A trip to Florence, the world capital of the Renaissance, can be an intense experience especially if it is the first time. When Stendhal visited the city in 1817, he was overwhelmed with emotion. To make the most of your visit and to avoid succumbing to the Stendhal syndrome, you will find 6 useful tips for a first trip to Florence.
1. Dust off your knowledge of history
Florence has a rich and fascinating history, which dates back to Roman times. It was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 B.C. as a settlement for his soldiers. In the Middle Ages it became a thriving city and in the fifteenth century it expanded to such an extent that it was one of the largest cities in Europe. It was governed for more than three centuries by the Medici family. It was influenced by powerful personalities such as Machiavelli and Savonarola and frequented by scientists and artists such as Galileo and Michelangelo. Their work had such a strong impact on the city that it is still visible today. For a better understanding of the city, I highly recommend reading a little bit of history. "The stones of Florence" by Mary MacCarthy is a good introduction to the art, history and culture of this extraordinary city. "The dome of Brunelleschi" by Ross King is, instead, a good book that tells the fascinating story of the construction of the Duomo.
2. Book tickets to the museums in advance.
If you want to visit the main attractions such as the Uffizi Museum and avoid long queues, I recommend booking tickets online and in advance. Especially if you go to Florence on the first Sunday of the month, when museums and galleries are not paid. Plan your visits well as some museums and galleries may be closed during the week. On the website www.firenzemusei.it you will find all the useful tips.
3. Try the local dishes
There is nothing better than Italian cuisine. Each city and region has its own local specialties. For meat lovers there is the classic Florentine steak. There are popular street snacks such as sandwiches with tripe or lampredotto (cow's stomach). The menus of the trattorias tend to be mainly meat based, but no fear for vegetarians that you can taste a ribollita (vegetable soup with black cabbage and cannellini), a pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup with bread), a panzanella (salad of bread and vegetables) or a cecina (chickpea flour). All this should absolutely be enjoyed with a glass of Chianti!
4. Do not fill your suitcase too much
For art lovers and artisanal shopping, Florence is truly a paradise. Look for leather goods at the San Lorenzo market, jewelry on Ponte Vecchio and design objects in Via de 'Tornabuoni is a must for those who go even one day in the city. Quality gifts can be purchased in the beautiful Papyrus shop, while the Pharmaceutical Perfume Shop of Santa Maria Novella sells unique essences based on ancient recipes developed by Dominican friars. Shops and antique markets are not lacking, especially in Via Maggio, famous for being the street of antique dealers.
4. Admire the city view
Firenze offers beautiful views. To admire a spectacular view of the city you can climb the bell tower of the Duomo or go up the hill, just outside the city, which leads to Piazzale Michelangelo. Get ready for the visual senses, because the breathtaking view is something extraordinary. In order not to miss anything, you can take a short trip to Fiesole, a hill town a few kilometers from the city.
5. A visit to lesser-known galleries and museums.
Although you do not want to miss the famous works of the Uffizi and the Accademia Gallery, Florence has some excellent, lesser-known museums that should not be underestimated. The Bargello Museum, housed in an impressive 13th-century building, has a fantastic collection of Renaissance sculptures, among which the masterpieces of Donatello, Michelangelo, Verrocchio, Cellini and Luca della Robbia stand out. The Monastery of San Marco contains paintings by the monk and artist Beato Angelico. The delightfully decorated cells are also splendid. After a full immersion of sacred art, a visit to the Museum of Natural History of La Specola is just the right thing to do.