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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Florence in a Day

Written by  Suzanne Morrison

1_FlorenceInADayPlanetHop! is a huge fan of history, and there's probably no better place to experience the thrill and enchantment of Renaissance Europe than in Florence – one of the world's most beautiful cities. It is here that the powerful Medici family pulled the strings of power for over 300 years and, in so doing, brought about a new age of learning, where art and culture slowly overcame the darkness of the Middle Ages. It was in Florence that such legendary artists as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci came under the patronage of the mighty Medici and were free to practice their genius for the world to admire. There are few places in Europe (or the world) that can compare to the majesty of Florence or Firenze – as the locals say - where every street you trod and every bridge you cross has its own unique place in the city's legendary history. If this sounds interesting, read on for some tips on how to experience the city in as little as a day...

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Overflowing with history, art and culture, Florence is a city that's very hard to do justice to in a single day. A visit to the Uffizi Museum alone could easily eat a day or two into any itinerary.2_FlorenceInADay

If you're fortunate enough to visit Florence for the first time, but unfortunate enough to have only a single day to savour the delights of this city, you will need to ensure that you have a plan.

So allow me be your guide for the day and take you on a whistle stop tour of the sights and sounds of Florence. I can't promise you the Uffizi in a day, but hopefully at the end of the tour you'll feel like you've seen the best of the city. Your only problem will be deciding when to come back for more!


The first thing you'll need before you start your tour is a map of the city. The centre of Florence is pretty compact, so the best way to see it, without missing a thing, is by foot. 
 If you don't have a map or a guidebook and you're not the type that enjoys aimless wandering, make your first stop of the day one of the tourist offices where you can pick up a free map of Florence.

Starting off in the main Piazza , you'll easily spot the famous Duomo, with its magnificent terracotta coloured cupola. If you are there early enough to avoid the crowds and feel you can face the 463 steps, I'd recommend starting your tour by climbing up into dome for a spectacular view of the city. The Duomo is probably the most distinctive feature of Florence's skyline and is the result of years of work spanning six centuries.

Once you've taken in the view, catch your breath with a leisurely stroll around the streets surrounding the Duomo, and then take a walk to the nearby Piazza della Signoria. Here you'll find a unique outdoor gallery of sculptures, including Neptune's Fountain and a copy of the famous Statue of David. You'll also find the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace) here. This was built in the early 14th century and is still used today for its original purpose, as a Town Hall.


Michelangelo's David

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Just beside the Palazzo you'll find the Uffizi museum, with its unrivalled collection of Renaissance art. If you're an art lover, you don't want to miss the Uffizi, but it's not something that can be easily covered in a short 2-hour visit!


Uffizi Museum

Alongside the Uffizi you'll find the River Arno, with its many bridges. If you take a right turn, you'll arrive at the Ponte Vecchio, the famed bridge that houses a multitude of goldsmiths and jewellery shops, with its medieval workshops overhanging the bridge. The bridge itself was built in 1345 and is the only bridge on the Arno that wasn't destroyed in World War II.


Ponte Vecchio

Once you've crossed the bridge, you'll arrive in the area called Oltrano, which literally means "Over the Arno". Here you'll find the Palazzo Pitti – a large 16th century palace. The palace was originally home to the Medici family, who ruled Florence almost continuously between 1434 and 1743, and now houses several important museums and galleries.

You may want to finish your day by taking a relaxing stroll in the Boboli Gardens, which can be accessed through the Palazzo Pitti. These gardens were laid out in 1550 for the Medicis a year after they bought the Palazzo Pitti and were opened to the public in 1766. Many parts of the gardens give stunning vistas over Florence and make a welcome retreat after a day of walking round the city.

If you have the time, it's worth returning to view the Ponte Vecchio at sunset, followed by a walk along the bridge after dusk, when the lights on the bridge reflect on the River Arno, and everything seems almost magical.

Finally, don't forget to take a break from your sightseeing – stop for lunch or a drink in a pavement café, take some time to soak up the atmosphere and do a spot of people watching!


Sunset over the River Arno

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There are those amongst us at PlanetHop! that consider Florence to be the city they would visit above any other in all the world. When you consider that combined, we've visited most of the major cities around the world, this is definitely saying something. What more of a seal of approval can we possibly give?

This article was posted by Suzanne Morrison on Articles Surfing and PlanetHop! supplied the accompanying photos. Suzanne is a keen independent traveler and considers Florence one of her favorite European cities. To find out more about Florence, visit her website The Ultimate Guide to Florence.

Who (will enjoy)

Perfect for adults seeking that quintessential European holiday where they can seemingly step back into another era. However, unless your children are a bit older or destined to be history professors, they might find "all those old buildings kind of boring".

What (to do)Wander the streets and soak up the history. This is the reason you come to Florence.
When (should I visit)

Florence's best weather is normally from April – June and from September – mid-November, when you'll have mostly sunny skies without too much heat or humidity. During the summer months of July and August it, can get extremely hot, not to mention crowded with both Italian and foreign tourists. Winter months are also worth considering, as the city's mild climate makes a visit during this period more than tolerable – not to mention that fact that hotel rates are generally at least 30-40% reduced from the peak summer period.

Where (to stay)

Florence has every possible type of accommodation you could possibly imagine, ranging from youth hostels up to 5-star luxury hotels.

How (much will it cost)

If you're on a budget, you can probably get by on about US$100/day; but this will be staying in budget accommodation and eating mostly in relatively inexpensive cafés. This figure can obviously go up substantially depending on your tastes.

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