Florence (Firenze) is brimming with art and culture, history and architecture. If you’ve only a short time here, plan accordingly to get the most out of your visit to this lovely Italian city. And make sure it’s not a Monday: most museums are closed, as is San Lorenzo Market.

Start your day at Piazza Del Duomo. Beat the crowds and head there early morning to capture perfect, tourist-free pictures of the Cathedral complex and the surrounding square. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1296 – its dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed in the world – and the exterior of the basilica is faced in marble of pink, white and green. Also within this UNESCO World Heritage complex is Giotto’s Campinele (bell tower) and the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St John), one of the oldest buildings in Florence, built between 1059-1128 and of the Florentine Romanesque style.  florence

Stop off for at La Loggia for an outstanding breakfast menu. At the end of a well-travelled street that begins near the Duomo and ends at Piazza Salvemini, this lovely cafe offers delicious pastries, excellent coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. It’s a favourite with locals too, so getting here early in the day may see you in with a chance to grab one of the few tables in the outside seating area.

Next stop must be The Accademia Gallery on Via Ricasoli, where you’ll see the beautiful David, Michelangelo’s most famous structure. Extend your visit here at least long enough to see other famous sculptures by the young artist, the Prisoners, and St Matthew. If you really want to see the most famous works here, book a guided tour in advance and beat the queues to see some of Florence’s most beautiful art and statues.florence

Exit back onto Via Ricasoli and it’s only a short walk to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, where you’ll find the outdoor street market. If you’re planning to buy from the stores, you might be able to bargain on scarves, jewellery and leather goods, but not many of the stalls will take cards, so cash is king. There are plenty of food vendors in the indoor market, so grab a bite here, to sustain you as you walk to your next location.

The hottest part of the day in Florence is best spent inside. If art’s your thing, you’ll enjoy the  cool interior of the Uffizi Gallery, Florence’s most famous house of art. Alternatively walk along the covered walkway that leads from the Uffizi courtyard to the Ponte Vecchio and window-shop in the jewellery stores that line the “Old Bridge”.

For lunch, try the ultimate Italian fast food from one of the best pizzerias in Florence, Mangia Pizza Firenze on Via Lambertesca, serving wood-fired pizza, simple and fresh ingredients, made to order. Service is friendly but this tiny pizzeria is often busy, so be prepared to queue – it’s worth it.

Stroll back towards Piazza Del Duomo, and spend the cooler part of the day exploring the interior of the complex. You aren’t able to take cameras into the Cathedral, so if you plan to climb the 400 steps to its dome to obtain pictures of the view, it would be better to chose the 400-step climb up the campinele tower instead.florence

Refresh yourself with a gelato at Vivoli, on Via dell’Isola Stinche. It’s the oldest ice cream parlour in Florence and when it started in 1929, ice and snow was brought to the gelateria from mountains in the north. There’s ample seating and the menu includes ice creams with flavours that explode on your tongue, and the affogato (the great coffee cream) which combines the sweet and cold of ice cream with the bitter and hot from coffee.

As the sun begins to fade, find yourself a vantage point from which to enjoy the colours of the sky against the terracotta roofs of the city. Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the best, with good reason. It’s a long walk, or you may prefer to conserve your energy and take a bus, but the panoramic vistas are incomparable.

If traditional food appeals for your evening meal, then the family-run, dark wood-panelled Del Fagioli is an excellent choice, with its menu of Florentine classics. White-washed walls, robust red wines and tangy olive oil will delight every sense as you enjoy simple but delicious dishes. It’s where locals come to eat pasta – recommendations don’t come any better.

1865 Residenza d’Epocha is a serene and elegant refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city offering urban bed and breakfast to its guests. The residence, which is run by an opera singer and her husband, is boutique and has just five rooms. It’s as romantic and enchanting as Florence itself.

Head to Florence, but maybe not on a Monday.

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