This 1-day Florence itinerary will show you some of the most popular landmarks and places on both sides of the remarkable Ponte Vecchio, a historical bridge over the River Arno with shops built on both sides of it.
To mention just a few qualities of Florence, the city is among other things known for its spectacular Renaissance architecture, impressive palaces, beautiful churches and excellent museums, as well as its lively and colourful markets. You will get a touch of it all during your visit!
Where to stay in Florence? Hotel Palazzuolo (budget) in the historic centre near Cathedral, Hotel Bellavista (mid-range) terrace with views & near Santa Maria Novella Station, AQA Palace (top) in the heart of Florence.
You will cross the River Arno to get to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side.
The Palazzo Pitti from the 15th century can probably be attributed to Filippo Brunelleschi who designed it for Luca Pitti. It is a grandiose palace mainly in Renaissance style on the River Arno south bank.
In 1550 the wife of the Grand Duke Cosimo I de’Medici, Eleonora da Toledo, purchased it and turned it into the Medici family residence. As a curiosity it can be mentioned that the left wing belonged to the Grand Duke, and the rooms on the left side on the ground floor were used as his summer residence.
Today, the palace houses several magnificent museums. It is the largest museum complex in Florence and definitely a must-see for museum lovers. You will find the Imperial and Royal Apartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Palatine Gallery with the Medici ‘s collection of paintings, the Silver Museum and the Museum of Costumes and Fashion among them. Allow yourself time to pick one or two of the great museums to visit.
When entering and exiting the Palazzo Pitti, you will be right at the Giardino di Boboli – the vast park just in front of the palace. It is actually one of the largest Italian-style gardens in the world. Supposedly, it gave exemplary inspiration to other major gardens like the gardens of Versailles in France.
The Giardino di Boboli belongs to the Palazzo Pitti, and there you will buy your tickets to see the most impressive gardens in Florence!
You will soon discover that it is a hilly garden – giving the opportunity to find good spots with excellent views of Florence!
Originally, the park was laid out by Cosimo I de´ Medici and by his wife Eleonora di Toledo when they purchased the Palazzo Pitti in 1550. At the time, architects such as Niccolò Tribolo and Giorgio Vasari were in charge of the design of the park area.
The Medici and later the Lorraine families greatly influenced the character of the park by including small meadows, lush groves and even an outdoor museum of Roman statues. It is a garden that developed throughout four centuries.
‘The Perfect Florence Itinerary – Across the Ponte Vecchio’
Florence Itinerary Across the Ponte Vecchio
To get a real breathtaking view over Florence, make a stop at the viewing platform Piazzale Michelangelo before returned to the River Arno.
The neoclassical terrace was designed by the architect Giuseppe Poggi and constructed in 1869. It is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, and features bronze copies of his David sculpture and his statues in the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. Nine pairs of oxen were needed to bring the massive monument to its elevated location on the hillside.
When you have enjoyed the views and taken the ultimate photos of Florence, you will find your way down to the iconic Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno.
Now you will arrive at the most famed bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio.
Originally, it was a bridge housing butcher shops. The butchers conveniently dumped the meat waste from the bridge into the River Arno! The architect Vasari brought this to an end by introducing jewellery shops on the bridge instead of the ill-smelling butcher shops.
This was part of the Vasari Corridor project undertaken for the Medici’s, linking the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river through an enclosed, elevated walkway.
When you look at the Ponte Vecchio from the street along the river, notice the small windows on the upper part of the buildings over the bridge. From the Corridor on top of the bridge, the Medici family would get a panoramic view of Florence through these windows! Both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler were impressed by the stunning Ponte Vecchio, and it was therefore spared during WWII as the only bridge in Florence!
Walk onto the bridge and take your time to do some people-watching and have a look at the small shops offering all kinds of jewellery and souvenirs.
By now it is probably time for lunch – so you’d better start looking for a nice restaurant!
Continue a few hundred metres, and you will find Florence’s leather market at Mercato del Porcellino, also known as Loggia del Mercato Nuovo or Loggia del Porcellino. The Renaissance building you see there is from the 16th century and was intended for the sale of products like silk and other precious goods in Florence.
Still today, it is a vibrant marketplace stuffed with leather goods and other souvenirs. You may be able to make a good buy here!
The author Hans Christian Anderson got inspired by the wild boar and wrote in 1846 a story, The Bronze Hog. In the story a poor boy falls asleep on the back of the boar which during the night comes to life and takes the boy happily through the streets of Florence.
Next on your agenda is the impressive Basilica di Santa Croce, the principal Franciscan church in Florence and the largest Franciscan church in the world! It dates back to 1294, rebuilt by Arnolfo di Cambio. In all, it has sixteen chapels. Some of them were owned by noble, wealthy Florentine families who also contributed financially to the church works. Many of the chapels have fresco decorations which can be attributed to the Florentine painter and architect Giotto.
According to the legend Santa Croce was founded by St. Francis. Prior to the construction of the Basilica, this area was located outside the city walls and was plain marshland!
There are three cloisters, the Ancient Cloister, the Cloister of the Dead and the Primo Chiostro, or the main cloister. It features the chapel Cappella dei Pazzi, which was primarily designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and is considered a real masterpiece within Renaissance architecture.
The church is also the burial place of famous people like Michelangelo, Galileo and Rossini. It is known as ‘The Temple of Italian Glories’. Leonardo da Vinci has a commemorative plaque inside the church, and there is also a memorial to Dante, although his sarcophagus is empty – he rests in Ravenna!
What remains to see in Florence? Well, last thing to do today before a well-deserved dinner is a visit to the Bargello National Museum where you will get to see all its treasures.
The Bargello National Museum is located inside the impressive Palazzo del Bargello which is an old fortress in Florence. It is actually one of the oldest buildings you can see in Florence dating all back to 1255. In the beginning it was the headquarters of the Capitano del Popolo (meaning Captain of the People). Later, in the 16th century, it became the residence of the Bargello (the police), and even later, in the 18th century it was being used as a prison!
Today, the old fortress houses the Bargello National Museum with a collection of important Renaissance sculptures and masterpieces by famous artists like Michelangelo (for instance his renowned David Apollo from 1530), Donatello, Luca della Robbia, Verrocchio and Cellini. The museum is as important to sculptures as the Uffizi Gallery is to paintings.
Staying for more days in Florence? If you have more time in Florence, then you may want to take a look at 3 Days in Florence Itinerary for inspiration. You may for instance consider visiting the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Campanile, Baptistery of San Giovanni, Piazza della Signoria or the Uffizi Gallery.
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The Perfect Florence Itinerary – Across the Ponte Vecchio:
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