What if I was to tell you that there is a world-class museum where admission is free and you can eat as much gelato as you can handle while admiring Renaissance-era statues and architecture?
If that piques your interest, you need to get yourself to one of the best outdoor museums in Europe: the city of Florence.
Florence is kind of a big deal. If Florence was a person, I would put her on my dinner party guest list, because oh, the stories she could tell (although maybe she wouldn’t, because Florence is a classy lady). During medieval times, Florence was a major trade center and made some serious coin. It also is known as the birthplace of Machiavelli (of better-to-be-feared-than-loved fame), Michaelangelo (who painted some pretty important things), and the Renaissance movement, which means this place basically gets credit for ending the Dark Ages in Europe.
Today, this town of red rooftops and endless gelato vendors is the capital city of Tuscany, which is the region of Italy that we see in all the movies – dripping with vineyards, villas, and Vespas. And yeah, there are lots of pay-to-see sights on the must-do list here, like Italy’s Louvre, the Uffizi Gallery, or the Palazzos which seemed to have all belonged to the Medici family at some point. But the sights that have stayed with me after leaving Florence were the ones I saw just walking around the town: the statues in the piazzas, the shops on stilts clinging to the Ponte Vecchio, and the ever-present heart of Florence, the Duomo.
The Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, a.k.a. the Duomo, is a massive and eye-catching building of red and green that fills a city block. If you’re touring one church in Florence, this is the one.
And not just because it’s free. You should take a minute to closely observe the precise placement and lighting inside. I’m not one to usually notice such things, but in this church, it was the first thing that struck my attention.
The placement outdoors was no accident either. Every time I turned a corner in Florence, a glimpse of this cathedral would appear above the tenement buildings or between the streets.
The Duomo casts a long-reaching shadow across the city, a constant reminder of how great Florence once was and how beautiful she still is.