Florence – the city of Michelangelo and his David, Donatello and his…also David, Bartolomeo Ammannati and his Neptune and…Ezio Auditore da Firenze with all the Borgia family members he… Assassinated Creed. Birthplace of the Renaissance movement, bursting with stunning architecture and exquisite art – Firenze is my favourite Italian city so far. Charming Italian streets full of quirky shops, cafes and restaurants, iconic buildings with red brick roofs and most importantly, historic landmarks, create the stunning scenery and unparalleled panoramas, which is better appreciated from above.
For this reason I created my personal little guide of the best viewpoints in Florence.
1. Piazzale Michelangelo
Is a place which you simply can’t miss! This square, while not being so special itself, offers a magnificent lookout over the whole of Florence. No matter what time of day you go there, you will be stunned by gorgeous scenery that will touch you to the very deepest bones…or even your soul, if you have one. But naturally, the best of the best time to be there is at sunset. The shades of oranges and blues appearing in the sky, combined with the impressive Florentine skyline and street artists playing guitar in the background, create an incredible, even romantic atmosphere. Yes, I said romantic. Even if you’re as pragmatic as I am, and express your feelings by saying “I will punch you”, you will definitely fall for the views of Florence at sunset.
Getting there requires you to be in moderately decent shape, because you have to climb a bunch of steps. But hey, let’s burn those pasta carbs. If you really, really don’t want to walk, you can take the bus 12 or 13 from the city centre.
Just below the Piazzale Michelangelo there is a Rose Garden, another great view point where only curious tourists and Florentines looking for peace and quiet find their way there. If you need a few minutes away from the city jam, this is the place for you. Amazing views guaranteed.
2. Cupola del Duomo di Firenze – Dome of Florence
They say you haven’t really been to Florence if you didn’t climb those 463 stairs to make it to the top of the duomo of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – The Florence Cathedral. So apparently, I haven’t…bummer.
The magnificent Cathedral of Florence stands tall over the city, charming you with its Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The dome is one of the largest domes in the world and the views from there (from what I saw in Assassin’s Creed 2) are incredible. You will be amazed by the city panorama and the perfection of the red rooftops covering the buildings all over Florence.
The entrance to the cathedral itself is free, but to go up to the dome, you have to buy a ticket and book your visit. Once you book your time slot, it can’t be changed later on. The ticket to climb the Duomo costs 18 euro (April 2019) and includes single access to other surroundings museums: Giotto’s Bell Tower, Baptistery of San Giovanni, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum. Make sure to book your visit in advance, the slots fill up pretty fast especially during Summer.
There is one thing though, if you’re scared of heights, the dark and you’re claustrophobic, the climb up to the dome is not recommended. The less-than-1-meter wide corridors were never meant to be open to the public and the look down about 40 meters into the central part of the cathedral, is not for the easily scared ones.
3. Campanile di Giotto – Giotto’s Bell Tower
If after visiting the dome, you would like to see it from another perspective, take a deep breath, tense your mussels and go to the top of Giotto’s Bell Tower. This time, it’s only 414 steps. This magnificent Gothic construction amazes with its size (it’s 84 meters tall) and beautifully carved ornaments made of red, white and green marble inlay.
It offers not only the best view of the Duomo, but also a marvellous, panoramic view of the city and surrounding hills. To enter the tower you can use the same ticket you bought for Duomo. No booking is required there.
Unfortunately I was too lazy to climb up those 2 amazing structures…kidding, I simply didn’t have enough time during my short visit to Florence. That’s why the picture below comes from Carson, my Instagram friend, who was kind enough to let me use it.
4. Biblioteca delle Oblate – Oblate Public Library
The Oblate Library is most certainly more of a hidden gem. It’s even so well hidden that it took me a good 5 minutes to find the entrance. But all the effort was worth the view.
Located in the former Convent of the Oblate, the library is a small treasure in the heart of Florence. You’re naturally welcome to visit the whole complex, which includes a Section on Conservation and Local History, The Museum of Prehistory and 3 big reading rooms, but for me the most interesting part was the big terrace located on the second floor with a perfect view of the dome of Florence Cathedral. There you will find a little café, many tables, chairs and…students learning ardently. Man, I wish I had such amazing place to study. Even though it was quite busy, there were still many ways to snap the perfect shot with one of the biggest domes in the world. It’s also a great place to have a little break, in an atmosphere of Italian enlightenment.
The main entrance is on Via dell’Oriuolo. When you spot the lovely yard and suddenly feel the breeze of the need for knowledge on your neck, it means you’re there.
5. Grand Hotel Baglioni – B-roof bar and restaurant
I know what you’re thinking…Grand Hotel probably requires a dress code, a reservation 2 years in advance and a deep wallet. Luckily none of above. Well, as long as you go there during the day and don’t eat a meal.
On the 5th floor of Hotel Baglioni there is a rooftop bar and a restaurant with a fantastic view over the Florentine skyline. Located in the city centre, this multilevel terrace will definitely deliver a “grand” experience. You can find indoor and outdoor sitting with both dining tables and sofas and during the warm months you can enjoy an extra green corner of the terrace called B-green.
I went there after a whole day of sightseeing, already with my suitcase, ready to catch a train to Pisa, just to feast my eyes on the incredible Florentine panorama for the last time. I was a little worried, that maybe I wouldn’t be able to enter the bar without a reservation, especially when dragging my pink suitcase, but the concierge happily directed me to the elevator to the 5th floor of the hotel. The view of the Duomo from the terrace knocked me out once again. It’s one of those you can never forget. I spent ages looking at the cathedral, snapped a few pictures, had a coffee in B-green and was ready to leave. I couldn’t imagine a better way of saying goodbye to Florence.
Below you can find other recommended viewpoints/rooftop bars in Florence with a perfect panorama of the city and most importantly – the Duomo. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to check them out (seriously, have I even really been in this city?), but they were on my list of the places to go.
- Hotel Croce di Malta with panoramic rooftop terrace open all year round located in the heart of Florence (I actually tried to visit this one but it was closed as they were expecting rain, which never came)
- Three Sixty Rooftop Bar of Hotel Minerva – a rooftop terrace with a pool right in the middle, and a smaller terrace on the other side of the bar. During the day, the pool terrace is reserved for hotel guests but you can still enjoy the views over lunch on the other terrace. From 7pm, both terraces are open to everyone and an Italian-style aperitivo over sunset is apparently a must
- Caffe La Terrazza of La Rinascente – shopping with a view? Only in Florence. The rooftop bar of La Rinascente – the department store, offers a perfect view of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio
- La Terrazza Lounge Bar of Hotel Continentale – if the view of the Duomo already bored you (whaaaat?), this terrace will provide a “refreshment”. Located on the top floor of the medieval Consorti tower at the Hotel Continentale, the terrace provides amazing views of the famous Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and other historic buildings of Florence. It’s a more of a fancy place though, so don’t forget to dress up.