Duomo Walking Tour (Self Guided), Florence

Duomo quarter is located in the very heart of the Florence Historic Center. This area is deservedly considered the religious and the civic centre of the town. Most of the historic sites Florence is famous for are to be found here. Take this self-guided walk to explore all the masterpieces of the Duomo quarter.
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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:
  • Florence Cathedral (Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore)
  • Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)
  • Florence Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni)
  • Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante)
  • Badia Fiorentina
  • Bargello National Museum / Palazzo del Popolo
  • Complex of San Firenze
  • Church and Museum of Orsanmichele
  • Palazzo Davanzati / Museum of the Old Florentine House
  • Piazzetta del Limbo
  • Uffizi Gallery
  • Galileo Museum
  • Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)
  • Piazza della Signoria
1
Florence Cathedral (Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore)

1) Florence Cathedral (Duomo – Santa Maria del Fiore) (must see)

Presiding over the city of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is a Renaissance masterpiece renowned for its masonry dome, the largest in the world. Completed in 1465, this dome is a double shell and is entirely self-supporting. On the inside, it carries the “Dante and the Divine Comedy” painting by Domenico di Michelino, which is particularly interesting since, apart from depicting the Divine Comedy scenes, it also shows images of 15th century Florence and, as such, is considered one of the most valuable artifacts in the cathedral.

The building itself is the product of almost 170 years of sheer hard work. The Gothic-style structure was built in 1296, although it wasn't until 1420 that the true identity of the cathedral was found, courtesy of architect Filippo Brunelleschi who was commissioned to the project after many other architects had given up on it. Brunelleschi looked for engineering solutions to the great dome of Pantheon in Rome but also relied on his own intuition and practical experiments with the large-scale models that he built. To lift 37,000 tons of material, including over 4 million bricks, he invented machines and lewissons for hoisting large stones. Fascinated with this machinery, the then young apprentice, Leonardo da Vinci, made series of sketches for which, later on, he was often credited for the actual invention. Despite that, Brunelleschi's name never fell into the oblivion. Today, a huge statue of the architect is set firmly in the piazza before the cathedral thoughtfully observing his greatest achievement that has since and forever will dominate the skyline of Florence.

Without detriment to the majesty of the dome, getting closer to the сathedral is even more exciting an experience as one can literally feel vertigo observing the high tower, all solid and white, with the delicately made Baptistery doors and massive walls. Whatever time of day, the cathedral is always full of people, queuing outside to climb the bell tower, or simply anxious to admire the Renaissance frescoes of the dome or the colorful marble flooring inside. As to the mixture of marbles outside, it is just as outstanding and represents a unique combination that looks just like paint, whereas in fact, it's a piece of rock art. Still, if you care to go inside the Duomo, make good use of the free tour guides available who will explain to you the hidden meanings of the paintings, marvelous as they are.

***DANTE'S FLORENCE TOUR***
Paintings often really do tell a thousand words and in Michelino's one on the wall of the cathedral, you get to dive into the world of Dante. However, to see it up close you must climb about 450 steps through narrow and spiraling stairs. It is not a continuous climb as the first part levels out at about a third of the way, circumnavigating the inside of the dome.

Tip:
When buying the ticket online, remember to make use of the free ticket that comes with the main one, in order to climb to the top, where you can step out and see the panoramic view of Florence, the adjoining Tuscan scenery and mountains. You have to make a booking for that too, separately, although free. There are museums as well, and you're required to finish visiting all facilities within 72hrs of initial entry to any part of the Duomo complex.

Opening Hours:
[Cathedral] Mon-Sat: 10am-4:30pm; Sun: 1:30pm-4:30pm
[Dome] Mon-Fri: 8:30am-7pm; Sat: 8:30am-5pm; Sun: 1pm-4pm
[Baptisery] Mon-Fri: 8:15am-10:15am / 11:15am-7:30pm; Sat: 8:15am-7:30pm; Sun: 8:15am-1:30pm
[Crypt] Mon-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat: 10am-4:30pm; Sun: CLOSED
[Bell Tower] Daily: 8:15am-7:20pm
[Museum] Daily: 9am-7pm
2
Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile di Giotto)

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

The famous Bell Tower of Giotto is a free-standing belfry belonging to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Florence, designed by great Giotto Di Bondone to whom it owes its name. Standing 85 meters high, this tower is one of the showpieces of Florentine Gothic architecture, lavishly embellished with sculptural decorations and polychrome marble encrustations.

Unfortunately, the author himself passed away during the construction, so the project had to be completed by two other architects. Giotto, apart from being a pillar of the Italian Renaissance architecture, also went down in history as a talented painter and sculptor, whose legacy is particularly visible in the pictorial and refined covering in white, green and red marble here, much as in the grandiose figurative cycle within the belfry that he had left unfinished.

Exploring the tower inside is possible. Moreover, of all the three major high-standing architectural attractions in Florence, climbing this one is arguably the easiest. Despite the somewhat intimidating number of steps – 414, the staircase is laid out in such a way that it allows some rest stoppages. Each level within the tower houses a large bell, seven in total – one for each musical note. Unlike the Duomo Cathedral and the Arnolfo Tower in the Palazzo Vecchio – the resting areas within the Giotto Tower are quite spacious and entertaining, affording visitors the diverse and quite remarkable views over the city down below. From the very top, one can observe the Cathedral's dome and Baptistery of San Giovanni at a totally different and somewhat unusual angle, plus enjoy a sweeping view of Florence complete with its alleys and rooftops that have changed very little over the past 500 years.

Tip:
Please note that the admission to the tower is open on a combo ticket that covers other sites within the Duomo Cathedral complex as well. Keep in mind that you have 72 hours, from using it for the first time, to visit all the Cathedral sites. Unlike the Duomo, no reservation for the belfry is necessary, although you'll have to stand a line to get in. That line is usually not very long and moves rather quickly.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:15am-7:20pm
3
Florence Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni)

3) Florence Baptistery (Battistero di San Giovanni) (must see)

The elaborate Battistero di San Giovanni (named for Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of the commune of Florence) is located in Piazza del Duomo and Piazza di San Giovanni, diagonally opposite the Duomo cathedral. Built in the 7th century over a Roman structure, believed to a temple dedicated to Mars, it has an octagon shape (common for baptisteries for many centuries since early Christian times), the number eight a symbol of regeneration in Christianity, signifying the six days of creation, the day of rest, and a day of re-creation through the sacrament of baptism.

The baptistery was decorated with white and dark green marble (in a zebra-like pattern) during its reconstruction in 1059 but is more known for its three sets of bronze doors. Designed by Andrea Pisano, the south doors portray scenes from the life of St. John and beautifully depict in bronze the eight virtues of Christianity. The doors on the north side took Lorenzo Ghiberti 21 years to complete and portray the life of Christ. He was then commissioned for the east door and worked on it for 27 more years. Dubbed by Michelangelo as the ‘Gates of Paradise’, the ten panels on the door depict “the Story of Joseph”.

Inside, you may see some magnificent mosaics covering the ceiling, and a baptismal font in place since 1576 for the baptism of the son of Francesco I de' Medici, ruler of the city. 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. Visiting this architectural beauty is, therefore, visiting the Catholic history of Florence.

***DANTE'S FLORENCE TOUR***
Dante was born to Alighiero di Bellincione d'Alighiero and his first wife, named Gabriella degli Abati, who was from a family of wealthy landowners. Their eldest son was born in May 1265 and was initially called Durante ("enduring") after his mother's father; however, his parents eventually chose to christen him Dante, a shortened form of the name. Evidence for his birthday near the end of May is from the poet's own testimony, in Canto 22 of the "Paradiso", where he addresses the sign of Gemini, suggesting that all of his intellectual and literary attributes have their source in the influence of the constellation of his nativity. He also mentions the baptistery affectionately in another passage.

Tip:
Admission to the Baptistery is included with your standard ticket that covers the Duomo sights excluding the cathedral (which itself is free) within a 72-hour period.
A dress code is required; no shorts or sleeveless tops allowed. Knees and shoulders must be covered for both men and women.
To attend the daily mass, be there at around 10:30 at the door opposite of the main one and say "mass" or "messa" to the man on the door.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:15am-10:15am / 11:15am-7:30pm
4
Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante)

4) Dante House-Museum (Casa di Dante) (must see)

Found in the heart of medieval Florence, Casa di Dante or the Dante House-Museum is a 20th-century building set on the site – as the records suggest – of a very probable location of the Alighieri family house, the birthplace of one Italy's most cherished poets, Dante Alighieri.

Spread across three floors, the museum displays, among other artifacts, some of the most important works of Dante, illustrative of major milestones in his life. The ground floor is dedicated to Dante's early years, while the first floor showcases documents related to his exile in 1301, plus the final years of his life in Ravenna. Finally, the second floor exhibits a vast collection of Dante’s belongings (both, originals and replicas) garnered over the years. There, you can see a miniature copy of “Divina Comedia”, the smallest printed edition.

In the poem’s first and second books, the poet takes a tour of Hell and Purgatory guided by poet Virgil; in Paradise, however, he is guided by his beloved Beatrice. Although Dante himself referred to his work simply as “Comedy”, it became enormously popular and a deluxe version of it, published in 1555 in Venice, assumed the new title that we all know today.

Tip:
Steep stairs, but there is a lift, which is not obvious when you enter.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct); Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat, Sun: 10am-6pm (Nov-Mar)
5
Badia Fiorentina

5) Badia Fiorentina

The Badia Fiorentina is a tranquil church managed by the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem. From the outside, it can be overlooked when compared to other churches in the city. The interior, however, will impress you. It has an air of tranquility, and seems to bring on serenity once you sit and just gather your thoughts. Whether you are religious minded or not, the atmosphere will seep into your heart.

The abbey was founded as a Benedictine institution in 978 by Willa, Countess of Tuscany, in commemoration of her late husband Hubert, and was one of the chief buildings of medieval Florence. A hospital was founded in the abbey in 1071. The church bell marked the main divisions of the Florentine day. Between 1284 and 1310 the Romanesque church was rebuilt in Gothic style, but in 1307 part of the church was demolished to punish the monks for non-payment of taxes. The church underwent a Baroque transformation between 1627 and 1631. The prominent campanile, completed between 1310 and 1330, is Romanesque at its base and Gothic in its upper stages. Its construction was overseen by the famous chronicler Giovanni Villani.

Major works of art in the church include the Apparition of the Virgin to St. Bernard (c. 1486) by Filippino Lippi and the tombs of Willa's son Hugh, Margrave of Tuscany (died 1001) and the lawyer and diplomat Bernardo Giugni (1396–1456), both by Mino da Fiesole (latter completed c. 1466). The murals in the apse were completed by Giovanni Domenico Ferretti in 1734.
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Bargello National Museum / Palazzo del Popolo

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

If Florence, in general, is a paradise for architecture buffs and art lovers, then the Bargello museum is even more so. Occupying a medieval fortress, this museum houses some of Italy's most valuable sculptures and other works of art.

Also known as Palazzo del Popolo (the People's Palace), this is one of the oldest structures in the city, dating back to 1255. Throughout its history, the building has served many different roles. Early on, back in the 16th century, it accommodated the so-called Captain of the People, the police chief of Florence, called “bargello”, hence the name of the palace. After that, the Bargello Fortress served as a prison, up until the mid-19th century, upon which it was converted to a museum displaying a large collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures.

Among the displayed artifacts here are the works of Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrochio, Brunelleschi, and other greats. Notably, Donatello’s statue of David was the first male nude sculpture ever exhibited since ancient times, thus manifesting a turn in the history of European art. The inner courtyard of the museum is an elegant space crammed with the relief and free-standing sculptures; however, the most famous items are placed in the gallery, off the courtyard, and in the large exhibition space above. Apart from the Renaissance items, the collection includes rare artifacts from the Byzantine, Roman and Medieval eras. Alongside sculptures, you can find here jewelry pieces of the European Renaissance and Islamic origin, too. For visitors convenience, all the exhibits are accompanied by English descriptions.

***MICHELANGELO'S MASTERPIECES***
The museum houses masterpieces by Michelangelo, such as his Bacchus, Pitti Tondo (or Madonna and Child), Brutus and David-Apollo. Bacchus is depicted with rolling eyes, his staggering body almost teetering off the rocky outcrop on which he stands. With its swollen breast and abdomen, the figure suggested to Giorgio Vasari "both the slenderness of a young man and the fleshiness and roundness of a woman", and its androgynous quality has often been noted. The sense of precariousness resulting from a high center of gravity can be found in a number of later works by the artist, most notably the David and the figures on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Bacchus was carved when Michelangelo was only 22.

Tip:
To better plan your visit to Bargello, check out the museum's website in advance for opening hours, noting that on special occasions it may close rather late. Those brave enough to wander around the eerie, empty medieval building late in the evening, may find this rather entertaining.

Opening Hours:
http://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/musei/1/bargello/
7
Complex of San Firenze

7) Complex of San Firenze

The Complex of San Firenze (Italian: Complesso di San Firenze) is a 17th-century Baroque-style building, consisting of a church, palace, and former oratory, located on the southeast corner of the saucer-shaped piazza of San Firenze in central Florence.

Prior to the 17th-century, paintings of the Piazza depict a drab 12th-century Romanesque brick church of San Florenzio hemmed by tall medieval houses. The Oratorians acquired the church in the 1640s, and commissioned plans from Pier Francesco Silvani to construct an oratory.

Once the oratory was complete in 1648, the Oratorians received a further endowment from the son of Senator Giuliano de' Serragli, who commissioned an additional church from the Baroque architect Pietro da Cortona. The plan changed over time, and by 1715 construction of the new church facade was completed. The matching oratory facade was built from 1772 to 1775.

This led to the present nearly symmetric arrangement of the church on the north wing, the former seminary and housing in the center, and the oratory on the south wing. Today is houses civil courts of Florence, but is also used for other functions. The Oratory is used for events and concerts, while the church retains its original function.
8
Church and Museum of Orsanmichele

8) Church and Museum of Orsanmichele

Orsanmichele is a church in Florence. The building was constructed on the site of the kitchen garden of the monastery of San Michele, which no longer exists. Located on the Via Calzaiuoli in Florence, the church was originally built as a grain market in 1337. Between 1380 and 1404 it was converted into a church used as the chapel of Florence's powerful craft and trade guilds.

On the ground floor of the square building are the 13th-century arches that originally formed the loggia of the grain market. The second floor was devoted to offices, while the third housed one of the city's municipal grain storehouses, maintained to withstand famine or siege.

The highlight of the church are the statues of the patron saints that compliment the facades. The fourteen Saints 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. The sculptures seen today are copies, the originals having been removed to museums.

This is a wonderfully beautiful church with stunning architecture, well worth a visit. It is free to enter.
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Palazzo Davanzati / Museum of the Old Florentine House

9) 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.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:15-2pm; Sat, Sun: 1:15-7pm
Last entry 30mins before closing time
10
Piazzetta del Limbo

10) Piazzetta del Limbo

Piazzetta del Limbo is a famous ancient square in Florence. It is located in the historic center of the city, not far from the church of Santi Apostoli. The piazza is described in details in Dante's well-known poem.
11
Uffizi Gallery

11) Uffizi Gallery (must see)

If you were limited to visiting just one Renaissance location in Florence, or the whole world for that matter, the most obvious choice would be the Uffizi Gallery. Housed in the Palazzo degli Uffizi, initially designated as the magistrate office – hence the name "uffizi", erected in the 16th century by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo Medici, the 1st Duke of Florence, it represented an ideal setting for the Medicis' art collection as well. The gallery has been open to the public since 1765 and, to this date, become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Florence.

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 you can easily spend a whole day without noticing!

While paintings and statues are what most people come here for, the decoration of the rooms, especially the ceilings, are just as spectacular and worthy of attention. With more than 50 opulent rooms to explore, it is actually quite hard to absorb everything in one go, so you might want to take a break and “recharge batteries” at an on-site cafe with a terrace which, among other delights, offers visitors some truly great views unseen anywhere else.

Given the world-class status of the museum, it is perpetually busy and the hours-long queue here is not uncommon, especially during peak season. Those who book their tickets in advance from the official website, have a substantially shorter wait and may get it cheaper, too.

***FLORENCE PALACES WALK***
The Uffizi's internal courtyard is so long, narrow and open to the Arno at its far end through a Doric screen that articulates the space without blocking it, that architectural historians treat it as the first regularized streetscape of Europe. Vasari, a painter and architect as well, emphasized its perspective length by adorning it with the matching facades' continuous roof cornices, and unbroken cornices between storeys, as well as the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand. The niches in the piers that alternate with columns of the Loggiato are filled with sculptures of famous artists in the 19th century.

***MICHELANGELO'S MASTERPIECES***
In the first 8 years of the 1500s, Michelangelo not only carved his giant David and the Bruges Madonna but also chiseled seven other sculptures and four smaller statues for an altar. He also accepted commissions to paint, and the one work displayed in the Uffizi, painted in 1504, is the Doni Tondo ("Holy Family"), a round-shaped painting (nearly four feet in diameter) vividly depicting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, along with St. Joseph. The juxtaposition of bright colors foreshadows the same use of color in Michelangelo's later Sistine Ceiling frescoes.

It is argued that the picture was used by Michelangelo to defend the Maculist point of view, a philosophy of the Dominican order rejecting the idea of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Maculist view is that the Virgin did not receive her sanctification at birth but at the moment of the incarnation of Christ; thus, the image depicts the moment of Mary's sanctification by showing the Christ Child blessing her. Michelangelo depicts Christ as if he is growing out of Mary's shoulder to take human form, one leg hanging limply and the other not visible at all, therefore making him a part of Mary.

Tip:
If you decide to go, note that no liquids are allowed onto the premises and the restrooms are available only at entrance and exit.
At your own risk, you may try and go an hour or two before closing just in hopes to get a ticket without queuing. Good luck!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:15am-6:50pm
Closure starts from 6:35pm
The ticket office closes at 6:05pm
12
Galileo Museum

12) Galileo Museum

Galileo Museum (Italian: Museo Galileo), known as the Institute and Museum of the History of Science before 201, is a science museum housed inside an old palace named Castellani. It was founded in 1927 by the University of Florence. The museum is located in the Piazza dei Giudici, by the River Arno and close to the Uffizi Gallery.

The museum features many artifacts from the 15th to 19th century, mostly pioneering scientific instruments including world globes, stethoscopes, navigation instruments and telescopes with accompanying videos to the exhibits.

In 1610, Galileo Galilei looked up at the sky using a telescope of he made, and what he saw would forever revolutionize the field of astronomy and reshape our understanding of the universe. The telescope made by Galileo can now be seen at the museum.

Operation hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday: 9:30 am - 6:00 pm; Tuesday: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
13
Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace)

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

Just like the Duomo complex, Palazzo Pitti and major local art galleries, Palazzo Vecchio, or the Old Palace, is one of the key sites in Florence that is absolutely essential for understanding the history and culture of the city. One of the most impressive town halls in Tuscany, this enormous Romanesque-style palace has been the office of a Florence mayor since 1872. Prior to that (since 1299, when it was built), it has been the seat of Florentine government for centuries. When Cosimo I de' Medici became Grand Duke and moved in with his family in 1540, he decided to enlarge and revamp the Medieval building in Renaissance style.

The solid facade is decorated with shields recounting the city's political history, plus adorned with a series of sculptures among which are the likes of Michelangelo's “David”, “Marzocco” – the heraldic lion, symbol of Florence, Donatello's original “Judith and Holofernes” and “Hercules and Cacus”. A standalone attraction within the palace is the Tower of Arnolfo, access to which costs an additional fee.

Walking through the palace, from the huge Salone dei Cinquecento ("Hall of the Five Hundred" – designed to celebrate the glories and victories of the Duke) to the most intimate quarters, virtually transports one back in time, offering a glimpse into the secluded privacy of the Medici rulers, magnificently decorated as part of the iconographic program designed by Giorgio Vasari. It is hence advisable to take one's time and explore the property without haste, so as to be able to get the historically-intense, artistically-rich experience, quite possibly resulting in a crick-in-the-neck feeling from gazing at the gorgeous ceilings above, one room after another.

There are various add-on tours of the palace available that are fun for kids and don't cost too much extra. Among them, for instance, the 'Secret Paths' tour, lasting about 1h½, delivered by knowledgeable guides and allowing access to the parts of the palace otherwise closed for the public, including the famed "studiolo" with its secret doors, magical objects, and strange, exotic substances.

***MICHELANGELO'S MASTERPIECES***
In the central niche at the south of the large Hall (Salone dei Cinquecento) is Michelangelo's noted marble group The Genius of Victory (1533–1534), originally intended for the tomb of Julius II. The sculpture does not represent a moment of fighting, but rather serves as an allegory of victoriousness. It depicts the winner who dominates the submissive loser with great agility, with one leg that blocks the body of the captive, who is folded and chained. The young man who is the genius is beautiful and elegant, while the dominated man is old and bearded, with a flabby body and a resigned expression. The surfaces are treated expressively to enhance the contrast between the two figures: the young polished to perfection, the old rough and incomplete, still retaining the impression of the heavy stone from which it was made.

***DANTE'S FLORENCE TOUR***
Although Dante is not buried in Florence, the city owns one of the poet's death masks that you can see here, between the Apartments of Eleanor and the Halls of Priors. Resting alone in glass, it came to symbolize both Dante's political contribution to the city of Florence and his pivotal role in the development of Italian literature and culture. Out of interest, this is the same mask that makes an appearance in Dan Brown's "Inferno".

Tip:
If you decide to go on a tour, it is advisable to book directly with the museum by email, stating the preferred date and time, and then wait for confirmation. You will pay upon collecting the tickets on the day of the tour. After it is finished, you can wander freely around the palace at will.
Be aware, though, that since this is an active municipality office, it is quite possible that, on special occasions, the building may be temporarily closed for the public. It is, therefore, recommended to check their website for possible announcements to this effect prior to the visit.

Opening Hours:
[Museum + Archaeological Route] Fri-Wed: 9am-11pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Apr-Sep); Fri-Wed: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Oct-Mar)
[Tower + Ronda Walkway] Fri-Wed: 9am-9pm; Thu: 9am-2pm (Apr-Sep); Fri-Wed: 10am-5pm; Thu: 10am-2pm (Oct-Mar)
14
Piazza della Signoria

14) Piazza della Signoria (must see)

Alongside Piazza del Duomo, the religious heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria is another key center of attraction in the city – its civil center, presided over by the imposing fortified palace, known as Palazzo Vecchio. Boasting the finest collection of outdoor statues, this square is the birthplace of the Florentine Republic and, as such, is held dear by the locals as an epicenter of the city's social life. The entire area seemingly transcends time and you can easily imagine Michelangelo's “David” standing here, in its original location, now replaced by a replica.

The piazza has enjoyed central location in the city since the Roman times when it was just as small town of Florentia, with a square surrounded by a theater, a complex of baths and a textile workshop. Later, there were a church, a loggia and an enormous 5th-century basilica added, as revealed by the excavations performed in the 1980s beneath the square during its re-pavement.

The asymmetrical shape of the square, complete with the numerous artworks found within – both large and small, add to its appeal, particularly among the photographers, who flock here in numbers, snapping away frantically in a bid to capture it from every possible angle. Even devoid of camera, standing right in the middle of the square, looking around 360 degrees, is a captivating experience as such.

The imposing seat of the municipal government, Palazzo Vecchio crowns the city skyline and, to one side, just a stone's throw away, is neighbored by an equally impressive Loggia dei Lanzi. An outdoor museum of sorts, it is almost always open to the public and free to access, holding yet another fine collection of statues, including the famous “Rape of Sabine Women”, “Hercules and the Centaur”, and a bronze “Perseus” cleverly positioned so as to be seemingly stared at by the statue of David.

There are a few places to sit here, some out of the sun, but be sure to pace yourself and have plenty of water, if visiting in high summer. Working your way through the crowd can be a challenge but don't always try to walk directly towards your target as you'll invariably keep meeting people doing the same in the opposite direction. It'd be much easier to move a bit like a yacht tacking into the wind – a bit diagonally to the right, a bit more to the left and so on, sidling into the gaps as they appear. Easy-peasy...

Why You Should Visit:
One of the two most important centers of attractions in Florence, along with the Piazza del Duomo.
It might just host the finest collection of outdoor statues in the world and is surrounded by beautifully decorated buildings along with many "very good" to "world-class" museums.

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City Orientation Walking Tour

City Orientation Walking Tour

The city of Florence was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for veteran soldiers and, as such, was built in the style of an army camp with the main streets intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. The original name Fluentia was due to the fact that the city was built between two rivers. Later, the name was changed to Florentia which means “flowering” or...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Duomo Souvenir Shopping

Duomo Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Florence without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of shops and markets where you can find something unique to Florence, that you might like to purchase to remember your visit.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Florence Palaces Walk

Florence Palaces Walk

Towards the end of the 13th century, Florentine families who had acquired power – both financial, through banking and trade, and political – began to build sizeable new palaces for themselves. The construction of the Palazzo del Popolo (now housing the Bargello museum) acted as an important catalyst in this process, having opened the translation into the private sphere. Early 14th century...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 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. This self guided walk takes you to these and other wonderful places, along the way passing by charming...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Historic Centre Nightlife

Historic Centre Nightlife

Well known for its beautiful historic architecture and for its huge contribution to the Renaissance movement in Italy, Florence remains a vibrant, thriving center of activity that hosts not only a large tourism trade, but also attracts a lot of international students studying abroad. As such, Florence possesses a hot nightlife scene where guests from around the world can hear some amazing music...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 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...
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...
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...