When you dream of the most wonderful place in the world for your next weekend escape, Florence must surely be at the top of your list. It’s the quintessential essence of Italy—perhaps even more so than Rome. Did you know the modern Italian language itself evolved from a Tuscan dialect?
Of course, it’s also the birthplace of the Renaissance, and no visit to Florence is complete without paying homage to the masters—Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Da Vinci, Donatello, and always Michelangelo.
But don’t pigeonhole Florence as a Renaissance city beautifully encased in amber; it’s a vibrant, creative, cultural center with fabulous restaurants, elegant fashion houses, and cutting-edge contemporary art.
In short, Florence is a city just made for a romantic interlude or weekend away. So if you’ve got a few days to explore this fascinating Tuscan capital, here are the experiences you really can’t miss.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the cupola of the Duomo.
Brunelleschi’s iconic Duomo, so synonymous with the city of Florence, actually began as an engineering problem, and a contest offered by the city’s elders to solve the problem of the gaping hole in the roof of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. The portly goldsmith, Filippo Brunelleschi, won the contest with his secret design for a dome-within-a-dome.
Whether or not you’re a student of architecture or engineering, however, you can’t fail to be moved by the panoramic view of the city and the dome’s interior below from the platform some 460 steps above the ground. You’ll even see Vasari’s Last Judgment frescoes up close along the way. Be sure to reserve your spot in line before you begin your walking tour of Florence so you don’t miss this incredible sight.
Go crazy for Florentine leather.
Florence’s leather shops are almost a cliche—but leather crafts are a centuries old tradition in this Tuscan city. By the early 14th century, there were already more than 1,500 shoemakers here, mostly in the Oltrarno district, which laid the foundation for Florence’s international prominence in leather goods today.
You should definitely browse the shops in the San Lorenzo market, if only for the sheer number and variety of leather goods, but when you’re ready to shop for a quality piece to take home, visit the shops that line Via Pellicceria for gorgeous custom-made sandals, fine leather suitcases, wallets, belts, and gloves.