Florence, Italy

A Journey Through Time in the Eternal City

by and - last updated on 5/10/2024

Travel Tile After Rome, we took the train to Florence; a beautiful city; full of amazing architecture, historical sites and numerous art collections residing in various museums. Yes, Florence is only 270 kilometers north from Rome on the Italian E35 Autostrada, but the train service between the two cities is frequent & fast and our game plan called for us to rent a car only while in Florence.

To insure that you see as much as possible in the time that you have available, it would be a good idea to have a detailed account of what Florence is all about. There are online sites where you can get advance tickets for entry into various museums, which will allow you to bypass the line of people waiting in line to buy tickets. NOTE: If you do not obtain advance date & time reservations, it is certain that you may not be able to visit things you would like to explore.

All of our exploration of Florence was done by walking, our condo rental was just across the Arno River where we could walk into the city easily. The Ponte Vecchio is pedestrian only and parking in Florence is not easy, so walking was a much better choice. Your plans may require driving, but I would not encourage you to consider it. Structure your stay in Florence to where you have "driving elsewhere" days as well as "walking through Florence" days and you won't regret it

Some Interesting Facts about Florence 

City of Florence Coat of Arms
City of Florence Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World
  • Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany Region of Italy.
  • The population of the city was estimated at just over 379,000 in 2014.
  • Florence has a humid subtropical climate experiencing hot and humid summers and cool damp winters.
  • Florence is located 174 miles (280 km) north of Rome.
  • The city's total area is 39.54 square miles (102.4 square kilometers).
  • Florence Italy is often referred to as the "cradle of the Renaissance". It was home to the great Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael; as well as the home to the great astronomer Galileo.
  • One of the most famous tourist attractions in the city is its domed cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo). Completed in 1436 it remains the world's largest dome constructed of brick and mortar in the world.
  • Perhaps the most famous sculpture of all time, Michelangelo's David, is located in Florence; at the Accademia Gallery.
  • The Uffizi Gallery, located in Florence, is one of the greatest art museums in the world. Among its many treasures are works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
  • Built over the Arno River in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio Bridge (also called Old Bridge). This medieval stone bridge is known for the shops that are built on top of it.
  • Almost a third of the entire world’s art treasures reside in Florence, according to UNESCO.

Ponte Santa Trinita 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

This is the view of several bridges that cross the Arno River from as we crossed the Ponte alla Carraia. The first bridge is the Ponte Santa Trinita and the second is the Ponte Vecchio. The City of Florence is on the left, and the condo we were renting is up the hill to the right.

The bridge was originally built in the 13th century and was later reconstructed in the 16th century, with the current design by Bartolomeo Ammannati. It features three arches, each adorned with elegant sculptures, and is known for its graceful curves and symmetry. It is located just a short distance from the famous Ponte Vecchio and is known for its breathtaking views of the city, particularly at sunset. The bridge has a rich history, having survived numerous floods and wars, and is considered one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture in Florence.

We picked up our rental car here, as Florence was going to be our "home base" for a series of day trips in & around this area. We were fortunate to have a condo rental that provided for vehicle parking, it is not the "norm" and it is seriously difficult to find a parking spot in Florence.

 More Info for the Ponte Santa Trinita 
  • Ponte Santa Trinita Wikipedia Article:
  • Ponte Santa Trinita Google Images Set:

Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

The Ponte Vecchio is an iconic symbol of Florence, spanning the Arno River since the 14th century. Known for its unique architecture and historical significance, this medieval bridge is characterized by its rows of shops built along its span. Originally occupied by butchers, the shops now house jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir vendors. The Ponte Vecchio offers breathtaking views of the river and surrounding buildings, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, attracting visitors with its charm, history, and picturesque setting in the heart of Florence.

It was the only bridge in Florence not destroyed by German troops in WW2. It is also famous for being the place where the great scientist and philosopher Galileo Galilei tested his telescope.

 More Info for the Ponte Vecchio 
  • Ponte Vecchio Wikipedia Article:
  • Ponte Vecchio Google Images Set:

Vasari Corridor from Palazzo Vecchio to the Uffizi Gallery 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence. One of the most important Italian museums and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.

The Vasari Corridor is a kilometer long passageway that connects the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace. Today, the corridor still connects the two buildings but it is set up as a small museum separate from the famous Uffizi Gallery.

NOTE: Do not wait until you arrive in Florence to obtain tickets to enter the Uffizi Museum, get your tickets online (prior to your trip) or you will be standing in line for a while. The Museum limits the number of people inside and so the entrance line grows quickly. Do a Google search for "Uffizi Tickets", here is one place.

 More Info for the Vasari Corridor 
  • Vasari Corridor Wikipedia Article:
  • Vasari Corridor Google Images Set:

Uffizi Museum 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence in the region of Tuscany, Italy. One of the most important Italian museums and the most visited, it is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance.

Warning: Do not expect to walk up to this museum and get in, this is a very popular museum and it is always busy with a lengthy waiting line to purchase tickets. We got our tickets online before we arrived in Florence and were then able to just walk up (at our assigned time) and enter without standing in line. The official ticket website is located here.

 More Info for the Uffizi Museum 
  • Uffizi Museum Wikipedia Article:
  • Uffizi Museum Google Images Set:

Piazza Santa Croce 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

East of Piazza della Signoria and not far from the banks of the Arno, Piazza Santa Croce is one of the largest squares in Florence. It is located near the National Central Library, and takes its name from the Basilica of Santa Croce that overlooks the square.

The plaza is surrounded by beautiful buildings and features a large marble statue of Dante Alighieri, the famous poet and author of the "Divine Comedy." Piazza Santa Croce is also home to the famous Palazzo dell'Antella, which houses the National Library of Florence.

In addition to its cultural and historical significance, the Piazza Santa Croce is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. It is a hub for street performers, artists, and musicians, and it hosts a number of events and festivals throughout the year, including the famous Calcio Storico, a traditional Italian football game.

 Image Credits & More Info for Piazza Santa Croce 
  • Image # 2 (right side) is the property of  Dmitry Mozzhukhin via Wikimedia Commons using the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
  • All other images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
  • Piazza Santa Croce Wikipedia Article:
  • Piazza Santa Croce Google Images Set:

Florence Cathedral 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

Formally known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore in English "Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower"), it is the cathedral of Florence, Italy (Italian: Duomo di Firenze).

It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.

The dome that covers the Florence cathedral is known as the Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome and when it was designed, it was the largest dome in the world. Click here to read more about this huge dome and the problems they went through to construct it. Remember that the Dome construction began in 1420 and they obviously did not have anything but intellect, pens and paper to design and build it. The dome stands at 375 feet tall and has a diameter of 143 feet, making it the largest brick dome in the world.

Visitors can climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome for panoramic views of Florence, or explore the interior of the cathedral, adorned with intricate frescoes, stained glass windows, and marble sculptures. The dome has inspired countless artists and architects throughout history and remains a symbol of the Renaissance's intellectual and artistic achievements.

 Image Credits & More Info for Florence Cathedral 

Statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

Statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici who became head of the Florentine Republic in 1537 at the the tender age of seventeen and conquered his way to being named the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569.

The statue is known for its intricate details, including the ornate armor of Cosimo I and the dynamic movement of the horse. It was created as a symbol of the Medici family's power and influence in Florence during the Renaissance era. Today, it remains an important landmark in the city, attracting visitors from all over the world.

 More Info for the Statue of Cosimo 
  • Statue of Cosimo Wikipedia Article:
  • Statue of Cosimo Google Images Set:

View of Florence from our Condo 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

This is a view of Florence from the condo we rented. As you can see, the condo is in a hilly area south of the River Arno. This is looking north, and the mountains in the distance are the Appennine Mountains and the Campigna National Park. We drove through those mountains when we drove to Maranello (see our Ferrari Factory Maranello Page)).

 

How we navigated Italy in 2007 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

And this is how we got around Italy in the days prior to cellular-based mapping Applications! It is probably difficult to remember for some of you, but paper maps were very important back then.

Back in the days before cell phones and mapping applications were around, paper maps were very popular. People would use their American Automobile Association ("AAA") club membership to create a complete set of maps for their trip, they were called "TripTiks". You specified the route(s) you would be taking, and AAA would print out the results for you. Trip Tiks are still around on AAA, but now you get links to online content.

 

Hiking up to a local Restaurant 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

Another view of Florence as Celeste and I hiked up the hill from our condo rental to a local restaurant. The condo was across the street from The Boboli Gardens, and the street ("Viale della Meridiana") we were walking on rises up from the Porta Romana and ends near the Forti di Belvedere.

As we walked up the hill, we passed by the Fontana dell'Oceano in the Boboli Gardens and then the Pitti Palace on the left side of the street. We didn't realize until later, that we could have walked through the Boboli Gardens, as their main path would have brought us to almost the same destination.

 

Our Map Usage 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

This map was so useful & so necessary, as the Florence streets would often have roundabouts, and were super narrow! We drove through roundabouts that would have six and sometimes eight roads that entered the circle. Talk about difficulties in figuring out right-of-way ! We finally came up with the strategy of "we have good rental car insurance, so we are just going to push our way into the round-a-bout". If we waited and assumed that someone would let us in, we would wind up waiting a long, long time.

Florence is "pedestrian friendly" because the historic city center is closed to traffic except for residents, taxis and buses. Great news for walkers and cyclists, not so great for drivers.

 

Our Florence Rental Condo 

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

This was the condo we rented in Florence, within walking distance of the Arno River and a mile from Fort Belvedere. Since it was on the south side of the river, we did not get all the tourist traffic from the city, there were only "locals" up here. Immediately below the condo on the Via Romana, was an excellent Espresso Shop that we frequented each morning.

We had our own deck area in the rear of the condo, where the washing machine was located. Parking could be a challenge, but it was easy to pickup on the ebb and flow of people looking for parking spaces. Since no one came here except for people that lived here, it wasn't a major challenge to find a parking spot.

The concept of staying in a central place and day-tripping from there, worked so well for us, that we have continued to follow this method on subsequent trips to Europe.

Unveiling the Timeless Beauty and Cultural Riches of the Renaissance City

We utilized Florence as our "base camp" which gave us a wide variety of destinations that could be explored as "day trips", and because we had waited on a rental car until we arrived in Florence, we were then able to drive to each of the following destinations;

Day Trip to Livorno

90 Km from Florence. Our primary reason for driving here was because I had been here numerous times while serving in the Navy. Since Livorno is situated on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, there are a number of beaches nearby, we visited .

Calambrone Beach just north of Livorno.
  • Click here to view our Livorno visit.
  • Florence to Livorno via bus
  • Florence to Livorno via train
  • Florence to Livorno via tour bus

Day Trip to Pisa

102 Km from Florence. Our goal was to fully explore the Leaning Tower and the area in that immediate vicinity, ie; We did not visit the city.


Day Trip to Sienna

71 Km from Florence and our principal goal for visiting Sienna was to watch the famous horse race "Palio di Siena". We got there early so that we could find a good parking place, walked to the Piazza del Campo where the race was to take place and discovered that the race would not start until much later in the early evening. Since we were on a "fixed time line plan", we did not want to spend the entire day strolling through Sienna - so we took an exploratory walk to some of the famous locations (the Piazza del Campo, the Gothic town hall, Siena Cathedral, Torre del Mangia, Porta Camollia, etc), and then we drove over to the coast to explore other locations.


Day Trip to Ferrari Factory Maranello

137 Km drive through the Appennine Mountains and Bologna. We naively thought that we would be able to take a tour through the Factory, only to find out that current & previous owners can do so - but nobody else. Fortunately for us, the Ferrari Museum is located just a few blocks from the Factory and the Ferrari Test Track is just a few more kilometers and we were able to watch a new Ferrari being test driven.

  • Click here to view our Ferrari visit.
  • Florence to Maranello via bus.
  • Florence to Maranello via train.
  • We could not locate a "tour bus", but try Viator as they have a lot of information on tours of all varities.

Day Trip to San Gimignano

54 Km from Florence. This was an unplanned stop after we departed Sienna, we were all thirsty and when we saw the village from the highway, we decided to explore it. The town is encircled by walls built in the 13th century, a skyline of medieval towers and the village is full of medieval houses. Shops, restaurants and museums are scattered throughout the village.

  • Click here to view our San Gimignano visit.
  • Florence to San Gimignano via bus.
  • We are not aware of train service from Florence, however, there are private car services.
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Florence History on the 'Britannica' site
  • Things to see & do in Florence on the 'Crazy Tourist' site
  • Google Search Results list for "Restaurants in Florence"
  • Google Search Results list for "Accommodations in Florence"
  • Things to do and see in Florence on the 'Culture Trip' site
  • Florence: Small Group Wine Tasting Tour to Tuscany from the "Get Your Guide" Site
  • Amazon Search Results list for "Florence Italy"
  • Youtube Search Results list for "Florence Italy"
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Our Florence Italy Image Gallery
  • Florence Italy Google Images Set

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