Florence, the home of the Renaissance and birthplace of our modern world, has the best Renaissance art in Europe. In a single day, you could look Michelangelo’s David in the eyes, fall under the seductive sway of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and climb the modern world’s first dome, which still dominates the skyline. Of course, Florentine art goes beyond paintings and statues — enjoy the food, fashion, and street markets. Sure, Florence is touristy. But where else can you stroll the same pedestrian streets walked by Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli while savoring the world’s best gelato?
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Duomo Museum Underrated cathedral museum with sculptures (closed for renovation through late 2015).
▲▲▲ Bargello Underappreciated sculpture museum (Michelangelo, Donatello, Medici treasures).
▲▲ Museum of San Marco Best collection anywhere of artwork by the early Renaissance master Fra Angelico.
▲▲ Medici Chapels Tombs of Florence’s great ruling family, designed and carved by Michelangelo.
▲▲ Duomo Gothic cathedral with colorful facade and the first dome built since ancient Roman times.
▲▲ Palazzo Vecchio Fortified palace, once the home of the Medici family, wallpapered with history.
▲▲ Galileo Science Museum Fascinating old clocks, telescopes, maps, and three of Galileo’s fingers.
▲▲ Santa Croce Church Precious art, tombs of famous Florentines, and Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in 14th-century church.
▲▲ Church of Santa Maria Novella Thirteenth-century Dominican church with Masaccio’s famous 3-D painting.
▲▲ Pitti Palace Several museums in lavish palace plus sprawling Boboli and Bardini Gardens.
▲▲ Brancacci Chapel Works of Masaccio, early Renaissance master who reinvented perspective.
▲▲ San Miniato Church Sumptuous Renaissance chapel and sacristy showing scenes of St. Benedict.
▲ Piazza S.S. Annunziata Filippo Lovely square epitomizing Renaissance harmony, with Brunelleschi’s Hospital of the Innocents, considered the first Renaissance building.
▲ Medici-Riccardi Palace Lorenzo the Magnificent’s home, with fine art, frescoed ceilings, and Gozzoli’s lovely Chapel of the Magi.
▲ Climbing the Duomo’s Dome Grand view into the cathedral, close-up of dome architecture, and, after 463 steps, a glorious city vista. (Long, slow lines — reserve ahead or get combo-ticket or Firenze Card.)
▲ Campanile Bell tower with views similar to Duomo’s, 50 fewer steps, and shorter lines.
▲ Baptistery Bronze doors fit to be the gates of paradise.
▲ Ponte Vecchio Famous bridge lined with gold and silver shops.
▲ Piazzale Michelangelo Hilltop square with stunning view of Duomo and Florence, with San Miniato Church just uphill.