Love Renaissance Art, Markets, Food and Fashion? Florence Has It All

People often ask me what my favorite Italian city is. Although I love them all for their unique aspects, I have to say that Florence is the one that completely captures my heart and soul. 

Florence, Firenze!
Florence, Firenze!

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Florence has its own vocabulary for the eye. It is a city that the Italians call an insieme, an all-of-it-together kind of place. It is the birthplace of the Renaissance and has the best Renaissance art in Europe. Florence is unbeatable for some of the very finest food, fashion, and street markets. Not to mention unrivaled gelato and superlative people watching.

The Mercato Centrale
The Mercato Centrale 

Shopping is a full-time occupation in Florence. Inside the Mercato Centrale (Central Market) you will find everything imaginable. The huge iron and glass covered building is full of enticing food, colorful produce, generous free samples, pasta-making, eateries, meat counters, and gigantic stacks of pulled pork sold in a bun for a pittance. Rub elbows with the locals and visit this elegant Florentine market. Hours are Mon-Sat 7:00-14:00, closed Sun year around.

San Lorenzo Market
San Lorenzo Market

Surrounding the Church of San Lorenzo is Florence’s spacious open-air market. Leather is a popular item, from clothing to purses to boots. Here the prices are soft, so you can use your bargaining skills. Located between the Duomo and train station, the hours are daily from 9:00 to 19:00.

Pantomime Looking Human Statues
Pantomime-Looking Human Statues

There are plenty of these pantomimists around. Actually, they are quite impressive with their ability to stand absolutely still for hours. Kids especially love these guys, and flock around them along with the birds. Occasionally the statue will acknowledge its admirers with a glance and a nod, but don’t count on it.

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Medieval Wall

On the other side of the Arno River and up to the Michelangelo Park  viewpoint, the hilly landscape reveals a long portion of the old medieval wall that encompassed the city at one time. Invaders from all directions found it pretty difficult to scale those walls and penetrate into the city. Florence remained fairly well protected throughout its earlier history. The walk up to Michelangelo Park Viewpoint  is well worth it, and also provides vast views of Florence, giving opportunities for great photo taking. Nighttime is spellbinding.

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San Miniato Church

Behind Michelangelo Park Viewpoint is this classic 12th century Florentine Romanesque church, stately in its green and white marble facade. One of the oldest churches in town, highlights within the church are the glazed terra-cotta panels on the ceiling by Luca delle Robbia, an exquisite Renaissance chapel, and radiantly preserved frescoes in the upstairs sacristy, showing scenes from the life of St. Benedict (painted 1350 by a follower of Giotto.) I loved these paintings, and spent a lot of time in this room. Behind the building outside is the oldest graveyard I have ever seen. It’s full of life-size statues dancing, crying, sporting wings, little children laughing, and so on. I found it very interesting to walk through, but I don’t recommend a night-time stroll.

Florence is very multi-layered, and although I have seen a lot I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are magnificent churches, museums and other historical venues that are Florence’s landmarks and not to be missed. Florence beacons me to return time and again, with each visit an entirely new adventure.

“And it was this…..that beckons us back: not any particular building or painting or statue or piazza or bridge; not even the whole unrivaled array of works of art. It is the city itself–the city understood as a self; as a whole, a miraculously developed design.”

R.W.B. Lewis “The City of Florence.”


25 thoughts on “Love Renaissance Art, Markets, Food and Fashion? Florence Has It All

  • I absolutely love Firenze ❤️ Especially the Oltrarno, although the hordes of tourists do get annoying. San Miniato al Monte is amazing and I’ve spent lots of time taking photos from the cemetery, in daylight hours. My nipotina is graduating next year and we are going to celebrate with a week in Firenze. Ciao,cristina

    Liked by 1 person

  • Great overview of Florence Susan! I love the shopping there….those cute little leather purses in all colors get me very time! But I have to be honest and say I don’t really care for Florence. I am sure many people will scream when they read this. “Who doesn’t like FLORENCE!?!?!” Every time I go there, I have some kind of bad or negative experience. Every time. Not sure why that is. Clearly it is a beautiful place, but it just doesn’t care for me I guess. My sis is like that with Paris….not for her…..I guess we all have those places we have been to with lots of mishaps. 🙂 Anyway…your post made me want to give it another shot! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ciao Diana! Thank you…and I do understand your take on Florence. I love those neighboring hill towns as well. My memories of Florence have been wonderful so far. But it’s been a while…next time I return it will be on the list. Good to hear from you!


  • I also love Firenze, but not the crowds. Having been to Firenze three times, I would rather go back to Verona, Lucca and Arezzo of the larger towns, and the hill towns such as Montepulciano, Orvieto and Pienza. There we can enjoy the Italian lifestyle in comfort.

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  • Susan I adore Firenze…my cousin’s daughter visited years ago on a study abroad program while in college—she never came back… well…only for visits as she has since married and started a family there in Florence—she started the first English / Italian theater group in Florence putting on several productions a year in the co languages—the Florentines have embraced it…plus, on one of my visits years ago, the Papinis and I became fast dear friends—their leather business is there at the foot of the “old bridge”—Papini Leathers—they are a charming family who I consider to be family—-it has been too long since my last visit—these posts of yours just make me “homesick” 🙂

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  • Grazie, Susan, for this reminder of why I fell in love with Florence. I’m heading back for 2 short days in a couple weeks. Your words and pictures have made me even more excited.


    • Bill, I am so glad! Florence is a place you carry around with you in your heart. I will be back as well this coming September and just writing this piece made me excited all over again! Have a wonderful time and…..make memories! Ciao, Susan


  • And now with the new Dan Brown book being released today, there will be a whole new flock of tourists wanting to see all the Dante sites. (won’t they be disappointed when they find out he’s buried in Ravenna!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Dan’s fan club will have to handle this sad bit of news! But the way Dan keeps them engaged, I think it may just blow off….?? Thank you for the comment, Rick.


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