Florence

Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: August 2022

Florence is located in central Italy and is the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance and became a major artistic, cultural, political and economic centre in Europe. Florence is home to some of the best art and architecture in the world and contains many museums and art galleries to highlight its history.

Day 1: Climbing Towers

Us Canadians are known for being polite. So when one of my friends invited us to her wedding in Italy, we obviously couldn’t say no. So we traded in our hiking boots for running shoes and planned to spend the next two weeks exploring Italy and Spain … in the middle of summer with the heat and crowds.

We flew into Rome the day before and took a train into Florence. We woke up bright and early in an attempt to get in as much as we could before it got even hotter outside. The forecast was calling for a high of 39°C (and that’s not even with the humidity)! And so we booked tickets to climb the dome of the Florence Cathedral, which is the most iconic landmark in the city, for the first time slot available at 8:15a.m.

Getting to the top of the dome requires walking up (then down) 463 steps. There are a few opportunities to take a break along the way though, including at a walkway within the church that provides a close-up view of the frescoes painted on the interior of the dome. It also provides a nice view of the church below.

We were huffing and puffing by the time we reached the top of the dome, and whatever breath we had left was quickly lost by how amazing the views were of the city below. Once we had a chance to recover and to take some pictures from every vantage point at the top, we had to wait a bit more to climb back down since there was a steady stream of people coming up.

And just in case we weren’t fully awake and didn’t get enough of a workout, we then decided to climb Giotto’s Bell Tower, which is also part of the Florence Cathedral. There are 414 steps up to the top of the bell tower. Along the way there are a few spots to take a break to admire the bells. There are seven of them in total. While the views are very similar to what we saw at the top of the dome in the Florence Cathedral, this time we got to capture the iconic cupula in the background.

Afterwards we checked out the Baptistery of Saint John, across from the Florence Cathedral. The Baptistery has an octagonal shape and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It is famous for its three sets of bronze doors with relief sculptures along the panels, especially the east door which is known as the Gates of Paradise. The sets of doors in the Baptistery are replicas though as the originals are kept in the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

We returned to our accommodations to take a break, drink lots of water and eat an early lunch before heading back out in the city to admire more of the architecture and statues. We walked through Piazza della Signoria, a square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall in Florence. We also stopped to explore the Loggia dei Lanzi, an outdoor sculpture gallery.

While it was getting real hot and muggy, we kept going to check out the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge that contains shops built on either side of it.

We booked timed tickets in advance for the Uffizi Gallery, which contains a large collection of art from the Italian Renaissance and is reputed to be one of the best art museums in the world. This turned out to be a good decision as there was a line wrapped around the building for those that didn’t plan ahead. The museum was unsurprisingly jam-packed, but we were thankful to be out of the sun. Some of the rooms even had air conditioning.

From there we walked around the corner to the Museo Galileo, which is dedicated to Galileo Galilei, the Italian astronomer who made major contributions to the fields of astronomy, physics, mathematics and philosophy. The museum showcases a collection of scientific instruments, including globes, compasses, and telescopes, some of which once belonged to Galileo.

The last stop of our itinerary for the day was at Santa Croce. Besides being a very nice church, it is the burial place for many famous Italians, including Galileo and Michelangelo. Admission into the church also included entrance into the cloisters.

On the way back to our accommodations, we picked up pizza from a restaurant and wine from the grocery store. The pizza was just okay, but the wine (which we paid 2€ for) was amazing.

Day 2: Free Museum Day

We initially planned to spend the day in Pisa. After waiting on the train for 30 minutes, there was an announcement to indicate that we’d have to switch platforms and board a different train that would take us to Pisa. Except the train didn’t actually go to Pisa. Instead it took us to some other train station where we had to get off and then take a shuttle bus. While a shuttle bus came, it wasn’t nearly enough to accommodate even a tenth of the people waiting. The longer we waited, the bigger the crowds got and people were getting angry. There was pushing, shoving and yelling. After missing the first four buses, we decided it would probably be best for us to return to Florence.

While we wasted the better part of our morning, it turns out that the first Sunday of every month is free admission to the museums of Florence. And today was the first Sunday of the month. We made a last minute plan to try to visit as many of the free museums as we could, starting with the National Museum of Bargello, a former fortress and prison which is now an art museum. The museum contains sculptures from famous artists including Michelangelo and Donatello. It also includes ceramics, coins, jewelry, tapestries and other artifacts.

We then went to the Palazzo Pitti, the largest museum complex in Florence. The palace once served as the residence of the Medici family, a powerful dynasty that ruled Florence. It is now divided into five museums which showcase many paintings, furnishings, jewelry and artifacts from the Medici family’s private collection, among others.

Behind the palace are the Boboli Gardens, which was designed for the Medici family and became the model for royal gardens across Europe. The gardens include a variety of plants, sculptures and fountains. There are many walking paths for a choose your own adventure.

We walked back to our accommodations to take a break from the sun and heat and stopped to pick up gelato along the way. We headed back out later in the afternoon to visit the Santa Maria Novella, a nice church known for its beautiful frescoes painted on the interior. Admission into the church also included entrance into a museum and the cloisters.

We then headed to the Accademia Gallery, an art museum which is best known for showcasing Michelangelo’s David, a giant marble statue that is 5.2 metres (or 17 ft) tall. The museum also contains a few other sculptures created by Michelangelo, Florentine paintings and a collection of musical instruments. Since we were visiting close to closing, we didn’t have to wait in line very long to get into the museum.

Day 3: Views of the City

As per usual, we woke up super early to get most of our walking in first thing in the morning when the streets were quiet and it was less hot outside. We walked all the way to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is reputed to provide stunning views of the city and the Arno River. As such, this involved climbing a really big hill.

We walked back through the narrow streets towards the historic centre of Florence and visited the Opera del Duomo Museum, which is located within the Piazza del Duomo complex. The museum contains sculptures, religious relics and the original paperwork and drawings for developing the dome in the famous Florence Cathedral. It also showcases the original Gates of Paradise bronze doors that were once held in the Baptistery.

By the time we finished, the crowds had arrived and taken over. And we were so over it. Instead we hoped for better luck with the train and decided to take a day trip to Bologna.

L

92 thoughts on “Florence

      • Laura says:

        This post has my wanderlust sparked! There are so many places you visited that I would love to see (Museo Galileo for one) and your photos are just stunning. I have been to Italy but did not make it to Florence- its definitely on my list 😊💕

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Thanks for your lovely comment. We’ve actually been to Florence before, but were only here for a day, so we decided to return to more fully explore the city. The architecture is stunning. And the food … I was in heaven.

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  1. ourcrossings says:

    Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, Florence is full of incredible architecture, great food, and historic significance that will keep any visitor going for days. I would love to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore as its unique and advanced construction still shocks architects. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Florence is definitely one of my favourite cities in Italy (and all of Europe). The architecture and the art is a feast for the eyes … and all that pasta and pizza was a feast for my belly! It was super interesting to learn more about Brunelleschi’s dome in the Florence Cathedral and how it was considered one of the greatest engineering marvels at the time. It’s such an iconic structure. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Monkey's Tale says:

    Such a beautiful city. I just finished reading an historical fiction book that takes place in Florence and Naples so it was great to see these beautiful buildings I had read about. Lucky for you for the wedding!! Maggie

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Florence is very beautiful. The architecture is stunning and I just loved meandering through the narrow maze of streets. It was nice being about to walk everywhere, even in the heat. And yes, going to a wedding was a great reason to travel to Italy!! It was the best food I’ve ever had at a wedding and the venue was just gorgeous.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Italy is one of my favourite cities in Europe. We actually came here as part of our honeymoon nearly a decade ago, so it was nice to return. The architecture, art, food and wine was amazing. What more could you want!?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rose says:

    We were there a few years ago, and loved it! Thanks for bringing back so many fun memories with your beautiful photos and wonderful descriptions! The Cathedrals, the Gates of Paradise, the Art, the gelato…. 😊

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Glad to hear. Florence is such a charming city. We had a wonderful time exploring the maze of narrow streets, admiring the beautiful architecture and eating the local cuisine. And I must say, eating gelato in the middle of summer definitely hit the spot!

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  4. leightontravels says:

    Hats off to you two for managing all this in August. Temperatures were truly mental this summer across Europe. Florence is full of treasures, historic and artistic, and you seem to have managed to cross off the most important points in the city. The Cathedral is so photogenic with its colourful marble facade, I love your shots. Trust you two to climb two towers in a single morning ;). What a mess up with that train to Pisa, I guess the UK is not the worst when it comes to train schedule changes and cancellations.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how hot it was in Europe this summer. And the air conditioning is nowhere near the same as what we’re used to in North America. Most of the museums didn’t have it, and he ones that did, it wasn’t very effective. It was quite the adjustment for us. Getting an early start to the day was a great way to avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. And since we weren’t hiking, we figured climbing as many of the towers that we could was a great way to stay active … and to burn off all that pizza, pasta and gelato we were devouring. It’s too bad that our trip to Pisa didn’t work out, but we ended up visiting Bologna the next day instead, which was very lovely.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. NortheastAllie says:

    Florence looks amazing! The Florence Cathedral looks so detailed majestic. Also, the Santa Maria Novella looks gorgeous. It makes sense that the region was the birthplace to the Renaissance with all these detailed places!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The churches in Italy, are something else. The attention to detail and all the opulent decorations, carvings, paintings and sculptures are incredible. The Florence Cathedral was especially stunning, especially with the iconic dome. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

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  6. Bernie says:

    Wow! You two packed a lot into both your summer (as I know you were in western Canada) and your 3 days in Florence. That heat and the crowds — this is a good reminder for us to travel off season. But the wedding dictated your dates and so that makes it worth it. Amazing photos! And like someone else commented – of course you climbed both towers!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We certainly tried to make the most of being able to travel again! I normally like to travel in the off season too as I’m not a fan of the crowds (or the heat), but we made an exception to go to my friend’s wedding. While I wouldn’t recommend ever visiting Italy in August, we made the most of it and had a wonderful time. And yes, we managed to stay active and climb as many towers as we could so we could enjoy eating all that pasta and pizza without feeling so guilty!

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  7. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Really pleased you both made it over to Italy. So enjoyed this post as we visited Florence two years ago shortly after flights resumed to some places. We actually stayed in Pisa but took the train to Florence one day. It was extremely quiet then because few people were travelling and the museums didn’t have any queues. Of course we didn’t manage to visit as many as you both did in one day and sadly we couldn’t do any tower top tours as they remained closed being such confined spaces. You did well coping with the heat! Look forward to the rest of this series Linda.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It must have been nice to visit Italy during the middle of the pandemic when not too many people were travelling abroad. The only downside as you said were the restrictions and that some activities and attractions were closed. Everything was fully open when we visited and we hardly saw anyone wearing a mask. It was next to impossible with the heat and humidity. And I gotta say, air conditioning in Italy is not anywhere close to what we have back in Northern America! But besides the heat and crowds, we had a fabulous time exploring and eating our way through Italy.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lookoom says:

    Florence is a beautiful playground if you love architecture and art in general. It’s quite a change from your posts through the parks but you show the same determination to make the best of it. Of course I want to go back to Florence, I dream of doing so in a season where the heat and the crowds will not be an obstacle. In the meantime, thank you for your efforts, it was a fascinating read.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Florence is such a stunning city. Even though we weren’t hiking through the forest or in the mountains, we certainly got our steps in from climbing all those towers and wandering through the narrow streets. Visiting in August wasn’t ideal with the heat and crowds, but we still had a wonderful time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ab says:

    I’m so glad you are at the Italy part of your travel posts! 😊 These photos are so beautiful. I love the solid architecture and buildings that last the test of time and it must’ve been so nice to be immersed in all that history, art and culture (and food too, I bet). You and K looked like you were having a blast – and love the photo of you two – despite some of the train hiccups. And free access to museums sounds lovely. Toronto could take a cue from that!

    In the early days of the pandemic, a good friend of mine was supposed to be at Florence for a few weeks only then got stuck there for three months because of travel bans, but thankfully was able to work remotely. Not a shabby place to be marooned in, I say!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! It was pretty neat to learn about how some of the buildings were constructed, especially the dome in the Florence Cathedral. They must have had a heck of a lot of patience, but I love that there was a cohesive vision. It’s too bad that Pisa didn’t work out (and that we wasted a few hours of our morning), but it meant that we got to take advantage of free museum day. It was surprisingly not as busy as I would have expected, but it turns out that’s because everyone goes to the beach on the weekends. And yes, Toronto can take a cue from a lot of things that Europe does well!!

      Oh wow, I can’t even imagine how chaotic it was during the early days of the pandemic when restrictions were being announced left, right and centre. Florence is definitely not a bad spot to get stuck! It must have been so cool to wander through the streets without any of the tourists.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. salsaworldtraveler says:

    That was a great tour of Florence. The cathedral and Santa Maria have a unique style. At least it is one that I’m unfamiliar with. Your photos from the cathedral are magnificent, especially the frescos in the dome. Thanks for wandering to Florence and sharing the experience.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The churches in Florence certainly have their own unique style with the beautifully colored marble facade. And the interior is just as elegant. We don’t have churches like that here in Ontario! The frescoes painted in the dome depict scenes of the Last Judgement, which was pretty interesting. It was definitely worth it to climb up the top of the cupola to get a better view of the frescoes and a different perspective of the city.

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  11. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    I love Florence and have visited a number of times. Given your tight timeframe, I would say that you didn’t really miss much in Pisa. My, you two have done a lot this summer, and braving the crowds (and heat) in Florence in August takes fortitude!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We actually spent part of our honeymoon in Florence nearly a decade ago. We went in December though when it wasn’t very busy. It was nice to return for a friend’s wedding, even during the middle of the summer. I was a bit bummed that our day trip to Pisa didn’t happen (and that we wasted part of our morning), but it was nice to take advantage of free museum day, which surprisingly wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be. Glad to hear hear that we didn’t miss much. And yes, we’ve certainly been taking advantage of being able to travel again! Thankfully we had all our plane tickets booked before travel (and inflation) picked up.

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  12. thehungrytravellers.blog says:

    The panoramic photograph towards the end of this post really brings back memories. About 16/17 years ago I hiked all the way from Siena to Florence over about 6 or 7 days if I remember correctly, walking all the way through the Chianti Hills and staying in wine chateaux most nights. Sampled great wines, had great food, fabulous hiking. Spent a few days in Florence at the end. But the hike ended with exactly that view – our very first view of Florence must have come from those same gardens. Your post brings back great memories.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That sounds like a trail that I would enjoy!! What a great way to explore and experience the Tuscan countryside and enjoy the local cuisine and wine. And what a great spot to end your hike than in Florence with such a beautiful view of the city. You’re giving me ideas to return to Italy!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. wetanddustyroads says:

    Oh 39°C … that’s quite hot! But to admire that view from Florence Cathedral, I would have also drag myself up in the heat! I like medieval bridges (but must admit, this one with the shops looks a bit “out of place”). The wine in Spain we enjoyed while walking the Camino, was also great (and, oh so cheap)! Well, a day of visiting museums (for free) sounds like a good Plan B! You managed to see so much in just a couple of days!
    I must just mention: Us South Africans are also very polite … such a pity we don’t have friends in Italy 😉.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was uncomfortably hot when we visited Florence. And the air conditioning situation is definitely not as widespread or as effective as to what we have back home in Canada. But the city was beautiful. The narrow streets also provided pretty decent shade coverage. It’s amazing how affordable (and delicious) the wine is in Europe. We were only travelling with carry-on, otherwise I would have tried to take some wine home with me. While our trip to Pisa was a bust, I’m glad we got to take advantage of visiting many of the free museums.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. kagould17 says:

    Our only experience with Florence was a glancing blow of a visit in 1984 (I will soon post on this) and we did not have enough time to see much. We always meant to get back, but never did. We did spend 3 days in Pisa in 2019 and enjoyed it immensely. Thanks for sharing your trip with us Linda. Happy Friday. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s too bad that you didn’t have enough time to more fully explore Florence. It’s such a beautiful city and the architecture is stunning. We actually came here as part of our honeymoon back in 2013. Looking forward to hearing your recap from 1984!! Thanks for reading. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Linda K says:

    oh my goodness!!! you really did trade the boots for the walking shoes! Florence…and Italy in general…are on the bucket list and your photos sure add to that wanderlust. Love those views from the dome and the tower and from the lookout point back at the city. You sure packed your days with such amazing sites. It all looks so AMAZING!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we had our walking shoes with us because we certainly got our steps in! Florence is such a beautiful city and I loved just wandering through the narrow streets. The architecture is incredible and the food (and wine) delicious. I wouldn’t recommend going in August though as it was insanely hot and very very crowded!!

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  16. Bama says:

    It’s so cool that you went to Florence and climbed the dome of the famous cathedral! It seems like the views from up there certainly didn’t disappoint. Aaaand you also climbed the bell tower! You both are just amazing. If I visit Florence, I think museum hopping will be that one thing I will be doing the most. Your photos look brilliant with clear blue skies, although I can imagine how hot it must have been amid the heatwave.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It was well worth the effort to climb to the top of the dome in the Florence Cathedral and then the bell tower afterwards. I’m glad we went first thing in the morning when it wasn’t too hot or very busy. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if we had waited until later!! The air conditioning in Italy is definitely not to the same scale as what we have back home in Canada!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. travelling_han says:

    It’s so beautiful, you really did so well doing it in August in the heat and the crowds. I’m sorry about your Pisa train experience, that is so common in Italy (and across Europe excl. Germany & Switzerland) – I’m forever on rail replacement buses around England. Your photos are all stunning and make me want to visit Florence one day. Looking forward to more posts from your Euro-visit 🙂

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It helped that Florence is pretty compact and that our accommodations were in a central location so we could take multiple breaks in the day to drink lots water and escape the heat. But oh wow, was it hot!! Besides our trip to Pisa that never was, we thankfully had no other issues with the train while travelling in Italy. Delays and dealing with shuttle buses are never fun, especially when it eats into your vacation.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s one of my favourite pieces of art and is definitely worth visiting the Uffizi to see it in person. Florence is an incredibly photogenic city and I just loved how walkable it is. Hopefully you’re able to visit someday. You’ll love it there.

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      • jmankowsky says:

        Well, I bet all your Canadian trips helped toughen you up for Florence. What’s a bit of heat after all the stuff you go through camping? And were there any bugs? 😉

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. While we weren’t hiking up mountains in Italy, we were climbing up towers. Thankfully we had no issues with the bugs, just the crowds and long lines! So you’re right, even though it was hot, it could have been worse!!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! This was our first trip outside of North America since the start of the pandemic. As much as I love the outdoors, it was nice to get a change of scenery and explore some of the cities and towns in Tuscany. Plus the food and wine was just amazing. Mmm.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. rkrontheroad says:

    I’ve been to Florence a few times (when I lived in Europe) and it’s a favorite place. The museums, the museums (and the food!)! I’m not needing to get to the top of things these days, but I did go up that hill for the view across the river.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We came to Florence nearly a decade ago as part of our honeymoon, but were only here for like a day. It was nice to return to explore it more fully, even if was stinking hot outside! I’m glad we got to take advantage of free museum day and visit some of the museums that weren’t even on our radar. And agreed, the food was amaaaazing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. This was our first trip outside of North America since the start of the pandemic. It felt great to get a change of scenery, especially in a place like Italy that has so much history. The food is also amaaaaazing!

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