Florence Travel Tips

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What is Piazzale Michelangelo?

Piazzale Michelangelo

The Piazzale Michelangiolo is the perfect place to watch the sun set over Florence. The piazzale is so high up you get one of the most magnificent views of the city, especially right at sunset. If you take a tour of Florence most will stop by the Piazzale Michelangiolo so tourists can take in the view of the city. The center of the Piazza has a monument to Michelangelo. The monument is a collection of bronze replicas of his David as well as replicas of his Medici chapel sculptures.

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo did not come by chance. The piazza was originally laid out in 1885 in order to give visitors a spectacular view of the city. While the piazza is obviously a frequent stop for those on a Florence vacation it is also a popular place for locals.

If you visit the piazza is the early evening you can often see a great number locals crowding the cafes in the area to watch the sun set over the city. Visitors to the piazza can also hear the chants of the Benedictine monks during their vespers which can add to the ambiance of the area.

What is Giotto's Bell Tower?

Giotto's Bell Tower

Giotto's Bell Tower is a Gothic bell tower, or Campanile, that was designed by Giotto and built around 1334 A.D. The tower is made of multicolored marble and is located in Cathedral square in Florence. The bell tower sits right next to the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore and in front of the Baptistery of St. John.

One of the main draws of this Florence attraction is the breathtaking view of the city as well as the nearby cathedral that you can see form the top of the tower. To get to the top of the tower you have to go up 414 steps, so it may not be the most comfortable trip for the elderly, families will smaller children, or those who can't easily walk up that many steps. The view of the city from the tower however is well worth the exercise. On each level of the tower you can also experience a variety of Gothic art. The lower level features panels depicting the history of mankind from Genesis, and the higher levels have a variety of statues and decoration reminiscent of Giotto's time.

Giotto's Bell Tower is open daily from 8:30-7:30. Admission is usually six euros for adults.

What is Spedale delgi Innocenti?

Spedale delgi Innocenti

The Spedale delgi Innocenti is a Florence attraction that can give you a remarkable glimpse into the past. Originally opening its doors in 1445, the Spedale delgi Innocentoi is Europe's oldest foundling hospital.

One of the most memorable things about the hospital is a Lazy Susan that is in the wall near the arcade. In the early days of the orphanage unwanted babies were placed into the Lazy Susan and swiveled around. After a ring of the bell their mothers were often gone forever.

The colonnaded portico is something to take note of if you stop by Spedale delgi Innocenti. The portico was built sometimes between 1419 and 1426 and was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The portico is considered his first great achievement as a goldsmith and the beginning of his new Renaissance style. Many of the other buildings in the area have duplicated the portico making the piazza square one of the most magnificent squares in Italy.

Spedale delgi Innocenti is still used as a convent orphanage for children up to six years old as well as pregnant mothers. The building also houses three day nurseries and has a center for children and parents where children up to three years old can socialize with others

What can I see at San Marco?

Sam Marco

San Marco is one of the most popular Florence attractions. The museum was once a 15th century convent and has been turned into a museum showcasing the life and work of some of the famous monks who lived in the convent. San Marco was a Dominican convent and was the home of Girolamo Savonarola from 1491 until 1498 when he was burned at the stake and was also the home of Fra'Angelico who left behind much of his life's work in the building. Each of the museum's rooms has been transformed into showcases for artwork. The old Pilgrim's Hospice has been transformed into a Fra'(Beato) Angelico Gallery showcasing altarpieces and painted panels. The Great Refractory houses 16th and 17th century paintings, and the Sala del Cenacolo contains a long fresco of Domenico Ghirlandaio's Last Supper.

One of the most amazing sites in san Marco is the dormitories where the monks once lived. Each of the Dormitory cells were painted by Fra' Angelo with works designed to help his fellow monks with their meditations. The paintings in the cells are considered Fra'Angelos's most famous cycle of frescos.

The library of the museum is also a magnificent sight. The library was designed by Michelozzo in 1441 and currently contains a set of illuminated choir books.

Admission into San Marco is four Euros for adults and two Euros for children.

What is in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo is a must-see Florence museum for any trip to Florence. The museum, sometimes known as simply "The Duomo" is often overlooked by tourists but houses some of the most important art in Italy. The museum focuses mainly on sculptures. Many of the sculptures were moved to the museum for restoration or to protect them from the elements they were exposed to in their previous homes.

One of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo's most famous pieces is the Pieta carved by Michelangelo shortly before his death. Michelangelo never finished the sculpture and it was later completed by one of Michelangelo's students. Other famous art pieces in the museum include Donatello's Mary Magdalene and the original baptistery door panels by Ghiberti which are on display under natural light in the museum's courtyard.

The museum actually houses a good deal of Donatello's work. Donatello enthusiasts will enjoy seeing not only Mary Magdalene but also the Prophets that were carved for the bell tower and Donatello's cantoria.

Admission into the museum is six euros for adults. Children under the age of six can visit the museum free of charge.

What is Bargello?


Bargello is one of the most famous Florence museums and the national museum of Italy. The museum houses Donatello's David, Gianbologna's Mercury, and Michelangelo's Brutus amongst other famous pieces of art.

The building that the Bargello is in was built around 1200 and was once the city prison. The building was transformed into a museum in 1865 and currently houses the largest collection of Gothic and Renaissance sculptures in Italy. In addition to work by Michelangelo, Gianbologna, and Donatello the museum has a large collection of textiles, ceramics, silver, ivory and old coins.

Bargello is about a 10 minute walk from Santa Maria Novella Station. The station can be easily accessed by bus or train. You can also take a taxi to the museum from anywhere in town.

Admission to Bargello is 4 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for students. If you are traveling with a larger school group admission is free with a note on school letterhead indicating the names of all of the schools guests. The museum is open Monday through Sunday from 8:15-2 and is closed during major holidays as well as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Monday of each moth and 2nd and 4th Sunday.

How should I get to Florence?

Traveling to Florence

Florence's main airport is Amerigo Vespucci. It connects with all of Italy's main airports as well as thirteen other airports throughout Europe including Paris, London, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Getting a flight into Florence is very easy if you're already in a major European city or within Italy. If you are flying into Florence from another country you will more than likely have to connect to a Florence flight once you arrive in Europe.

If you are already in Italy then the train may be your best bet for getting to Florence. Florence is located on the Milan-Rome line and can be easy accessed from either city of anywhere else on the line, with trains frequently making trips down the line. There are also a variety of direct train lines from Pisa to Florence making it easy to make the trip from there or places like Genoa and the locations in the Tyrrhenian coast that connect in Pisa.

Driving to Florence is not usually advisable. It can be difficult to find parking while you're there and most Florence attractions can be easily accessed using public transportation, which is much easier than trying to find locations on your own and then park at them.

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Heidi Splete