It may be small, but Florence contains a quarter of the planet’s UNESCO world heritage sites, which can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. With this ratio of classics per square meter, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit — so don’t try.
Florence’s Duomo: If you only see one sight in Florence, make it this.
A good starting point is Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo (Piazza del Duomo), which dominates the city’s skyline. Climb up the inside of Brunelleschi’s 15th-century dome and admire the views from the cupola.
If you only visit one museum, pick carefully. For sculpture, head to the Bargello (Via del Proconsolo, 4; +39 055 2388-606; http://www.firenzemusei.it). For art, it has to be the Uffizi Galleries (Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6; +39 055 2388-651; http://www.firenzemusei.it).
But not all of Florence’s wonders are indoors, so take advantage of the clement weather and cross the Roman Ponte Vecchio Bridge, famous for the jewelry shops that line it, to the Boboli Gardens. Take a picnic and climb up to the top of the gardens, congratulate yourself on escaping the crowds and admire the view.
If you only have time for a flying visit, check out the unbelievable ice-cream colours of Michaelangelo’s tomb in Santa Croce church (Piazza Sta Croce); when you’re done, pick up some impeccably made leather purses from Scula del Cuoio, a leather school next door (Piazza Santa Croce, 16; Tel. 055-244-534; http://www.leatherschool.com).
Take a trip back to the middle ages by listening to San Miniato’s Benedictine monks sing Gregorian chants during vespers at Florence’s oldest church, which dates back to the 11th century (Via del Monte Alle Croci, near Piazza Michelangiolo; Vespers at 16.30 summer and 17.30 winter).
If you are looking for something more offbeat, try the Museo La Specola (Via Romana, 17; +39 055 228 8251) a zoology museum where you can find eerily accurate wax models of corpses, a multitude of stuffed animals and other Victorian museum curiosities.