Florence (Italy)

guide featuring 360 degree images, maps, photos, video, hotels and transport.

Florence is the home of Michelangelo where you can see the original statue of David at the Accademia Gallery, a copy in it's original location at Piazza della Signoria or even a bronze version at Piazzale Michelangelo with a great lookout over Florence. The Duomo (Florence Cathedral) in the middle of the city is an impressive building where you can walk up many stairs to the top of the dome (Brunelleschi's cupola) for a 360° view over Florence. You can also climb Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile) adjacent to the cathedral for more great views. Opposite the Duomo is the Baptistery with impressively sculptured bronze doors. Other features to see include the Uffizzi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio (bridge), Pitti palace and Boboli gardens plus lots of other famous historic monuments all within walking distance around the city centre.

I took these photos, 360° images and videos while on holiday with my wife for a few days in May 2012. Refer to my customised Florence Google map for where we saw the main points of interest.

This is part of a 6 week adventure that my wife and I took in the middle of 2012 that includes:

Florence video

  about 5 minutes, full HD available (1080p) which is best viewed in full screen.

Duomo (Florence Cathedral)

[7 on the map]
Construction started in 1246 and was completed in 1436. It is actually called Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower). It features the largest brick dome ever made (Brunelleschi's Cupola) and was the biggest dome in world until modern times. You can walk up the many steps to the top of the dome for fantastic 360° views or walk up the adjacent Giotto's Bell Tower (Campanile) too. The Baptistery located opposite the Duomo, is one of the oldest in Florence being built from 1059 to 1128. It is famous for the bronze door relief sculptures.

Borghese Palace

[22 on the map]
We booked a Renaissance Dinner/Banquet during our stay in Florence for an authentic and romantic evening in this very impressive palace. We certainly felt like a prince and princess as we were entertained by dancers, musicians and performers between each serving of courses while admiring the stunning architecture and decorations.

Church of Santa Maria Novella

[3 on the map]

Piazza della Repubblica

[8 on the map]

Piazza della Signoria

[12 on the map] Probably contains the most features in any one place in Florence such as the original location of the statue of David at the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Art Gallery, the fountain of Neptune and many other famous statues. The Uffizi gallery holds many works of art and paintings from very famous people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and more.

Arno River & Ponte Vecchio

[16 on the map]
The Arno river has frequently flooded Florence but dams now greatly reduce this problem. The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge in English) was built in 1345 after previous versions (started in 996 by the Romans) were washed away from floods. It always had shops on it, but when the Vasari Corridor (connects Palazzo Vecchio to Pitti Palace) was built above it in 1565, the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited butchers because of the bad smell so gold merchants replaced them and even today the shops are still mostly jewellers.

Pitti Palace & Boboli Gardens

[17 & 18 on the map]
Palazzo Pitti is a renaissance palace that was started in 1458. It was purchased by the Medici family in 1549, used as a base for Napolean in the 18th century and became open to the public in 1919. The Boboli Gardens attached to Palazzo Pitti has excellent views over Florence with many pathways to explore this large area of 45 000 square meters (11 hectares).


The best way to travel around Italy (and Europe) is by train because they are very fast, frequent, safe, reliable, cheap and the stations are in the middle of the city. I prefer to book the routes individually (point to point ticket) instead of buying a pass (like Eurail or Swiss pass) because it's usually cheaper unless you are frequently travelling long distances which I don't do anyway because I want to spend more time enjoying the location than travelling to and from it. The catch with a Eurail pass is that you still need to book and pay extra for a seat reservation, whereas buying just a normal point to point ticket includes the reservation, saving time and confusion. I always buy first class tickets too because they aren't much more expensive than the normal ticket, they usually include more seating space and I feel a little more safer considering that the train company gives a little more attention to first class passengers.

The main concern was for the storage and security of our luggage, having heard too many stories about bags being stolen. Many trains have a rack above the seats (so it's safe) that can easily hold a large suitcase (like those allowed for checked luggage on planes). My bag (35cm [14in] x 45cm [18in] x 70cm [27.5in]) was just below the maximum size limit for planes which was fine on all the trains during our holiday through Europe. It weighed about 19kg and you must lift your bag up on to these high racks which was fine for a tall, strong, dashing, handsome, sexy and modest young man like me, otherwise you will probably need another passenger to help you. Some trains only have storage at the end of each carriage which makes it easier to get in and out but also makes it easier for someone to steal your bags too. We took a wire cable bike combination lock to attach our bags to the rack in these cases but only used it twice and both times it probably wasn't really necessary, but gives you peace of mind so you don't need to worry about it. We also used small combination padlocks on the zippers. Having locks on your bags can draw attention because being so secure then there is probably something valuable in it worth stealing, but most criminals are just opportunistic and simply take the next bag that is easier to remove.

How to book European train tickets:

  1. Go to Rail Europe to search and buy your tickets. Enter your departure and arrival cities to find out if it is possible to catch a train between them. If you get no results for your search it is usually because many trains only allow bookings up to 3 months in advance or even less so just try example dates in the next couple of weeks instead.
  2. To do a cross check and find more detailed information, the best train website I have found is the Swiss SBB train site that has European train details and not just Switzerland. I had a look at other websites like Trenitalia (Italian trains) but they tend to be too difficult to use mainly because the translation into English isn't too good.
I chose to use Rail Europe because it is locally based to me (currency, office, etc) so it's easy to understand with no language problems, it's a single place to buy all your tickets and they do all the communication with the European railways to get the correct tickets. After you order your train tickets on their website, they post you the official paper tickets in the mail. Only trains like Eurostar (eg. London to Paris) use electronic tickets that you can print at home, but for trains in places such as Italy, only the paper tickets are valid so don't lose them!


This is the best way that I know of to find a hotel on the internet. I used this method for every place we stayed at for our entire six week holiday in Europe/UK/Singapore and it worked very well. The basic steps are:
  1. Decide how much you want to pay each night. We budgeted an average of $200 a night for our whole six week Europe/UK/Singapore trip to get quite nice 4 or sometimes 5 star hotels. FYI: Our hotel in Venice was the most expensive (from supply and demand I guess) but the worst condition (old, no lifts, but clean) and Berlin was one the cheapest but best (5 star, middle of city and even had a giant aquarium in the middle!).
  2. Decide on your location. I usually choose the closest hotel to a major transport hub (like a train station) within my budget.
  3. Decide on check-in and check-out dates. Most hotels in Europe/UK seem to have a check-out time of midday and check-in at 2pm. When travelling between cities on a train (like in Europe) I usually booked the train that departs around midday and arrives around 2pm so I check straight in and know my luggage is safely in my room and not have to come back for the rest of the day. It gets dark around 10pm in June so there is plenty of sightseeing time left in the day.
  4. Find a hotel with high ratings and good reviews from people who have actually stayed there.
  5. Book it preferably at least a few months in advance to get cheap prices.
How to actually do it:
  1. See the currently available hotels in Florence. This searches 100+ hotel booking websites at once to find the best price which is why I think it's the best.
  2. Refine your search using as much detail as you can. For example, make up some check in and out dates for a couple of days in a few months time and select 4 stars.
  3. Now click the Show Map link in the top right. I really like this feature because I can instantly see where the closest hotels are to where I want to be. Hover your mouse over the icon to see the hotel name, star rating and price.
  4. Just above the map link in the top right, change the drop down box to your local currency if it didn't do that automatically.
  5. Click on "Sort by: Guest Rating". Scroll down the list of hotels looking at their average rating given by people who actually stayed there and compare that to the price. Naturally the more expensive places usually have higher ratings so the trick is to find a high rating place with a low price.
  6. My priority is actually location so I sort it by Distance, then look for the highest rating, then see if it's in my price range.
  7. Now click on a hotel to see the details about it such as photos, features and most importantly the reviews. Sometimes you come across some amazing features such as the "DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Tower of London" actually had a big screen Apple computer with free internet that also works as a TV. We ended up booking this place because this feature made it stand out from the crowd and the room was great.
  8. I like to read people's reviews for their very honest opinions, especially the negative ones because you can find out if the problems are really important or not and if everyone keeps complaining about the same thing. To do this, scroll down to the bottom of the web page and click on a link that says something like "Read all reviews from Hotels.com" then when that website appears, click on the Reviews tab.
  9. After looking through a few hotels and their reviews you can try clicking on the Book Now button but don't worry, you don't actually book anything yet. This shows you a list of all the websites that are selling rooms for this hotel ordered from lowest to highest price so you know you can get the lowest price possible which is why I said in step 1 that this is the best way to find and book hotels on the internet.
  10. Click the Go button to transfer to that website to actually make the booking. I personally don't necessarily select the website with the lowest price. I prefer to book on websites that I am more familiar with such as booking.com so I have more confidence in knowing it will actually work properly and can group all my bookings together more easily, especially if the price is only an extra few dollars per night. My ultimate preference is to book with the hotel's own website which is what I did with the DoubleTree hotel (the Hilton website) only because their price matched the best price of booking.com and it was a low price too.
I wasn't too sure if my bookings were really passed through to the hotels or not with some strange booking websites I had never heard of before, so I was a bit skeptical. But sure enough, every single one of the 14 hotels I booked on our 6 week holiday through Europe/UK/Singapore had no problems at all and acknowledged my reservation every time.

Compare hotel prices and find the best deal - HotelsCombined.com

About the photos
I've been a keen photographer for over 10 years and have been creating 360° panoramic images for about that long too. I've sold some individually, for web sites and have also photographed some weddings. All the panoramas on this page were taken handheld because you are not allowed to use tripods in most of the places I visited so you may find some strange gaps where the photos are stitched together because of this. The camera used for all of these photos is a 5D MkIII with a 24-105mm L series lens. This camera works great in low light situations, has a full frame sensor to get wide angle shots and produces super sharp photos. Unfortuantely it is very big, heavy and expensive so I made the decision to choose quality over comfort. A camera store assistant once told me: A man invited a lady over to his place one night to show her his photos. She said, "Gee, they're great photos. You must have a great camera." She invited the man to her place for dinner the next night and after the meal he said "Gee, that was a great meal. You must have a great oven."

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