A free, self-guided walking tour of Florence

“Walking is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”

Elizabeth von Arnim, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rügen

 

There has to be something said for the rapture that is found in walking by the wayside. It is true that cars, trains, planes, even rockets take us to our destination faster and are necessary to accommodate the fast pace of lifestyle that we struggle to keep up with. But there is nothing to match the slow-paced enjoyment one can experience from discovering an unknown city by foot. Consider joining me on the slow-paced walking tour I will take you on, around the heart of that most historic of cities- Florence, Italy.

 

Major Stops on the walk will include the following landmarks:

Piazza del Duomo,

Giotto’s bell tower,

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo,

Casa Museo di Dante,

Florence’s famous sculpture museum, The Bargello,

Piazza Signoria: Palazzo Vecchio and The Uffizi,

Church of Orsanmichele,

back to the Duomo and Piazza della Signoria.

 

The Walk

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze) by Rodrigo Soldon

  • Start at the famous Piazza del Duomo, home to that icon of Florentine architecture- the Duomo. In fact the Duomo, the Florence Baptistry and Giotto’s Campanile together form a UNESCO World Heritage site. Admire the pink and green marble façade of the Duomo and the spectacular dome, designed by Brunelleschi. These are a delight to photograph especially in the early hours of the day when the morning sun suffuses the buildings with a soft light.

 

  • In the same Piazza del Duomo look up to Giotto’s Campanile- a free-standing bell tower in the typical Florentine, gothic architectural style. Worthy of mention are the hexagonal panels on the lower level of the bell tower- depicting scenes from the book of Genesis. These are mere replicas, the original panels residing in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

 

  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo the next stop on the walk is a repository of some of the works of art originally found in the Cathedral of Florence, the Duomo. The museum is just east of the Duomo.

A cumulative ticket to view the interior of the following monuments costs 15 euros.

Entrance times:

Cathedral: 10.00-17.00 ;

Dome: 08.30-18.20 ;

Baptistry: 08.15-10.15/11.15-18.30

Bell Tower: 08.15-18.50

Crypt: 10.00-17.00

Museum: 09.00-21.00

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Museo Casa di Dante by Darold Massaro

  • Casa Museo di Dante. The house-museum of Dante Alighieri, author of the Divine Comedy, (considered to be the greatest work composed in the Italian language) is the next stop on the walking tour. The house was built in the twentieth century on the site of the Alighieri family’s property as discerned from several old documents. The museum is spread out on three floors, each floor representing different phases in the writer’s life.

Via Santa Margherita 1 – Firenze. Tel. 055 219416. 

Admission: 10.00 – 18.00. 
Closed on: Monday. Entrance: € 4,00.

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Bargello by Dave and Margie Hill/Kleerup

 

  • The Bargello. This building may look like a castle but was in fact a former prison, now converted to an art-sculpture museum. The art collection here is quite impressive. A few highlights not to be missed include Donatello’s David, Vincenzo Gemito’s ‘Ill Pescatorello’ or small fisherboy sculpture, and a few masterpieces attributed to Michelangelo.

Via del Proconsolo 4 – Firenze – Tel. 055 2388606

Admittance time. Weekdays: from Tuesday to Saturday: 08.15 – 13.50 pm; open on the first, third and fifth Monday of every month.

Holidays: open on the second and fourth Sunday of every month- 08.15 am – 13.50 pm.

Closed on: on the second and fourth Monday of every month; on the first, third and fifth Sunday of every month. December 25, January 1, May 1.

Entrance: € 4,00.

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Piazza Signoria by Haydn Blackey

 

  • Piazza Signoria: Palazzo Vecchio and The Uffizi: The Piazza Signoria is a very famous L-shaped square of Florence situated adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio, the old town hall of Florence and the great art museum, the Uffizi. To be found in the square, directly in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica copy of the statue of David, the original to be found in the Uffizi. Also of note is the row of striking statues in the nearby Loggia dei Lanzi. A trip to Florence should include an obligatory trip to the Uffizi. Beware of long waits to enter the gallery especially during peak tourist season (upward of five hours). Painting highlights to be seen once you gain admission are: Sandro Boticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ and ‘La Primavera’, Raphael’s ‘Madonna of the Goldfinch’, works by da Vinci, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and others.

The Ufizzi: Tuesday through Sunday: 8:15-18:50, entry every 15 minutes
Closed: Mondays, Christmas, New Year’s Day, May 1st; Tickets: Full price: € 8,00

 

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Orsanmichele Church, Florence by ScottOldham

  • Church of Orsanmichele: The beautiful Gothic church of Orsanmichele is located just off Via Calzaiuoli on the site of a historic grain market. In the fourteenth century the granary was converted to a place of worship. The external niches or statues that decorate the exterior of this church are remarkable. The original statues have been removed to various museums and have been replaced with replicas to protect against theft and the weather. Some of the original statues reside in the Orsanmichele Museum located on the upper floor of the church (open only on Mondays).
  • Via dell’Arte della Lana, 50123 Firenze, Italy; every day: 10.00-17.00; Closed on: Monday – Entrance: free.
  • Open only on Monday 10.00 – 17.00 pm; Entrance: free.

 

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A map of the historical heart of Florence, drawn in approximation by Arpita Bhattacharya.

 

How To Get Around

Start the walk at the Piazza del Duomo and continue to all the stops mentioned in a clockwise manner. The walk should bring you back to your point of origin. After admiring the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower proceed to the adjacent Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. After this, to reach Casa Museo di Dante follow Via del Proconsolo and then take a right onto Via del Corso. A left onto Via del Presto, a right onto Via Dante Alighieri and another right onto Via Santa Margherita should bring you near to Dante House. After visiting the house retrace your steps back to Via Dante Alighieri and follow it down until it intersects Via del Proconsolo. Follow this road down to where it intersects Via Ghibellina and take a left turn on this road, which should bring you to the Bargello. After visiting the Bargello, you might want to backtrack to via del Proconsolo towards the direction of the river. Take a right onto Via del Gondi, which will bring you to the L-shaped Piazza della Signoria. Once you have reached the end of the Piazza near the Museo di Palazzo Davanzati walk all the way back along Via dei Calzaioli till you reach the Church of Orsonmichele. Following Via dei Calzaioli further should bring you back to the Piazza del Duomo.

Top Tips for this walk

Stop for coffee at the famous Café Rivoire at Piazza della Signoria. For a wonderful gelato stop to treat yourself after the walk consider going to Grom (on the way back to the Piazza del Duomo whilst walking along Via dei Calzaioli, take a right onto Via delle Oche should bring you to the doorstep of Gelato heaven!

 

Creative Commons License Attribution

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze) photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of Rodrigo Soldon; Museo Casa di Dante photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of Darold Massaro; Bargello photograph  was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of Dave and Margie Hill/Kleerup; Piazza Signoria photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of Haydn Blackey; Orsanmichele Church, Florence photograph was licensed  under Creative Commons License  courtesy of ScottOldham.

 

For guided tours around Florence we recommend Walks of Italy, although their walks may differ from the one mentioned by us.

For other memorable walks we recommend our A Free, Self-guided Walking Tour Of Edinburgh.

Lastly if you are looking for something more substantial than gelato, may we suggest our Cheap Eats Guide To Florence

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