The Medici family literally bankrolled the renaissance and patronised artists like Michaelangelo, Botticelli and many others and helped create the modern Florence as we see it today.
Their power and influence can be felt today everywhere you look in Florence starting with their coat of arms
Like most great families from the past, patronising art, literature and other creative interests was merely a front for an often intriguing and divisive personal life. I'll touch on that a little as I review some of the works of art later in this post. So here we go with a capsule review of what to do and see in Florence.
Probably the best advice I can give you about Florence is to pre book everything. The interest in the museums and its many collections is staggering so its best to book tickets in advance to avoid having to queue for hours on end. There is a bit of queuing even with pre booked tickets however so be prepared to wait around for a good 20 minutes for most attractions.
First on the list of must see is The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. It is the main church in Florence and on first seeing it you're struck by its spectacular beauty. There's something otherworldly about it. This too has a Medici connection as it's impressive dome was completed by Brunelleschi with the financial backing of the Medici. Walk around the entire complex and take in the extraordinary detail on the doors and windows with its intricate carvings and marble panelled facade. You can climb up to the dome and observe the expanse of Florence but on seeing the queues I opted to enjoy the beauty from ground level. Luckily I was staying in a hotel around the corner from the Duomo with a rooftop that gives you the view of the entire cathedral (see image below)
Next on my list is The Accademia Gallery. It is an art museum known for housing the sculpture of David by Michaelangelo and other sculptures along with some renaissance works of art. As you can imagine this museum gets incredibly busy because of the sculpture but if you can bear the crowds then you'll be rewarded with a glorious view of David. Also of note are the unfinished sculptures titled the "prisoners or slaves" by Michaelangelo.
Uffizi Gallery - My next stop was the Uffizi (office). The Uffizi houses some of the most priceless works of renaissance art in the world. Again this this a gallery which requires pre booking to avoid the large crowds. Book a day before to have the best chance of getting in. Another recommendation is to download Rock Steve's Audio Europe which provides you with a guided tour of the entire gallery so you can peruse at your own pace. Some of the highlights are The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, Venus of Urbino by Titian, Sacrifice of Isaac and Medussa by Caravaggio and the list goes on. The gallery is also on the banks of the Arno River and gives you one of the best views of the Ponte Vecchio.
You can also simply spend hours just walking around Florence and soaking in all the art and architecture on show. This is a truly charming Renaissance experience.
Click on the images above for a slide of renaissance paintings