Florence is one of the most popular travel cities in Italy and offers many free sights and attractions for tourists. One of the best things to do in Florence is to just walk around and admire the beautiful squares and buildings.
Florence's most popular site is the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic cathedral has an exterior made of green, pink and white marble with elaborate doors and interesting statues. It's free to enter the church and look around.
Florence's most famous square, Piazza della Signoria, is the heart of the historic center and a free open-air sculpture exhibit. The Loggia della Signoria holds important statues including a replica of Michelangelo's David. The piazza has been Florence's political center since the Middle Ages and Florence's town hall, the medieval Palazzo Vecchio, sits on the piazza. You'll also want to admire the fountain in the square.
The Ponte Vecchio, which translates as "old bridge," was built in 1345 and was Florence's first bridge across the Arno River. It's the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II).
After a flood in 1345, the bridge was reconstructed and made into a public thoroughfare, with rows of shops added to the bridge. Ponte Vecchio became a top place for gold and silver shopping in Renaissance Florence. The Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewelry today, and even if you're not looking to buy, it's a good place for window shopping.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a large square atop a hill with panoramic views of Florence. It's above Piazza Poggi, on the south side of the Arno River and east of the historic center. Steps lead to the top of the hill from Piazza Poggi.
In the piazzale, a large panoramic terrace designed in 1869 by Giuseppe Poggi, there's a replica of Michelangelo's David, a cafe, parking lot, and vendors selling drinks and tourist items.
San Lorenzo Market
San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, San Lorenzo Central Market, is an interesting place to wander around. You may see foods you've never seen in a market before, like several kinds of cow stomachs and intestines at the Tripperia. There are stands selling all kinds of fowl, meats and fish. You'll see shops with displays of local Tuscan products including wine, biscotti, cheese and salami.
Santa Croce Neighborhood
Just to the east of the center is the Santa Croce neighborhood. Stop in Piazza Santa Croce, the neighborhood's lively main square, to admire the facade of the medieval Santa Croce Basilica, the largest Franciscan church in the world. By the church is the Leather School of Santa Croce, Scuola del Cuoio, where you can see artisans making leather products and a display of leather-working tools.
Santa Maria Novella Old Pharmacy and Perfume Makers
While there's a fee to enter Santa Maria Novella church, you can visit the ancient pharmacy in a chapel next door where Dominican monks began making herbal remedies in the 13th century. They also made perfumes, soaps, and scented lotions. Today the shop still sells elixirs, perfumes and more contemporary skin care products.
Oltrarno, Santo Spirito and San Frediano Neighborhoods
To get away from the tourist crowds, head across the river on Ponte Santa Trinita (west of Ponte Vecchio) to the area known as Oltrarno.
It's a pleasant place for strolling and you'll see typical Florentine buildings, small stores, artisan workshops and neighborhood squares.
In Piazza Santa Spirito, there's a small morning market and the Santo Spirito Church, designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century, where there's a wealth of artwork. Santa Maria del Carmine Church has a beautiful Renaissance fresco cycle in the Cappella Brancacci.