Free Things To Do in Florence
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Loggia dei Lanzi, in the Piazza della Signoria, is an open-air (and free) museum that was designed in the 14th century by Orcagna, an influential architect and artist. Below the building's curved arches are dozens of sculptures (notable ones include Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines and Cellini's Perseus), which draw crowds of tourists and locals alike. Behind it sits the Galleria degli Uffizi. The Piazza della Signoria is also filled with its (more than) fair share of sculptures, including a towering replica of Michaelangelo's David.
Take your time wandering around, and if you get tired, grab a seat along the Loggia dei Lanzi, or make your way to a cafe near the Fountain of Neptune. Recent visitors said this is a must-see spot and a great area to people-watch, view magnificent sculptures and rest travel-weary feet (though past travelers recommended avoiding the restaurants in this area, calling them "outrageously overpriced." To avoid the height of the crowds, visit in the evening. Access to the area is free 24/7.
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Overlooking the city from its perch in the Oltrarno district, the Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most popular viewpoints in the city, and it's definitely worthwhile if you're a first-time visitor. This ornate square is known for its spectacular views and its towering replica of Michelangelo's David. Getting to the piazza can be quite the trek on foot (there is an intimidating flight of stairs leading from the Piazza Poggi), but recent visitors said the panoramic city views are well worth the workout and shouldn't be missed. Plus, there are vendors at the top selling drinks and souvenirs should you need a refreshment.
You can also watch the sunset from one of the outdoor cafes lining the square. Also, there are two flower gardens that come to life with thousands of varieties of roses and irises in the spring months. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan to come early in the morning or at night. Piazzale Michelangelo is free to access 24/7.
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Located in an iron-and-glass building designed by architect Giuseppe Mengoni in 1874, the Mercato Centrale Firenze is a great place to browse and stock up on tasty Italian foods. The ground floor of the market features vendors selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, fish, olive oil, vinegars and other local goods. Upstairs from the vendors, you'll find a modern food hall, with shops selling everything from pizza to gelato, where you can sit down to a meal or pick up items for a picnic. Surrounding the building, dozens of vendors also sell artwork, pottery, jewelry, leather, clothing, souvenirs and anything else you can think of.
Recent visitors called the market fun and lively to visit, with lots of tempting things to eat and buy. They also said it was a great value for the money and recommended stopping in a few times over the course of your Florence visit.
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Located in the Oltrarno, the neighborhood on the other side of the Arno River (opposite the Duomo), this square is a lively hub of activity, especially at night when its many cafes and restaurants draw locals out to relax on terraces and patios for a meal or a drink. A main feature of the square is Filippo Brunelleschi's last church, the Basilica di Santo Spirito, which he designed in 1444, but was unable to finish before his death. Antonio Manetti, Giovanni da Gaiole and Salvi d'Andrea finished the church by the end of the 1400s.
Manty recent visitors loved the local feel and say it is a nice escape from the tourist crowds. The square is home to a small daily market and since the area has long been an artisan district, there are lots of shops you can visit in the neighborhood. For a real glimpse into local life, this is a wonderful place to sit back and take it all in.
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Much like London's Tower Bridge, the Ponte Vecchio was built to replace an earlier bridge. Once dominated by butchers and bakers, the original bridge was washed away during a flood in the early 14th century. When the new Ponte Vecchio was completed, it too was home to local food stores until grand Duke Ferdinand I of the Medici family decided to designate this unadorned bridge the epicenter of the city's gold and jewel trade. It has maintained this identity ever since.
Recent visitors said it is especially beautiful at sunset. If you don't want to overpay for souvenirs, heed the advice of past travelers and avoid shopping along the bridge. Some reviewers also recommend taking a gondola tour of the Arno River to experience sailing beneath the bridge, though they do warn this will cost you.
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