The Renaissance craddle
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ITINERARY 1: FLORENCE IN ONE DAY
Our first itinerary will take you to the discovery of the main attractions of Florence. Starting from Piazza del Duomo (A), the religious and social heart of the city, where you can find the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, crowned by the daring cupola by Brunelleschi, the slender campanile (bell tower) by Giotto and the Battistero di San Giovanni (baptistery of St. John), take the lively street of via dei Calzaiuoli. Here you pass beside the Church of Orsanmichele adorned with sculptures, and Piazza della Signoria (B), the political heart of Florence. The square is famous for hosting the Palazzo della Signoria or Palazzo Vecchio from the end of 1200, seat of the municipality as well as museum, flanked by the Loggia dei Lanzi, which exhibits statues of many artists.
Connected to Palazzo Vecchio, the majestic Uffizi building, a Vasari’s project and seat of the Medici Chancellery, now one of the most visited in the world, is home to works by Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello. A visit to the gallery needs a few hours. From here, follow the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) (C), one of the symbols of the city, and reach the district of Santo Spirito, the only district to be on the left bank of the Arno river. Here there is Piazza Pitti (D), with the Palace with the same name, home to many museums and enriched by a monumental park, Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens).
To breathe the lively atmosphere of the district, head to Piazza Santo Spirito (e), home to numerous artisan activities and the Church of Santo Spirito, designed by Brunelleschi. Finish the visit with the complex of Santa Maria del Carmine (F), where Masaccio frescoed the Cappella Brancacci.
ITINERARY 2: SANTO SPIRITO DISTRICT
Our second itinerary will take you to the discovery of Santo Spirito, the only one of the four Florentine historical quarters to be “beyond the Arno”. The area that still lives the life of people and artisans, takes its name from the Church of Santo Spirito (A), and it is from here that our journey begins. The church, located in a tree-lined square and very frequented both by day and night, is characterized by the sober façade designed in the fifteenth century by Brunelleschi, one of the most beautiful architectural creations of the Renaissance. Of great interest is the sacristy, a small and precious jewel of the Renaissance age, where Michelangelo lived for a short period of time.
At this point we move towards the church of Santa Maria del Carmine (B), famous for the Cappella Brancacci, built from 1424 by Masolino and decorated with frescoes by Masaccio and Lippi. Returning to via Mazzetta and taking via Romana you will then reach the Zoology section of the Natural History Museum (C), called La Specola, famous for the collection of anatomical waxes, both those from 17th Century of G. Zumbo, and the more recent ones of famous wax artists such as Clemente Susini.
On the same road there is also Palazzo Pitti (D). The palace from the severe ashlar façade was commissioned by Luca Pitti in 1448 to Brunelleschi. In 1549 the palace passed to the Medici, then it was the seat of the Lorraine rulers and, when Florence was the capital of Italy, of the Savoy Court. Today it houses several museums and galleries, among which the most important is the Galleria Palatina, consisting of the private collections of the Grand Dukes with masterpieces from the XV to the XVII century, including works by Tiziano, Giorgione, Raffaello, Rubens.
Between Palazzo Pitti and Forte Belvedere extends Giardino di Boboli (Boboli garden) one of the most beautiful Italian gardens, designed by Tribolo in 1549, which belonged to the Medici family until the mid-eighteenth century. A beautiful 16th-century building, Forte Belvedere, designed by Buontalenti for Grand Duke Ferdinand I,dominates the garden, and the entire city. From the bastions of the fort you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the city.
In a dominant position on the left bank of the Arno there is the Giardino Bardini (Bardini garden) (E). Born as a park adjacent to palazzo Mozzi in the nineteenth century thanks to Giacomo Le Blanc, the garden was transformed into an English garden with woods, winding alleys, statues and fountains. Always speaking of panoramas Piazzale Michelangelo(F) deserves a mention, a panoramic terrace on the city built in 1869 on a design by Giuseppe Poggi. At the center there is a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David and four statues of the tombs of the Medici chapels.
Just above the square there is one of the most beautiful examples of Florentine Romanesque, the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte. Dating back to the 11th century, it has a façade that stands out for the white and green marbles that draw geometric motifs, as well as for a mosaic representing Christ among Mary and San Miniato and a gilded copper eagle. The interior has works of great value such as the chapel of the crucifix by Michelozzo and the chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, both with decorations by Luca della Robbia, and the splendid frescoes by Spinello Aretino depicting the stories of St. Benedict.
ITINERARY 3 : SANTA MARIA NOVELLA DISTRICT
Our last itinerary will take you to discover the beauties of Santa Maria Novella district. Starting from the Fortezza da Basso (a), designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and now used as the city main exhibition centre, we reach the train station of Santa Maria Novella (B), one of the first works of Italian rational architecture, built between 1933 and 1935 on a project by Giovanni Michelucci, and the church of Santa Maria Novella (C), after which the district is named. The building was started in 1246 for the friars of the Dominican Order, and has a magnificent Romanesque façade, in white and green marbles, by Leon Battista Alberti. Inside splendid masterpieces such as Giotto’s crucifix and works by Masaccio. The entrance to the Museum of Santa Maria Novella, with the splendid Green Cloister frescoed by Paolo Uccello, is adjacent to the church,
At this point take via Palazzuolo and Via dei Federighi, where the Museo Marino Marini (D) is based. Set up inside the deconsecrated Church of San Pancrazio, it is completely dedicated to Marino Marini, one of the greatest Italian sculptors of our century. Continuing on Via della Vigna Nuova you’ll find Palazzo Rucellai (E). Built between 1446 and 1451 by Bernardo Rossellino, on the project of Alberti, by order of Giovanni Il Magnifico, member of the illustrious family of Rucellai, the palace has a façade on which are recurring rings with diamonds and feathers characteristic, emblems of the Ruccellai. Interesting is the courtyard and the chapel of the Tempio del San Sepolcro also made by Alberti in 1467.
The other jewel of Renaissance architecture is Palazzo Strozzi (F). Commissioned by Filippo Strozzi the Elder to Benedetto da Maiano, who began the works in 1489, it is now home to a small permanent museum and art exhibitions. Past Piazza Strozzi and via Monalda, turn into via Porta Rossa where you will find Palazzo Davanzati (G). Dating back to the mid-14th century, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was bought by the antiquarian Elia Volpi who restored it and furnished it to make the reconstruction of an old Florentine house. The palace is in fact known as Museum of the ancient Florentine house.
Now you reach the church of Santa Trinita (H), which overlooks via Tornabuoni, the most elegant Florentine shopping street. Built in the second half of the 11th century, enlarged and transformed with Gothic shapes at the beginning of ‘ 300, it has a strong stone façade, built on the project of Buontalenti at the end of ‘ 500. Inside the Cappella Sassetti, with the cycle of frescoes depicting stories of St. Francis of Assisi, and the table with L’Adorazione dei Pastori (the adoration of the Shepherds) by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Our itinerary ends in Borgo Ognissanti at Chiesa di San Salvatore a Ognissanti (I), founded in the middle of the 13th century by the Humiliated Friars, a religious order dedicated to the manufacturing and trade of fabrics. The refectory of the adjoining convent, with two frescoes by Botticelli and Ghirlandaio is of particular interest.
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