7 climbs to get stunning scenic photos in Florence

Cameras have evolved into a permanent must-have part of our mainstream culture. Whether it is a part of a smart phone, or a high-end DSLR, we use them to communicate online and off, for email and social media, for business and education. When traveling, cameras have become as ubiquitous as a passport. Even more so, because some of us carry more than one type of camera.

If photography is of interest to you, then you know how important it is to find good angles from which to shoot. Most guidebooks have terrific photos, but they don’t often let you know from where they were shot. Here are a few of the places in Florence where you can climb up to take great scenic shots of this wonderfully ancient city. As you can see, a picturesque palette awaits your climb. Some may require you to purchase a ticket, some are free, and some may require you to enjoy a local Tuscan vino!

But no matter which you choose, you will enjoy this rare perspective into the ancient past from above.

1. Il Duomo

Simply entering this formidable structure inspires awe. And the climb to the top will only add to your amazement. Looking down over the city from the Duomo will give bird’s-eye views from every direction. The unusual part of this view is that Giotto’s Bell Tower, or The Campanile, stands tall right across the same piazza from you which means that if you and a friend each climb one of these structures at the same time, you will be able to get a great shot of each other from these lofty heights!

2. Giotto’s Bell Tower (il Campanile)

In addition to marvelous views of the city and the Arno from all sides of Giotto’s architectural wonder, next door you will get an up-close view of Brunelleschi’s great architectural creation, il Duomo. This view comes complete with its own scintillating shot of the cupola that is the crown of the city. From atop the north side of the Campanile, you can look down on the eight-sided Baptistery in the foreground, and further away you will see another dome: the Cappella de’ Medici (the Medici Chapel) resting quietly in the near distance. If you decide to scale the 414 steps to the top of this Campanile (Bell Tower) you will see all of Florence. From there, it is easy to imagine that you are looking back through time to the ancient past.

3. Palazzo Vecchio

After climbing a mere 223 steps to the top of the Palazzo Vecchio tower, a feast for your eyes awaits you at every single rest level where tiny windows give you a break and a glimpse of what lies below you. Looking southwest from the top of the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, you will acquire a terrific view of the Bargello: Initially built as a seat for law enforcement, it later became an infamous prison where from its crenellations, you might have seen a few bodies dangling upside down as a direct message to those that might wish to break the law. Looking southward, the main scenic feature is the Church of Santa Croce (below). With a large piazza out front, you will find musicians and street performers of every kind. But inside is where all the bodies are buried – literally. From a Dante cenotaph to Donatello, and from Florence Nightingale to Michelangelo, this church has become the final resting place for many famous folks.

4. Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo is a medium-effort walk from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. But whether you hike it or you take the #12 Bus up the hill, be sure to bring a picnic basket. This is one of the more popular places to end your day and to watch the sun set over the city.

5. Westin Excelsior Hotel

This view, taken from atop the Westin Excelsior Hotel on the Arno River (Piazza Ognissanti, 3, Firenze) is clearly fantastico! Day or night, rain or shine, this panorama is quite a sight to behold. Take the elevator to the top (8th) floor, go through the bar and out the glass doors to get this sumptuous feast for your eyes. The 8th floor doesn’t seem very high, but when you are in an ancient city where most structures are a mere 2-3 stories, 8 floors is plenty high!

6. Hotel La Scaletta

Hotel La Scaletta is a gem in a hidden treasure chest! A bit tough to find: Once you have located the correct building (near the Pitti Palace) you will climb a few steps, take a rickety little 2-person elevator to the top, walk through a small lobby into a restaurant, go out the back door, up some steps to a roof-top bar, then up one more precarious narrow flight to the rooftop. There you will find a couple of small cafe tables waiting for you to savor the wine & cheese along with these fantastic views of the historical center of the city (below), and the Observatory over Boboli Gardens behind you. A very romantic way to enjoy the sunset.

7. Vasari Corridor

This view from inside of the Vasari Corridor secretly looks down over the heads of the unsuspecting tourists as they shop for gold jewelry on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. The mysterious Vasari Corridor also gives rare views of the Arno and the backstreets of the city as it winds its way over the tops of the buildings between the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi Gallery.

Patty Civalleri is the Owner of ItalyTravelBooks.com.

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Comments (8)

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  1. Holly says:

    I’ve been to Florence a few times but spent all my time on the ground, I would have never thought of trying to take photographs from above the city. I’ll make sure next time I go somewhere I look at what I can climb to get these amazing views. These photos are really stunning.

    • Hi Holly, it’s interesting how climbing up (or laying down) can create an entirely different photo. Do this anywhere you go, and your photos will stand out from the rest. CHEERS and happy travels!
      Patty Civalleri

  2. Willham says:

    I missed some of these stops when I last went to Florence, so I have bookmarked this page for my next trip. Although I’m only an amateur photographer, getting the best I can out of my trip is important for me – and makes it more fun sharing with others at the end. You have to be prepared for hard work and a lot of steps to get the best photos, it seems.

    • You are so right Willham! Most photos are taken at a “people’s eye level.” Climbing up – or laying down, for that matter – will give you and your viewers a more unique perspective.
      Cheers and happy,
      Patty Civalleri

  3. Jake says:

    Florence is one of my favourite cities and that view from il Campanile gets my vote. The foreground interest of the dome gives the photo an instantly recognisable feel.

  4. Liz says:

    I love this idea, I’d love to go to Florence it’s absolutely beautiful. I think I will need to visit all these scenic spots whenever I visit, I just love how the colours of all the buildings complement each other so perfectly. The Hotel La Scaletta sounds like a great place to relax and take some photos – I love the addition of the glass of wine!

    • You’re my kind of girl, Liz! Any time we can combine a great city with a great view and a great glass of vino, is a win, win, win situation!

      Cheers and happy travels,
      Patty Civalleri

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