OPTION ONE: OLD MASTERS
If it’s your first visit to Florence, don’t worry about wanting to tick off the best-loved sites. You’ll quickly see why they hold the limelight. Just time your visits to avoid the crowds. Ask your luxury hotel to book queue-skipping tickets in advance and opt for late afternoon entry, ideally after 5pm for a little breathing space. Bookend the day with an early-morning visit to the Uffizi, taking in works by Caravaggio and contemporaries, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown art fix.
You’ll want to join a queue, however, if it’s the best gelato you’re after. Wait in line with locals and visitors outside Eduardo’s for freshly churned, organic scoops. As you savour it, you could take in the sculptures around Piazza della Signoria, then step inside its Palazzo. It’s a major Medici site, but a guided tour of the secret passages gives undercover access to its hidden areas.
You’ll no doubt have seen the Duomo rising over rooftops. On your second day here, get an up-close-and-personal look. And don’t miss the Baptistery opposite, with its incredible octagonal interior. Everyone looks up, but pay attention to the doors – they’re celebrated artworks themselves, lorded over by beautiful sculptures.
It’s then a short walk to Florence’s most captivating museums. Museo Leonardo da Vinci holds some of the great man’s inventions and designs, and Museo Galileo will send scientific heads spinning. While Museo Nazionale del Bargello is often pleasantly crowd-free with works by Donatello, the original Baptistery doors and Michelangelo masterpieces.
After sunset is the most romantic time to browse the glittering goldsmith shops on Ponte Vecchio. But Ponte S. Niccolò is better for photo-perfect views of the bridge and the terracotta-topped skyline beyond. By now, it’s time to rest walked-out legs. So, ask your hotel concierge to reserve tickets to an opera or classical recital in the Auditorium Santo Stefano al Ponte Vecchio. After all, the piano was invented here in Florence.