Reading or hearing the word Florence leads us to think of the Renaissance, the Medici family, art and beauty. Definitely, It is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and probably the world. It is also one of the cities that attracts the most tourists practically all year round, so queuing will be almost inevitable to visit some of its most emblematic points.
It is true that there are some enclaves of the city that one cannot miss when visiting it for the first time: the Duomo and the impressive views from its domePiazza della Signoria and the Pitti Palace or the David by Miguel Angell, a truly awe-inspiring sculpture, are just some of them. But there are other places less known or less exploited (for the moment) in which to take refuge from the masses that walk daily through its most central arteries.
As a note: know that forget that almost all visits are paid and that having a beer in Florence (as in all of Italy) is considerably more expensive than in Spain (a 40cl beer does not cost less than 5 euros) will prevent us from being surprised.
San Miniato al Monte and Gregorian chants
When you visit Florence you cannot miss the spectacular views that you can get from various points of the city. One of the most emblematic points (although the ticket costs 30 euros and also includes the climb to Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Opera del Duomo Museum, the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the old basilica of Santa Reparata that is located under the current cathedral ) is from the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The other point is Michelangelo Squareon the other side of the Arno river, going up a cobbled slope (you can also go by bus) which can be done with an ice cream company. Most of the tourists gather there with their drinks to watch the sunset and see how the city lights up when the sun goes down.
However, there is another point that is even higher and with much less influx of people. It is San Miniato al Monte, a place with a viewpoint, a basilica and an abbey from which it takes its name. From there, the views of the city open up in a panorama that delights photography lovers. But there is something else, something that can be very curious: every day from 7:00 p.m. in the church of San Miniato al Monte, one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany, the Benedictine monks offer a mass in which they sing Gregorian chants. Can anyone think of a better way to watch the sunset in a city that is impossible to leave without having suffered from Stendhal Syndrome?
The Palazzo Vecchio: its rooms and its views
Florence is full of squares and all of them have their point of interest. Without a doubt, the best known and most beautiful are the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza de la Signoria, a huge esplanade where we can see a beautiful Neptune fountain sculpted by Bartolomeo Ammanatti between 1563 and 1566 and a replica of Michelangelo’s David (the The original is in the Accademia Museum and its ticket costs 12 euros) located at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio. This palace, the work of Adolfo di Cambio, was the home of Cosimo I and Eleonora of Toledo, but this fortress-shaped space did not excite the Duchess. The reason was simple: she had no garden.
Crossing the Arno River, the Pitti family was building a large palace but it fell into ruin and Eleonora de Toledo decided to buy it and convinced Cosimo I to move there, where he had the Boboli Gardens built, another of the city’s points of interest. town. After his move in 1556 the former residence was renamed Palazzo Vecchio and was used as the city government building.
Nowadays, inside it are the offices of the City Council and some of the rooms function as a museum due to the value of some of the murals by important artists such as Ghirlandaio, Bronzino or Giorgio Vasari that it houses. Admission costs 17 euros and allows you to enjoy the rooms and views of the city, with the imposing dome of the Duomo very close, which is impossible to tire of.
The Medici, one of the most important families in Renaissance Florence, had, of course, enemy families and their appreciation by the population had been diminishing in recent times. With the transfer of his home to the Palazzo Pitti, Cosimo I had to cross a distance of just over a kilometer every day and he was afraid that something might happen to him on the way. So in 1564 he ordered the construction of a corridor linking both places so as not to have to walk the streets and expose himself to real danger.
It was Giorgio Vasari who designed this footbridge that unites both spaces and cross places like the Boboli Gardens or the Ponte Vecchioa place where several butcher shops were then located, which were replaced by jewelers to prevent the ruler from reaching the smells of the shops. Currently, this corridor has a thousand paintings from the 17th to the 18th century and a collection of self-portraits by Filippo Lippi, Rembrandt, Velázquez and Ensor. Although it is possible to access it by buying a separate ticket to the Uffizi Gallery, it is currently closed to be restored, although it is expected to reopen to the public in 2022.
Santa Trinita Square
We have already mentioned that Florence is full of squares that are worth stopping at and Piazza de Santa Trinita is one of them. It is not very big, it has an irregular shape and it is more of a transit space. However, it has several points of interest. The first, the great granite column that stands in the center of the square to which a statue representing justice was added in 1581 (see the scales hanging from her hands). The square is also surrounded by three buildings that have been important for the city. On the one hand, the Palazzo Spini Feroni, whose construction was commissioned by the banker Geri Spini in 1289. In 1930 the building was bought by the shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo and in 1995 it became a house-museum dedicated to the figure of the designer. .
Another of the enclaves is the Palazzo Buondelmonti, a classic Renaissance building, and the Mannerist Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni, residence of wealthy families and converted after a hotel where personalities such as Herman Melville stayed. Today, the building houses Alberto Casamonti’s modern and contemporary art collection. In addition, on one of its sides we find another point of interest: the church of Santa Trinita.
Holy Trinity Church
This church was built in the 11th century but over time it underwent several reconstructions so that the facade we see, made in Mannerist style and the work of Bernardo Buontalenti, is dated between 1593 and 1594 and the relief on the main door belongs to the artist Pietro Bernini and Caccini. Inside we come across several chapels that were commissioned by wealthy families of the city that are worth seeing (admission is free but photography is not allowed). The most important of them is the so-called Sassetti Chapel, decorated with various frescoes representing Saint Francis of Assisi. It is said to be the masterpiece of its author: Domenico Ghirlandaio. The other chapel is known for the Gothic style paintings by Lorenzo Monaco, master of the Fra Angelico genius.
Who does not like the sparkling life that exists in the markets? There are more and more spaces where you can both go shopping and have a beer. In Florence, one of those places where you can have a good time is the Mercato Centrale, on the second floor of which you can sit down to try bites of Italian cuisine and wash it down with some wines or beers. The tables are continuous and it is very possible that you will have to share a table with more people, which can encourage conversations and synergies.
eat a lampredotto
This typical Florentine sandwich is not for everyone: it is made from the fourth stomach of the cow. They season it with many spices and it can be added spicy or not, depending on the consumer’s taste. I Maledetti Toscani, very close to Piazza della Republica, is one of the best places to try this typical dish of the city. The establishment is very small and only has a small table in the back, so the usual thing is to take a sandwich and a beer or soft drink from the fridge to take away and sit in one of the nearby squares. There are usually long queues of people waiting to taste this specialty, so be patient.