Florence, a city at the heart of Tuscany, a place where the words magnificent, awesome and breathtaking only scratch the surface. Florence was the home of the Medicis and the birthplace of the Renaissance. Both have left a stunning heritage.
The city is full of beauties, but if you don't have much time, how can you spend the perfect three-day weekend in Florence? We have a few ideas.
With a lot to pack in grab your camera and head out to explore. Beat the crowds and get to the Piazza del Duomo early. Both geographically and culturally the Piazza is the heart of Florence and a real feast for the eyes with its historical and architectural sights.
Head into the cool sanctuary offered by the interior of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore or more simply, the Duomo. With its iconic dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the cathedral has become the city's symbol. Climbing to the top of the dome not only provides some rigorous exercise but gives you both a real perspective on the city below and the perfect photo opportunity. On a clear day, you can see for miles across the Tuscan countryside!
Next to the cathedral is the Campanile conceived by Giotto. Completed in 1387 its Gothic outline uses marble and extravagant sculptural displays. If you want a snap of the Duomo's dome this is the place to take it from before heading back to street level for a refreshing coffee break in the Piazza.
Indulge in some people-watching and make like a local by dipping delicious Cantucci almond biscuits into your coffee. Traditionally made to provide non-perishable sustenance for the Roman legions these delicious treats are still popular today. They travel well so take some home as a souvenir.
Once refreshed head to the octagonal Baptistery, the oldest of the city's buildings. Its ornate Romanesque exterior and bronze doors known as the Gates of Paradise are matched only by the sheer opulence of the Baptistery's ceiling.
Leave the Piazza del Duomo and head towards the River Arno stopping off at a cafe to enjoy a typical Tuscan lunch of Panzanella. This popular salad is based on bread and tomatoes flavored with basil and seasonal ingredients and delivers a real taste of Summer.
Start the afternoon in the Church of Orsanmichele. Originally built in the 14th-century as a grain market before being converted to a place of worship, its gloomy interior reveals intriguing glimpses of ancient frescoes among the Renaissance statues.
The Loggia del Mercato Nuovo has been a market for luxury goods for over five centuries and is still a good place to treat yourself to some of the leather goods that Florence is so famous for. While in the Loggia look out for the Fountain of the Piglet. Rubbing its snout is sure to bring you luck!
While many would say Florence is one big open-air museum, the Loggia dei Lanzi really is! Found in the Piazza della Signoria its wide arches contain Renaissance sculptures. One of the most impressive is the 16th-century Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
The Piazza della Signoria is where you can catch your first glimpse of Michelangelo's David but the sculpture you now see standing in front of the Palazzo della Signoria is a reproduction. The original was removed to the Accademia to ensure its preservation. Step into the Palazzo Vecchio for a time trip back through history with its archaeological remains from Ancient Rome, gilded medieval rooms, and chambers full of amazing Renaissance treasures and paintings.
As the sun sets on your first day in Florence, enjoy the ancient Ponte Vecchio. This colorful bridge lined with jewelry workshops and stores offers plenty of photo-opportunities.
The Accademia Gallery lies on the more tranquil Northside of the city. Enter the Hall of Colossus which showcases the plaster model for the Rape of the Sabine Women before searching out the original of Michelangelo's most famous sculpture, David.
Now cross the river to the Piazza San Lorenzo and refresh yourself with a delicious gelato. With so many gelaterias in the city, you'll have no trouble finding your favorite flavor.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo has a distinctly rustic look about it, unsurprising as it was never finished! Its interior though has all the Renaissance splendor you expect from Florence and contains the Medici Chapels with their princely tombs. The Medicis, of course, expected their own private entrance so look out for this.
Do a little more souvenir shopping in the Mercato Centrale, a huge space that sells everything imaginable. Here you're sure to find a hearty lunch of Ribollita, a Tuscan soup made of bread and vegetables. The name literally means reboiled and traditionally it was a way of turning leftover food from the lord's table into supper for his servants.
Stroll through the bustling Florence streets to the beautiful Santa Maria Novella, one of the city's earliest churches. Michelangelo called this church "my bride" with its marriage of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. The works of Giotto, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, and Brunelleschi are all contained within its painted exterior.
The vast Piazza della Repubblica is a favorite with the Florentines and considered to be an upper-class city salon. Linger awhile outside a cafe and enjoy the musicians and street artists.
The Bargello was originally a fortress and takes its name from the chief of police, Bargello who made it his headquarters in the 16th-century. Today it is a museum and home to some of Florence's best Renaissance and Mannerist sculptures. The most visited room us dedicated to the outstanding work of Donatello.
Finish your culture-packed second day in Florence at the House of Dante museum. Considered the father of the Italian language, Dante was born in the early 1200s in a medieval house similar to this restored building. The collection documents Dante's life with paintings, images, and artifacts.
Dedicate a full morning to the splendors of the Uffizi Gallery one of Italy's top destinations. It contains outstanding collections of art and sculpture not only from the Renaissance but from the days of classical antiquity. Try and buy tickets in advance to avoid the long queues.
Now it's time to visit the Boboli Gardens, here you'll discover a refreshing oasis of verdant lawns and colorful flower beds. The Medicis once strolled through these gardens which belonged to their family home the Pitti Palace. A tour of its sumptuous interior full of treasures and works of art reveals the true splendor in which this grand family lived.
If you have any energy or time to spare say goodbye to the city by visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo, just a short taxi or bus ride away.
The Piazzale provides a panoramic view of the city that is particularly stunning at sunset. It's the perfect chance to take a few last photographs.
We hope we've provided some inspiration for dipping into the delights of our city. Whether you follow the itinerary or simply wander the city streets discovering hidden treasures for yourself, beautiful Florence is waiting to welcome you soon.