discover

TOP 10 Things to do in Florence by Marco Secchi


Duomo/Baptistry/Bell Tower

Commonly known as, “The Duomo”, Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore is impossible to miss.

It is the skyline of Florence. Building began on the huge Gothic duomo in 1296 and it was consecrated in 1436.

- The Duomo

Inside Brunelleschi’s Dome you will find one of the most breathtaking pieces of art you will ever see.

It is well worth the stairs you will climb to walk around the inner walls to see the paintings up close and to see an amazing view of the city from the outside.


- The Campanile, bell tower, is in Piazza del Duomo.

You can climb the 414 stairs to get an incredible view, but if you are choosing between climbing the duomo and the tower, go with the dome.

- The Baptistery is from the 11th century and one of the oldest buildings in Florence.

Here you will find Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors, the “Gates of Paradise” (they are reproductions, the originals are in the Duomo Museum).

- Uffizi Gallery

The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art.

It is essential to buy reservation tickets before going to avoid the long line. Trust us, the line can be hours, as they only allow so many people in the museum at one time.

Your reservation is not a ticket, just a pass to get in the much shorter line to enter.

In the museum you will see works from Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Raphael.


- Accademia Gallery

Florence’s Galleria dell’ Academia, holds Michelangelo’s David, easily the most famous sculpture in the world.

One of the best parts of this museum is the collection of musical instruments. It is also quite advisable to get reservations for this museum.

- Boboli Garden

On the other side of the Arno River, you will find Giardino di Boboli, a beautiful and sprawling English style garden on a hillside behind the Pitti Palace.

It is a lovely place to slow down and enjoy the greener side of Florence.

- Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti, Pitti Palace, is Florence’s largest palazzo, once owned by the Medici family. You can visit 8 different galleries in the palace.

Be prepared, it is massive and can wear you out quickly.

- Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria, the historic and political center of the city, is just off of the River Arno and next to the Uffizi Gallery.

Here, you will find statues including the Fountain of Neptune and a replica of the Statue of David.

- La Basilica di Santa Croce

Protected by an imposing statue of Dante, it sits with its beautiful facade in front of a modest piazza.

The Santa Croce was built for the common citizens of Florence, just a 15-minute walk from the Duomo.

The church houses tombs of the likes of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini and the empty tomb of Dante.

For this reason, the Santa Croce is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories (Tempio dell’Itale Glorie).

Florence keeps the empty tomb of Dante in hopes that one day it shall be filled with his decayed remains. They are currently housed in the city of Ravenna, his final resting place, after being exiled from Florence.

- Piazzale Michelangelo

It is a must to see the sun setting over the city from Piazzale Michelangelo!

This is, by far, the most famous view overlooking the city and has been reproduced on countless postcards and photographs. You will also find a bronze replica of David that is thought to be safeguarding the city.

You can either take the hike up to the top, take the bus, or hire a cab.

If you choose to walk to the Piazzale, make sure you wander through the Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the other side of the Arno river from the duomo, which is all too often overlooked.

At the very least, try to walk down after the sun sets.

- The Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio was Florence’s first bridge to cross the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days.

Lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry, you’ll have a great view of the city along the Arno River.

This bridge is a true landmark of the city of Florence.

At night, it can be quite romantic to take in a local musician busking at the center of the bridge, while gazing upon the city lighting up the river.


giuseppe-mondi-517748-unsplash.jpg

- The Bargello

The Bargello is the national sculpture museum, located in Florence.

The castle-like building was built in 1255–1350 as the original seat of government. It contains the greatest collection of Renaissance sculpture in Florence and is one of the best collections in Italy.

What you must see here is the huge room filled with Donatello’s masterpieces.

What to do in Bologna by Marco Secchi

Things to Do in Bologna: Walk Off Lunch

Bologna is also known as La Rossa or the red, for its terracotta rooftops, it’s a medieval city so you will find beautiful cathedrals and historic buildings but it’s also a left-leaning progressive city with modern art exhibits. There’s no shortage of culture in Bologna.

Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 16.43.36.jpg

 

Asinelli Tower is the city’s largest tower and you can climb to the top to get a great view. It slightly leans and is actually taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the 498 steps to the top will surely work off the extra pasta calories.

Piazza Maggiore is the main plaza in the city with lots going on from movies in the square to art fairs. To get here travel up Bologna’s main street – Via dell’Indipendenza and you’ll arrive at the famous Neptune Fountain in Piazza Nettuno which is just around the corner. Piazza Maggiore is also home to the Basilica of San Petronio which is an odd looking church as the bottom is pink marble but the top is brick. While it may not be the most beautiful, it is one of the more interesting as it was once supposed to be the largest church in the world until the Vatican discovered the plans and suddenly funds disappeared and were given to the university. Perhaps a better investment anyway.

Stroll the 666 portici in Bologna, or covered terracotta arcades. With an influx of university students, it needed to expand rapidly. No one wanted to expand outside the city so they build on top of the streets, student houses were created in front of existing storefronts with the portices below. They needed to be high enough to allow horse carts through and today over 45km remain, which are fantastic for the hot Italian sun or rainy days.

3 Three things to do in Bologna

1. Climb Italy's tallest leaning tower
Move over Pisa, Bologna has a great leaning tower of its own.When you visit Asinelli Tower in the heart of the city, you won't feel like you have stepped into a tourist trap.This tower is old, it's leaning and while walking up it's teetering stairs, you'll definitely feel like you're on an adventure. The wooden stairs are narrow and all that separates you from a tumble below is a thin wooden railing.But the climb is worth it because you'll come out to an extraordinary view of the ancient city's rooftops.

Cost: €3

2. Try Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar can sell for €50-€100 a bottle and after learning about how it's made and I can understand why.It takes a minimum 7-years to age traditional balsamic with most batches sitting in barrels up to 15 years.Some is even aged for 45 years. This isn't the balsamic vinegar that we buy at the grocery store at home and put on salads, traditional balsamic is thick and delicious.You only need a few drops to drizzle over anything you want including pasta, strawberries and cheese.

Cost: Eat balsamic vinegar it at a restaurant or during Aperitvo, then you won't feel the sting of €100 per bottle

3. Eat Parmigiano Regianno

Speaking of Cheese, Parma is just a short train ride away from Bologna and you must eat Parmesan cheese when visiting. Italians will tell you it is very good for you and you must eat it every day.  After a run,  before dinner, after dinner with prosecco...you name the time of day, we ate the incredible Parmesan Reggiano.Like traditional balsamic, tender loving care goes into making parmesan cheese. It is aged for two years and hand rotated on a daily basis to evenly distribute the flavour. 

What to Eat in Bologna
If you are heartbroken that spaghetti bolognese does not exist in Bologna, have no fear and order the tagliatelle with ragu or order one of many traditional food in Bologna.

Mortadella
Everywhere else in the world we know it as bologna, but here it’s called mortadella and it’s fantastic. Mortadella is an Italian sausage made from ground pork and pork fat. It’s decadent and amazing with a glass of prosecco.

Salame Rosa
Once you’ve had your fill of mortadella, try its lesser known cousin – salame rosa, which means pink salami. If a cooked ham and mortadella had a child it would be salame rosa as it is a cooked sausage made from pork shoulder.

Pizza
In Bologna you will find Neapolitan pizza, so think thicker, softer crust. It’s not my favourite but if you’re on the go it’s a perfect snack.

Tortellini in brodo
Delicate parcels of pasta filled with minced pork in broth.

Piadinas
Italian flatbreads stuffed with cheese and meat.

Torta di Riso
A sweet rice cake.

Gelato
There are some fantastic gelato shops in Bologna; however, I learned early on how to distinguish the difference from those that tourists eat at and gelato shops for locals – real gelato isn’t piled high to draw people in, it’s hidden in canisters beneath a counter so gelato needs to be cold. Makes you wonder how those piles of tempting gelato-like shops keep it cold. When in doubt go to Cremeria Santo Stefano.

Also, don’t miss out on Lambrusco, gorgeous sparkling red wine, that pairs fantastically with cured meat.