In Italy, a public space is called a piazza and the top squares in Florence are found in the city’s historic centre. Some squares took their present form during the Middle Ages; others date back to Roman times. And a hilltop lookout named for a famous Renaissance artist offers panoramic views of the rooftops below. Today they all attract visitors seeking out the history, art and architecture of the great city of Florence.
|Piazza della Signoria, Florence|
Signoria Square is the city’s political centre and the most popular piazza in Florence. Visitors flock here to see the Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s fortress-like Town Hall, and a copy of Michelangelo’s David. (The original sculpture is displayed at the Accademia Gallery.) There are more sculptures to be seen at the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, as well as the Fountain of Neptune and an equestrian statue of Vittorio Emmanel II, the first King of united Italy. A round plaque in front of the fountain marks the spot where Savonarola was burned at the stake for heresy and across the square a map displays the original Roman Plan of the city. The upscale Caffe Rivoire is famous for its rich hot chocolate.
|Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria|
|Medici Lion, Loggia dei Lanzi|
|Fountain of Neptune, Piazza della Signoria|
|Statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza della Signoria|
|Vittorio Emanuele II|
|Savonarola Plaque, Piazza della Signoria|
|Roman Plan of Florence, Piazza della Signoria|
|Caffe Rivoire, Piazza della Signoria|
2. Piazza del Duomo
With the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori at its core, Piazza del Duomo is the religious centre of Florence. The Gothic cathedral clad in pink and green marble is better known as the ‘Duomo’ for its innovative red dome designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Energetic visitors can climb to the top of the dome (463 steps) and the adjacent campanile or bell tower (only 414 steps) for great views of the city. The octagonal Baptistery of San Giovanni is even older and the site of Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors, so beautiful Michelangelo described them as “The Gates of Paradise”. The original panels are now displayed at the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. Inside the Baptistery, the domed ceiling glitters in gold mosaic tiles depicting scenes from The Last Judgement.
|Piazza del Duomo, Florence|
|Santa Maria del Fiore, Piazza del Duomo|
|Marble Facade of the Cathedral|
|The Campanile, Giotto's Bell Tower|
|Medieval Architect Giotto, Uffizi Courtyard|
|Baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence|
|The Gates of Paradise, Baptistery of San Giovanni|
|The Last Judgement, Florence Baptistery Ceiling|
3. Piazza Santa Croce
The city’s largest square, Piazza Santa Croce is named for the Franciscan basilica which borders the eastern perimeter of this vast open space. On the steps of the basilica stands a statue of Dante, the medieval poet who wrote The Divine Comedy. More notable Florentines – Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli – are buried in the basilica and a marker on the wall indicates the water level during the catastrophic flood of 1966. Behind the church is the Leather School and many of the city’s famed leather shops are located on the square. Every summer in June, the piazza is covered in sand for the Calcio Storico, a 16th century form of football played in costume.
|Basilica of Santa Croce, Piazza Santa Croce|
|Statue of Dante Alighieri, Piazza Santa Croce|
|Tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti, Santa Croce|
|Tomb of Galileo Galilei, Santa Croce|
|High Water Marker (right) from the Flood of 1966|
|Leather Work Demonstration|
|Piazza Santa Croce|
|Sidewalk Near Santa Croce|
4. Piazzale Michelangelo
This large terrace on a hill overlooking Florence provides postcard views of the Arno River, Ponte Vecchio and city rooftops. The cathedral’s red dome and the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio stand out in the skyline. A second copy of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, enjoys the view. This square was built when the city served as capital of the new Italy from 1865-1870.
|Piazzale Michelangelo on the Hilltop|
|View from Piazzale Michelangelo|
|Arno River, Ponte Vecchio and Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio|
|Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo|
5. Piazza della Repubblica
The Square of the Republic is located on the site of the ancient Roman Forum and marks the center of Florence. This piazza, its impressive portico and triumphal arch were also built during the city’s brief tenure as capital but the carousel might be more at home in a French park (they’re all over France). There’s not much else to see here, other than some historic cafes or the view from the rooftop terrace of the Rinascente department store.
|Portico and Triumphal Arch, Piazza della Repubblica, Florence|
|Carousel, Piazza della Repubblica|
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
Great Art Museums of Florence