After that we proceeded to Florence by train, the journey took only about an hour. Just opposite the Santa Maria Novella station is the Basillica of Santa Maria Novella. Both the church and the train station actually share the same name. In front of the church is a plaza with patches of green grass and a central fountain.
Gelato is said to be invented in Florence by the Florentine cook Bernado Buotalenti so extensive sampling is an activity here. Just make sure you get to the gelato shops early because they tend to close quite early. It’s almost impossible to find gelato in Florence after dark, maybe only those crappy ones. A recommended one is Grom at Via del Campanile near to the Basillica.
A few minutes walk away would bring you to Battistero di San Giovanni, which is a minor basilica and also one of the oldest buildings in Florence. This octagonal baptistery is known for its three sets of bronze doors (one forged by Ghiberti known as the “Gates of Paradise“) with relief sculptures, done by famous Italian artists of the early Renaissance.
A magnificent mosaic ceiling crowns the baptistery and the interior is dark with lights entering through small windows – quite similar to the architecture of the Pantheon in Rome. A visit here is warranted.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is perhaps the most recognized landmark in Florence – appearing in most of Florence’s postcards. It is a major attraction to tourists and also the largest brick dome ever constructed. Climbing the 82m campanile next to the duomo (Giotto’s Campanile) grants visitors views of the city.
The cathedral complex, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower) at Piazza del Duomo are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This huge complex with the humongous, beautiful buildings will leave any first time visitors breathlessly in awe.
Unlike Milan, Florence is a walking city and the streets are clean. If you are arriving by train, a short walk would bring you to the duomo, in the center of Florence.
From here, almost all the important attractions in Florence are nearby. The bustling walkways feature a vast array of shops that make walking actually a pleasure here.