10 free sights in Florence: map, photo, description
Florence knows its price, and a trip to the city, even for one day for sightseeing, can put a lot of strain on your travel budget. However, among the many interesting places of the capital of Tuscany are those that are available for free. This article is where you will find the sights you are looking for.
Useful tip: If you want to travel to Florence without overpaying for the services of live guides, install a city audio guide for iPhone [link] or Android [link]. This app with a ready-made step-by-step audio tour and built-in GPS to easily find all the objects of the route on a convenient built-in map.
The app works even without internet, and in the trial version you can listen to the first 5 points of the route for free. All 60 sites of the tour will cost only a few euros, which is ten times cheaper than the services of even the most budget individual guide. You can install the application on your iPhone here. The Android version can be downloaded here [link].
We move directly to the most interesting sights in the city that you can see for free.
1. Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore
The dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is adorned on all postcards and guidebook covers, promising a dizzying panorama of the city to all who climb it.
The main treasury of Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is stunning not only for its exterior but also for its interior. It contains Michelangelo’s Pietà (The Submission to the Coffin) and Donatello’s Mary Magdalene.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s main treasury
The cathedral’s museum complex also includes a museum, baptistery, Giotto’s Campanile and crypt, but free admission applies only to visits to the cathedral itself.
Address: Piazza del Duomo
Opening hours: To see the detailed hours of the Cathedral, visit this page.
Entrance to the Cathedral itself is free, but you can buy tickets for the entire complex at the link below.
2. Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The first wooden crossing over the Arno River on the site of Florence’s most famous bridge dates back to the days of ancient Rome. After repeated destructions the bridge was finally rebuilt in the XIV century.
Since then the Ponte Vecchio has been increasingly filled with houses, which first housed butchers’ shops and then jewelry stores. You can still visit the jewelry boutiques on the Old Bridge these days.
Today the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is home to jewelry stores.
But it is even more interesting to stroll along the Vasari Corridor. The passage from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti over the pedestrian archway appeared in the 14th century on the orders of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.
It now houses a gallery of self-portraits by great painters from around the world, including Raphael, Velázquez, Kiprensky, Kustodiev and others.
Address: Ponte Vecchio
Open 24 hours: Open all day.
Tickets: A visit to the Ponte Vecchio itself is free, but entrance to the Vasari corridor is possible only with a ticket to the Uffizi Gallery.
3. Piazza Michelangelo
Guides chorally recommend Piazza Michelangelo as the best vantage point for admiring the panorama of the city, and today it is considered one of Florence’s main free attractions.
Crowds of citizens and tourists gather every day to watch the sunset on the steps of the stairs leading to the square.
On the square, named after the great Italian, you can see a copy of the statue of “David” and a sculptural composition, which includes 4 figures: “Morning”, “Day”, “Evening”, “Night”.
Michelangelo Square offers a magnificent panorama of the city
Near Michelangelo Square in spring and summer you can also visit the Iris and Rose Gardens.
The synchronized blooms of the irises in the botanical gardens can be enjoyed for one month only, from the end of April to the end of May. The Rose Garden is open a little longer, all of May and the first half of June.
Address: Piazzale Michelangelo
Open 24 hours: Piazzale Michelangelo daily from 10:00 to 12:30 and 15:00 to 19:00; the Rose Garden daily from 8:00 to 20:00.
4. Piazza dei Signori
Piazza della Signoria is literally an open-air museum: the historical center of Florence has many sculptural groups of great masters.
The Neptune Fountain is made of white marble and depicts not only the lord of the sea, but also numerous mythical creatures living in the sea abyss: nymphs, mermaids, seahorses. By the way, the Neptune Fountain has been decorating the square for over 450 years.
Piazza della Signoria is called the open-air museum.
Of no less interest is the Loggia dei Lanzi, or rather, the sculptures that adorn it, from the collection of the Uffizi Gallery, among which works by Cellini, Giambologna, Pio Fedi. Most of the sculptures are copies, but for example the Perseus with the head of Medusa Cellini is an original.
Address: Piazza della Signoria
Open 24 hours: Open all day.
5. Loggia of the New Market (Mercato Nuovo)
The huge stone canopy is not far from Piazza della Signoria. Today it sells leather goods, while at one time it was possible to pick up an Italian straw hat or measure silk on the stalls of the Loggia.
But it’s not shopping that draws visitors here – it’s an old popular belief, according to which the bronze piglet in the local fountain grants wishes.
Put a coin in its mouth and see it fall through the lattice, then flick the piglet’s nickel.
The Loggia Mercato Nuovo sells leather goods
Another interesting but little-noticed attraction of the Loggia is the colored marble circle, which can only be seen during the hours when the market is empty.
In ancient times, before battles, the city’s army would gather around the altar-carriage, on which the city’s flag was hoisted. The marble circle symbolizes one of the wheels.
Address: Piazza della Repubblica (crossing Via Porta Rossa and Via Por Santa Maria Calimala)
Open 24 hours: 24 hours a day.
6. Church of the Orsanmichele
The church of Orsanmikele has a remarkable history. It was both the granary and the savior of the city from the plague.
Since the middle of XIII century, there was a grain market here, and also religious services were conducted. The year 1348, when the city survived an epidemic of plague, was a landmark in the history of the church. The point is that the icon of the Virgin Mary, considered the savior of the Florentines, was kept here.
The church is decorated with works by Donatello, Verrocchio and other famous masters.
Donations poured into the church in such quantities that eventually a sum exceeding the annual budget of the entire city was collected.
With this money a huge marble tabernacle was built, and because it had little to do with commerce, the marketplace was moved to a new location.
In addition to the tabernacle, the church of Orsammichele is decorated with works by Donatello, Verrocchio and other famous masters.
Address: Via Orsammichele, 4
Hours of operation:
- Church (1st floor) daily from 10:00 to 16:50;
- Sculpture Museum (2nd and 3rd floor) Mon: 10:00-16:50; Sat: 10:00-12:30
7. The refectory of Sant’Apollonia
Once in the refectory of the former Benedictine monastery, you will find here a fresco that strikingly resembles Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest work and has the same name, The Last Supper.
The resemblance is not coincidental: the fact is that it was the work of Italian artist Andrea del Castagno that inspired Leonardo when he was working on his masterpiece.
“Andrea del Castagno’s The Last Supper in the refectory of Sant’Apollo
In addition to The Last Supper, the refectory of Sant’Apollo contains other frescoes by Castagno, although they are not as well preserved.
The refectory of Sant’Apollonia is on the campus of the University of Florence, so if you want, you can try walking through the courtyard to the classrooms.
The refectory itself will let you in free of charge – you will only be asked to leave your signature in the visitor’s book.
Address: Via XXVII Aprile, 1 Sant’ Appolonia
Opening times: Fri, Wed, Sat: 9am-12pm
8. Church of Dante
The Church of Dante is considered one of Florence’s lesser-known sights. While Dante’s House Museum is hardly accessible for free, there’s nothing to stop you from visiting the place where the legend says the great poet met his main muse and love.
The Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi is hidden in an alley not far from Dante’s house. Here is buried Beatrice Portinari, whose encounter with her so strongly influenced Dante’s life and works.
The basket next to Beatrice’s tombstone is full of notes with requests
In the basket next to the tombstone it is customary to leave notes with requests for Dante’s beloved.
Address: Piazza dei Giuochi
Open daily from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
9. Villa Petraia
In the hills surrounding Florence, 8 km from the historic center, is one of the most beautiful villas of the Medici family.
Its gardens are spread over three terraces and behind the villa you will find a grotto which used to be a great entertainment for the Duke and his guests because the water would suddenly start gushing from some pipes hidden in the grotto.
The main treasure of Villa La Petraia is the cycle of frescoes “Glory of the House of Medici”, made by Volterrano in the XVII century.
Each room has valuable exhibits that remind you of the splendor of former times. In the music room, for example, there is still a harmonium made to order in 1868.
The gardens of Villa Petraia are located on three terraces
It is free to visit, but only with a guide who invites you once an hour for a guided tour.
Address: Via della Petraia, 40
Open daily from 8:30 to 18:00.
10. Park Cascine
Park Cascine is another former property of the Medici family which was firstly given over to agriculture and later furnished according to the fashion of the time for landscape design.
Since the end of the XVIII century, the renewed park was only accessible to the nobility and only in the XIX century was it open to the public.
Today, there is a hippodrome and a velodrome, as well as a valuable collection of ancient trees. It is customary to make appointments at the statue of an Indian prince, a reminder of the tragic death of an overseas guest.