Piazzale degli Uffizi 6, Uffizi
Take your time at the Uffizi. Either go early in the summertime or in the winter months to beat the crowds and amble at your leisure across the two horseshoe-shaped floors of galleries and staterooms with their breathtaking collection of Renaissance masterpieces. There is nothing like seeing Botticelli’s dreamy Birth of Venus or Artemisia Gentileschi’s grizzly Judith Beheading Holofernes in person. Book online in advance to jump the line and get the combination ticket for the Uffizi, Boboli Gardens, and Pitti Palace to save a ton of time.
Via Luigi Carlo Farini 4, Santa Croce
It’s a little out of the way, but the Tempio Maggiore is so worth a visit for both its historical value and sheer magnificence. Nearly destroyed during World War II—local Italian partisans defused the bombs in the nick of time—the synagogue was built in the late 1880s for the local Shaphardi community. The interior, inspired by the architecture of southern Spain as well as the Hagia Sofia, is quite Moorish—full of rich mosaics, marble, and stained glass. The Tempio Maggiore is still in use today. Afterward, a visit to Ruth’s for the best kosher spread in town (with excellent vegetarian options) is mandatory.
Piazza de' Pitti, 1, Santo Spirito
Designed in part Brunelleschi amongst others in the 1400s, the Palazzo Pitti has been the home to various Florentine dynasties for centuries, starting with Luca Pitti and including, most notably, the Medici family. Today, the immense structure is divided into four museums: The Palatine Gallery contains collections of Medici-owned paintings; the Gallery of Modern Art is home to works from the Neoclassical period up to the 1930s; the Treasury of the Grand Dukes displays the Medicis’ decorative arts; and lastly, there’s a costume museum. We love to wander around the beautifully preserved royal apartments to see the furnishings, tapestries, ornate silk wallpaper, and tables inlaid with precious stones—the sumptuousness is next-level.
Piazza del Duomo, Duomo
The dome of Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral is the defining landmark and compass of the city. It represents the immense wealth of Florence through the ages, thanks in large part to a thriving banking and textile trade. Built across two centuries by several different architects and with masses of funding from the city’s wealthy patrons and political class, the dome was added by Brunelleschi and is the first octagonal dome in the world built without wooden joists for support. The exterior is a mosaic of vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble in red, white, and green, all dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Several of the works inside honor the great citizens of Florence, including Dante and Ghiberto, as well as details of religious narratives.
Piazza Pitti, 1, Uffizi
During the Renaissance, landscaping was considered just as important as the architecture. Behind the Pitti Palace, the Boboli Gardens are a maze of grottos, fountains, and tree tunnels that set the tone for an Italianate style rapidly adopted by the palaces of Europe. Don’t miss the cerchiate grande—a long avenue of trees planted in 1612 that have grown into each other, forming the loveliest tunnel of shade.