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Florence in Italy is not only the capital of Tuscany, it is also widely regarded as the world’s greatest art cities. If you’re looking for loads of Florence things to do, you won’t be disappointed. From the terracotta-tiled dome of the famous Florence cathedral Duomo-Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore to Michelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture located at the Galleria dell’Accademia and the masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery, there is plenty to see. With no shortage of unique things to experience in Florence, you should plan around three days here, although art buffs could easily stay much longer. Here are some tips for visiting Florence so you get the most out of your trip.

1. Free Florence tour

Florence is now part of the Global Greeter Network which offers free tours by enthusiastic locals keen to show off their city. Book your Florence Greeter Tour online before you go and you will receive confirmation of your tour, although this may happen only be a few days beforehand depending on the availability of the volunteers. With these tours you get a very personal experience which can range from a classic city tour to hunting down the best gelato or discovering quirky hidden spots only the locals know about. It is best to do this tour on the day you arrive as the guides have plenty of helpful advice on everything from dining to public transport tips.

2. Get the big picture from Piazzale Michelangelo

This park overlooking the city offers a picture postcard view of Florence. This is also yet another copy of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ which can make for some excellent photos if the weather is good. From the lookout you have the city laid out before you, giving a fantastic perspective of Florence with helpful signage pointing out the main sights. Getting to the Piazzale Michelangelo requires a long walk or a short bus trip from central Florence on either the number 12 or 13 bus.

Piazzale Michelangelo
View from Piazzale Michelangelo

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3. Climb high above Florence

Florence has some unique architecture with perhaps the best known buildings being the Duomo-Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore and Giotto’s bell tower, both of which you can climb. The view from the top of these buildings is superb, however, this recommendation comes with word of warning. If you are claustrophobic or unfit this might not be such an enjoyable activity as there are lots of stairs in tight confines with little or no ventilation. For those who want to give it a try, you have to pay a fee to do the climb. The best value option is the all-in-one ticket which is valid for 48 hours and includes access to the cathedral and tower plus the museum and crypt.

Duomo Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore
Climb the stairs to the top

4. People watching at Piazza della Signoria

Take a seat at Piazza della Signoria, one of the best spots in town for people watching and sculpture appreciation. You don’t need to pay an entry fee to enjoy the art works here which is an added bonus as all those museum and art gallery entry fees quickly add up. And, yes, there is yet another statue of David, but it is the Medusas which are more likely to catch your eye. In the centre of the square you will see a statue honouring the monk Savonarola who was burnt at the stake on this spot in 1498.

View the sculptures at Piazza della Signoria

5. See the best art in Florence

Florence is widely regarded as the art capital of Italy with myriad galleries to choose from. However, the Uffizi Gallery is in a class of its own, filled with standout masterpieces from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo. It can be worth booking a tour as this means you not only skip the queue (which can take hours to get through) but also get to hear the stories behind the paintings and learn more about the famous Medici family who once lived here.

Florence Uffizi Gallery
Uffizi Gallery

Want to know more about visiting Italy? Read our tips for visiting Rome and discover some great things to do in Rome including some of Rome’s hidden sights, or detailed write-ups on where to find the best view of Rome, how to tour Rome on a Vespa or in a vintage Fiat 500, visiting the Sistine Chapel after hours, exploring Lake Como, touring Venice’s underground food scene, staying in tiny Pitigliano or Sorano in Tuscany, 10 things to do in Assisi, visiting the Colosseum, touring the Vatican, a foodie walking tour in Trastevere, exploring Florence on a free tour, staying at a luxury Tuscany spa hotel like Terme di Saturnia Resort or Fonteverde Tuscan Resort and Spa plus tips on how to spa like a local in Tuscany, and a foodie walking tour in the heart of Rome.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.