During my week-long business trip, I had a chance to roam around Florence for a couple of days. This minor excursion could be done within two days. However, it is not enough for thoroughly exploring the city and visiting various museums, if you are a museum lover. Nevertheless, it was enough for me to get some nice photos, showing the greatness this city can offer. 🙂
My highlight of this trip is Florence Cathedral or Florence's Duomo. This Gothic-style cathedral is the third largest church in the world. I was here 5 years ago and still excited to visit this place again. The cathedral complex consists of the Cathedral itself, a bell tower known as Giotto’s Campanile, and the Florence Baptistery. The Cathedral is free to enter, but the rest are not. To access the other part of the complex, a ticket is needed. The ticket costs 15 euro and includes the entrance to the Crypt, the Dome, the Campanile, the Baptistery, and the Museum. The ticket can be bought online here or at the ticket office behind the Cathedral. I would suggest that you book time slots for visiting the Dome and the Campanile after you have bought the ticket to avoid waiting in lines. Be aware that shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed inside the cathedral complex.
The line to enter the Cathedral may seem long, but should not take longer than 10 minutes. Inside the cathedral is spectacular, especially the painting of the inside dome. You can have a closer look of the painting if you decide to climb up the Dome. You can also access the crypt where the remains of the old basilica of Santa Reparata located (see here for more detail). Next to the crypt is an official souvenir shop of the cathedral. You can buy shirts, postcards, magnets, and many more here.
My first stop is the Dome, the rooftop of the Cathedral. Climbing up the Dome requires physical strength and a little bit of courage. You need to climb up 463 steps of stair and there is no elevator. It isn't recommended for people with heart disease, vertigo, or claustrophobia. The stair to the Dome is really small. It only has enough space for one person to walk.
Booking your climbing time beforehand is recommended. Your waiting time will be much shorter than the walk-in one. Make sure that you arrive on time, or your booking will be cancelled. My booking was at 9 AM and I could start climbing right away. Walk-in visitors, who started climbing with me, were waiting for almost an hour in the walk-in line. Going up the Dome this early in morning was the right decision. The stair wasn't packed by the people coming down. It could be difficult to breath if the stair is packed as there are only a few windows along the way. It took me 15 minutes to reach the top and I only stopped for a few photos. That wasn’t too bad.
It was a sunny day with a really strong sunlight. I couldn’t take any photo of the east side of the city as it was against the sun. Nevertheless, I really enjoy being up there. After staying for an hour, I decided it's time to go down. At this point, the Dome was crowded. People needed to form a line to go down the stair, and there has a space only enough for one person to go down at a time. All visitors needed to take turn going up and down.
Here are some nice views from the Dome
The Campanile (Bell Tower)
I was at the Campanile in the afternoon (3 PM) and it wasn't as crowded as the Dome. Climbing up the Campanile is much easier than the Dome. The stair is narrow but has multiple stops to properly rest and get fresh air. It took me about 15 minutes to walk up the rooftop.
Being at the top of the Campanile gives you a nice view of the Dome but was also scary for me. I could see straight down to the base of the tower. It gave me the goosebumps, even if it has banister preventing people from climbing and falling from there. I was so scare that I would drop my phone if I were to use it to take photos.
A nice shot from the Campanile.
The Baptistery is in front of the Cathedral. There is not much inside, but since you have the pass why not go in and have a look. The inside roof of the Baptistery is very stunning. Story about the Baptistery is here.
On the other day, I went to Piazza Michelangelo. It is a nice place to get the panorama view of Florence. The piazza is in a walkable distance from the downtown Florence, roughly 3 km from Florence Cathedral. It requires walking up hills, but not too bad. I walked up there two times during this trip. The Piazza is the place where one of replicas of Michelangelo's David is located. The original is at La Accademia Gallery. I didn't have time to go there, but like many other places in Florence, you have to book your visit in advance or wait in a long line.
The Piazza is also a good place to watch sunset. It is not dangerous at all to stay for a sunset, even if you are a girl travelling alone like myself. There will be hundreds of people there with you. Along the way back to the city, there are shops and restaurants, so you won’t be the only one walking. The city itself is really active in the evening.
Ponte Vecchio (means “Old Bridge”) is another famous place in Florence. It was the only bridge across Arno river until 1218. There have been all types shops alongside of the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. However, starting in 1953, only goldsmiths and jewellers are allowed to have their shops on the bridge, by law (find out more here).
An additional tip
Florence has many cafés around the city. They serve pastry, drinks, and food. A tip for budget travelers, a café will charge you for table cover fee if you sit down at a table. For example, I went to Scudieri café in front of the Duomo and I ordered macchiato, which was 1.50 EUR for me standing at the bar and drank my coffee. If I sit down, it will be 4.50 EUR. This café seems to be very popular for the locals. I was there early in the morning and saw many locals stopped by for coffee, and of course, they were standing customers at the bar.