Top things to see and do
in Florence, Italy

Florence view of Duomo cathedral from the Campanile or bell tower

Ah, Florence. You have to visit this city in the Tuscany region of Italy to understand why it’s on so many people’s bucket lists.

Florence, or Firenze in Italian, is steeped in history from the stunning architecture to the countless works of art in its numerous museums. I mean, it's the home of the Renaissance! If you're a history and art buff, you'll be in heaven here. But even if you're not, the sheer beauty of the city is enough to take your breath away. 

For me, the highlight was when I visited the Gallerie dell'Accademia, home of Michelangelo's David. I can still remember the goosebumps I got seeing this work of utter perfection for the first time. Isn't it incredible that Michelangelo was only 26 when he sculpted this masterpiece?

Michelangelo's David in Florence Italy at Gallerie dell'Accademia

I really wanted to see Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man drawing, which is also housed at the Accademia. It's considered the first intersection of art and science, and one of the finest embodiments of the Renaissance. Unfortunately the drawing is rarely on display, including when I visited, because of its sensitivity to light. 

The other hugely famous gallery is the Uffizi, home to some of the most famous works of art in the world. Unlike at the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which IMO relies on David for its "wow" factor, there's a wealth of noteworthy art at the Uffizi. You could easily spend a full day here to appreciate the sheer number of masterpieces on display.

From the Uffizi, it's just a quick walk to the Ponte Vecchio, the ancient bridge that's lined with shops selling everything from jewelry to souvenirs. The history of the 14th-century bridge is so impressive but to be honest, I find the shops a bit overwhelming. Go for the lore as well as the views of the Arno River and the city, which are staggeringly beautiful.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence Italy over the Arno River

You'll have to visit the Florence Cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo, of course. The impressive dome dominates the city skyline, and the interior is stunning. If you climb to the top of the dome you'll find a fabulous view of the city. But for an even more sweeping and spectacular view of the city, climb Giotto's Campanile. It's 414 steps to the top of the bell tower and there are landings every so often so you can take a rest. I'm in fairly good shape and I needed these breaks!

Another must-see is the Basilica di Santa Croce, a beautiful church that's the final resting place of some of Italy's most famous artists and writers including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Dante. The architecture and intricate frescoes make it a must-visit for anyone who loves art and history.

The square in front of the basilica is also a sight to behold. Restaurants line both sides and music can often be heard from street musicians. Sometimes there's a farmers' market here. My Airbnb was located on this square and every time I looked out the window at this surreal setting, I had to pinch myself.

For that iconic Instagram shot, Piazzale Michelangelo is the place to go. Drive, walk or take the bus to get that truly stupendous lookout view over the city of Florence. 

For a break from the museums and churches I visited San Lorenzo Market, which is just steps from the main train station. There are actually two parts to this market: Mercato Centrale, the indoor section that's filled with stalls selling everything from fresh produce to artisanal cheeses and meats. There is also the outdoor area that surrounds the Mercato Centrale building; this part features a huge variety of leather products and clothing for sale ... danger, danger!

Charming Florence Italy with the Cathedral Duomo.

Florence is also known for its cuisine, and you'll find no shortage of amazing restaurants and cafes. Try the local specialties like ribollita, a hearty Tuscan soup, and bistecca alla fiorentina, a steak meal that's cooked to perfection with just rosemary, sage, salt, pepper and oil. The city is also home to some of the best gelaterias in the world.

From the winding streets to the grand architecture to the friendly locals, Florence has a truly magical quality. Whether you're a history buff, art lover, foodie or just someone who appreciates beauty, there's something for you. 

So book your ticket, pack your bags and get ready to fall in love.

Find more travel inspiration on my Instagram, @JuanitaNg.

Florence street scene photo by Heidi Kaden
Ponte Vecchio photo by Ansgar scheffold