GMT +1 hour
Discover this beautiful and historic city
Florence is nestled in the heart of the beautiful Tuscan countryside on the banks of River Arno. A treasure trove of fabulous sights, this vibrant city is loved for its unique blend of art and Renaissance architecture. Stroll along cobbled alleys and bustling piazzas. Just a train-ride away is historic Pisa, home to the iconic Leaning Tower and other attractions including the 12th-century Duomo and Campo dei Miracoli with its stunning Romanesque buildings.
Best time to visit
It is always a good time to visit the historic cities of Italy. Spring and summer are perfect for dining al fresco, relaxing on sandy beaches, strolling leisurely around the many bustling piazzas and beautiful gardens, whilst autumn and winter are ideal for enjoying the quieter season, winter festivals, shopping in exclusive boutiques and snuggling in romantic hotels.
For all of Florence's major sights and attractions head to the city’s charming historic centre which spans both the north and south banks of the Arno River that winds its way from the Apennine Mountain range, through the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. The majority of sights sit between the Piazza del Duomo and south of the Arno. On the Arno’s south bank you will find beautiful gardens and spots where you can enjoy fabulous views of the city. The renowned Uffizi Gallery boasts an almost unrivalled collection of Renaissance sculptures and paintings created by great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Francesca and Botticelli. The city's galleries are hugely popular so it is well worth booking tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
To view Michelangelo’s exquisite masterpiece ‘David’, his four unfinished Prisoners and the St Matthew, head to the Accademia Gallery which is located north of the Cathedral Square, close to the University of Florence. Visit the city’s iconic cathedral, or Duomo, and admire Brunelleschi’s impressive dome which dominates the skyline.
See the intricate frescoes of San Lorenzo and visit the Basilica di Santa Croce, the final resting place of illustrious Italians including Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Cross the famous 14th-Century Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is renowned for its glittering jewellery shops that hang precariously over the edge, to the grand Pitti Palace where you can wander through the elegant 16th-Century Boboli Gardens and admire stunning works of art by renowned artists such as Raphael, Titian and Rubens at the Palatina Gallery.
Wander down to the Piazza della Repubblica, one of the city's main squares, and find a prime people-watching spot at one of the cafés, bars or restaurants. In the evening the square is lit up with twinkling lights and is the ideal location to enjoy a cocktail and live music while soaking up the lively atmosphere.
Don’t miss the beautiful walk to the Piazza Michelangelo at sunset for sensational panoramic views of the river and Florence’s striking red rooftops as the last of the day’s rays drench the city in an enchanting golden glow.
From fine Tuscan cuisine to great value cafés, there are plenty of options for dining in Florence. Most tourist restaurants are situated around San Lorenzo while some of the finest venues are located close to Santa Croce. Numerous street vendors sell delicious gelato throughout the city – the prefect treat during a busy day of sightseeing.
Shopping in Florence ranges from luxury designer stores and classic high street names to local markets where you can pick up souvenirs, leather goods, jewellery and antiques. The renowned San Lorenzo Market has a simliar feel to London's Covent Garden and features an indoor food market and an outdoor market with stalls selling clothes and sourvenirs.
Pisa is a historical and charming city in rural Tuscany, renowned for the wonderful freestanding bell tower known famously as The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Although the structure wasn’t designed to lean, the Bell Tower, or Campanile, was created as a work of art for those visiting the 14th-Century naval port, and remains Pisa’s most popular attraction. Also set in the Piazza dei Muracoli is the Romanesque Cathedral and Baptistery that, together with the leaning tower, form a grand trio of architecture and sculpture.
Just an hour's drive from Florence and 20 minutes from Pisa lies the beautiful medieval city of Lucca, known as the 'Town of 100 Churches'. This charming city is set within 16th-Century walls is one of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets. With a labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares, it is very compact and easy to explore by foot or bicycle. There are a number of galleries and museums to discover including the former home of Puccini which is now a museum dedicated to the city's most famous citizen. The striking 14th-Centiury Torre Guinigi offers sensational views over the city’s red roofs to the hills beyond whilst the spectacular 17th-Century Palazzo Pfanner is a wonderful example of the Lucchese Baroque style, and its gardens offer an enchanting collection of lawns, fragrant lemon trees, ornamental pools and elegant statues.
International flights operate into and out of Pisa’s Galileo Galilei airport which is located an hour’s drive from Florence. Domestic and European flights operate from Florence’s small Amerigo Vespucci airport, also known as Peretola, which is located just 20 minutes from the city centre and is also within reach of many of Tuscany’s hill towns such as Siena which is an hour’s drive away. Florence’s main railway station Stazione di Santa Maria Novella is located in the city centre in Piazza della Stazione, just 15 minutes’ walk from Piazza della Signoria. It offers direct services to major cities including Rome, Naples, Venice, Bologna and Milan.
Due to its size and many pedestrianised streets, the centre of Florence is compact and easy to get around on foot. The majority of the city’s sights can be found within a 20-minute walk of each other but be sure to wear appropriate footwear as many of the city’s charming roads are cobbled. A small number of buses run an efficient service throughout the city and open-top tour buses travel between the major attractions. Taxis can be found at a number of ranks around the city but they cannot usually be flagged down. Women travelling alone late at night (9pm–2am) are entitled to request a 10% discount.