Florence - The Best City in Europe?

That is a bold statement, I know. But what if it is true?

I can hear the screams now, “But what about Rome, Paris, London, Berlin, Barcelona…” and on and on and on. I stand by my statement, and let me tell you why.

I first traveled to Florence in 2013 and after having spent 5 weeks in Istanbul, 5 days in Rome, and then a day in Siena. I had heard from Rick Steves that Florence was a can’t miss but didn’t really know much more about the city. I had heard a guy David was there and that there was a cool church, and I figured I like both of those things, so why not! After a day spent in Siena I caught the evening train to Florence and got there in time to head to my hostel and explore a bit of the city. For any of you that know me, I am a sucker for good view points over the city. So, naturally, I decided that my first moment in Florence would be spent somewhere called Piazzela Michelangelo. My friend Rick said it had a great view over the city, and so far through Rome he hadn’t led me astray, so I thought this would be a great place to catch the setting sun. This first moment in Florence would set the standard for the rest of my two days there and would become my favorite spot in Europe.

I’ll let the picture do the talking.

That is how my time in Florence started, and the city only continued to impress after that. The first day I naturally went to check out the church - Il Duomo - where I learned that it was the first dome built in Europe since the days of the Romans and would set the standard for the domes to come after it, like St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, for example. While the inside of the church isn’t anything truly incredible (it is massive, but fairly empty), I was (and am) still blown away by the beauty of Il Duomo from the outside.

I love this church so much that I have climbed the bell tower three times now and climbed the inside of the dome once (really long lines deterred a second climb). I then climbed surrounding hills, Palazzo Vecchio, and rooftop restaurants and bars to get a better look of my favorite church. I even took a bus for 40 minutes to a little hill top town to get a better look. Each view unique, each view stunning. That is how dedicated I was to seeing this church from every different angle.

But that wasn’t all, nope, Florence had more to offer - art. I have to admit that before I went to Florence I wasn’t a huge fan of paintings and sculptures. I just had never really gotten into them before, but boy would that change. Florence had such a huge impact on my appreciation for art that when I went back to school the following semester I enrolled in an art class. It would become one of my favorite classes in undergraduate, with the Renaissance becoming my favorite time period for art.

And Florence was the reason for that.

Where do you even begin? You have Michelangelo’s David, and the 17 foot statue literally took my breath away. Literally. In the Galleria dell'Accademia, where the David is located, he stands at the end of a semi-long hall that is flanked with unfinished Michelangelo sculptures with the crowning jewel erected right in the middle, with light shining down on him. Almost as if he was heaven sent - and I would buy that narrative.

If the David isn’t enough, you also have art at the Bargello and the Uffizi Gallery. Both house classic works of art, but if you have to choose one, the Uffizi is the one. The building itself is insanely pretty, so even for that reason alone it is worth a visit. But, what the Uffizi does right is its Renaissance art. This is the only art museum I have been to where you can really follow the development of the Renaissance period, from early Renaissance Madonna and child altar pieces to works like the Venus by Botticelli. You can see what an impact the Renaissance painters had on art and how it would shape the next 500 years of art to come.

But, let’s say that art and churches aren’t your thing - how about a really cool old bridge, would that do it for you? The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence and is unique in that it still has the old business stalls that line both sides of it, and these all date back to 1400s or so. Plus, there is always something happening on the bridge, from music to shopping, street performers to art hawkers. And if that wasn’t cool enough, the Medici’s (ruling family that made Florence really famous) built a passage over the top from what is now the Uffizi Gallery to Piti Palace so they did'n’t have to deal with the commoners. That is dedication!

Finally, if you are looking for something else unique, the Tuscan food available in Florence is truly amazing. We stopped at some random places throughout our days there and always had amazing food. The San Lorenzo market is a great place to grab some picnic food, or you can eat at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the city for something special. If you drink wine too, then this is your spot, as restaurants offer all sorts of local wines for you to try. Then don’t forget your gelato as you walk the streets at night and the architecture and lighting takes you back in time.

If this wasn’t enough to convince you that Florence is the best city in Europe, I don’t know what will be. Laura is already arguing with me that I am wrong here, but I will never surrender my position. Florence is the best. Period.

And if you want to make the most of your time and have some insider tips from us, then check out our 3 Days in Florence Travel Itinerary! With recommendations for everything from hotel, to food, to booking activities, we are sure that you will have an amazing time in Florence!

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