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9 Best Things to do in Florence, Italy

sunset at Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Experience the magic of Florence in new light, hosted by a local Context Expert during a Private or Small Group Walking Tour

It’s no wonder why over 10 million people visit Florence every year – once you set foot in this vibrant city, you’ll feel the same energy that inspired the Italian Renaissance to flourish.

Originally founded as a Roman military colony near the 1st century BCE, Florence evolved into the hub of arts, commerce, learning, and finance during the 14th-16th centuries. The powerful and staggeringly wealthy Medici family played a pivotal role in Florence’s transformation into the preeminent cultural and artistic center of Italy. Their influence is present throughout the city today in Florence’s museums, architecture, and cultural attitudes.

1. Explore the Arts and Culture Scene in Florence

We could be biased, but we think a truly fulfilled life is only possible if one has visited the Uffizi and Accademia.

The trick is when and how. Spare yourself from agonizing over a day in Itay wasted in a long line – reserve your ticket in advance as both museums offer online ticketing. Also, beware that on Mondays both museums are closed, meaning Tuesday is generally the busiest day.

See the museums like a local and book the earliest entry (8:15 a.m.) for a Wednesday or Thursday. But no matter when you book, don’t miss out; these two venues are the top things to do in Florence for a reason.

Lastly, you can not only secure tickets and an amazing immersive experience by booking our tour of the Uffizi and tour of the Accademia, but you also equip yourself with one of our experts who knows the collections in and out and can steer you around the crowds.

2. Experience Michelangelo’s Works

As patrons of the arts, the Medici family was heavily involved in encouraging and supporting many artists – Michelangelo being the most famous. Michelangelo’s works are spread throughout the city, leaving glorious pieces of history across the famed cultural scene of Florence.

Ask anyone – what are the top things to do in Florence – and there’s no doubt that seeing Michelangeo’s works will be at the top of the list. What better way to experience his incredible art than with an art historian? Take a Michelangeo in Florence Tour to get exclusive insights into Michelangeo’s life and body of work.

In this three and a half hour walk with an art historian, you will follow the career of Michelangelo, discussing his early years and career under the patronage of the Medici family while viewing key works in the Bargello Museum and Accademia Gallery.

Dive deep into the work and artistic legacy of Michelangelo, whose impact on the Florentine Renaissance and art history in general cannot be overstated. You’ll start at the Casa Buonarroti, a house purchased by the artist for his family, now converted into a small museum of drawings and early sculptures.

You’ll move on to the Bargello Museum, a former Medieval-era prison, which contains one of the most important sculpture collections in the world. This is your chance to explore the vast works of art and view several of Michelangelo's works, including the Bacchus. Your final stop is the Galleria dell'Accademia, which houses Michelangelo's masterpiece and consummate symbol of the Florentine Renaissance, the Statue of David. As you bask in its aura, you and your guide will examine this important statue and wrap up the tour by discussing Michelangelo's later career in Rome, culminating in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

3. Tour the Palazzo Pitti

The Pitti Palace and it’s amazing art collections stand as a monument to the influence of the Medici dukes. During their second rule, the Medici transformed Florence into a monarchy, becoming the Dukes of Tuscany and undisputed rulers of Florence. They needed a palace that reflected their status, and they moved to the extravagant Palazzo Pitti, a powerful symbol of wealth and influence.

Experience the grandeur of the palace on a three-hour Art and Power at the Palazzo Pitti Tour led by an art historian. Don’t miss your chance to explore the fabulous art and object collections of the several royal families who have made the mansion home—the Medici, Lorraine, and Savoy—as well as the building's stunning architecture.

4. Learn About Medici History

The architecture, art, and history of Florence is intrinsically linked to the Medici family. Rather than wonder about the places and faces behind these political powerhouses, take a tour with an art historian who will give you an inside look at this legendary family on our Florence Medici Tour.

Start at the church of San Marco, which was the family church of the Medici during their early history. This quiet and reflective space provides the perfect backdrop for laying the groundwork of the Medici family history. Take a step back in time when you enter the attached convent, where Cosimo the Elder founded one of the world’s first public libraries in the 1430s. You’ll also visit the monks' former private cells, all of which house a sacred image intended for meditation, including Cosimo's private cell.

You’ll then move on to the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the seat of Medici power in Florence for over a century, then trace the family from the era of the republic to the era of the duchy, and their rise from rich merchants to rulers of a kingdom. You’ll see the Chapel of the Magi, decorated by Benozzo Gozzoli, which is a masterpiece of Renaissance fresco.

The tour concludes at the unfinished church of San Lorenzo, which was intended to be the sole dominion of the Medici family at the end of their power. Following the Medici journey is essential for truly understanding the history and continued influence of Florence.

5. Visit the Palazzo Vecchio

For many centuries, Palazzo Vecchio reigned supreme as the symbol of the civic power of Florence. Towering over Piazza della Signoria, where it was built in 1299, the palace served as the Medici’s private home and the headquarters for the Republic. Inside these walls you’ll find vivid artwork and unexpected discoveries ready to be explored.

Make the most of your time in this historic building with a Palazzo Vecchio: Power and Prestige Tour. Step into Palazzo Vecchio and spend time in the Hall of the Five Hundred, a sort of battleground between the Medici and Republican ideals: an enormous chamber packed full of history and fascinating details. Here you’ll encounter and familiarize yourself with the life-long achievements of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Using the illustrative and beautiful artwork left by Giorgio Vasari and his school, retrace the conquests of the Medici grand duchy, discussing the rivalry between Florence, Siena, and Pisa, and how power was consolidated by the Medici family. You will also spend some time discussing a significant and controversial discovery of a long-lost Da Vinci fresco in the Hall of the Five Hundred and the forty-year research project behind it. The rest of your visit will include time in Cosimo’s private rooms that highlight the glories of the Medici rulers beginning with Cosimo the Elder, the Pater Patriae, banker, and artistic patron who gave rise to the family legacy in the early fifteenth century.

6. Discover the History of Science in the Renaissance

Scientific progress exploded in Renaissance-era Florence. The Medici family’s patronage of intellectual progress through a blend of the sciences and humanism sparked new ways of thinking that still impact our world today.

Take our Galileo and Science in Renaissance Florence Tour, led by a social or art historian, to learn why Medicis Cosimo I and Ferdinand I were passionate patrons of the sciences, especially astronomy. Under their rule, Florence became a shining beacon for experimentation, which was in direct opposition to the Roman church. At the same time, humanism, born from the study of ancient Greek and Latin texts, became a central theme in Renaissance literature, art and society.

7. Relish Florence’s Culinary Possibilities

Food is an integral part of Florentine culture, as the city embraces Italy’s gastronomic commitment to quality, tradition, and passion. The local food scene in Florence is brimming with produce from the Tuscan countryside, like truffles, tomatoes, and wild mushrooms. Sample some local wines and find a great one to pair with Bistecca alla Florentine (Florentine steak).  Take advantage of the fresh fare and tempt your tastebuds with delicious Florentine cuisine.

Curious about Florence’s culinary culture but unsure how to experience it? Take our Savoring Florence Food Tour. The tour begins in the heart of the historical center, home to many traditional bakeries, shops and cafes. Your guide will help you navigate the city’s web of local eateries so you can sample the best snacks and sweets. The group will have the opportunity to sample several specialties, including truffle sandwiches, Tuscan salamis, focaccia, coffee, pastries and, if the season is right, gelato. Here’s your chance to learn about the history of what’s on your plate, with insights into local agricultural products, their origin, and how they differ from foods in other parts of Italy.

8. Peruse and Shop at Florence’s Markets

The San Lorenzo Market is located outside Florence’s famous Mercato Centrale. San Lorenzo has been around for hundreds of years, and today you can experience the feel of an Italian market as you peek at the merchandise and find that special souvenir to take home. Florence is famous for its leather, so if you’re looking for bags, boots, jackets, belts, or anything else, this is the place for you.

Experience upscale fashion at the Gucci Garden, formerly known as the Gucci Museum. Get a glimpse of Gucci luxury as you view fashion items from Gucci’s extensive history, and learn about how the brand evolved over time.

9. Enjoy Day Trips Outside of Florence

If you need a quick respite from the hustle and bustle of Florence, consider taking a day trip. This is a great option for those looking for things to do when studying abroad in Florence, as an easy day trip gives you the chance to experience a new city!

Whether you want to explore the Tuscan countryside, taste some Chianti wine, or visit Pisa, here are some of our favorite locations and links to our tours:

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