cloisters.
Stepping beyond the beaten path will lead you to these captivating art havens, where creativity flourishes in intimate settings, away from the crowds.
Tucked away in Oltrarno, this hidden gem showcases contemporary works by emerging artists. The intimate ambiance and curation reflect a deep understanding of the ever-evolving art landscape.
A must visit mask making workshop. Stop in to see the amazing masks created by the extremely talented Agostino Dessi and his daughter Alice. With thousands of masks made by hand each piece is as unique as the next and all are true works of art.
Dedicated to showcasing visual arts this gallery houses a beautiful mix of contemporary art, photography and sculptures in a beautiful historical building. The gallery features a wide variety of artists from various backgrounds, countries and ages.
Delve into modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st century at Museo Novecento, located in Santa Maria Novella Square.
Basilica de San Miniato al Monte
If you enjoy Piazzale Michelangelo but find the crowds to be a bit much, make your way to San Miniato al Monte one of the highest points in the city, with not just sweeping views of the city but also one the the most gorgeous churches in Tuscany. With a stunning mosaic of Christ in Majesty adorning the facade, and If you visit during the day be sure to visit the shop run by the Olivetan Benedictine monastery shop which sells beeswax candles, chocolates and other goods made by the monks closes at 18:00. The community offers the opportunity to stay a few days for spiritual deepening and sharing with community. The Basilica is open from 9:30-13:00, 15:00-19:00 for visitors, and is closed during liturgical celebrations, if you wish to participate in the celebrations times are at 8:30,10, 11:30, and at 17:30 the liturgy celebrated in Latin and Gregorian Chant and absolutely beautiful to witness.
Duomo di Firenze: Florence Cathedral
The beautiful green and pink exterior basilica designed by Arnold di Cambio, with the famous brick dome engineered by Brunelleschi is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. To this day is the largest brick dome to have ever been constructed. Taking 140 years to complete the construction of the basilica it is one of the most popular sites in Florence. While in Florence I love to enjoy attending a church service inside the cathedral this allows a full more traditional experience of enjoying what this beautiful basilica was intended for. Mass in English 17:00 in side chapel on Saturday, or daily mass time 8, 8:30, 10:00. 16:30, 18:00.
San Lorenzo and Medici Chapel
Visit Basilica San Lorenzo the oldest documented religious building in Florence. Designed by Brunelleschi, San Lorenzo is a prime example of Renaissance architecture, boasting remarkable artworks, such as Donatello's pulpit and intricate frescoes by Filippo Lippi, providing a captivating glimpse into the artistic splendor of the Medici era. The chapels house masterpieces by Michelangelo, including his stunning funerary monuments, the Medici Tombs, which showcase his genius in sculpting marble.
Places to eat & drink in Florence, Italy
With its traditional Tuscan cuisine and charming ambiance, this restaurant delights both food connoisseurs and history enthusiasts alike. Enjoy the pici pasta and lasagna.
A true Florentine trattoria, L'Brindellone captures the essence of local flavors with its authentic dishes served in a convivial atmosphere. This beloved restaurant is a favorite among locals and visitors wanting a more casual vibe. Enjoy the truffle pasta, zucchini flowers and a Florentine steak.
Nestled in a cozy corner, Melaleuca Cafe is a hidden gem adored by art lovers and coffee enthusiasts. Combining exceptional espresso with a welcoming ambiance, it's the perfect spot to savor a moment of relaxation before starting your day.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Mexico City Travel Tips: Top Things to Do to Uncover the Heartbeat of History and Art.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.