Thursday, 28 June 2012 6:08 AM
If you are planning to discover Tuscany on an Italian walking break, Florence should definitely be on your itinerary. The city is renowned for its art, culture, architecture and fine food, making it the perfect place to spend a day or two of your holiday.
There are so many attractions to visit in this beautiful Renaissance destination, you may have difficulty deciding where to start, so here are a few of the highlights you shouldn't miss when exploring Florence.
Piazza del Duomo
An excellent place to begin a tour of the city is the Piazza del Duomo, one of Florence's most famous and important squares. The Cathedral of Santa Maria el Fiore stands on one side of the square and is easily recognisable thanks to its dome, which was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The place of worship dates back to the 13th century and it is well worth heading inside and climbing up to the cupola to get a closer view of the frescoes that adorn it.
On the other side of the piazza is the Baptistery of St John, which is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture. The building is famous for its large bronze doors, which were created by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano. Another of Florence's architectural styles can be observed in Giotto's bell tower next to the cathedral, which is of Gothic design.
For your first taste of the stunning art that is associated with the city, pay a visit to the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, a museum that sits behind the cathedral. Inside, you'll discover a selection of pieces that were once housed in the Duomo, baptistery or bell tower.
Undoubtedly one of Florence's most famous galleries is the Uffizi, and it would be a shame not to view its collections of masterpieces while visiting the city. Among the Italian artists whose works are on permanent display in the venue are Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli and Caravaggio, while pieces by the likes of Rubens, Rembrandt and Durer can also be seen on a trip here.
One of the Uffizi's most fascinating exhibitions can be viewed in the Vasarian Corridor, where you will find more than 1,000 self portraits by some of the most famous artists in the world, including Rembrandt, Zoffany and Lippi.
The Palazzo Strozzi was commissioned in the 15th century by Filippo Strozzi, a merchant in the city. It took almost 40 years for this elaborate Renaissance structure to be completed, but it is a real sight to behold. It remained in the Strozzi family until 1937 and for more than a decade has been used as a temporary exhibition space, hosting a selection of highly popular art collections over the years. It is worth checking what is being shown during your visit to Florence, as you may have the opportunity to see some real gems if you're lucky. Works by the likes of Botticelli, Cezanne and Leon Battista Alberti are among the pieces that have been displayed here.
The Ponte Vecchio - or old bridge - is one of the most iconic sights in Florence. It was the only river crossing in the city that survived the second world war and has an illustrious history dating back to the time of the Romans. In the 13th century, the first stores appeared on the bridge and in the 16th century, Ferdinand I decided only goldsmiths should be allowed to trade in the area. Even if you don't have the money to splash out on some expensive jewellery, you should stroll across the Ponte Vecchio and admire the views of the city along the River Arno.