Duomo Walking Tour, Florence

Duomo Walking Tour (Self Guided), Florence

Located in the very heart of historic Florence, the Duomo area is deservedly considered the city’s religious and civic center, replete with numerous landmarks. Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, the two most important squares in the city, are steeped in history and the sights and activities found here are truly endless.

The most prominent of these, undoubtedly, is the breathtaking Duomo itself, or Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), one of the most stunning architectural wonders of Italy. Alongside it rises the famous Campanile di Giotto – the 14th-century Bell Tower, climbing which you can get an excellent close-up view of the stunning Cathedral, plus a beautiful panorama of Florence and the Battistero di San Giovanni – octagonal Baptistery – standing right across.

Marveling at the Battistero you can't help noticing the building’s most obvious asset – the golden doors, depicting the lives of Christ and John the Baptist, taken from the New

Testament. Another remarkable feature is the baptismal font in which Dante was baptized over 600 years ago. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can also visit the Orsanmichele Church, located between the Duomo and Piazza Della Signoria; it's free to enter and has both exterior and interior well worth noting. Other highlights include the Bargello National Museum, with sculptures and masterpieces by Michelangelo, and the wonderful Uffizi Gallery – perhaps most famous museum of Florence (judging by the long queues, at least), housing the works by Giotto, Michelangelo and other renowned Italian artists.

Also worth noting are the Palazzo Vecchio, Cosimo di Medici’s stunning “Old Palace” – seat of Florence’s City Hall, open for tourists, and the statues at Piazza Della Signoria, including the copy of David that once stood here in the original, sculpted by Michelangelo.

To see what else you can do and see in this wonderful part of Florence, take our self-guided walking tour and explore the indescribable beauty and richness of the Duomo quarter.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Duomo Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Duomo Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Florence (See other walking tours in Florence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: Daniel
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)
  • Campanile di Giotto (Giotto's Bell Tower)
  • Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St. John)
  • Casa di Dante (Dante House-Museum)
  • Badia Fiorentina
  • Palazzo del Bargello (Bargello National Museum)
  • Complesso di San Firenze (Complex of San Firenze)
  • Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele (Church and Museum of Orsanmichele)
  • Museo di Palazzo Davanzati (Museum of the Old Florentine House)
  • Piazza del Limbo (Limbo Square)
  • Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)
  • Museo Galileo (Galileo Museum)
  • Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)
  • Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square)
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)

1) Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral) (must see)

Presiding over the city of Florence, the Duomo Cathedral is a Renaissance masterpiece renowned for its magnificent masonry dome, which holds the distinction of being the largest in the world. Completed in 1465, this double-shell structure is a remarkable feat of engineering, entirely self-supporting.

The construction of the Gothic-style Cathedral itself was a monumental endeavor that spanned nearly 170 years, starting in 1296. It wasn't until the mid-1400s that the project found its true champion in the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, who was tasked with completing what others had deemed impossible. Drawing inspiration from the engineering solutions used in the dome of the Pantheon in Rome, Brunelleschi conducted extensive experiments with large-scale models and innovative, specially-designed machinery.

One of his notable inventions was a system of machines and lewises specifically designed to lift enormous stones and hoist the immense weight of over 37,000 tons of materials, including more than 4 million bricks. Fascinated by Brunelleschi's machinery, the young apprentice Leonardo da Vinci made a series of sketches, often mistakenly attributed to him as the actual inventor. Nonetheless, Brunelleschi's name endured, and today a monumental statue of the architect stands proudly in the piazza in front of the Cathedral.

Inside the Dome, just before the presbytery, on the left aisle wall, you will find the fresco "Dante and the Divine Comedy" by Domenico di Michelino. Created in 1465 to commemorate the poet's bicentenary, this painting portrays Dante (1265-1321) holding a copy of his renowned "Divine Comedy", depicting the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory, and the spheres of Heaven above. Interestingly, the fresco also includes depictions of Florence as it appeared in the 15th century, even though Dante himself could never have seen these scenes during his lifetime. This makes the painting a valuable historical artifact. To view it up close, you must ascend approximately 450 steps on the narrow and winding staircase that circles the Dome's interior.

The mixture of marbles seen outside is just as outstanding. It showcases an extraordinary combination that creates a stunning visual effect resembling a work of painted art rather than solid stone.

When purchasing your ticket online, take advantage of the complimentary ticket that includes access to the top of the dome. From there, you can step out and enjoy a panoramic view of Florence, the surrounding Tuscan countryside, and the majestic mountains. Keep in mind that you will need to make a separate booking for the dome climb, which is free of charge.
Campanile di Giotto (Giotto's Bell Tower)

2) Campanile di Giotto (Giotto's Bell Tower) (must see)

The renowned Bell Tower of Giotto is a standalone belfry that belongs to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence. It was designed by the acclaimed painter and architect Giotto di Bondone, after whom it is named. Giotto is widely regarded as the first in a line of great Italian artists who contributed to the Renaissance. Soaring to a height of 85 meters, this tower stands as a remarkable example of Florentine Gothic architecture, adorned with intricate sculptural decorations and vibrant marble embellishments.

Tragically, Giotto passed away during the tower's construction, and the project had to be finished by two other architects. In addition to his contributions to Renaissance architecture, Giotto also left his mark as a skilled painter and sculptor. His artistic legacy is evident in the exquisite white, green, and red marble adornments on the tower, as well as the grand figurative cycle within the belfry, which he left unfinished.

Exploring the interior of the tower is possible, and of the three major tall structures in Florence, climbing this one is arguably the easiest. Despite the seemingly daunting 414 steps, the staircase is designed in a way that allows for rest stops along the way. Each level within the tower houses a large bell, totaling seven bells—one for each musical note. Unlike the crowded spaces of the Duomo Cathedral and the Arnolfo Tower in the Old Palace (or "Palazzo Vecchio"), the resting areas within the Giotto Tower are relatively spacious and engaging, offering visitors diverse and remarkable views of the city below.

From the very top, one can observe the Cathedral's dome and the Baptistery of San Giovanni from a unique and somewhat unconventional perspective. The sweeping view of Florence includes its timeless alleys and rooftops that have retained much of their charm over the past five centuries.

Please note that admission to the Bell Tower is included in a combo ticket that grants access to other sites within the Duomo Cathedral complex. Keep in mind that you have 72 hours, starting from the first use, to visit all the Cathedral sites. Unlike the Duomo, no reservation is required for the belfry, although you may need to wait in a queue to enter. Fortunately, the line is usually short and moves swiftly.
Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St. John)

3) Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St. John)

The exquisite Florence Baptisery, named after Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the city, is situated in the Cathedral Square and San Giovanni Square, diagonally opposite the Duomo Cathedral. Constructed in the 7th century atop a Roman structure believed to have been a temple dedicated to Mars, it has an octagonal shape (common for baptisteries for many centuries since early Christian times), the number eight a symbol of regeneration in Christianity, representing the six days of creation, the day of rest, and the day of re-creation through the sacrament of baptism.

During its reconstruction in 1059, the baptistery was decorated with white and dark green marble, creating a striking zebra-like pattern, but is more known for its three sets of bronze doors. The south doors, designed by Andrea Pisano, depict scenes from the life of St. John and elegantly illustrate the eight virtues of Christianity in bronze. The north doors, crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti, took him 21 years to complete and portray the life of Christ. Ghiberti was then commissioned to create the east door, which he worked on for an additional 27 years. Michelangelo famously dubbed them the "Gates of Paradise", and the ten panels on this door depict "the Story of Joseph."

Inside, visitors can admire magnificent mosaics adorning the ceiling and a baptismal font that has been in place since 1576, used for the baptism of the son of Francesco I de' Medici, the ruler of Florence. Aside from members of the Medici family, the structure is witness to the baptisms of many Renaissance-era personalities and almost all Catholic Florentines until the 19th century. Exploring this architectural marvel is, therefore, delving into the rich Catholic history of Florence.

Dante was born to Alighiero di Bellincione d'Alighiero and his first wife, Gabriella degli Abati, who came from a wealthy landowning family. Their eldest son was born in May 1265 and was initially named Durante ("enduring"), after his maternal grandfather; however, his parents eventually chose to use the shortened form of the name. Evidence of his birthdate near the end of May is derived from Dante's own account in Canto 22 of the "Paradiso", where he references the sign of Gemini, suggesting that his intellectual and literary attributes are influenced by the constellation under which he was born. He also mentions the baptistery affectionately in another passage.

Admission to the Baptistery is included with the standard ticket that covers the Duomo sights, excluding the cathedral itself (which is free), within a 72-hour period. A dress code must be observed, with no shorts or sleeveless tops allowed. Both men and women should ensure their knees and shoulders are covered. To attend the daily mass, arrive at around 10:30am at the door opposite the main entrance and inform the attendant that you wish to attend the "mass" or "messa."
Casa di Dante (Dante House-Museum)

4) Casa di Dante (Dante House-Museum)

Florence witnessed extensive reconstruction during the Renaissance, but a distinctive medieval ambiance lingers in the eastern part of the city. As you meander through the labyrinthine alleyways and hidden passages, you'll come across scenes that Dante Alighieri, the cherished Italian poet, would still recognize today. Casa di Dante, his former dwelling, still stands close to the parish church where he first caught sight of his beloved Beatrice Portinari.

Within the three-story house-museum, you'll encounter a captivating display of artifacts that illuminate pivotal moments in Dante's life. The first floor is dedicated to his early years, while the second floor unveils documents pertaining to his exile in 1301 and the final chapters of his life spent in Ravenna. Ascending to the top floor, you'll be greeted by an extensive collection of Dante's personal belongings, featuring both original items and meticulously crafted replicas. Among these treasures, marvel at the miniature copy of the "Divina Comedia", a testament to its enduring legacy as the smallest printed edition.

In Dante's epic poem, he embarks on a journey through Hell and Purgatory, guided by the poet Virgil, only to be led through Paradise by his beloved Beatrice. Although Dante initially referred to his work as the "Comedy," it gained immense popularity. Eventually, a lavish edition published in Venice in 1555 assumed the title we now universally recognize.

Please note that the staircase can be steep, but rest assured, there is an elevator available, although its location may not be immediately apparent upon entering.
Badia Fiorentina

5) Badia Fiorentina

This abbey, one of Florence's ancient churches, traces its roots back to 978 when it was established by Willa, the widowed spouse of Count Uberto of Tuscany. The church became the final resting place of their son, Count Ugo, who was interred there in 1001. The exquisite tomb, carved by the skilled hands of Mino da Fiesole between 1469 and 1481, stands as a testament to their legacy. Inside, visitors can also admire Filippino Lippi's captivating masterpiece, "The Virgin Appearing to St Bernard" from 1485, which brings vitality to the otherwise solemn atmosphere.

Don't miss the opportunity to explore the tranquil Chiostro degli Aranci, known as the "cloister of the orange trees," although it's only open on Monday afternoons and may require some effort to locate (look for a door to the right of the altar). While the orange trees cultivated by the monks are no longer present, the cloister boasts enchanting early frescoes and provides glimpses of the hexagonal 14th-century campanile mentioned by Dante in the 'Paradiso' section of his renowned epic, "The Divine Comedy".
Palazzo del Bargello (Bargello National Museum)

6) Palazzo del Bargello (Bargello National Museum) (must see)

If Florence, in general, is a haven for architecture enthusiasts and art lovers, then the Bargello Museum takes this experience to even greater heights. Occupying a medieval fortress, houses some of Italy's most treasured sculptures and artworks.

Also known as the People's Palace ("Palazzo del Popolo"), this is one of the city's oldest structures, dating back to 1255. Throughout its rich history, the building has served various purposes. Initially, in the 16th century, it accommodated the renowned "Captain of the People", the chief of police in Florence, known as the "bargello," hence the name of the palace. Later, the Bargello Fortress functioned as a prison until the mid-19th century, when it was transformed into a museum showcasing an extensive array of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

Displayed here are the works of renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Verrochio, Brunelleschi, and Donatello among others. Notably, the latter's statue of David holds great significance as the first male nude sculpture publicly exhibited since ancient times, marking a pivotal moment in the evolution of European art. The inner courtyard provides an elegant space adorned with relief and freestanding sculptures, while the gallery, located off the courtyard, and the spacious exhibition area above house the most famous pieces.

Apart from the Renaissance treasures, the collection includes rare artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman, and Medieval eras. Alongside the sculptures, you'll find jewelry pieces of European Renaissance and Islamic origins. To enhance the visitor experience, all exhibits are accompanied by English descriptions.

Among the museum's prized possessions are masterpieces by Michelangelo, including Bacchus, Pitti Tondo (or "Madonna and Child"), Brutus, and David-Apollo. Bacchus is depicted with eyes that seem to roll, his staggering body appearing on the verge of toppling off the rocky pedestal on which he stands. Giorgio Vasari observed that the figure conveyed "both the slenderness of a young man and the fleshiness and roundness of a woman", showcasing its androgynous qualities. The sense of instability resulting from a high center of gravity can be found in several later works by the artist, most notably in the David and the figures on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo carved Bacchus when he was only 22 years old.

To make the most of your visit to the Bargello, checking out the museum's website in advance for opening hours, as on special occasions, it may close later than usual. For those brave enough to explore the eerie, deserted medieval building in the late evening, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the sculptures in solitude.
Complesso di San Firenze (Complex of San Firenze)

7) Complesso di San Firenze (Complex of San Firenze)

Situated on the southeast corner of the San Firenze Square in central Florence, near the Uffizi Gallery, the Complex of San Firenze encompasses a collection of buildings that have played diverse roles throughout history. Notably, it served as a significant venue during the Risorgimento movement, hosting crucial political gatherings and events.

One prominent structure within the complex is the Oratory, constructed in the 17th century. Today, it is utilized for events and concerts, adding vibrancy to the cultural scene. Adjacent to it stands the Church of San Filippo Neri, adorned with an elegant Baroque-style façade that remains true to its original function.

Following a comprehensive restoration, the complex now serves as a versatile cultural space, housing notable institutions such as the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation (Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm). Named after the acclaimed director, Franco Zeffirelli, who hails from Florence, this foundation pays tribute to his illustrious seven-decade career. Zeffirelli is renowned for his work on films like "Tea with Mussolini," "Hamlet," "Jane Eyre," and "The Taming of the Shrew," as well as his collaborations with Hollywood icons such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. His 1968 rendition of "Romeo and Juliet" earned him an Academy Award nomination. With a portfolio encompassing 18 films, 31 theatrical performances, and over 100 operatic works, Zeffirelli now has a dedicated museum in his hometown.

The museum exhibition commences with Zeffirelli's humble beginnings in 1953 and is organized into 20 chapters within different rooms. Visitors can view nearly 300 sketches, along with posters, fliers, costumes, set-design models, original drawings, and behind-the-scenes photographs captured on film sets. On the ground floor, a tearoom extends into the palazzo courtyard, providing a pleasant space to relax. Adjacent to it, a store offers Zeffirelli's books and film memorabilia, allowing enthusiasts to delve deeper into his remarkable career.
Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele (Church and Museum of Orsanmichele)

8) Chiesa e Museo di Orsanmichele (Church and Museum of Orsanmichele)

Originally an 8th-century oratory, this multipurpose structure underwent transformations throughout history. In 1290, it was converted into an open-air loggia for grain sales, but a fire in 1304 led to its reconstruction as a loggia-market. Between 1367 and 1380, the open arcades were replaced with windows, and though bricked in today, the original Gothic tracery is still visible.

The interior of the structure consists of two parallel naves. On the right side, visitors can admire an extraordinary 14th-century Gothic altar crafted by Andrea Orcagna (1308–68). Adorned with cherubs, intricate carved reliefs, and embellished with colored marble and glass, it is a true masterpiece. Inside rests Bernardo Daddi's "Virgin and Child" (1348), framed with beautifully carved angels.

The outer walls are adorned with niches that showcase the real highlights of the structure. Each niche holds a statue representing the patron saint of one of Florence's major guilds, known as Arti. Among the fourteen saints displayed are Madonna of the Rose, Quattro Santi Coronati, St. Mark, St. Philip, Christ and St. Thomas, St. Eligius, St. James, St. Peter, St. John the Baptist, St. George, St. Matthew, St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Luke.

Of particular note is the sculpture of "Doubting Thomas" (circa 1470). In this composition, Christ, like the other figures in the building, is entirely framed within the niche, while St. Thomas stands on the ledge with his right foot outside the niche frame. This small detail, the positioning of a single foot, brings the entire composition to life. The original sculptures can be observed at the adjacent museum, which is open on Mondays.
Museo di Palazzo Davanzati (Museum of the Old Florentine House)

9) Museo di Palazzo Davanzati (Museum of the Old Florentine House)

An ancient 14th-century construction built as a residence of the Davizzi family (merchants and bankers), this palace bears the name of another family, the Davanzati, bankers for the Popes at Avignon, who bought it in 1578, enriching the facade with their large coat of arms. The palace is opened to the public as the Museum of the Old Florentine House, giving a fascinating and valuable look into a typical wealthy Florentine home of the Medieval to Renaissance era, complete with frescoes, painting, sculptures, and period furniture.

The upper floors can only be visited with a guide, requiring either advance booking on the website or simply booking a time with the receptionist. Seeing the upper floors with all the rooms where a wealthy family would have lived, plus a kitchen fitted out with all the equipment of the period, is absolutely worthwhile (the bedrooms, in particular, have stunning wall paintings), but the lower floors – holding wonderful collections of embroidery and lace-making – can also be visited without a guide. For older kids, the experience will be more educational and interesting than any description in a history schoolbook.
Piazza del Limbo (Limbo Square)

10) Piazza del Limbo (Limbo Square)

This well-known ancient square, famously described in Dante's poem, was located outside the Roman city walls until the 10th century when the new Carolingian fortifications were constructed. It acquired its name, Piazza del Limbo, from the burial ground where unbaptized infants were interred, destined for Limbo in the afterlife during the medieval era.

Facing the square is the Church of the Holy Apostles ("Santi Apostoli"), which has retained its predominantly early medieval appearance, holding the distinction of being one of Florence's oldest surviving churches. Adorning the facade are two plaques that commemorate its legendary history. One plaque, inscribed in Latin, claims that on April 6, 801, Charlemagne, accompanied by the paladins Roland and Oliviero and Bishop Turpin, founded the church.

Adjacent to the church stands the shorter side of the Borgherini-Rosselli del Turco Palace, adorned with various plaques and inscriptions. Noteworthy features include a monogram of Christ and a delicate profile portrait, a bas-relief sculpture of the Madonna and Child traditionally attributed to Benedetto da Maiano, and two inscriptions in Pietra Serena stone with a devotional theme. Nearby, the Borgherini family once possessed one of medieval Florence's few private gardens, which later came under the ownership of the Rosselli del Turco family.

On the right side of the church stands the palace that belonged to the Altoviti family, showcasing a prominently sculpted coat of arms on its facade. Facing Borgo Santi Apostoli, one can also observe the structure of the 19th-century baths (currently closed), constructed by Antonio Peppini on the site of Florentia's original Roman baths, that were once public bathing facilities.
Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)

11) Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) (must see)

If you had to choose just one Renaissance location to visit in Florence, or even in the entire world, the most obvious and compelling choice would be the Uffizi Gallery. Housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, originally intended as the offices of magistrates (hence the name "uffizi"), this magnificent structure was constructed in the 16th century by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo Medici, the first Duke of Florence. Not only did it serve as a governmental building, but it also became an ideal space to house the Medici family's remarkable art collection. Since 1765, the gallery has been open to the public and has grown to become one of Florence's most popular tourist attractions.

The displayed here must-see works of art include Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and "Adoration of the Magi", not to mention the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and other eternal greats. The collection is truly magnificent and it's easy to lose track of time while immersing oneself in its splendor.

While paintings and sculptures are the main draw for visitors, the gallery's interior decoration, particularly the intricate ceilings, is equally spectacular and deserves attention. With over 50 lavish rooms to explore, it can be challenging to absorb everything in one visit. Therefore, taking a break and recharging at the on-site café with a terrace is highly recommended. Among other delights, you'll be treated to unparalleled views that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

Due to its world-class status, the museum is perpetually bustling with visitors, and long queues, sometimes lasting hours, are not uncommon, especially during peak seasons. Those who book their tickets in advance through the official website enjoy a significantly shorter wait time and may even get discounted rates.

The Uffizi's internal courtyard is a long and narrow space that opens towards the Arno River through a Doric screen. This unique architectural feature, which allows for an uninterrupted view, is considered by historians as the first standardized streetscape in Europe. Vasari, who was both a painter and an architect, accentuated the perspective length of the courtyard by adorning it with the matching facades' continuous roof cornices, unbroken cornices between storeys, and the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand. In the 19th century, niches in the piers alternating with columns of the Loggiato were filled with sculptures of famous artists.

During the first eight years of the 1500s, Michelangelo not only sculpted his iconic "David" and the "Bruges Madonna" but also chiseled seven additional sculptures and four smaller statues for an altar. He also accepted painting commissions, and one of his works displayed in the Uffizi is the "Doni Tondo" ("Holy Family"), completed in 1504. This round-shaped painting, nearly four feet in diameter, vividly portrays the Virgin Mary, the Christ Child, and St. Joseph. The juxtaposition of vibrant colors in this artwork foreshadows Michelangelo's later use of color in his renowned frescoes on the Sistine Ceiling.

It is argued that Michelangelo used this painting to defend the Maculist perspective, a philosophy of the Dominican order that rejects the concept of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. According to the Maculist view, Mary's sanctification occurred at the moment of Christ's incarnation, rather than at her birth. Thus, the image depicts the moment of Mary's sanctification, as the Christ Child blesses her. Michelangelo portrays Christ as if he is emerging from Mary's shoulder to take human form, with one leg hanging limply and the other not visible, emphasizing his integration with Mary.

If you decide to visit, please note that no liquids are permitted on the premises. You may consider arriving an hour or two before closing time to obtain a ticket without having to wait in line. Good luck!
Museo Galileo (Galileo Museum)

12) Museo Galileo (Galileo Museum)

This museum serves as a remarkable tribute to the renowned scientist Galileo Galilei, who was born in Pisa in 1564 and passed away in 1642. Within its walls, visitors can explore a fascinating collection that includes Galileo's telescopes and the lens he utilized to make groundbreaking discoveries about Jupiter's largest moons. The museum also offers impressive, large-scale reconstructions of Galileo's experiments on motion, weight, velocity, and acceleration, occasionally demonstrated by knowledgeable staff members.

In 1657, Florence established the world's first-ever scientific institution, the Academy for Experimentation ("Accademia del Cimento"), as a tribute to Galileo. Some of the academy's pioneering inventions, such as early thermometers, hygrometers, and barometers, are proudly showcased in the museum.

Additionally, be sure to admire the 1554 world map created by Portuguese cartographer Lopo Homem, as well as the nautical instruments devised by Sir Robert Dudley, an Elizabethan marine engineer employed by the Medici dukes to construct the harbor at Livorno.

Why You Should Visit:
Visitors with an interest in English literature will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge, while art enthusiasts can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of thes functional devices on display. Engineers will find themselves in a paradise of endless arrays of gadgets. Families with young children seeking a hands-on experience may not find it here, but students of all ages will find this museum to be enriching. Furthermore, admission grants access to one of the marvels of modern science: air-conditioning.
Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)

13) Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) (must see)

Similar to the Duomo complex, the Pitti Palace, and major local art galleries, the Old Palace, known as Palazzo Vecchio, is an indispensable site in Florence for understanding the city's history and culture. This colossal Romanesque-style palace stands as one of the most impressive town halls in Tuscany and has served as the office of the Florence mayor since 1872. Prior to that, since its construction in 1299, it was the seat of Florentine government for centuries. When Cosimo I de' Medici became the Grand Duke and moved in with his family in 1540, he decided to enlarge and renovate the Medieval building in Renaissance style.

Adorned with shields recounting the city's political history, the imposing facade is also embellished with a series of sculptures, including notable works such as Michelangelo's "David", the heraldic lion known as "Marzocco" symbolizing Florence, Donatello's original "Judith and Holofernes", and "Hercules and Cacus". Within the palace, the Tower of Arnolfo stands as a separate attraction, requiring an additional fee for access.

Wandering through the palace, from the grand Hall of the Five Hundred ("Salone dei Cinquecento") designed to celebrate the Duke's glories and victories, to the more intimate quarters, you'll be transported back in time. This journey provides a glimpse into the secluded privacy of the Medici rulers, adorned with magnificent decorations as part of Giorgio Vasari's iconographic program. It is recommended to take your time and explore the property leisurely, allowing for an immersive experience enriched with historical intensity and artistic wonders. However, be prepared for a potential crick in the neck from gazing at the breathtaking ceilings in each room.

Various optional tours of the palace are available, including family-friendly options that offer an extra dose of fun without costing too much extra. For example, the 'Secret Paths' tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours and is led by knowledgeable guides. It provides access to parts of the palace typically closed to the public, including the renowned "studiolo" with its secret doors, enchanting objects, and intriguing exotic substances.

In the central niche at the southern end of the grand hall ("Salone dei Cinquecento"), you'll find Michelangelo's notable marble group, "The Genius of Victory" (1533-1534). Originally intended for Julius II's tomb, this sculpture represents an allegory of triumph rather than depicting a moment of battle. It portrays a victorious figure displaying remarkable agility, dominating a submissive captive. The young and elegant genius stands poised, while the dominated older man bears a resigned expression with a flabby body and a beard, emphasizing the contrast between the two figures. The expressive treatment of the surfaces enhances this contrast further, with the young figure polished to perfection and the old figure left rough and incomplete, still bearing the impression of the heavy stone from which it was sculpted.

Although Dante's burial place is not in Florence, the city possesses one of the poet's death masks, which you can see here, displayed between the Apartments of Eleanor and the Halls of Priors. Preserved behind glass, it has become a symbol of Dante's political contribution to Florence and his pivotal role in the development of Italian literature and culture. Interestingly, this same mask makes an appearance in Dan Brown's "Inferno".

If you plan to take a tour, it is advisable to book directly with the museum via email, indicating your preferred date and time, and wait for confirmation. Payment for the tour will be collected on the day of your visit. Once the tour concludes, you are free to explore the palace at your leisure. However, please note that since the palace is an active municipal office, it may be temporarily closed to the public on special occasions. It is recommended to check the palace's website for any announcements before your visit.
Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square)

14) Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square) (must see)

Alongside the Cathedral Square ("Piazza del Duomo"), the religious heart of Florence, Signoria Square is another key center of attraction in the city: its civil center, dominated by the formidable Palazzo Vecchio, a fortified palace. Boasting the finest assemblage of outdoor statues, this square holds significant historical importance as the birthplace of the Florentine Republic. As such, it holds a special place in the hearts of the locals as a hub of social life. The atmosphere in this area seems to transcend time, evoking images of Michelangelo's "David" standing here in its original location, now replaced by a replica.

The square has enjoyed central location in the city since the Roman times when it was just a small town called Florentia. Back then, it was surrounded by a theater, a complex of baths, and a textile workshop. Over time, a church, a loggia, and an enormous 5th-century basilica were added, as revealed by excavations carried out in the 1980s during the square's repaving.

The square's captivating appeal lies not only in its asymmetrical shape but also in the multitude of artworks it houses, both large and small. This makes it a favorite spot for photographers, who eagerly snap away from every conceivable angle. Even without a camera, standing in the middle of the square and taking in the 360-degree view is a mesmerizing experience in itself.

Dominating the city skyline, the imposing Old Palace ("Palazzo Vecchio") serves as the seat of municipal government. Adjacent to it, just a short distance away, stands the equally impressive "Lanterns' Lodge ("Loggia dei Lanzi"). Functioning as an open-air museum, this lodge is almost always accessible to the public free of charge and displays yet another impressive collection of statues, including the renowned "Rape of the Sabine Women", "Hercules and the Centaur", and a bronze "Perseus" cleverly positioned as if engaged in a gaze with the statue of David.

You'll find a few places to sit here, some out of the sun, but be sure to pace yourself and stay hydrated, especially during the hot summer months. Navigating through the crowd can be a challenge, but it's best to adopt a slight diagonal approach rather than attempting a direct path towards your destination, as you'll often encounter people walking in the opposite direction. By maneuvering like a yacht tacking against the wind – moving slightly to the right, then to the left, and so on – you can easily slide into the gaps as they appear. Easy-peasy!

Why You Should Visit:
One of the two most significant attractions in Florence, alongside the Cathedral Square ("Piazza del Duomo"), home to what could be considered the finest collection of outdoor statues in the world, surrounded by beautifully adorned buildings and numerous "very good" to "world-class" museums.

Walking Tours in Florence, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Create Your Own Walk in Florence

Creating your own self-guided walk in Florence is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Medici Landmarks Walking Tour

Medici Landmarks Walking Tour

The Medici family helped to establish Florence as the single most important art capital of Renaissance Europe. In order to prove wealth and power, they built numerous palaces, libraries, churches, chapels and personal residences. The Medicis were big lovers of art and they acquired huge, expensive collections, as well as supporting many sculptors and painters of the time.

Designed by...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo's Masterpieces Walking Tour

Michelangelo spent over 20 years of his life in Florence – the birthplace of the Renaissance – during which time he created some of the most beautiful masterpieces the city had ever seen. The most famous of them – the David – was larger than life, and brought a larger-than-life image to the artist. No amount of photos or copies of the statue will do it justice, so to see it with your own...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Florence Food Tour

Florence Food Tour

Food is one of the great Florentine passions, and the great thing about having a delicious authentic Tuscan meal, a snack, delicatessen, or a quality gelato here – besides the abundant variety – is not having to spend a lot of money for it.

In general, the “osterias” and the eateries nestled in Sant’Ambrogio Market will offer cheaper and more casual food with an emphasis on home...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Florence Introduction Walking Tour

Florence Introduction Walking Tour

The city of Florence was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for veteran soldiers. It was built initially in the style of an army garrison – with main streets intersecting at today's Piazza della Repubblica. The original name, Fluentia, stems from its location between the two rivers; later, it was renamed Florentia, which means “flowering” or “flourishing”.

The...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Florence's Hidden Art Treasures

Florence's Hidden Art Treasures

The “Cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence is one of Europe’s most beautiful and busiest destinations, home to some of the world's greatest pieces of art and architecture. The iconic masters like Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael and Michelangelo, as well as their somewhat less-known but equally talented counterparts, such as Ghirlandaio, Sangallo and Castagno, have blessed this city with...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Arno South Bank Walking Tour

Arno South Bank Walking Tour

The area south of Arno river, also called Oltrarno ("Beyond the Arno"), is a quieter place but not less interesting. Here you can find the Pitti Palace whose collection of paintings is second only to the Uffizi, and the vast Boboli Gardens once enjoyed by the Medici and the royal family. One of the first and most important examples of "Italian Gardens", they later served as...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Florence's Tasty Coffee Shop Guide

Florence's Tasty Coffee Shop Guide

The caffe scene throughout Italy is an important factor of everyday life. People will pop in to their favorite bar on their way to work for a quick espresso breakfast with a pastry, they’ll grab a slice of pizza for lunch or drop by for an aperitivo before dining out and take a peaceful digestivo...
Top 14 Pubs in Florence

Top 14 Pubs in Florence

Florence, the city of art and beauty has no problem in mastering the art of the nightlife as well. Local pubs are very popular and appreciated among the Florentines and the tourists. Locals and native English speakers that study or live in the city cannot wait to welcome tourists in their cozy...
Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Unique Products to Buy in Florence

Souvenir Shopping Guide: 16 Unique Products to Buy in Florence

Compared to other Italian "grands" like Rome, Venice, or Milan, Florence is relatively less-known to an outsider for any local products, save, perhaps, Florentine mosaics and Fiorentina FC. Fortunately, there are tonnes of locally-originated things that this Italian city is rightfully...