3 Things You Need to Try in Florence

Alexandra Higaki is a student at the College of Charleston and an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

I never ran out of things to do in Florence. I never even thought I might possibly, in the distant future, be slightly bored. Firenze is positively bursting with museums, churches, piazze, and ristoranti; if you have limited time, what must you do?

  1. Watch the sunset from the Ponte Vecchio.
View from the Ponte Vecchio on my first night in Florence.

The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence, and it served as one of my two points of reference for everything in the city. Jewelry stores dripping with gold line the sides; my first day in the city, I didn’t even realize I was walking over a bridge! When the crowds of people clear out, there is a space in the middle where you can see the Arno River. One of my favorite evening activities was to grab some gelato and head to the Ponte Vecchio for live music and the sunset. Leaning against the bridge’s sunbaked walls, listening to an Italian rendition of Édith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien,” and watching the brilliant sun sink below the horizon, I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful.

  1. Catch your breath at the Giardino delle Rose, then continue hiking to the Piazzale Michelangelo.
From this vantage point, a few of the many types of roses in the Giardino delle Rose are visible. On the right side, the Duomo peaks out from behind the trees.

There are several ways to arrive at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a place from which you can see all of Florence. You could ride a taxi or slowly zigzag your way to the top, but my favorite method was to take the stairs. It is a hike, but you get to walk in the shade and stop by the Giardino delle Rose. The Rose Garden is home to over 350 types of roses, eleven sculptures by Jean-Michel Folon, and one Japanese garden that was given by the city of Kyoto to Florence as a sign of friendship. After you’ve finished exploring the garden, keep hiking to the Piazzale Michelangelo where you’ll have an even better view of those famous Tuscan terracotta rooftops.

  1. Climb the 463 stairs to reach the top of the Duomo.
View from the Duomo. The large structure on the right is Giotto’s Bell Tower.

Ah, the Duomo. My second point of reference for everything in Florence. The Duomo, or dome, rests atop the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and it is the most recognizable architectural landmark of Florence. It took nearly 150 years for the church to be completed and the dome itself was engineered by Renaissance master Filippo Brunelleschi. At the top you can walk the circumference of the dome and see the city from every angle. It may be a long way up, but the view is worth the climb. Also, there are a couple areas to rest along the way. One allows you to see the stained glass windows of the dome and its frescoed interior; it’ll leave you wondering how on earth people painted such masterpieces so large and so high off the ground.

It would take years to examine and experience even a small portion of all Florence has to offer, but these three things are good places to start. I know I’ll be back soon to continue exploring.

The world awaits…discover it.

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