Hilltop town favoured by the Etruscans and wealthy Renaissance families who valued the cooler climate. Well preserved Roman Theatre and other ruins in the archaeological park with lots of Etruscan artefacts in the Civic Museum. A Combo ticket also gives admission to Ethnographic Missionary and Bandini Museums (small but worth it for the painted panels).
Eating wise there are two good restaurants (l'Polpa particularly good) at the bus terminus on Piazza Mino or take a picnic on the panoramic terrace with wonderful views of Florence.
Take bus no. 7 either from outside the main railway station or from Piazza San Marco - about three an hour. Lots of hairpin bends up to the town. Double decker Florence sightseeing bus also goes there.
Piazza Mino, 21/22, 50014 Fiesole, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/XDwbVI
Nice tree lined square surrounded by pavement cafes.
Plenty of seating in which to relax, away from the more tourist parts of Florence.
One end of the square has the church of Santo Spirito dating back to the 15th century.
On the south side of the Arno river on the right as you come over the Ponte Santa Trinita.
Google map: bit.ly/LTXFOw
Great location to sit and drink and watch the world go by, on Piazza Santa Croce. The Santa Croce church is just yards away.
For such a prime location, the prices were surprisingly good. We only had drinks but at €3.50 per large glass of house white we were not complaining.
Service was good.
Riva d'Arno is a new wine bar/art gallery on the banks of the Arno, a few minutes from Ponte Vecchio. It's beatifully designed with great views, fabulous food and wine and a new centre for art. It's a peaceful place to have a drink after walking around the city, a nice lunch overlooking the river or a supper as the sun goes down. It's definitely worth a visit.
The centre of the city is not large, so it makes this place easy to visit in a day.
You can choose to visit Florence by bike, following the cycle tracks that reach the most famous historic sites.
What to see:
- Piazza della Signoria
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square)
- The Bargello Museum
- Ponte Vecchio: To one side of the bridge there is the majestic bust of the most famous Florentine goldsmith, Benvenuto Cellini.
- Bike along the romantic Viale dei Colli up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the wonderful landscape of Florence
- Panoramic view of the Boboli Gardens
Bike rental estimated prices:
1 hour - about 3 Euro
1 day - from a minimum of 14 Euro to a maximum of 27 Euro
While more people tend to make the slog up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo for great views of Florence, the Forte di Belvedere is its match in every way.
On a summer evening, sitting high above the almost unbelievably beautiful city, quivering in the haze below, is a genuine Florence must-do.
Forte di Belvedere, Oltrarno
They run the funniest little business in town! The Iconic Fiat 500 is finally available to hire.
I have always pointed them out to my husband and sighed longingly at their charm, (there is something almost 'expensive accessory must-have' about them, like the latest pair of Marc Jacobs).
This trip to Tuscany we got behind the wheel and did a convoy tour in one! Absolutely hilarious!
"Again again again!" I wanted to squeal like an over-indulged child as we said goodbye to Paola (our little red head-turner) at the end of the glorious trip.
A beautiful old Tuscan farm at the top of a hill. Great views of the surrounding countryside and the medieval village of Casole d`Elsa. Private garden and swimming pool.
If you only do two things in Florence, make sure it's the Accademia to see David, and Piazzale Michelangelo which has one of the best views of the city.
Galleria dell'Accademia: Via Ricasoli 58-60, a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio; tel: 055 294 883;
Dead cheap and one of the best views of Florence. Drink in the Blu Bar (expensive, but fantastic views), eat in the pizzeria on the square opposite and take a walk up the hill for an even more spectacular view
Buy a bus ticket at any tabac and get the no 7 - it goes from Piazza del Duomo and stops in the square in Fiesole, just beside the Blu Bar (which is at Piazza Mino Da Fiesole, 39; tel: 055 597235).
Fiesole is a stunning little town, up a hill and 20 minutes from the centre of Florence. Here, albeit at a distance, is the best, free, all-round view of Florence, including the Duomo. As it's difficult to park in Florence, avoid stress by catching the No.7 bus from outside the rail station.
Fiesole is 5 miles (8km) from Florence. Buy a bus ticket at any tabac - it also goes from Piazza del Duomo.
A beautiful little church set on a hillside overlooking Florence. A fantastic view of the city shimmering in a heat haze. Easily reached by no.13 bus from the Duomo or on foot if you like climbing. Gregorian chants sung by monks at 5.30 every day.
Just outside Florence to the south of the city.
The famous medieval, house-bearing bridge that would probably win the prize as the most photographed Florence icon. It spans the Arno in the centre of the city and probably affords the best views of this often disappointing river from its central open arches. The houses are now mostly shops selling jewellery, leather goods and other expensive designer items, but it’s not obligatory to buy anything of course. After all, it is just a bridge, and still works perfectly well as such.
If you are visiting Florence by car take advantage of the free parking at the Piazzale Michelangelo. It is easy to find by road and has plenty of spaces.
The Square itself commands fantastic views over the river Arno and the rooftops of Florence. There is a steep set of steps and paths that lead down to the river and town centre, takes approx 10 minutes.
This beautiful little church lies on the south-east side of the city and sits on top of a fairly high hill. As such, it makes a very good place to walk to, as you’ll see a good deal en route either by cross-country footpaths or by following the roads. Once there you can admire both the exterior and interior of the 11th century church and the view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo before making your way back.
Via Monte alle Croci, 34 (above Piazzale Michelangelo);
tel: +39 0552342768;
This is a stronghold, latterly used as a villa, built on a hillside overlooking the city and surrounding countryside. The chief reason for coming here is for the views, including the classic one of the Duomo dominated cityscape. On the way up you can see the house where Galileo lived and the Porta San Giorgio, the oldest surviving city gate, built in 1260.
Go up the Costa di San Giorgio (near the south end of the Ponte Vecchio) then turn right through the old city gate
Any trip to Florence must include a visit to the Duomo, as a thumping great example of majestic architecture and for its stunning views. But a strong note of caution if you find heights uncomfortable. To get to the top you have to walk, or in my case trot blindly, around two levels of very narrow wooden gallery, set to the inside of the dome. This offers an intimate view of the impressive ceiling mural but also places you uncomfortably close to God.
This is the big Dome on the cathedral. You can go up to the top and look out from the viewing platform, over Florence. Simply the best sight in the city. It takes a fair amount of queuing - check times and make sure you don't leave it too late - and the climb to the top can take up to 20 minutes, but it is brilliant. Not only do you get a 360 degree view of the city but you see the inside of the Dome in close up, on the way up and way down. The one unmissable sight in Florence, in my opinion.
Ufficio del Duomo
Tel: 055 2302885
Turn up early (7.30, 8, 8.30 services) and listen to mass or Lauds in the cathedral. The early light makes the stained glass glow, and when the bells start ringing the whole building seems to vibrate with thunder. A little time out before a day of busy tourism.
Santa Maria del Fiore, Piazza del Duomo;
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