There is so much to marvel at in Florence that it is extremely difficult to focus on only a few sites. That said, there are some churches and museums that you “must see” in this beautiful Renaissance city. If you only have two or three days to visit, here are six of the most popular sites.
First is the Duomo with Brunelleschi’s famous dome. The church was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in the thirteenth century. The dome was added in the fifteenth century. Facing the cathedral is the Baptistery which was dedicated in 1128 to St. John the Baptist. Built on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to the god, Mars, the Baptistery is famous for the doors which are set into four sides of the tower. The most important are the north doors facing the entrance to the Duomo. Several artists, including Brunelleschi, entered a competition in 1401 to design these doors and a committee chose the winner, Lorenzo Ghiberti, for his design for “The Gates of Paradise” depicting the life of Christ.
Second, and not far from the Duomo, is the Medici Chapel in the Church of San Lorenzo. Inside visit the New Sacristy which was designed and decorated by Michelangelo in 1520. The two sarcophagi were built for Lorenzo the Magnificent and Giuliano Medici. The sculptures decorating these sarcophagi are allegories representing dawn and dusk, night and day. Though many have speculated as to their meaning no one knows to this day the real significance of the figures.
Third, visit the beautiful Church of Santa Croce, not only to admire the murals by Giotto and the crucifix by Donatello but because here is where Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo are buried and Dante is memorialized.
Fourth, the Brancacci Chapel is famous for its frescoes depicting the “Life of St. Peter” which were begun by Masolino, continued by Masaccio (who tragically died the same year he began painting these frescoes at the age of 27) and completed by Filippino Lippi. Notice the difference between Masolino and Masaccio’s depiction of the “Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.” Masolino’s is serene whereas Masaccio represents the psychological agony of being cast out of Paradise.
Fifth and sixth are the Uffizi and Accademia museums. The famous statue of “David” by Michelangelo is in the Accademia and it’s worth a visit just to marvel at this iconic figure. If you love Botticelli you must visit the Uffizi where there are a good many of his works, including “Primavera” and “The Birth of Venus” but there’s a great deal more to appreciate in both museums. Keep in mind that these museums are extremely popular and the lines can be daunting. To save yourself time and headaches plan ahead and reserve tickets either online, through your hotel or purchase a 72 hour Firenze card.
Finally make time to enjoy Florence itself, both its rich past and equally fascinating present. Eat a gelato, sit at a cafe in the Piazza della Signoria, stroll across the Ponte Vecchio. Whatever you decide to do you won’t regret a visit to this amazing Renaissance city.
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