Article by: Luigi Sorreca, Free Tour Florence - Another Florence
The historic centre of Florence is full of beauties that are concentrated in a very small area. If you are in the centre of Florence, you can reach them in a few minutes, from wherever you are. This is why we suggest you join our free tour at 10.30 in the morning, as soon as you arrive in Florence. In just two and a half hours, you can visit the most important places and then dedicate the rest of your stay in Florence to return to the ones you liked the most.
Another way to admire Florence is from above, which is a truly unique experience.
There are many points from where you can admire the unique panorama of Florence. Some are in the city (for a fee), others reachable by bus and even on foot (but not for everyone!).
Here is a list of places from which to enjoy the most incredible views. You cannot leave Florence without having enjoyed at least one of these!
In the complex of the Duomo of Florence, a few meters from each other, there are two points where you can go up to admire the city from above Brunelleschi's Dome and Giotto's bell tower.
Unfortunately, it is not for everyone, in fact we don’t recommend to climb to the top of the Brunelleschi's Dome and Giotto's bell tower, to people suffering from heart, dizziness and claustrophobia. Furthermore, it is not possible to go up independently but only with an authorized guide, upon reservation. (Our guides can offer you this service).
Compared to the ascent to the Dome, the ascent to Giotto's bell tower is easier; the passages are larger, less claustrophobic and less crowded. In addition, there are several internal terraces where it is possible to stop and rest. However, we recommend the ascent to Brunelleschi's Dome
The main reason is that while you climb the 463 steps of the Brunelleschi's Dome, you have the opportunity to admire the interior of the Dome, decorated by the magnificent cycle of frescoes depicting the Last Judgment, created by Giorgio Vasari in 1572. Being able to touch them so close they are.
Filippo Brunelleschi built the Dome between 1420 and 1434. He presented a very innovative and revolutionary project. Brunelleschi's innovation was to create the dome without reinforcements, thanks to the use of a double vault with a cavity, the interior of which over two meters thick had a structural function, being self-supporting and the external one only as a covering.
The lantern with a cone cover and the golden copper ball with the cross containing sacred relics are the work of Andrea Del Verrocchio and were placed in 1466.
Giotto's Bell Tower is one of the best-known monuments in Florence and the most eloquent testimony of the Florentine Gothic architecture of the fourteenth century, which despite its vertical thrust does not abandon the principle of solidity.
Covered with white, red and green marbles like those that adorn the Cathedral, the majestic bell tower with a square base, considered the most beautiful in Italy.
Giotto began construction of the bell tower in 1334. After his death in 1337, many artists worked on the project. Francesco Talenti completed the bell tower in 1359. Talenti had the intuition to insert the windows and this made the bell tower elegantly Gothic while maintaining the classic layout of the whole.
Beautiful hills surround Florence; they are located a few kilometres from the city centre and are easily reachable both by car and by bus from the central station of Santa Maria Novella.
Fiesole is an open-air museum. It houses a large archaeological area where you can admire both Etruscan and Roman remains. In particular, the ancient walls that date back to the third century BC. C., the Roman Theatre, from the imperial age and the large thermal complex.
Due to its suggestive position, in the past, Fiesole was the favourite destination for the wealthiest citizens who moved to this location for the summer holidays, in particular we remember above all the Medici family, but also Boccaccio and Proust.
The most important historical buildings are concentrated in the central square of the city, such as the Cathedral of San Romolo. Near the Cathedral, a small road leads to the Church of Sant'Alessandro, an early Christian basilica with three naves. Another important monument is the Church of Santa Maria Primerana.
Also worth visiting is the Archaeological Museum, which collects the material coming from the excavations, and the Bandini Museum, where some beautiful Florentine paintings of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and some works of art in terracotta signed by Della Robbia are collected.
From the square of Fiesole, you can climb up to the top of the hill where you reach the Monastery of San Francesco. The climb is quite steep, but when you get to the top, you can have an enchanting view over the city of Florence.
Settignano is one of the most fascinating and least frequented hills near Florence. Gabriele D'Annunzio chasing Eleonora Duse moved here, to Villa La Capponcina; Mark Twain, bewitched by the view, chose the panoramic Villa Viviani.
For a magnificent view of Florence, we recommend the Terrazza di Settignano, under the main square framed by cypresses. On weekdays, you can visit the wonderful gardens of Villa Gamberaia and by appointment only, the beautiful Villa I Tatti.
The Careggi hill was the favourite destination of the most illustrious Florentine families as early as the fifteenth century, attracted by the presence of the majestic Villa of Lorenzo the Magnificent, where the masterpieces of Spring and the Birth of Venus by Botticelli were originally located, now in the Uffizi Museum.
Alongside many beautiful villas with a glorious past such as Villa Incontri, Villa Corsini a Castello, Villa Le Fontanelle, you can wander with the view of the scenery of olive trees and cultivated fields and walk along country lanes immersed in the trees, peering over the wonderful gardens of the ancient country residences.
Another place that offers an unmissable view of Florence is the Bardini Terrace, inside the Bardini Garden.
The Bardini Garden is a historic garden in Florence on the slopes of Piazzale Michelangelo and is easily reachable on foot from the centre of Florence. Since the middle ages, it has belonged to rich families who have succeeded one another and has transformed over the centuries into a splendid Italian garden.
The Bardini Garden, in fact, integrates three gardens that differ in age and style:
• The Italian garden, with the magnificent Baroque staircase.
• The English wood which, with its exotic elements, represents a rare example of an Anglo-Chinese garden.
• The agricultural park with its splendid wisteria pergola and orchard.
The Bardini Garden, after being abandoned for many years, was completely renovated and reopened to the public in 2006, once again becoming a place of art and culture that can be enjoyed and available to the city and visitors.
Inside the garden, there is also Villa Bardini, which today is an exhibition centre that hosts temporary exhibitions, the Capucci Museum and the Annigoni Museum. There is the Bardini contemporary space always open with free admission, which offers exhibitions of contemporary art and visual art in combination with the Bardini Terrace.
Forte Belvedere is located at the top of the Boboli hill, behind Palazzo Pitti, overlooking the Arno river and Ponte Vecchio, offering a privileged view: a 360 ° view of the city, but above all of the ring of hills surrounding Florence.
Buontalenti built it at the end of the sixteenth century on the orders of the Medici, who returned to Florence after a period of exile as a refuge from any riots and a hiding place for the immense family treasure.
Emblem of Medici power, however it has never undergone a siege and the cannon fire of the Fort announced for centuries only noon, so much so that the Florentines kindly called that noise "the cannon of pasta". Today the outdoor and indoor spaces host contemporary art exhibitions in the summer with names of great international appeal.
The terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo overlooks the most beautiful panorama of Florence. The Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi together with the sumptuous neoclassical balustrade restored a few years ago designed it at the time of Florence Capital. A copy of Michelangelo’s David dominates the square.
From here, a steep climb through the cypresses leads to the marvellous Basilica of San Miniato, the oldest church in Florence. This area, together with the Ramps, will soon be included in the so-called UNESCO area of the historic centre of Florence.
Our Early morning free tour at 7.30am, (available only in spring and summer) arrives right here. You will admire Florence from above, you will take beautiful photos, when Florence is still asleep and visitors have not yet filled the streets of the centre. A unique experience; a healthy walk of about two hours (reserved for those who do not have major health difficulties!) that will leave you with an image of Florence that you will never forget.
Thank you for reading the article. For more travel tips from our local guides around the world check the entire blog section of our website! Have you read our article about the history of ice cream in Florence or the beautiful houses where the Medici lived in Florence?