|Visit Florence in 24 hours|
24 hours in Florence: the city is worth rather more, but you can at least get some idea of it. With a single day at your disposal you will want to see the chief monuments and walk around the “heart” of the city centre. You start with Piazza del Duomo, facing the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, begun by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296 but only in 1436 crowned with the masterpiece of Filippo Brunelleschi.
The Cupola (dome) is the symbol of Florence, a daring and majestic structure from the top of which you will get a wonderful panoramic view of the city, and also of the interior of the cathedral.
Beside the façade stands another giant, Giotto’s campanile (bell tower), slender and many-coloured, also affording a fine view if the city. Opposite the façade of the Duomo is the more ancient Baptistery of St John, with its famous bronze doors by Ghiberti and Andrea Pisano.
If you follow the animated Via dei Calzaiuoli you soon reach Piazza della Signoria, the political heart of Florence.
Here rises the late 13th-century Palazzo della Signoria or Palazzo Vecchio, which is the seat of the Commune of Florence as well as being a museum. Entering the inner courtyard you will notice the fountain of the putto by Verrochio and frescoes by Vasari. Flanking the piazza is the 14th-century Loggia dei Lanzi, in which there are such world-renowned statues as Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus and the Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna.
Adjoining Palazzo Vecchio is the imposing pile of the Uffizi, designed by Vasari in the 16th century as the seat of the Chancellery of the ruling Medici family, and now one of the most important museums in the world. The Gallery houses paintings ranging from the primitives (Cimabue, Giotto) to the Mannerist period, and is a complete compendium of Renaissance painting including works by Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, Paolo Uccello, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
A visit to the Gallery requires several hours, so if you do not have the time continue on foot towards the nearby Ponte Vecchio. One of the symbols of the city, the bridge has survived the ravages of war and the flooding of the Arno, and ever since 1500 has been home to famous goldsmiths’ shops.
After crossing the bridge you are in “Oltrarno”, beyond the Arno, a very important matter in Florence. Of the four historical quarters of Florence, three (San Giovanni, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce, are on “this” side of the Arno, and only one, Santo Spirito, on the other. The road straight ahead from the Ponte Vecchio brings you to Piazza Pitti, dominated by the majestic façade of Palazzo Pitti. Of 15th-century origin, it was bought by Eleonora, wife of Cosimo I, and became the new archducal palace of the Medici, who had previously resided in Palazzo della Signoria. It was enlarged and enhanced with a marvellous park, the Boboli Gardens. Palazzo Pitti is the seat of numerous museums, and the garden itself is one of them.
If you still have time you should make for Piazza Santa Spirito: you will enjoy the lively atmosphere of this part of the city.
It is home to numerous crafts, and has a genuine spirit of its own. Piazza Santo Spirito itself, one of the few city squares with trees in it, is surrounded by fine palaces in addition to the church, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1444.
Besides the linear purity of its architecture, the building contains important works of art.