Florence, the Quintessential Renaissance City
The capital of the beautiful Tuscan region in central Italy, Florence is known for its role in bringing Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance era, paving the way for world-changing art, architecture, exploration, politics, and business.
It remains a city dedicated to style, greatness, and beauty, and for travelers, there is so much to experience that the question is less, “what can we go out and see today,” than “what do we have to put on hold until the next time we visit Florence?”
Duomo di Firenze – The symbol of the city (Florence is known as “Firenze” in Italian), this beautiful domed cathedral represents the unique mixture of beauty, extravagance and practicality of the Renaissance. An engineering marvel, the red dome was larger than any that had been built up to that point, without the use of buttresses, which were considered crude and ugly by the Italian architects of the time.
The world had seen nothing quite so visually stunning, or mechanically ingenious to that point. Soaring above the rest of the city, “il Duomo” remains a stunning piece of architecture to this day. Inside, the cathedral houses many pieces of artwork from the 15th century, including an image of The Last Judgment on the interior of the dome. It remains the largest masonry dome in the world.
Giotto’s Tower – Across from the Duomo, you can climb the belltower and get a panoramic view of the city and the countryside. From this vantage point, Florence looks like a jewel, filled with cathedrals, churches and soaring examples of human greatness.
It sits nestled in the middle of the Tuscan countryside which, with its rolling green hills and sun-washed fields, is on display from the top of the tower.
Boboli Gardens – On the southern bank of the Arno River, these elaborately landscaped gardens are filled with interesting Renaissance sculptures. Springtime sees the gardens bursting with flowers, and if you take a picnic, you can sit on a hill and gaze out over the magnificent Duomo di Firenze, across the gently flowing river.
Ponte Vecchio – One of the most interesting parts of Florence is the Old Bridge. Ponte Vecchio is elaborately constructed – like most functional buildings surviving from the Renaissance, its architects were artists also, whose dream was a city dedicated to human greatness and beauty. It serves as a center of commerce in the city, lined with jewelers’ shops and other vendor stalls.
Uffizi – By far the most famous museum in Florence, the Galleria degli Uffizi is home to original Renaissance masterpieces, some of the most famous being The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, Caravaggio’s Bacchus, and various self-portraits by Rembrandt.
The museum building itself looks like a monastery inside, with ceiling frescoes along almost every path. The two wings are designed to call to mind an idealized, colonnaded street, lined with art. At lunch-time, you can take a break on the balcony at the cafe and look into the main piazza of the city, with views of palaces, cathedrals, and every other piece of architecture that made Florence the center of Renaissance Europe.
Here, also, the Renaissance past meets the street performance scene of the present. The buskers in front of the Uffizi are internationally-renowned as some of the most engaging street performers in the world.