“I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty… I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations… Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves.’ Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.” Stendhal describing his reaction to visiting the Santa Croce Church, thus providing the basis for the Stendhal Syndrome
No city in the world has a more dense concentration of art than Firenze (Florence). In the small, historic center of Florence, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Masaccio, Ghiberti, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Gentilleschi forever shifted the world conception of art. One warning for travelers—unlike Paris, that contains most major works in the massive Louvre and Orsay, Florence has several smaller institutions that sometimes contain only one masterpiece. This makes museum visiting more expensive, but also more authentic as the works are often in their original location.
CABEZA 13 BEST THINGS TO DO IN FLORENCE
1. Il Duomo di Firenze
This isn’t just any dome—it is the dome. As the largest dome since antiquity, Brunelleschi’s masterpiece announced to Europe that Florence was a city not to be ignored. Cabeza Tip: Climb to the top Giotto’s Bell Tower to get a better view of Brunelleschi’s masterpiece. Read more about it here.
2. Battistero di San Giovanni and Gates of Paradise
Ever dreamed of going to paradise? Well, according to Michelangelo, the gates can be found right at the Florence Baptistery. Ghiberti’s masterpiece marked a turning point for art—never had such depth been seen in a relief sculpture, and no such humanity had been contained in an inanimate object since the Classical era. Bonus: a little known writer by the name of Dante Alighieri was baptized here, no big deal right? Read more…
3. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
A must. Remember those Gates of Paradise we were talking about? Well, the originals are here, as well as Brunelleschi’s tools and one of Michelangelo’s last sculptures, The Deposition. Read more…
4. Palazzo del Bargello
After seeing so much art you’re probably ready to critique it. At the Bargello you can be the judge of Brunelleschi versus Ghiberti. Their competition designs for the Baptistery doors hang side-by-side, forever dueling. In the same room you’ll find Donatello’s bronze David.
5. Basilica di Santa Croce
Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, just to name a few. Pay your respects to some of the greats at the resting place of many of Italy’s most important figures. Bonus: a chapel designed by the famous Brunelleschi.
6. Galleria degli Uffizi
Get ready to see some incredible art. The Florentine Renaissance completely transformed how we think of ourselves and the world around us. Humanism—this is where you’ll find it. Cabeza Tip: The Botticelli room is one of the finest of any museum in the world.
7. Galleria dell’Accademia
The David is here. ‘Nuff said. Read more about all things David here.
8. Boboli Gardens
Need to rest your mind after so much art and history? Then visit the vast and beautiful Boboli Gardens. Its fountains, sculptures, and grottoes offer an escape for those seeking one.
9. Medici Chapel
The resting place of the famous Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici. The impressive chapel was entirely designed by Michelangelo, including the sculptures and the architectural space. Bonus: you can actually find some of Michelangelo’s sketches on the walls of the mausoleum.
10. Palazzo Vecchio
The civic center of Florence, with its murderous history and early signs of decadence. Cabeza Tip: Make sure to find Dante’s death mask while you’re there.
11. Capella dei Brancacci
Masaccio’s masterpiece is a must for art lovers. Masaccio provides the perfect example of the birth of humanism, as we transition from the symbolism of the Middle Ages to the humanism of the Renaissance
12. Palazzo Pitti
Explore the former Medici palace, with a spectacular art collection, a fashion museum, and the death mask of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
13. Piazzale Michelangelo
The views alone are worth the trek. Unwind from a day of history and make your way to Piazzale Michelangelo to witness some of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see.
AUTHOR(S) AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly, Corey Ryan, and Stephanie Sepulveda 27 January 2016
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