Florence Travel Guide: Birthplace of the Renaissance Movement

florence cathedral
"Beckoning people from all corners of the world, Florence is home to some of the most important artworks, sculptures, and architectural masterpieces to have ever been created."

Lying in the central region of Italy, and packed full of fascinating attractions, Florence is highly regarded as a destination for tourists. Once a Roman city, medieval commune, and the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, Florence was one of the most important and influential cities in the world, with residents including Machiavelli, Lorenzo Medici, Dante, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo, and Raphael.

So, if you are looking for magnificent architecture, a dose of culture, and breathtaking artistry, Florence will certainly not disappoint.

Article Published: October 11, 2021
Last Update: November 4, 2021

Table of Contents

Best Times To Visit

If you're looking for hot dry weather, July and August are the best months to visit Florence. However, it can be really hot in July and August with many of the shops closing in August as the locals take a summer vacation. A great time to visit, in our opinion, is early to mid-May as the weather starts to warm-up, the cafe's and shops open up and it is before the summer rush. In May average highs are in the low 70's and lows in the mid 50's which is very pleasant for most!

Weather - Florence, Italy

Things To See and Do in Florence

Florence Cathedral

florence cathedral

One of the most significant structures in the world, or at least in Florence, the Florence Cathedral innovatively combines architectural innovation with jaw-dropping religious frescos. Begun in 1296, and completed just over 100 years later (sans dome - but more on that later), the Florence Cathedral has a fascinating history begging to be explored.

Florence Cathedral in Pictures

Check out some great shots of the Santa Maria del Fiore aka the Florence Cathedral.

Florence Cathedral at Night
Florence Cathedral at Night
Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral - Florence, Italy
florence cathedral facade
Facade of the Florence Cathedral
florence cathedral facade
Facade of the Florence Cathedral
florence cathedral facade details
Facade Details of the Florence Cathedral
Florence Cathedral & Skyline
Florence Cathedral & Skyline
Florence Cathedral at Night
Florence Cathedral at Night
Florence Cathedral Entrance
Florence Cathedral Entrance
giotto's campanile bell tower florence cathedral
Details Giotto's Campanile Bell Tower Florence Cathedral

Things to See & Do at Florence Cathedral

1. The Dome

florence cathedral

A The iconic terracotta dome that sits atop the Florence Cathedral was built from 1420 to 1436, after Florence decided it’s open church should no longer sit open. A revolutionary feat of engineering for its time, architect Filippo Brunelleschi developed a double shelled dome concept that still stands as the largest brick dome ever built to this day. Visitors can climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome, spiralling up in the gap between the two domes.

2. Giotto Bell Tower

Giotto Bell Tower Florence Cathedral

Between the 19th-century facade and the Baptistry, you will find the Giotto bell tower. Despite being named after the famous 14th-century painter, Giotto may have not had much input into the build at all, dying three years into the project. Instead, the bell tower was developed by Nicola Pisano, and completed later by Francesco Talenti, who was named head architect. As you look up at the bell tower, you can notice the subtle differences between the sections made by the two different architects.

3. The Baptistry

florence baptistry

Located just in front of the Cathedral, within the Piazza del Duomo, the Baptistry is one of the most important monuments in all of Florence. Though to have been built over the ruins of a Roman temple, which was later consecrated as the Baptistry of Florence, this is the oldest religious site in the city. Dedicated to the city’s patron saint, this octagonal building features white and green marble in geometric patterns, as well as fascinating statues and intricately crafted doors.

Admission into the Baptistry is 10€, and you should leave around 30 minutes to fully appreciate the building’s beauty.

4. The Crypt

crypt of florence cathedral

Part of the Duomo complex, and managed by the Museum, the Crypt of Santa Reparata is the joint oldest evidence of a place of worship for Christians in Florence, thought to have been built at the same time as the Baptistry. The Crypt houses the remains of the original church on this site, as well as other Early Christion and Roman artifacts, such as marble carvings, ceramics, metal implements, and glass.

If you go ahead and purchase the combined ticket for the Cathedral, which costs 18€, you will not need to pay any extra to visit the Crypt.

5. The Main Cathedral

inside of florence cathedral

The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Il Duomo, is an absolute must-see when you are in Florence. Designed in a very Tuscan-Florentine style, take a walk around the entire facade to marvel at the green and white marble facade. Inside the Cathedral, be sure to check out the frescos and 14th century stained glass windows. A visit to the main Cathedral can last up to an hour.

The main Cathedral is free to enter, however you might like to consider a guided tour. Prices for a guided tour of the Cathedral can range from anything around 20€ to 50€ depending on whether you opt for a private or group tour.

6. The Museum

cathedral museum of florence

The Cathedral Museum houses many works from the cathedral and the Baptistry that were removed for preservation. The Museum therefore is a fantastic place to visit if you want to find out more about the Cathedral’s changes over the centuries. The majority of the sculptures preserved in the museum are those which were originally chosen for the facade, before it was replaced with something more modern. You can also see 14th century works from the Bell Tower, tools and materials used to build the Cathedral, and sculptures by Nanni di Banco, Donatello, and Michelangelo.

Admission into the Museum is 10€.

7. The Giorgio Vasari's Last Judgement

Giorgio Vasari's Last Judgement

Vasari’s The Last Judgement is located on the interior side of the huge dome within the Florence Cathedral. You can see this fresco along your tour of the Cathedral itself. The best view of the painting is from a viewing ledget located about two thirds of the way up the climb to the top of the dome.

The Last Judgement was painted by Giorgio Vasari from 1572 to 1579, commissioned by Cosimo I 120 years after the dome’s architect Brunelleschi’s death. Though Bruneslleschi requested that his dome be covered in gold mosaics the Florence Cathedral opted instead for an enormous fresco. In fact, this fresco is so big that it is the largest one in the world, covering about 43000 square feet.

Vasari was inspired by Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement which covers the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As you gaze upon Vasari’s work, the inspiration is obvious. Against the backdrop of heaven itself, the floating figures are reminiscent of Michelangelo’s remarkable design. Despite Vasari’s death in 1574, The Last Judgement was finished by Federico Zuccaro. In 1996, the Florence Cathedral undertook a huge project to clean and restore the fresco in all its glory.

The Florence Cathedral in Video

The Accademia Gallery

accademia gallery florence

The Accademia Gallery is quite a compact museum, but despite its size remains to be the second most visited museum in Florence. In addition to arguably one of the most important artworks ever created, Michelangelo’s David, there are many things to check out within this gallery.

Accademia Gallery in Pictures

Check out some great shots of the Accademia Gallery

statue David by michelangelo
David by Michelangelo, Florence Accademia Gallery
hall of colossus
Hall of Colossus, Florence Accademia Gallery
gothic painting the coronation of the virgin
The Coronation of the Virgin (1434-1435) by Fra Angelico
accademia gallery
Accademia Gallery, Florence
sculptures at accademia gallery florence
Sculptures at Accademia Gallery, Florence
sculptures at accademia gallery florence
Sculptures at Accademia Gallery, Florence
sculptures at accademia gallery florence
Sculptures at Accademia Gallery, Florence

Things to See & Do at Accademia Gallery

1. David by Michelangelo

Statue David in Accademia

A David is one of the most well-known statues in the world, and is most certainly the main attraction of the Accademia Gallery. In fact, it is probably the most popular sculpture in Florence, with copies of the statue at every turn. David was originally displayed in the Piazza Signoria for hundreds of years, before being placed in the gallery in 1873, a replica now standing in its place in the Piazza.

2. Luigi Cherubini Hall of Musical Instruments

After the spectacle of the David statue, take a look around the Luigi Cherubini Hall of Musical Instruments. In this hall, you will be able to get up close and personal with some of the most expensive instruments in history. This collection houses some fine examples of Medicean instruments, including a Stradivarius viola tenor and cello. There is also a room dedicated to the invention of the piano for the Medicis in 1720.

3. The Florentine Gothic Gallery

gothic painting florence

Explore three rooms dedicated to the 13th and 14th centuries, including many extravagant Gothic altar pieces highlighted with gold. All of the artwork here is religious, the goal not to create beauty but to display unwavering piety.

4. Hall of Colossus

After Michelangelo’s David, the Hall of Colossus is the most noteworthy collection of artwork in the Accademia Gallery. At the center of this hall you will find the frequently used and significant symbol of Antiquity, the statue "Baroque Rape of the Sabines" by Giambologna.

Accademia Gallery in Video

Gelato

gelateria sign

Though historians aren’t totally sure who invented this authentic Italian iced treat, it is popularly accepted that the modern gelato was created by Bernardo Buontalenti of Florence for Catheria dei Medici in the 16th century. From there, the creamy, delicious frozen dish spread throughout Europe. Today, no trip to Florence is complete without stepping into a gelateria, so here are a few tips and tricks to getting the best gelato in Florence.

Accademia Gallery in Pictures

Check out some great shots of the Accademia Gallery

Florence gelato
Gelato Shop Florence
woman eating gelato by river
Gelato by the Arno River - Florence, Italy
gelato artigianale
Gelato Artigianle
Florence gelato
Gelato Shop Florence

Everything you need to know about Gelato in Florence

1. How to make the most of your gelato order

woman eating gelato by river

First of all, decide whether you want to have your gelato in a cone or a cup. Some people might prefer the cone as you get to eat the tasty wafer afterwards, whereas others might prefer to eat the gelato out of a tub, typically making it a gluten free treat. Next, take a look at all the flavours and decide how many scoops you would like before ordering.

2. What is gelato artigianale?

gelato artigianale

Gelaterias that are advertised as artigianale are those that make their gelato in-house daily, with fresh, natural ingredients. This generally means homemade gelato without any preservatives or artificial colouring or flavours. We recommend always opting for gelato artigianale rather than from those who buy in their gelato if you want to get the authentic taste of Florence.

Top Tier Gelaterias in Florence

Our absolute favourite gelateria artigianale in Florence are:

  • La Carraia - just off the Ponte alla Carraia in Piazza Sauro Nazario, 25R, a and a smaller selection at Carraia 2 on Via dei Benci.
  • Carapina - Via Lambertesca, 18 and Piazza Oberdan, 2r.
  • Mordillatte - Via G. D’Annunzio 105.
  • Perchè No? - Via dei Tavolini, 19r.
  • Grom - On the corner of Via del Campanile and Via delle Oche, on the right hand side of the Duomo.

Traditional Gelaterias in Florence

For classic gelato artigianale in Florence, head for:

  • Badiani - Viale dei Mille, 20.
  • Vivoli - The oldest gelato shop in Florence, founded in 1929, located on Via Isole delle Stinche, 7r.

For The More Adventurous Palettes

And for more unique flavours to satisfy the more adventurous palettes, try:

  • Gelateria dei Neri - This gelateria moved locations within the last decade and can still show up as two addresses when doing your research. But don’t worry, it is just across the street from the old location at 9/10r Via dei Neri.
  • Cantina del Gelato - Via dei Bardi 31 and Borgo La Croce.
  • Procopio - Via Pietra Piana, 60R.
  • Rivareno - Borgo degli Albizi, 46R.

Gelato in Video