Five Travel Tips for Florence
1 The Uffizi Gallery Tip
The Uffizi Gallery contains some of the most important and greatest art collections in the world. It is also the world’s oldest museum. Most tour guide books and online travel sites will urge you to ensure that a visit to the Uffiizi is included as part of any Florence vacation, no matter how short. What most of them fail to tell you, or at least stress with sufficient emphasis, is that without a pre-booked ticket, you may not be able to visit the Uffizi at all!
My wife and I had a three day holiday in Florence at the beginning of April 2005. We had planned on visiting the Uffizi Gallery and as soon as we checked in at our hotel we telephoned the gallery to purchase tickets. After several attempts without our calls being answered, we asked the hotel reception to do the booking for us. They explained that it was nearly always difficult to get through on the booking line and that our three day stay might not provide sufficient notice to make a booking possible. Despite this, the hotel staff were most happy to keep trying whilst we enjoyed the other wonders of Florence. We decided to check out the situation for ourselves the next day but discovered queues that hardly seemed to move, stretching for an enormous distance around the area of the Uffizi. Queuing all day was certainly not the way we wanted to spend our time in Florence, so we decided to leave things in the capable hands of the reception staff whilst we enjoyed the other attractions that we had come to see. The following evening, we were informed that after many fruitless attempts at getting through on the booking line, success had finally been achieved but only to receive information that all tickets were sold for the following day. We consequently missed out on seeing many of Florence’s greatest art treasures and our top travel tip for anyone visiting Florence on a short stay vacation is to book tickets for the Uffizi Gallery online some time before their holiday.
2 The Inside Tip for the Duomo
Another of the wonders of Florence not to be missed is the Duomo. Actually, it is impossible to miss this magnificent building because it dominates the city and can be seen from virtually everywhere. Savour the views of it whilst enjoying a coffee at one of the cafes in the surrounding piazza. Walk around it, pausing every now and then to appreciate it from every aspect. View it from more distant, elevated, positions around the city. This was once the largest cathedral in the world and even now, nearly six hundred years after it was built, it is the fourth largest. Florence always insisted on everything being the biggest and the best but what really makes the Duomo unique is its dome or “Cupola”. When Fillipo Brunelleschi undertook this masterpiece of renaissance architecture, no one believed that such a dome was possible. The secret had been lost for over a thousand years but Brunelleschi travelled to Rome to unravel it by examining the dome of the ancient Pantheon.
My tip for the Duomo is to ascend this incredible feat of engineering. You can do so by entering a stairway that leads up inside the dome, between its inner and outer shells. When you reach the top, you can step outside onto an external gallery that provides magnificent views of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. This gallery was never finished however, so your views are restricted to northerly and westerly directions.
3 Palazzo Vecchio – David’s Copy Tip
Perhaps the next most famous landmark of Florence is the Palazzo Vecchio. Once again, it is a building worth enjoying from every aspect on the outside before entering to explore its fascinating, art filled, interior.
My tip for the Palazzo Vecchio is to spare a few minutes looking at the pollution-streaked COPY of the world’s most famous statue, realizing that although the original Michelangelo’s David is safely inside the Accademia, the copy is standing just where the original once stood.
4 River Arno Cross Over Tip
This tip is to retreat from the busiest tourist attractions of the city centre and to cross the Arno river via the Ponte Vecchio. The crowds on this wonderful, historic bridge will probably be even more tightly packed than in the central Piazzas you have just left but within a hundred metres of the other side, they will have thinned out and you can explore the delights of the Boboli gardens and the Palazzo Pitti before walking up the meandering paths to the Piazzo Michelangelo which stands on a beautiful hill overlooking Florence and its surrounds.
5 A final Florence travel tip – Avoiding “Stendhal Sydrome”
Florence has so much beauty that every year, there are a few tourists who have to be treated at local hospitals for a condition known as “Stendhal Syndrome”. Symptoms range from feeling faint to complete exhaustion. Stendhal was a French tourist whose nineteenth century tour of Florence overloaded his senses so much that he collapsed with these symptoms.
My final travel tip for a short vacation in Florence is not to try to pack too much in. Even if Florence’s wealth of art treasures, beauty, and architectural achievements don’t actually send you running for medical help, they can easily overwhelm a tourist who fails to heed this advice.