Florence is a city whose charm and splendid past have remained unaltered. At least, this is how the enchanting Tuscan capital appears – it continues to enchant, by means of its artistic masterpieces, colored marbles and architectural works that evoke the pomp and circumstance that it bore as the leading city that developed the art and culture dictums of the Renaissance.
The beating heart of Florence is Piazza del Duomo, with its monumental complex of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore surmounted by Brunelleschi's majestic dome; the San Giovanni or St. John’s Baptistry, a magnificent example of the Florentine Romanesque; and Giotto’s Campanile or Bell Tower, a Florentine Gothic architectural master work. Behind the Duomo stands the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, with various works from the Cathedral on display; visitors can admire pieces intended for all the structures of the complex, from the Baptistry to the Bell Tower.
Piazza della Signoria represents the historical hub of civil and political life, and hosts the 13th-Century Loggia dei Lanzi, the Fountain of Neptune and the Palazzo della Signoria or Palazzo Vecchio, one of the city’s most symbolic monuments. In front of the Palazzo, statues, including a copy of Michelangelo’s famous David, stand tall.
Next to the Piazza is the marvelous Uffizi Gallery, home to one of the most important museums in the entire world, hosting works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and numerous other master artists. A remarkable architectonic element of the Uffizi Gallery is the Vasari Corridor, realized by Giorgio Vasari himself around the mid-Fifteenth Century; the Corridor connects the Gallery to the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti.
Lining the path between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, innumerable architectural treasures, e.g. the Church of Orsanmichele and the 12th-Century Palazzo del Bargello (now the National Museum) stand out, especially for their sculptures from the 15th and 16th Centuries. Be sure not to skip the 15th-Century Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, also known as the Loggia del Porcellino for its characteristic bronze statue of a boar (considered to be a form of good luck); and the grandiose Palazzo Strozzi, finished at the turn of the 15th Century – a lovely courtyard lies inside.
Particularly striking is the Medieval quarter of Santa Croce with its predominant Basilica, also Santa Croce; known and admired for its famous frescoes by Giotto and its tombs of many illustrious and historical Italians, it is the final resting place of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli, just to name a few. Not to be outdone, the extraordinary San Lorenzo complex, the Convent of Santa Maria Novella – which includes a Church of precious frescoes and works of art, and a Museum that comprises the famous Green Cloister and the Spanish Chapel.
Crossing the very old and suggestive Ponte Vecchio, with its storied gold workshops, one arrives in the Oltrarno quarter to encounter the scenographic piazza that gives way to Palazzo Pitti, an imposing, sumptuous palace where resided the Medici and Lorena clans. The Pitti boasts a wondrous park, the glorious Boboli Gardens; the Gardens are an exemplar of Italian garden landscaping.
Also in the Oltrarno neighborhood, the panoramic Piazzale Michelangelo, a favorite tourist haunt, rewards visitors with a gorgeous view of Florence and the surrounding hills; while the Church of San Miniato al Monte is one of the best products of the Florentine Romanesque.