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The List: 10 Must-Have Experiences in Florence


Piazza Santo Spirito

Gelateria Vivaldi

Piazza della Signoria

At the Mercato Centrale

The Mercato's soaring ceiling
Introduction by Melissa Cicci
The List by Koinè Italian School Faculty and Staff

It’s no secret I love the small city of Lucca, in Tuscany’s northwest corner. Last fall, I spent an intense week honing my Italian language skills at the Koinè Italian School there. I wish I’d had more time with my teacher, Isabella, and with other students and teachers as they explored Lucca and the rest of Tuscany. All of the faculty and staff at Koinè are native Italian speakers, and beyond language instruction, they are generous in sharing their love of all places and things Italian.

One of Tuscany’s other gems, of course, is nearby Florence. Here, the staffers at Koinè share their List of 10 Must-Have Experiences in Florence - in one day (in their own words, and with approximate timings for each activity). It's an ambitious day, but a starting point to choose from a variety of both iconic and lesser-known spots in this captivating city.

The LIST
We know it’s impossible to condense the things to do in Florence into a list of just 10, but we tried to draw up a one-day program with the 10 most intense, typical experiences to have in the cradle of the Renaissance!

1) Visit Galleria degli Uffizi di Firenze (2h - 2h30')
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world. It hosts a large collection of unique masterpieces by great Italian artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello Sanzio. In order to avoid long queues during the peak season, we recommend that you buy your tickets in advance.

2) Piazza della Signoria (30')
After visiting the Uffizi Gallery, have a break sitting down on the steps of Loggia dei Lanzi - or at a table outside one of the several bars and cafes - and enjoy the breathtaking view of Palazzo Vecchio, the wonderful statues under the loggia (an outdoor sculpture gallery) and the amazing square all around.

3) Piazza San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale Firenze (1h 30’)
Leaving Piazza della Signoria, pass by Mercato storico del porcellino, then straight to Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza del Duomo (you’ll be back here later on!), pass the Battistero on your right and go to Basilica di San Lorenzo, situated at the centre of the city’s main market district. Have a look at the peculiar façade of one of the largest and most ancient Florentine churches (which is also the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family), then move towards the newly renovated Mercato Centrale (1st floor), where you can enjoy your lunch indulging in a wide range of delicious street food. Buon appetito!

4) Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and Cupola del Brunelleschi (1h30’ – 2h)
Did you know that there are actually two domes in Florence, one nested inside the other? And that Filippo Brunelleschi, the superintendent of the dome project, was buried in the crypt of the cathedral? By visiting it, you will discover these and many other secrets concerning its construction – in addition to enjoying a mesmerizing view from the top! And don’t forget to count the stone steps while walking up the stairs…

5) Biblioteca delle Oblate: (30')
After the long walk up to the cupola, all you need is a place to rest and drink something! Then why not have a snack in the charming Oblate Library? Located in via dell’Oriuolo (just behind S. Maria del Fiore), the former convent is currently a cultural and multimedia center. It offers many different facilities such as wi-fi connection, multimedia stations and events including workshops, reading sessions, and guided tours. From the cozy cafe on the second floor, you can enjoy a spectacular view over the Duomo while sipping a drink.

6) Stroll across the Ponte Vecchio: (30’)
Once you get out of the library, go towards the river and enjoy the beauty of Ponte Vecchio, one of the most ancient Florentine bridges (and the only one in town until 1218), built close to a Roman crossing. Over the centuries it survived not only several floods (the last one in 1966), but also bombings during World War II. The bridge has hosted several types of shops including butchers, fishmongers and tanners - replaced by goldsmiths and jewellers in 1539. When the Medici moved from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river, they commissioned the construction of a connecting route between the two buildings in order to keep out of contact with the population. The result was the Corridoio Vasariano, built by Giorgio Vasari in 1565, which runs above the shops all along the bridge.

7) Gelato da "Vivaldi" - sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo (45')
Walking from Ponte Vecchio along the river towards Torre Di San Niccolò, indulge in a delicious ice cream at Gelateria Vivaldi – it will give you enough energy to walk uphill to one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of the city, Piazzale Michelangelo. Lean from the balustrade and let beauty overwhelm you!

8) Quartiere San Niccolò (1h 30')
Walking down from Piazzale Michelangelo, we suggest strolling through the old neighbourhood of San Niccolò, where a mix of medieval and Renaissance buildings, trendy shops and winebars, cozy restaurants and artgalleries will surely delight your walk and tickle your appetite. Among all, we recommend the restaurant L’Antica Mescita Osteria San Niccolò, that offers a selection of typical Florentine and Tuscan dishes and wines served in a rustic but very comfortable and evocative location. Buon appetito!

9) Oltrarno (1h 30')
Respira la vera essenza della Fiorentinità! (Breathe the true Florentine essence) From the stately structure of Palazzo Pitti and the crafts district of San Frediano to the amazing squares of Piazza Del Carmine Firenze and Piazza Santo Spirito, get lost in the unique atmosphere of the Oltrarno neighbourhood (literally “across the Arno”), characterized by maze-like streets flanked by historical buildings and narrow lanes scattered with trendy bars, antiques stores and artisans’ studios.

10. A drink in Piazza Santo Spirito (1h 30')
Feel like practicing your Italian language or just meeting the locals? Then Santo Spirito is the place. Away from the main tourist areas, this charming square with its surroundings is still one of the most popular hangouts for Italians. Tall trees and a fountain in the middle, cozy cafes and bars on the sides of the square, street musicians and live performances give this place a Bohemian atmosphere in which to sip a drink while socializing with people of all ages. All of this in the shade of one of the most beautiful churches in Florence, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and mainly known for its peculiar façade.

Introduction by Melissa Cicci
The List by Koinè Italian School

Photo credits from top:
055firenze.it/art/105060/visite-straordinarie-complesso-santo-spirito-firenze; Koinè Italian School photos 2 - 5

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