When you’re waiting in line to get into the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, no doubt you’ll take notice of the statues in the niches lining the rectangular courtyard. You might recognize some of the names, while others may be unfamliar – but what all of these statues have in common is that they represent some of Florence’s most famous sons.
What would you expect Easter to be like in Italy? You would probably think that in this predominantly Catholic nation the emphasis would be on church celebrations and not a bunny delivering chocolates. And, yes, Italians go to church during the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. But there are also giant, hollow chocolate eggs filled with toys and surprises. And in Florence, there’s an enormous wooden cart that explodes in a storm of fireworks. Easter in Florence is, therefore, the furthest thing from a traditional holiday celebration you can imagine.
Shopping is a popular pastime for travelers, particularly in Florence where high fashion surrounds and tempts us. Whether you’re looking for some Tuscan or Florentine souvenirs, some goodies to take on a picnic into the Chianti countryside, or a nice leather jacket – you can’t go wrong with a visit to the San Lorenzo Market in the historic center of Florence.
Eating your way through Italy is an admirable task, but when you get to Florence you might want to think twice before you order the local steak. The famous “bistecca alla fiorentina,” or Florentine steak, is a mammoth piece of meat that can easily feed 2-3 people – this isn’t something you want to order for a light lunch in between museum visits. You’re going to need help with this one.
Even if you have read about how large a painting is, there is nothing quite like stepping into a museum room and coming face to face with an image you’ve seen in art books for years – only now it could take up an entire wall in your home. This is the impact of walking into the Botticelli rooms at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. You are instantly faced with a room full of Botticelli’s most famous works, and they are life sized.
In some ways, the Piazza della Signoria is a bit like Florence’s living room. This square has been the setting for many of the city’s important moments over the centuries, and continues to be a popular meeting place (and people-watching spot) for visitors.
You know that view overlooking a city that you see reproduced on every postcard in town? The one you assume must involve a crane or helicopter or something, because the alternative is that the photographer was hovering above the rooftops? Well, that photograph in Florence – the one that takes in the panorama of the historic center’s red roofs and the iconic Duomo – is one you can get without wings or a helicopter. You just need to walk up the hill to the Piazzale Michelangelo on a nice day.
Like other cities in Italy, New Year’s Eve in Florence has public celebrations in its historic center. There are also private parties at clubs around the city, as well as special menus at restaurants, so you can find just the activities that suit your style and budget.
In Florence’s Duomo Square, the layers of colorful stone on the Duomo itself usually draw the most attention. But on the baptistery that sits in front of the cathedral’s facade, there is a set of doors that Michelangelo himself thought so highly of that nicknamed them the “Gates of Paradise.” These doors, designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti, deserve more than a passing glance. Here’s why.