Florence is a great option if you're looking for somewhere to get away for the weekend. Exuding European charm, culture and history, this is a city that has what it takes to give you a holiday to remember. Among the hundreds of things to do, here are some that will give Florence a place in your heart for years to come.
Climb Giotto's Tower
You should visit Duomo Square anyway – it's a fabulous place to watch the world go by, preferably with an ice cream or two – but, while you're there, make sure you take the chance to see Florence from another angle up Giotto’s Tower. This remarkable bell tower designed by the man whose name it bears, gives you the best of both worlds: a sweeping panorama of the city's streets and an up close and personal look at Brunelleschi's magnificent Dome close by. You do need a head for heights, and there's an admission charge, but you won't get a view like this anywhere else.
Visit the Bargello Museum
The Florence gallery everyone knows about is the Uffizi. Its paintings are undeniably superb, but the long waits to get in make it a poor choice for weekend breaks: you don't want to use up half your precious time in this wonderful city on one attraction. Instead, head for the old prison block that hosts the city's extraordinary collection of sculptures. You can see Donatello's bronze version of the famous David – without the crowds that plague the original – and several remarkable works by Michelangelo himself. A world-class museum without world-class queues? This is it.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio
It's noisy, it's sometimes unbearably busy and much of the merchandise on offer is of poor quality – but there's still something about Florence's most famous bridge that demands a visit. The medieval architecture of the shops that sit upon its stone arches is undeniably splendid, while walking a little way along the river will take you away from the crowds. Go in the early morning, when the bridge has room to breathe and then relax at a nearby café with a cappuccino made as only true Italians can.
Stroll in the gardens
Florence is blessed with several green oases, which make ideal places to get away from the city's crowds for a while. The Bardini Gardens in the Oltrarno Quarter are peaceful and elegant; there's a restaurant on site, but not a lot else – other than some truly spectacular city vistas. If you prefer your greenery combined with something a bit more varied, the larger and better-known Boboli Gardens will see you pass grottoes, fountains and even a porcelain museum as you wander along its sweeping paths. When time is short on a weekend, simply walking around and taking in the gardens, architecture and general atmosphere of Florence will leave you feel rejuvenated and inspired. Promising to come back and see all the attractions later in the year is just another reason to revisit.
Image by Putneypics, used under the Creative Commons license.