Things to See and Do in Florence, Italy

"palazzo vecchio"
The Palazzo Vecchio holds plenty of Florence, Italy’s history and culture.

Florence – a must see in Italy

My Italian sojourn in October of 2011 included a “mandatory” visit to the city of Florence, or Firenze in la lingua Italiano.  It is the cultural capital of Italy because it is home to many museums and renaissance structures. In fact, it is where the Renaissance actually began.   My family, which included my mother, father, and older brother, traveled, quite comfortably, by train from Venice to Firenze. Train travel in Italy is on-time, clean, and quick.  We traveled 1st class which allowed us a private seating area with reclining seats, internet hook-up, and a spacious table for four.  In a little under 2 hours we were pulling in to the train station called Santa Maria Novella.  I love the Italian language.  It just seems so….musical.

"Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco"
The centrally located Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco was in walking distance of the train station and main attractions of Florence, Italy

Hotel location is key in Florence, Italy

Our hotel was within walking distance from the train station.  The hotel Il Guelfo Bianco was centrally located in Florence, which was a great plus because, walking or taking a cab, would have been too much of a hassle.  The rooms were typically European; a tiny bathroom with uncomfortable beds, and overpriced. However, it did afford us a great starting point to see the city.  We were there for only two days so location was the key to this visit.

"Michelangelo’s David"
Visit Michelangelo’s statue of David on a visit to Florence, Italy.

A stroll through Florence Flea Market

Our day started with a stroll through a vibrant flea market where “hucksters” hawked everything from scarves to leather jackets.  We did buy some cool looking scarves for only $5 bucks, and it was fun haggling with those guys. Next stop was the epicenter of Florence, the piazza San Giovanni.  Here is where the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is located.  This is an ornate, huge Catholic Cathedral completed in 1436 and built from green and pink marble bordered by white marble.  It is an imposing and magnificent structure.  It was done in the Gothic style replete with gargoyles, spires, and buttresses – a masterpiece of renaissance architecture.

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"Santa Maria Del Fiore"
Allow plenty of time to stroll and take in the grandeur of Florence, Italy’s Santa Maria Del Fiore

Piazza della Signoria

From there, it was just a short stroll to another famous piazza, or square, called the Piazza della Signoria.  The piazzas are areas in Italy’s towns and cities where people mingle and share a glass of wine, or a cappuccino while people watching or discussing the day’s events.  It is quite a departure from the hustle and bustle of daily life in America.   Italians seem to savor the day more than we do in the states.  This piazza may be recognized by Jersey Shore fans because it was featured in the opening credits during the season the Jersey Shore cast was visiting Florence. This piazza featured a famous museum called the Uffizi Gallery. We had the distinct pleasure of visiting this museum where we gazed open-mouthed at the works of Leonardo da Vinci (The Adoration of the Magi), Sandro Botticelli (spring and the Birth of Venus), Rembrandt (self portrait) Michelangelo (Don Tordi) as well as others like Giotto, Raphaelo, and Caravaggio.  It is a special treat to actually see the portraits and statuary made famous in books movies and television up close.  There is nothing like it.  In another museum called the Accademia Gallery, one can visit Michelangelo’s famous statue of David.

"Ponte Vecchio" "Arno River, Florence"
One of the oldest bridges in Europe, the Ponte Vecchio spans the River Arno in Florence, Italy.

Ponte Vecchio spans Italy’s Arno River

On the second day, we woke early and ate breakfast in the hotel.  As is typical in Italy, most hotels  include breakfast with the room rate.  Breakfast in the hotel saves money and time, even if the fare was just adequate.  In all fairness, the croissants were fresh, warm, and plentiful. After breakfast, we meandered toward another famous attraction called the Ponte Vecchio. This is one of the oldest bridges in Europe.  It spans the River Arno, where we saw spirited boat races, which seem to be a pastime many Florentians enjoy judging by the crowd cheering from the bridge.  The bridge is home to may gold artisans.  we window shopped extensively and marveled at the intricate and creative designs crafted by Italian masters whose families have been working in gold for centuries.  The bridge is rimmed by charming tratorrias and quaint arts and craft shops.  These are endless and one can take literally days to visit all of them.  Each little boutique offers its own special take on what Florence has to offer. My mother wants to go back just to shop.

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Happiness and a latte in Florence, Italy

Happiness in Florence, Italy

We returned to the hotel after a rather tasty meal of risotto and pizza at a nearby trattoria.  Sleeping was a challenge, because the bed was like a slab of concrete, and the street noise was incessant.  Did I mention this was all included for the paltry sum of $225 per night?  The price of happiness in Florence, I guess.

Florence was great and remains a “must see” in any visit to Italy! What are your favorite places to visit in Italy?

This is a guest post by Shane McCormick of National RV Parks. Photos courtesy of Shane McCormick. Hotel photo courtesy of their website. In his late 20’s, Shane enjoys travel and offers tips and hints about travel destinations. You many follow Shane on Twitter For all things travel-related, follow travel expert Nancy D. Brown on Twitter.


1 thought on “Things to See and Do in Florence, Italy”

  1. It’s undeniable that Florence is a beautiful and wonderful city indeed. For me, it is a place close to perfection. Classical and a very nice place stay and experience it’s beauty at hand. I think, Italy has the world’s most romantic and classical city to date.

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