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Florence For Beginners

Like many other Italian cities, the capital of art and culture is so vast you can never get to see it all, no matter how often you go back to the city. The Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Palazzo Pizzi and the churches are must-visit landmarks if you want to soak up the beauty of Florence. But, beware – trying to see it all in one go can bring on the Stendhal syndrome (also known as the Florence syndrome) or a mental block that can end up ruining your trip.

So, to make sure you go about calmly and enjoy things leisurely, we propose 6 essential venues which will help you come to grips with Florence without losing your nerves.

Uffizi Gallery – A Must-See Classic

One of the finest art galleries in the world, its collection of Renaissance art is peerless worldwide. Housed in a 16th-century administrative building, the Uffizi brings together some of the best works by Sandro Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Your museum visit could take from three to four hours and it is worth lingering in the uncrowded rooms to discover some lesser known but equally interesting artists. To avoid having to queue up at the ticket office for over an hour, we recommend you book in advance.

Il Grande Museo del Duomo – a 21st-Century Museum

This is one of the newer attractions in the city. The museum showcases treasures from the Duomo, the Campanile and the Baptistery. Here you can see the original Baptistery doors, a masterpiece by Ghiberti, the relief work in the Campanile and the sculptures on the old Duomo facade. In fact, you can actually see a life-size reconstruction of the original facade, with sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio and Donatello, in the Room of the First Facade. Other highlights of the museum include the Pietà, which Michelangelo sculpted at the age of 80, and Brunelleschi’s death mask. Artworks are prominently displayed in this museum, geared to showcasing the past using the technology of the future.

Basilica di Santo Spirito – The Advent of theQuattrocento

While the churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are among our favourites, if you’re pressed for time in Florence and fancy seeing a church studded with chapels featuring retables from the Quattrocento, the “Basilica of the Holy Spirit” is the place to be. This church, designed by Brunelleschi, lies in the heart of the lively Oltrarno. It boasts no less than 38 chapels and such paramount artworks as the Madonna of the Relief, by Domenico di Zanobi, and Madonna with Child and Saints, by Filippino Lippi.

Boboli Gardens and Bardini Garden – A Romantic Walk

One of the most fascinating art galleries in Florence is housed in the Palazzo Pitti. But, today, instead of entering the famous palace designed by Brunelleschi, we take a stroll around its sumptuous gardens. The Boboli Gardens, dating from the 16th century, acted as the leisure resort for the city’s rulers. It stretches right up the slope of the Palazzo Pitti and is noteworthy mainly for the rose garden at the top, with spectacular views over the Tuscany countryside. A five minute-walk away, using the same entrance, lies the Bardini Garden, with splendid views over the city. The best vantage point is the restaurant set in the garden, La Leggenda Dei Frati, a stone gallery which affords a panoramic view of the city you will never forget.

Brancacci Chapel – For Specialists Only

Still in Oltrarno, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine houses one of the loveliest chapels in the city, the Brancacci Chapel. Here, paintings by Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi are perfectly preserved within the space of a few metres. The frescoes by Masaccio, depicting the life of St Peter, are regarded among his finest works. They reveal a clean break between Gothic art and the early Renaissance. Only 30 visitors are allowed in the chapel at any one time, but it is well worth the wait.

Palazzo Vecchio – Discovering Florence By Night

In summer, the Palazzo Vecchio stays open until midnight from Friday to Wednesday. It makes for a great alternative and quiet visit to one of the city’s most emblematic landmarks. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, it was once the seat of municipal power. Its rooms are adorned with outstanding frescoes, while the most prominent room is the Salone dei Cinquecento, notable for its sheer size and opulent decoration. The ceiling of the Green Room or Sala Verde features paintings by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, while still open to the public are the chambers of Giovanni de’ Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and future Pope Leon X.

 Be sure to visit these marvels of Florence – check out our flights here.

 Text by Aleix Palau for  Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Christine und Hagen Graf