Best Views of Florence, Italy: 13 Photo Spots You Cannot Miss

And when I thought of Florence, it was like a miracle city embalmed and like a corolla, because it was called the city of lilies and its cathedral, St. Mary of the Flowers.

Marcel Proust, Italian Hours (1909)

More than a hundred years after Proust wrote these words, little has changed. Florence remains one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

But where can you capture the best views of Florence?

This is where I can help. As a serial visitor to this gorgeous Tuscan city, I have ferreted out the best spots for photographing Florence in all of her Renaissance splendour.

Whilst you will have to pay for some of these views, many others are free (including my favourite Florence viewpoint). But what all of these photo spots do is give you timeless perspectives of this beautiful city.

a san minato 4

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Free Views of Florence, Italy

Many of the best views in Florence are to be found in the Oltrarno district, on the south side of the River Arno.

Piazzale Michelangelo

the river arno with bridges and the skyline of the city of florence in italy

Even if you are just in Florence for a day, include Piazzale Michelangelo in your itinerary for its classic postcard view of Florence.

Florence’s major landmarks are laid out before you, from Brunelleschi’s dome to the bridges across the Arno River, including the famous Ponte Vecchio. There’s also a good café with an outside terrace and a fake DavidFlorence’s best-known sculpture – in the centre of the square.

Considering the hordes that descend on Piazzale Michelangelo, it is a surprisingly chilled place.

GOOD TO KNOW:  It’s a 15-minute uphill hike to Piazzale Michelangelo from the Ponte Vecchio. This is steep in places.

If you don’t fancy the walk, catch bus #12 (from Boboli Gardens),  bus #13 (from Ponte Niccolo), or the hop-on-hop-off bus.

Visit in the morning for the best light, or at (or after) sunset.

Map location here.

San Minato al Monte

statue of angel with arms aloft in front of a view of florence italy

Dedicated to St. Minias who was beheaded on the banks of the Arno in 250 AD, this is the oldest church in Florence. Although it has an art-filled sacristy and a ceiling of glazed terracotta panels – well worthy of a look – most people visit San Minato al Monte for its views of Florence.

san minato 2

For a bonus photo spot, head to the Sacred Doors Cemetery, directly behind the Church of San Miniato al Monte.

GOOD TO KNOW:  As San Minato al Monte is five minutes uphill from Piazzale Michelangelo, it makes sense to combine these two Florence viewpoints into one visit.

Visit in the late afternoon on weekdays to hear the monks singing Gregorian chants. More information here.

Map location here.

Ponte Vecchio

the ponte vecchio bridge in florence italy with reflections in river

Not all of the gorgeous views in Florence are from above. Take a stroll across a few of Florence’s famous bridges for some of the best views in town.

Lined with jewellers’ shops, the beautiful Ponte Vecchio – “Old Bridge” – is synonymous with the city itself. So much so that it has almost been another character in some of the best films set in Italy (including my favourite, A Room with a View).

It’s thought that there was a bridge straddling this point of the Arno as far back as Roman times. Today’s Ponte Vecchio dates back to the 14th Century.

The views east to Ponte alle Grazie or west towards Ponte Santa Trinità from the centre of Ponte Vecchio are equally wonderful.

view of the river arno from Ponte Vecchio with buildings and bridge reflected in still river arno
View towards Ponte Santa Trinità from Ponte Vecchio

GOOD TO KNOW: For the best light, point your camera lens westwards in the morning, and towards the east in the evening.

If you want to take a photograph of the bridge itself, visit as early in the day as possible when the Ponte Vecchio will not be crowded.

a few people on ponte vecchio bridge in florence in early morning
Ponte Vecchio at the start of the day

Map location here.

Ponte Santa Trinità

medieval houses along the side of the river arno with bridge
Ponte Vecchio and the Oltrarno from Ponte Santa Trinità

I think that the view east from Ponte Santa Trinità trumps those from Ponte Vecchio. This is in no small part thanks to the view that you get of Ponte Vecchio.

Featuring graceful arches and stone decorations, Ponte Santa Trinità itself is a stunner. This 16th Century bridge connects the basilica of the same name with that of Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno.

two arcges of stone bridge ponte santa trinita in florence italy
Ponte Santa Trinità, Florence, Italy
man pedalling a bicycle and cart across a stone foot bridge in florence

Map location here.

Fiesole

You have to head out of town for the last of my free views of Florence.

Keeping watch over Florence from the glorious Tuscan countryside, Fiesole is perfect for history fangirls or fanboys. Its Etruscan roots are evident in its Etruscan-Roman Archaeological site, which includes remnants of Etruscan walls, a Roman amphitheatre and Roman baths.

roman amphitheatre amidsy rolling hills in fiesole italy
The Roman Amphitheatre in Fiesole

But shutterbugs won’t feel short-changed. From the centre of Fiesole village, there are panoramic views over the rolling countryside, for which Italy is famous, to the city of Florence beyond.

And if you are a history buff and a shutterbug you’ll be like a dog with two tails.

NEED TO KNOW: Although you can walk to Fiesole from Florence in an hour, it may be easier to catch bus #7 from Piazza San Marco. At busy times of the day, there are 3 – 4 services an hour and the journey takes around 20 minutes. Fiesole is also served by the hop-on-hop-off bus.

Map location here.

The Best Views in Florence for the Price of a Ticket

Sadly, some of the most beautiful views of Florence only come with the price of a ticket. But trust me; these admission costs are an excellent use of your holiday euros.

Most of these viewpoints are clustered around Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

people on walking of the terrace of red dome of cathedral which is one of the famous landmarks in florence

One of the most popular viewpoints in Florence is from Brunelleschi’s dome.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, simply known as the Duomo, is ground zero of the Italian Renaissance. This is the visual and geographic centre of Florence. If you get lost, just look upwards.

Climbing the Duomo is not to be undertaken lightly.

There are 436 steps, some of them steep, and at times the passageway is narrow. If you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo, skip this one.

I climbed Brunelleschi’s dome some years ago and I am not in a rush to repeat the experience.

Nonetheless, there are two excellent reasons to consider this climb.

If you are an art lover, it provides a cannot-be-bettered view of Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment that decorates the dome’s interior.

frescoes painted on a domed ceiling in florence cathedral
Climbing Brunelleschi’s dome gives you an unparalleled view of Vasari’s Last Judgement

And when you emerge onto the dome’s lantern, there are unobstructed views of Florence.

However, it goes without saying that this photo spot doesn’t put Florence’s famous dome in the picture.

NEED TO KNOW: Don’t just rock up on the day and expect to buy a ticket for the dome climb. Reserve your ticket in advance here. If the official website shows no availability, try here.

Map location here.

Giotto’s Campanile

group of beautiful buildings in florence of the cathedral the baptistery and bell tower
The Duomo, Baptistery and Giotto’s Tower, Florence, Italy

Piercing the sky above the historic centre of Florence, this 270-foot bell tower, designed by Giotto, was built between 1334 and 1359.

For my money, Giotto’s Bell Tower offers an equal, if not better, viewpoint of Florence than Brunelleschi’s dome. There are sensational views in all directions, including those of the dome itself.

octagonal baptistry clad in marble tiles which is one the famous buildings in florence
The Baptistery and Piazza de Duomo
aerila view of rectangular piazza in florence with trimphal arch
Piazza dell Republica from Giotto’s Tower

But there is a but.

The safety grill on the exterior walkways obstructs the view of the city. However, with a bit of fiddling around / careful placement of your camera lens you can get a clear shot of your surroundings. It just takes a bit of experimentation.

Although you are at a lower vantage point than the dome, I don’t think that this matters.

As with the dome, this is a long and sometimes steep and claustrophobic climb, particularly near the top where it becomes narrow and twisting. But there are three levels where you can sit and catch your breath before attacking the next set of steps.

But my word; those views are worth the huffing and puffing. This is as close to the outside of Brunelleschi’s dome as you will get.

main dome of the duomo in florence surrounded by red tiled rooftops

NEED TO KNOW: Although the demand for tickets for the bell tower climb is not as high as that for the dome, do not be a hostage to fortune. Reserve your ticket in advance here.

Map location here.

Tower of Arnolfo

view of florence rooftops and dome and bell tower of cathedral from arnolfo tower
Brunelleschi’s Dome and Giotto’s Tower are clearly visible from the Tower of Arnolfo

If you are out of luck with tickets for the dome of Giotto’s Campanile climb, head to the Tower of Arnolfo. The views from the top of the sky-scraping medieval tower of the Palazzo Vecchio are among the best in the city.

view of dome of florence cathedral through stone opening

Entering through the palace, a guide takes you to the first set of steps where they had over to a colleague who directs you to the rest of the route. At 233 steps, this is a moderate climb and not as arduous as climbing either Giotto’s Tower or Brunelleschi’s dome

That works for me.

panoramic view of immense piazza dell signoria in florence
A bird’s eye view of Piazza dell Signoria

NEED TO KNOW: Buy your ticket in advance. I bought my ticket on the day before my visit at a quieter time of year and availability was limited.

You will need to deposit your bag in a (free) locker.

For safety reasons, the tower is closed if it is raining

Map location here.

Uffizi Galleries

sttaues of a young man pointing his hand in the air

The main reason for stepping foot over the threshold of the Uffizi Galleries is to ogle its collection of world-famous Florentine Renaissance art. But did you know that this gallery is home to one of the best photography spots in Florence?

Make your way to one or both of these locations.

From the lovely terrace cafe, you can eyeball some of Florence’s most iconic landmarks, including the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. However, it will blow a hole in your holiday budget to stop for lunch here.

But I think that the best view of Florence from the Uffizi is through a window at the end of the gallery’s great hallway. Just look for a gaggle of visitors aiming their cameras towards a pane of glass.

view of ponte vecchio bridge in florence reflected in water of river

For a bonus viewpoint of Florence, take a look out of the window near room A31 (Signorelli’s paintings).

red roofs of florence and dome of cathedral

NEED TO KNOW: As visitor numbers are restricted, advance booking for the Uffizi Galleries is essential. Reserve your ticket in advance here. If the official website shows no availability, try here.

Map location here.

Boboli Gardens

aa bobli gardens 12

The beautiful Boboli Gardens, the backyard of the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti, is a welcome respite from the tourist crowds of Florence. Sprawling over 11 acres, it features formal landscaped gardens, elegant sculptures and tinkling fountains.

It also gets my vote for providing wonderful views of Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside beyond.

formal garden with small tress and a central fountain and views over florence
One of my favourite photo spots in Florence
bobli gardens 13
An alternative view towards the gorgeous Tuscan countryside

If you have the energy, continue further uphill to Fort Belvedere, a fortress dating from the late 16th Century. It’s not as pretty as the Boboli Gardens, but you are at a higher vantage point.

Map location here.

Bardini Gardens

two statues on a terrace with a panoramic view of Florence behind

The lesser-known Bardini Gardens are included in your ticket for the Boboli Gardens.

From the gardens’ Belvedere Terrace, there is one of the best panoramic viewpoints in Florence. The Bardini Gardens are beloved by Instagrammers for their famous Wisteria Tunnel.

You have been warned.

NEED TO KNOW: If you are visiting on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, you need to make a (paid) reservation. More information here. I say visit during the week if possible.

Map location here.

San Niccolò Tower

san niccolo tower 2

This is a Florence viewpoint that I have yet to visit. But there is a very good reason for that.

San Niccolò Tower is only open from the end of June to the end of September, offering regular guided visits in English and Italian. Group size is limited to 15.

This early 14th Century defensive tower below Piazzale Michelangelo is the tallest of Florence’s remaining medieval city towers. By all accounts, the views of Florence from its terrace are wonderful.

Map location here.

The Best View in Florence: The Rose Garden

founatin of creature shooting water from its mouth with one of the best views of florence in background

If you are allergic to crowds, Florence’s Rose Garden is the perfect antidote.

Sitting just below Piazzale Michelangelo, this small but perfectly formed garden has kept watch over Florence since 1865.  As you might expect, there are fragrant rose bushes but there’s also a Japanese garden donated by Kyoto, Florence’s twin city.

There’s a cheap and friendly coffee bar with outside tables and, best of all, entry to the garden is free.

Oh. And the views of Florence are wonderful too.

view of city of florence through a rectangular frame

Map location here.

Map of the Best Spots for Photographing Florence

And that’s a wrap.

If you find it helpful to map things out, here’s one that I prepared earlier. For an interactive map, simply click here or on the image itself.

map showing the best places for photographing florence
Best Photo Spots in Florence, Italy. Map Data @ Google 2022