Landmarks & Historic Sites
Battistero di San Giovanni
There are few buildings in Florence older than the Baptistery of St. John – thought to date back to the 300s or 400s. Its present look, however, stems from 11th- and 12th-century renovations. The monumental doors trace the development of Florentine sculpture from Gothic to Renaissance style.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – the Duomo -is the city’s main cathedral and one of the largest in the world. It’s topped by Filippo Brunelleschi’s cupola, a stupendous feat of 15th-century engineering. The architect used a method of his own creation to build it, inventing equipment and machines to meet his needs. The exterior is quite ornately decorated with white, pink and green marble. The inside of the church is vast, imposing and severe. The inner vault of the dome features Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari’s Last Judgment. It’s the largest painting in the world and took 16 years to restore.
Loggia della Signoria
Also called the Loggia dei Lanzi, this arcade shelters a number of important sculptures, including Cellini’s Perseus Slaying Medusa and Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabines – both of which are much more impressive than the square’s Neptune statue. Near the Palazzo Vecchio, on the Uffizi side of the Piazza della Signoria, Florence.
The palace and surrounding square have been at the heart of Florentine political life since their inauguration in the 1200s. The palace is still city hall, so its vitality is important to the Florentines. It’s not uncommon to see newly married brides and grooms exiting the building and entering horse-drawn carriages for a traditional trip around the city. The unusual shape of the Palazzo Vecchio and the off-center position of the main entrance and the bell tower have interesting historical antecedents.
This panoramic terrace on a hill overlooking Florence from the Oltrarno offers a splendid view encompassing not only the city but also the surrounding hills. This area was one of the hot spots in the siege of 1529 and 1530, when Michelangelo was appointed military engineer. For his role in defending Florence, the city decided – centuries later, in the 1800s – to name a new enormous, open square and avenue after the artist. An uninspiring monument to him was erected there in 1875, combining a full-size bronze copy of David with the four allegories of Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night. The “Piazzale,” as it’s known to the Florentines, gets very crowded on weekend afternoons and evenings, especially in fine weather. Try to catch the view at sunset – it’s stunning. A delightful 20-minute walk from Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, alongside the Arno, southeast of the city center.