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Florence is the capital of Tuscany and one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. On our 2011 European adventure we joined people from around the world who flock to the city to marvel at its attractions. Like many Italian cities, people are attracted to the stunning architecture, museums, cathedrals and awe inspiring churches, but there is a particular buzz about town that makes it entirely unique.
One of the best ways to get around on a visit to Tuscany is by renting a car. We found a car for 17 Euros a day when we were in Italy – a steal! To save more money, make sure to take the winding Tuscan back roads and avoid highway driving, as highway toll road prices are sky-high throughout Italy. If you are heading to Italy this summer and have the chance to spend a few days in Florence, here are some of the best things to see and do while in town.
Il Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Towering over the city skyline stands the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and it should be top of your list of places to visit in Florence. This building represents the pinnacle of gothic architecture in Italy and was constructed in 1296 to hold over 20,000 people.
In the early 15th century the famous dome was added to the structure, and as you take a tour inside you can see the intricate detail of the stained glass windows and woodwork. At 463 steps, the climb to the top of the dome is fairly short, with the view being well worth the effort.
At 278 feet tall, you’ll really have to crank your neck back to see Giotto’s Bell Tower building in all its glory. Constructed in 1334, it’s one of the oldest bell towers in Europe, and you can make the climb to the top (for an entrance fee). This is one of the best things about Florence, is the age of the great monuments of the city.
The Florence Baptistery
Part of the city’s Duomo complex, the Baptistery of St. John is a stunning attraction, and one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Over 1,000 years old, its famous bronze doors hold more history than entire countries, as well as detailed depictions of the bible. The interior is also beautiful, with walls and floors decorated in marble and mosaic.
The Ponte Vecchio
Built in 1345, this is the most iconic bridge in Florence, and one of the most recognized in the whole of Italy. It remains one of the surviving structures of Medieval Florence, as most of the city was destroyed during World War II, and it is home to a number of luxury shops selling gold and silver jewellery. As one of the best sights to see in Florence, this bridge is packed day and night, so don’t expect to speed across. The best thing to do would be to grab a gelato and enjoy it as you slowly saunter across the bridge.
For a more local affair, head to the Medici’s old church of San Lorenzo and then visit the streets between the train station and the Duomo, which are filled with markets, like the famous indoor food market and the famous leather markets of San Lorenzo.