Have a look through our eyes at our favorite monuments, museums, parks and churches to visit in Florence
Florence is a city with an incredible amount of museums and cultural sights and, quite honestly, it would be worth your while to visit them all.
We know that most have limited time in Florence, so don't worry if you do not manage to see everything: even the Florentines themselves have not visited many of the precious pearls in their own city. In any case, with a little determination and maybe returning again to of Florence, you can satisfy your curiosity!
Which are the museums that you should definitely visit in Florence?
It is clear that there are places of culture that we can't help but suggest to anyone coming to visit the city, including the Galleria degli Uffizi, the Accademia Gallery and the Duomo of Florence. However, there are so many treasures that our team decided to draw up a personal ranking of our favorite places to see, focusing primarily (but not only) on places lesser known or not included in many itineraries.
So let's begin!
1. THE GOTHIC SANTA MARIA NOVELLA CHURCH
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a church I didn't discover early on in my time in Florence, but once I did, I was so amazed and impressed that even today I keep going back whenever I get the chance. From the history of the church itself to its architecture to learning about the masterpieces inside: all are treasures to be admired and appreciated on their own. My absolute favorites are the frescoes by Ghirlandaio and his workshop hidden behind the main altar, whose lovely and bright colores make it seem like they were painted not so long ago.
2. FLORENCE'S BAPTISTERY
After you've visited the cathedral, which is so rich in its outdoor decoration as to make its indoors seem a bit empty, head on over to the Baptistery of San Giovanni. The Baptistery is THE OLDEST religious site in all of Florence. As such, you will see the stark contrast with the cathedral, which reflects centuries of additions and changes. All aspects of the baptistery are symbolic in one way or another, from its octogonal shape to the number of layers of "stories" within the interior's cupola mosaics. These mosaics will amaze you! I have yet to see photos of this interior that truly capture its magical splendor, so make sure to visit to see them in person!
3. THE LOGGIA DEI LANZI
While most everyone who comes to Florence will at some point pass through Piazza della Signoria and admire the statues sitting throughout the square, I would like you to specifically take a moment to admire the Loggia dei Lanzi. Aside from its classical architecture, here is where the rulers of Florence would stand and make announcements to the public. Here is where the statues that represented the ruling class, on one hand, and the Republic, on the other, were placed to represent power. While most will pay more attention to the copy of Michelangelo's David across the way, make sure to take note of the fascinating beauty of Perseus holding Medusa's head thriumphantly over the crowd: this is what Florence could and would do to its enemies over the centuries... beware!
1. SAN MARCO MUSEUM
The San Marco Museum is housed in the Convent of San Marco, located in the square carrying its name (Piazza San Marco) overlooked by the beautiful church of San Marco. The museum is first and foremost a work of architecture: it was built by Michelozzo, trusted architect of the de 'Medici family, on the orders of Cosimo de' Medici.
Inside it houses many works. The most valuable are no dubt those of the Dominican monk Fra' Angelico, who lived for a period in the convent, and who created works both on wood and stucco, like the extraordinary frescoes. The most striking is the beautiful fresco of the Annunciation, dated 1440/50, which opens before the visitor at the end of the staircase leasing to the first floor, flooding it with light and sweetness. On the first floor there are also the cells of the monks, all painted inside.
The Museum of San Marco is a place where you can breathe the charming atmosphere, a museum where art and faith come together giving to those who visit it beauty and a sense almost of peace, away from the crowds.
2. STIBBERT MUSEUM
A little-known museum, but certainly very curious. The Frederick Stibbert museum, Anglo-Italian collector of the 19th century, reflects the collectors interests at his villa on a hill just outside the center of Florence with objects from around the world. The Stibbert Museum is a destination for everyone, even children, who certainly are sure to see many types of armor and ancient weapons, perhaps imagining stories of knights and battles in distant countries.
The museum is surrounded by a beautiful park in which to enjoy the sun, ancient trees and water features, with some extravagant architectural requests Stibbert (you'll just have to visit to see what I mean!).
3. BOBOLI GARDENS
The Boboli Gardens is anything but a simple "garden," it is a wonderful landscaped park, embracing Palazzo Pitti and the largest green area of the historical center of Florence. Designed by famous architects of the caliber of Vasari, Ammannati and Buontalenti, the Boboli Gardens was enlarged over the centuries, from the family de 'Medici and the Lorena later, until the nineteenth century.
It is the perfect place to relax walking through streets and alleys, to discover the rich heritage of statues and architectural beauty that encompasses. Going up in the highest part of the garden you enjoy the splendid views of the city center.
Donna’s Top Sights
1. THE CHURCH OF SAN MINIATO
I just love everything about the Church of San Miniato, starting with the legend around its origins (the headless saint). Then there is the awe inspiring architecture and art work, and the lofty position which (in my opinion) is even more panoramic than the Piazzale Michelangiolo. Perhaps though what really catches my attention more than anything, is the monumental cemetery attached to the church. As you walk around, each tomb seems to have a story.
I like to go up to the church early in the morning, walking up the tree shaded road that leads to the Piazzale and then the white marble steps to the church, and inhale the views, the silence, and the beauty.
2. OPERA DEL DUOMO MUSEUM
I enjoyed the Opera del Duomo museum even before they restructured everything, but now...it is just incredible. The display of tools that Brunelleschi used to build this immense cupola had always teased my imagination, but now they have taken everything just one step further and as you walk in you come face to face with “the way it was”. The old facade recreated life size! The spacious and luminous museum guarantees a surprising wealth of masterpieces...so if the lines at the Uffizi and the Accademia are too long, this is the place to come.
The biggest surprise of all: the outdoor terrace which brings the cupola of the Duomo so close you might even think you can touch it.
3. MARINO MARINI MUSEUM
A friend of mine invited me to visit this little (unknown) gem with her, and since I am always curious I went along. I was stunned, just the building itself was amazing - its history and the modern restyling simply fascinated me. Nestled in the middle of the city center between Santa Maria Novella and the Duomo, the Marino Marini museum combines the old and the new in an intriguing manner. It was closed over the last year (2018) for renovations and remodelling, I have to visit the recently reopened museum to see what they have changed. I like to think that it gives even a viewer who is most indifferent to modern art something to appreciate and those who are tired of seeing 'yet another antique church' something new and spectacularly large to ponder.