Hello everyone! As I mentioned in my previous post, Florence is the birth place and the heart of Europe renaissance! It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 and it attracts 13 million tourists each year. Besides this, it has also been ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Is Florence all about museums? Absolutely not. The Duomo, the basilicas, and the whole florence city are all artworks. What are the other attractions that are popular or worth a visit? In this post, I’ll introduce to you some other places I went to in Florence and share with you what I think is worth visiting. I will introduce to you Florence Duomo, Basilica of Santa Croce and Piazzale Michelangelo in detail at first. Then I will show you briefly what Mercato del Porcellino, Palazzo Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio and Basilica di San Lorenzo are like, so you can decide whether you wanna spare some time to go and have a look or not.
1. Florence Duomo
The Duomo, also called “Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers” in English, is the main church in Florence. The exterior of the it is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris. It is very easy to notice whether from high above or when you are crossing the streets closely. It is also one of the largest churches in Italy and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. Even now, it remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
Duomo is entry free. However, the line can be quite long and you should check the opening times (Please click here to check the official website concerning the history of the cathedral, opening times, and other useful info) of the day you plan your visit. Otherwise, it would be like the first time we went there, when it’s our turn to enter, the entry control just said, sorry, it’s closing time now……
The third time we went there, the start of the line was already at the back of the Cathedral……If you plan to walk around that area, you can always go back and check as sometimes it’s actually not that crowded.
Don’t mix the entrance up with the one going to the top of the dome, I’ll talk about going to the top of the dome later. The entrance to the cathedral is through the right-hand door in the west front (Cathedral façade) and Disabled access via the Porta dei Canonici (south side of the Cathedral)
Attention! Dress appropriately to a place of cult. It is forbidden to enter with bare shoulders and legs, sandals, hats and sunglasses. I saw quite some girls being stopped there right in front of the entrance.
Around the Cathedral
Duomo is the biggest building in Piazza del Duomo. However, it’s not the only thing to see. The Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, together with the cathedral make the Piazza del Duomo Complex. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence.
What’s worth mentioning is the “Gates of Paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti. It’s the door of the baptistry right opposite to the front of the Duomo. In 1401, a competition was announced by the Arte di Calimala to design doors which would eventually be placed on the north side of the baptistry. Many artists competed for this commission and a jury selected seven semifinalists. These finalists include Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia, with 21-year-old Ghiberti winning the commission. Michelangelo later said these doors could be the doors to paradise. thats why they are called “Gates of Paradise” now.
One tricky thing about here is that they only sell combined tickets for Dome, Baptistry, Bell Tower, Crypt and Museum. For me, first I didn’t plan enough time here, the other thing is that I don’t wanna climb to the bell tower and then climb to the dome again. Also, the line for the dome is super long and they control the amount of people on the top so in a hot sunny summer, I decided to just give up…… After that, the only place that I wanted to visit is the Baptistry, but 15 Euors for having a look at the Baptistry and not going to any of the other four……Ahhhhh, never mind, next time I come here I’ll just plan a whole day in Piazza del Duomo.
However, if you read my post in advance, maybe you can already plan a whole day in Piazza del Duomo? I read that the dome, the baptistry, and the bell tower are definitely worth visiting as you can see the whole florence from high above (you can also do this in Piazzale Michelangelo, but the hill is quite far). Also, Opera Duomo Museum is home to some of the masterpieces of Arnolfo, Ghiberti, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Antonio Pollaiolo, Verrocchio, Michelangelo. What a pity! I should have read about it in advance……I actually saw some videos showing the artworks but there are so many museums and basilicas in florence, and I got confused.
One more thing, watch the opening hours of each museum and monument. You can click here to buy the combined ticket on the official website (you can also buy it close to the Duomo but again, there’s a line) and check the opening times of each museum and monument (Scroll down and you will see the opening hours of each museum and monument of your choosing date).
2. Basilica of Santa Croce
The Basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils. It is located on the Piazza di Santa Croce, about 800 metres south-east of the Duomo. The site, when first chosen, was in marshland outside the city walls.
Full price ticket: € 8,00. Reduced price ticket: € 4,00 for children 11 to 17 years, for school groups, for groups that include a minimum of 15 people; this entrance fee doesn’t include headsets rental. Also, there are free tickets for children younger than 11 years old etc.. If you wanna know more info about the entry ticket, please click here to visit the official website. (This basilica is generally not super crowded so I suggest you can buy tickets at the entrance.)
Usually Monday – Saturday, 9:30 am – 5:30 pm (last admission is at 5:00 pm: the ticket office closes half an hour before closing time). However, during Sundays or Holy days or in case of unusual events, please click here to check the actual opening times and you can also see the floor plan here.
For more info please click here to view the official website of Santa Croce.
The main reason for me to visit Basilica of Santa Croce is actually to look at the place where some of the “giant” Italians forever rest in peace. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile and Rossini, that’s why it is known also as the Temple of the Italian Glories.
The first 4 pictures above are the burial monuments of Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Dante (buried in Ravenna) and Niccolò Machiavelli. However, there are so many more things to see and if you read about it before, I’m sure you will find it much more interesting.
The other thing worth visiting here is the Pazzi Chapel. It is a chapel located in the “first cloister” on the southern flank of the Basilica of Santa Croce. Commonly credited to Filippo Brunelleschi, it is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Renaissance architecture.
3. Piazzale Michelangelo
If you were wondering where I took those pictures overlooking the whole Florence city. Well, it’s right here, Piazzale Michelangelo. The view captures the heart of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. This place is open 24 hours a day and no entry ticket.
I went there in the morning, at dusk and in the evening! Yes, 3 times! Just because it’s so beautiful! In the middle of the square, there are bronze copies of Michelangelo’s marble works found elsewhere in Florence: the David, and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo.
You can either go there by car or bus, or simply by foot. However, be aware that bus No.3 and bus No.12 stop at different stops, Il David and Piazzale Michelangelo. They are both on top of the hill and in Piazzale Michelangelo. However, when they leave, they go down the hill in two directions. Check your next destinations first before you choose which line to board on.
4. Other attractions
The other attractions include
- Loggia del Porcellino (There is a famous boar fountain there and popular tradition has it that rubbing the nose brings fortune. Visitors are encouraged to place a coin in the mouth of the boar after rubbing its nose, and superstition implies that the wish will be granted if the offering tumbles through the grate whence the water flows.)
- Palazzo Vecchio (The Town hall of Florence)
- Ponte Vecchio (A Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. Still have shops built along it. The only bridge in Florence survived in the Second World War)
- Basilica of San Lorenzo (Of all the religious buildings in Florence, none is documented earlier than San Lorenzo. It was consecrated in 393 by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and acted as the city’s cathedral, before either the Baptistery or Santa Reparata.)
- Capelle Medicee (Michelangelo’s sculptures Day and Night, Dawn and Dusk are there). (Be careful with the opening hours here, Monday to Sunday: at 8.15 to 17.00. The ticket office closes at 16.20. Closing operations begin at 16.50. The Museum is closed on the second and fourth Sunday of each month and open the first, third and fifth; closed the first , third and fifth Monday of each month , open the second and fourth . The Museum adheres to the first Sunday of the month free opening.)
I hope the information I provided above help you plan your trip in Florence. Last but not least! Have a wonderful time!