We all know that the historic centre of Florence (which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site) is practically an open-air museum but there are important and special places that can be visited for free throughout the year. As a team of the Brunelleschi Hotel, we are always looking for exclusive experiences to offer to our guests but there are some places in the city that you really cannot give up and that are within everyone’s reach. Here are our proposals for monuments to visit for free in Florence that contribute to making the city, symbol of Renaissance culture, unique.
This article provides updated information on the restrictive measures caused by Covid-19 for access to the various sites of tourist interest.
Florence Cathedral (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore)
Access to the most important cathedral in the city is free through special entrances, properly marked. The interior of the Cathedral is of extraordinary charm that you can admire calmly. In particular, do not miss the Clock of the Counter-façade of the Cathedral with the hands that move in reverse.
The ascent to Brunelleschi’s Dome, access to Giotto’s Bell Tower, to the Crypt inside the Duomo, on the other hand, are subject to a fee, and are part of the Opera del Duomo circuit.
Now, the Cathedral is open only for worship activities and for personal prayer and tourist visits are not allowed. It is however possible to enter and admire the interior with discretion.
Loggia dei Lanzi and Piazza della Signoria
Two symbolic places of the city that can leave speechless those who visit Florence for the first time. From the historic Piazza della Signoria, it is possible to admire the façade of Palazzo Vecchio, now the seat of the Florence Municipality, numerous statues including the copy of the large statue of David by Michelangelo, (the original one is in the Galleria dell’Accademia), the fountain of Neptune (called Biancone by the Florentines); and the Loggia dei Lanzi, once the seat of city assemblies and today a fascinating gallery of open-air sculptures.
This type of visit does not involve particular difficulties since these are outdoor monuments.
It is the most famous vantage point in the city from which you can take wonderful postcard-like photos showing the skyline of Florence. From this observation point, you can in fact admire, among the numerous points of interest: the Brunelleschi Dome of the Florence Cathedral, the Arnolfo Tower that overlooks Palazzo Vecchio, the Arno, Ponte Vecchio and the facade of the Uffizi Gallery.
At the moment, there are no particular access restrictions to Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden is a park below Piazzale Michelangelo. It can be visited for free and it is open from 9 am to sunset. The best time to visit is from May to June, a period of flowering in the many varieties of roses found inside, as well as lemon trees, a Japanese garden and particular sculptures by the Belgian architect Jean-Michel Folon. The entire garden is fenced so it is also a suitable place for families with small children.
Even this park, being an open-air public place, can be safely visited even in this period.
Visiting the local markets or the typical markets of a city certainly helps better to get to know the culture of the place or to get in touch with the “natives”. In Florence you can visit, (free of course) various fixed and occasional markets in the various districts of the city, from food to markets that sell handicrafts or souvenirs (the latter not always locally produced). Even if you do not want to buy anything, visiting the markets allows you to savour local customs and traditions or discover products not for sale in your country of origin.
Among the various markets in the centre of Florence, we point out in particular the San Lorenzo Market in the district of the same name: on the ground floor there are the food stalls of the historic artisans and local companies, (currently open and open to visitors), and on the first floor, there is the Mercato Centrale di Firenze, consisting of stalls offering all types of street food that can be taken away or consumed in the refreshment areas on the same floor (closed at the time of writing this article; the reopening date will be communicated in the official channels of the Market).
Along the road leading to the San Lorenzo Market there are stalls full of leather objects or other souvenirs.
Another market to visit for free in Florence is that of the Porcellino, so called for the presence of a bronze fountain / statue depicting a wild boar. It is customary to rub the boar’s face as a lucky charm or drop a coin into the fountain grate. The market is located in a 16th century loggia decorated with statues and inside you can find all kinds of souvenirs.
The stalls of the above markets are currently active and accessible for free.
Church of Dante or Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi
It is a small chapel located in the heart of the historic centre of Florence where Dante met his beloved Beatrice Portinari and a stop for curious and aficionados of Dante and his beloved Beatrice to whom they address personal messages left in a basket located on Beatrice’s false tombstone. In fact, her own is not buried here like the rest of the Portinari family but in the tomb of her husband’s family, Simone de’ Bardi, located in the Great Cloister of the Basilica of Santa Croce.
At the time of writing this article, the Church of Dante and Beatrice is closed but the parish priest lives next to the church. If you are interested in visiting it, you can call the intercom and ask to visit it. A small offer is suggested.
In addition to these small suggestions, we point out that most of the churches and basilicas of Florence can be visited and accessed for free. Some examples: the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, the Basilica of Santo Spirito or the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte and its cemetery where are buried important people of the city.
Finally, of sure charm and possibly at sunset is a walk along the Arno River: a priceless show!