Visiting Florence will have you experiencing overwhelming emotional reactions
In 1817, the French author Stendhal visited Florence for the first time. As he toured the Basilica of Santa Croce, the resting place of Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and other luminaries, the beauty of Giotto’s frescoes overwhelmed him.
The experience had such an effect on him that he wrote about it and his writings were the first in a long history of people experiencing dizziness, fainting, and disorientation after viewing the many pieces of art in Florence. Although Stendhal Syndrome has not been defined as a specific psychiatric disorder, the hospitals in Florence have developed procedures to cope with suffering tourists, overwhelmed with the beauty of their city’s famed artwork.
The list of artists that called Florence home during the Renaissance is stunning. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Cimabue, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, Uccello and many others created lasting works that decorate and define this Tuscan city.
Art is everywhere. The historic area of Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, has the greatest concentration of art, for its size, than any other city in the world. Culture defined Florence in the past, but art keeps the culture alive in the present.
What to see, what to do
With the staggering amount of art within its borders, defining a finite number of ‘must see’ exhibits ignores many beautiful and culturally significant pieces. Florence holds, among many others, the following masterpieces:
- Michelangelo’s David
- Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring
- Giotto’s Maestà
- Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation
- Donatello’s David
- Masaccio’s Trinità
- Botticelli’s Birth of Venus
- Brunelleschi’s Dome of the Duomo of Florence
Those eight works of art alone could absorb the art lover for a lifetime, but, of course, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to art attractions in Florence.
- Michelangelo’s Florentine Pieta
- Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation
- Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise
- Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola
- Cellini’s Perseus
- So many others
In other words, Stendhal may have had a point. Visiting Florence, especially for the first time, can be overwhelming.
Getting around the city
Florence is a thoroughly modern city with an ancient heart. Walking in the historic district is a must, simply so you don’t miss the masterpieces you walk through the Ponte Vecchio, the San Lorenzo Market and Santa Mara Novella.
The public transportation system in Florence, a system of buses and trains, is a handy way to get from your hotel to the tourist attractions. Getting from the Florence airport to city is best handled by taxi, due to the distance.
Florence does have a tourist season, much like the rest of Europe, the summer (mid-June through August) is the busiest time for tourists but also when many of the residents take their vacations. The two or three months on each end of the summer season can have more pleasant weather with fewer crowds.
As is common with any tourist city, staying with a tour group or friends while viewing the attractions, is recommended for your safety and security.
Summing it up
When it comes to Florence, the conclusion is to go. Go, experience the art and decide for yourself whether Stendhal had a point. The worst that could happen would be falling in love with the city and wanting to return over and over until your soul has been filled with the beauty of artists who created works that transcend simple beauty and became legends.