Shopping in Florence
Florence city centre is a maze of streets, full to the brim with craft shops, high fashion stores, markets and street stalls of all kinds: the perfect place to get lost whilst looking for a souvenir to bring home with you. You'll find top Florentine fashion brands (Gucci, Cavalli, Ferragamo), as well as other Italian and international stores mostly on Via de' Tornabuoni, the shopping street. Traditional artisan products are located between Santa Croce and San Lorenzo (leather goods), Ponte Vecchio (jewellery), Borgo Ognissanti (antiques) and San Lorenzo market. If you are looking for a "tasty" souvenir or fancy a stopping for a snack, visit the Mercato Centrale (central market) which is full of food stores and street food restaurants and eateries.
Strolling through the streets of Florence, you can admire the city’s splendour everywhere, as well as happen upon hidden wonders, fascinating legends and unique details, tucked away inside the city’s most famous monuments.
For instance, the bull's head carved onto the left side of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is a good example. According to some, it’s a tribute to working cattle used as trawlers, while others say that its origin is far more prosaic, linked to the clandestine relationship between a carpenters and a baker's wife.
And what about that face carved into a stone on the front of Palazzo Vecchio? Legend says the author may even be Michelangelo Buonarroti, who sketched the profile whilst observing a convict being pilloried. In Piazza della Signoria, under the Loggia dei Lanzi, there is another secret gem: a human face is visible by means of an optical illusion on the back of the Perseus statue, level with the back of the hero's neck, which may represent a self-portrait of Benvenuto Cellini, the author of the work.
Il Porcellino (the Piglet, actually a wild boar) under the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo is also well known by tourists and beloved by the Florentines too. According to tradition, you should place a coin in the animal's mouth and make a wish, which will be fulfilled when the coin falls into the grate under the statue.
The monument dedicated to Ferdinando I de' Medici in Piazza Santissima Annunziata is less well known. At the base of the monument there is a pedestal decorated with a swarm of bees; according to the legend it is very difficult to count all of them without touching the statue, and those who succeed will be blessed with good fortune.
Florence is really easy to visit on foot and Oltrarno 1881 Apartments’ very convenient location makes getting around even simpler.
Families shouldn't miss out a day trip to Boboli Gardens to see its rich array of plants, statues and water features, or a visit to the Galileo Museum where you will learn a lot about history of science.
The kids will also appreciate an evening visit to the Arcetri Astronomical Observatory (available only on Saturdays), where you can see the Moon and the stars up close. For more information please phone 055 2752280 from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Observatory is located 2.5 km south of Piazza de 'Nerli and is easily accessible by bus line 12.
Finally, don't forget to ask for A Firenze con i bambini guide, which will provide you with a list of various cultural outings, shows, libraries, recreation centres and other practical information aimed at helping you make the most out of your holiday with the children.
Florence in 24 hours
After a tour of Piazza Santo Spirito, where you will see the famous church designed by Brunelleschi in 1444, move on to Piazza Pitti, which is overlooked by the majestic palace of the same name and which dates back to the fifteenth century. From here head over to Ponte Vecchio, one of the most visited and photographed places in Florence and home to the famous goldsmiths and jewellers. From the bridge go up to Piazza Santa Croce, where you will find the beautiful Basilica; in front of it stands the famous monument of Dante Alighieri which overlooks the entire square.
Strolling along Via dell'Anguillara and Piazza San Firenze, where you will find the Bargello Museum with its important collection of Renaissance statues, you will finally reach the Uffizi Gallery, the city's most famous museum and one of the most appreciated museums in the world; it's a true compendium of Italian Renaissance paintings, including masterpieces by Sandro Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael. The museum is only few minutes away from Piazza della Signoria, where you can admire Palazzo Vecchio, the statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi (including the famous Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini), the copy of David by Michelangelo and the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati.
Head up via dei Calzaiuoli and finish off your tour in Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the city and the most important point for tourists who flock together to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, crowned with Brunelleschi's Dome. In front of the church you can find the Baptistery of San Giovanni with bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano, and to one side of it, Giotto's Church Tower stands tall, providing a unique panoramic view over the entire city.
Florence in 48 hours
From Piazza Duomo, where the itinerary of the first day ended, follow Via Panzani all the way to the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, a thirteenth-century church that houses the famous Holy Trinity by Masaccio. After a quick photo at the railway station, a masterpiece of rationalist art, keep going until you reach via de' Tornabuoni, the chicest part of the city, from where you can see the back of Palazzo Strozzi, and which is home to numerous art exhibitions; from here continue towards Piazza della Repubblica, and then towards Piazza Duomo and keep going until you reach via Martelli and the splendid Palazzo Medici Riccardi, seat of the Municipality of Florence. Nearby is the Church of San Lorenzo, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and known for its characteristic unfinished façade, the Laurentian Library, the Medici Chapels with the New Sacristy, a masterpiece by Michelangelo, and the Convent of San Marco, decorated with Renaissance frescoes by Beato Angelico. Michelangelo's original David can also be found nearby in the Accademia Gallery, just a few minutes from Piazza San Marco.
Continue to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, especially known for being the home to Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents), a work by Brunelleschi which was built in 1440 as a place to house abandoned infants. End your day with a visit to the Archaeological Museum, located just at the corner of Via Capponi, where you can discover valuable Etruscan, Roman and Egyptian collections.