Deciding on the top 10 things to do in Florence is no easy task. But we’ve whittled down our long list to give you what we think are the top highlights for a visitor this year.
Meet Lorenzo the Magnificent, celebrate the life of Da Vinci, visit Botticelli in his new room at the Uffizi and take a Tuscan cookery course that’ll have you cooking like a local in no time. We’ll also tell you where to go to see the best view of Florence, and the places to have an aperitivo afterwards. Ready? Andiamo!
Things to do in Florence in 2019
1. See the new rooms at the Uffizi
Art lovers should head to the Uffizi Gallery, to delight in the newly refurbished rooms: the ones dedicated to Botticelli’s masterpieces, the Caravaggio Room and the much-loved Leonardo Room, where three of the early works are displayed, including the splendidly restored “Adoration of the Magi”.
Thanks to the new displays and the modern arrangements, you can see these iconic paintings at their best and in all their delightful detail. A tour is the best way to appreciate them (and skip the line!), like this 2-Hour Guided Uffizi Tour with an expert guide.
2. Meet Leonardo Da Vinci
Given that 2019 is the 500th anniversary of the death of the Tuscany-born genius Da Vinci, you could spend some time getting to know him and browse through his remarkable inventions.
At the Da Vinci Museum in Via dei Servi you can step inside his creative mind, see various models of the machines he designed and learn how they worked. It takes just short of an hour to visit this small museum. Here’s a way to find the best price and skip the queues.
Leonardo’s die-hard fans wouldn’t want to miss a day trip to his hometown Vinci.
At the Museo del Tessuto in Prato there’s a multimedia exhibition dedicated to Leonardo. The exhibit highlights the machines that he designed to make textiles (16th Dec 2018 – 26th May 2019) – more info on the official site.
3. Take a Renaissance walking tour
When you visit a place, knowing its history and a few of its secrets is a way to better appreciate it. Florence is where the Renaissance’s new artistic and philosophical ideas took shape. Its iconic Cathedral and works of art like the statue of David, immediately give the visitor an idea of the extraordinary creativity and ingenuity of the time.
Joining a Walking Tour of Florence’s historic centre, from Piazza Signoria to the Duomo and San Lorenzo district, is a perfect introduction to your stay. You’ll learn how the Medici family shaped Florence, what was life like in the 1400’s, and many curious facts about this fascinating city.
4. Climb to the top of the Duomo
See Florence from a different point of view. Florence’s Cathedral offers two viewpoints over Florence. The first is from the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome, the other you can reach by climbing the 414 steps of Giotto’s bell tower.
Either way, you’ll get a fantastic panorama of the city, the terracotta roofs and the hills in the distance bathed in golden light. Let your creative spirit soar, be inspired and take an infinite number of photos from up there.
Practical tips: There’s no elevator, so you should be prepared for the climb, wear comfortable shoes and be ready to queue, especially if you visit in high season (April to October).
5. Drive a Vespa
Italians love their Vespas, and Florentines even more so. This classic scooter was born not far from Florence, in the town of Pontedera, where today there’s a museum dedicated to it.
But to experience the Vespa first hand, and feel like an Italian for a day, join a thrilling Vespa tour that will lead you to the panoramic point Piazzale Michelangelo and the scenic San Miniato al Monte church. Expect tightly curving roads, lots of hooting and plenty of fun.
6. Visit Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Anyone interested in the history of the Medici family shouldn’t miss a visit to Palazzo Medici Riccardi. It was the very first residence of the Medici as they were growing in wealth and power. First Cosimo the Elder and then his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent used to entertain kings and heads of state here, while they were unofficially ruling the Florence Republic.
The highlights of this beautiful Renaissance Palace are the courtyard (that you can see for free!) and the Magi Chapel frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli, who put some of the Medici family’s members in this three-wall fresco.
Did you know? The fresco in the Magi chapel of Palazzo Medici Riccardi features in the second season of the Medici series. But the other scenes depicting this building are in fact filmed in the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza.
7. Learn to Cook a Tuscan meal
Taking a cooking class while you’re in Florence makes your trip complete. Food is very much part of Tuscan tradition, fresh ingredients get mixed with a special Italian alchemy to arrive at the perfect taste.
We love the idea of this cooking course in Florence as it includes a tour of the San Lorenzo Market, where you can buy seasonal produce and taste authentic Italian produce. Alternatively this popular Tuscan cooking class offers an evening cooking course and dinner too.
8. Check out an exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi
When it comes to art, Palazzo Strozzi is becoming a real hot spot in Florence. From international contemporary artists to retrospectives on Renaissance masters, there’s always something to get excited about.
This year it hosts two major exhibitions: one dedicated to the world of Renaissance icon Andrea del Verrocchio (9th March-16th July 2019). Sculptor and painter Verrocchio had a famous studio in Florence in the 15th century, and among his many young apprentices, were Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico del Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino. Verrocchio’s works will be displayed side by side with those of his pupils, for a total of 120 works of art (from different museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art di New York, Musée du Louvre, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Uffizi).
Moving forward in time to the early 20th century, an exhibition celebrating the Russian avant-garde artist Natalia Goncharova has been organised in conjunction with the Tate Modern in London. From 3rd October 2019 to 19th Jan 2020.
9. Have an aperitivo in the Oltrarno
When the evening comes it’s aperitivo time in Florence. The spots favoured by the local are in the Oltrarno, Piazza Santo Spirito and San Frediano, nominated the ‘coolest neighbourhood in Florence’ by Lonely Planet.
Chack out our list of the Best places for an aperitivo in San Frediano.
10. Try Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is one of those Florentine traditions that just has to be eaten to be believed. A thick cut T-bone steak from the famed Chianina cattle, it is seared on the outside and wonderfully pink and juicy on the inside. After all that walking around, you’ve earned it! Buon appetito!
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