Many of you are probably wondering how on Earth I have written a blog post about Rome and Florence – let alone any other Italian city – without writing an excessively lengthy blog-thesis. After all, there is so much to see in each beloved city. Well, I can assure you, writing this post, I did encounter a word count dilemma!
My solution: simply list. So, leaving the course of my usual writing style, I wanted to share with you guys a number of iconic must-sees in both Rome and Florence and, in a lesser known Tuscan town, Lucca. We may not have done it all, but we certainly did enough to provide you with some insights into the sites of these cities and the magic they behold. So, here it goes:
Rome is a city with so much history. Stories of wealth and power, conquest and battle, tradition and change have all left their mark on Italy’s capital city. It’s a place where reflection on human nature is inevitable, and a place you’re bound to never forget.
1. The Colosseum
No trip to Rome would be complete – or possible, I don’t think – without seeing the colossal, ancient building which is The Colosseum. Built to entertain the Roman populous, the oval amphitheatre was once used for gladiatorial battles, exotic animal fights and other public spectacles. Today, it’s probably Rome’s most visited site.
2. The Roman Forum
Situated adjacent to The Colosseum, the Roman Forum is a spectacular place of history and the literal centre of Ancient Rome. The Forum, or plaza, is surrounded by numerous ruins of important, governmental buildings that would have been crucial to the operations of the Roman Empire. The site is also home to the remains of Julius Caesar!
3. Palatine Hill
Heading up Palatine Hill, one is hit with the immensity of Rome – both ancient and contemporary. The city which spreads before one’s eyes is a city where new and old come together. While the Forum spreads below in all of its ruinous glory, in the distance copper church domes compete for attention. It’s a view that shouldn’t be missed.
4. Saint Peter’s Basilica
Daniel’s favourite place in Rome was Saint Peter’s Basilica – the largest – and probably the most decorative – church in the world. Now, believe me, if a man who doesn’t have a religious bone in his body can adore a church this much, it must be something special, or some kind of divine intervention.
5. The Vatican Museums
I’ll be honest, I got it in my head that The Vatican Museums were just going to be stuffy, aristocratic museums filled to the brim with snobbery. And, okay, they have a certain air of high-society that is to be expected, but they are so much more than that. Art isn’t just on display within the museum, the museum itself is art. Had I somehow forgotten that this was the locale of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel?!
6. Altare della Patria
The Altare della Patria, or, The Alter of the Fatherland, is a national monument built to honour Victor Emmanuel, the founding king of unified Italy. Completed in 1925, the building has been subject to much scrutiny, with many Italians seeing the monument as pompous, vulgar and in discordance with its surroundings. I think it’s worth seeing the monument and making your own judgement.
7. The Pantheon
Yet another ancient wonder, the Pantheon is totally worth checking out. The building was a Roman temple, used for worship and prayer; amazingly, it is still used for that same purpose today, making it the only Ancient Roman structure which is still used traditionally. Yep, sorry, you won’t still catch gladiators battling to the death over in The Colosseum.
8. Trevi Fountain
If you’re a lady or gentleman of romantic air, you’ll definitely want to head down to the Trevi Fountain. Toss a coin over your shoulder and into the aqua waters and, legend has it, you’ll find yourself back in Rome once more. Just be aware that you will share your quasi-magical experience with hundreds of other wishful tourists…
Florence brings out the romantic in you. It’s a city with unwavering charm and a place of Renaissance intrigues. It’s artistic past and continued artisan traditions make Florence a fascinating and fun tourist stop.
1. Florence Cathedral
The Florence Cathedral is my favourite church to date. The exterior is just superb; I mean, how many other churches have you seen that are decorated in pink, green and white marble? The cathedral is also the third largest in the world, only smaller than the immense Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.
2. Ponte Vecchio
We will be honest, this architectural intrigue caught our attention more for its charm and Italian appeal, than for its history. In our minds, it’s just a bridge – sorry. What we liked about the Ponte Vecchio was that you could stroll across it at leisure, browsing the numerous touristic stalls and stopping to take in the view down the river from its centre.
3. Piazzale Michelangelo
See that commanding, orange dome just above my head? Well, that’s the dome of the Florence Cathedral – an unquestionable icon of the Florentine landscape and a spectacular presence in the view laid before one’s eyes at the Piazzale Michelangelo. We would strongly recommend this look-out; maybe just don’t head up there midday in 34-degree heat…
4. San Lorenzo Market
Heading to the San Lorenzo Market, we decided to have a go at some bartering with the hopes of scoring a reasonably-priced leather backpack. The markets are heaving with (mostly) Italian-made leather goods, all varying in quality and price. There is no doubt that one has to be savvy with their leather knowledge to enter into price negotiations here; though, if you love a good bargain, and, well, leather goods, you’ll have a ball.
5. Chianti Wine Tour
Heading out of the city, and into the Chianti Hills, we enjoyed a fabulous afternoon of wine tasting and socialising with Ciao Florence Tours and Travel. After all, one cannot visit Tuscany without checking out some of the region’s famed vineyards and wineries, right?! Our tour transported us to and from Florence, making for an easy and stress-free trip.
Little-known Lucca is a city of beauty. It’s Renaissance-era walls rise high around the town; atop of which, distant mountains and nearer stone pines dominate the landscape. As the sun rises and falls on Lucca, one knows they’ve truly discovered that sought-after piece of Italian mystique.
1. Walls of Lucca
The city walls of Lucca are a Renaissance-era intrigue worth experiencing. The walls, which form a perfect ring around the city, are 4km in length and are home to a walking and cycling path, lined with beautiful trees and greenery. From the walls, one is able to gaze upon not only the charming town of Lucca below but also the Tuscan countryside and mountains beyond the wall. You can even experience the wall by four-person peddle bike! You won’t regret seeking out this lesser-known Italian experience.
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So, there you have it – our list of what to see in Central Italy. We hope you have found this blog post informative and helpful. Please comment below with your thoughts, or to offer more suggestions of awesome sights to see in Central Italy. Grazie and ciao!