Florence is full of photographic possibility! Use this guide to prepare your Florentine photo journey and plan some of your shots ahead of time.
Piazza del Duomo
In the heart of historic Florence, you’ll find Piazza del Duomo and its towering landmarks. Make sure to spend some time exploring the square itself — though it may be crowded with tourists, the people are part of what makes it so special! Turn your camera on the cafés and gelaterias that line the square, use your fellow travelers in the photos to show the immense size of the Cathedral, or simply capture the hustle and bustle of this popular piazza. Use a fast shutter speed to capture the activity on the street, or a slow shutter to capture the blurs of movement.
For incredible photos of the Duomo, climb to the top of Giotto’s Campanile, the freestanding belltower located right next to the Florence Cathedral. Before you head up, be sure to aim your camera at the sky and snap some photos of the Campanile itself. The way it looms over Piazza del Duomo can be dizzying, but it makes for great images. Its 414 steps can be taxing, but thankfully, you can rest at five different platforms on the way up. The Campanile is also full of stone cutouts, so use them to your advantage as unique ways to frame the Duomo or the view of Florence itself!
The area around the Duomo itself is a bit tight, so getting photos of the massive dome can be difficult, to say the least. Do a little exploring — head to various corners of Piazza del Duomo, down side streets, or to the top of nearby buildings (if possible) to find the best view of the Duomo. For incredible photos of the dome itself, make the journey to the top of Giotto’s Campanile, where you’ll find fantastic views of the red-orange tiled dome and of the rest of Florence. Use this bird’s eye view to capture the maze of streets or the activity down below.
After you’ve taken the well-known shots of Florence’s landmarks, get creative and look for unique angles on the buildings, bridges, and statues around the city. Experiment with different camera settings, get low to the ground, or look for unique ways to frame your subject.
With the Duomo as the dominating building, Florence’s skyline is impressive, to say the least. Hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo around sunset (or sunrise!) for beautiful shots of the city. Be sure to bring several different lenses to capture the variety of the skyline and landscape. Zoom in on the Duomo, use a wide-angle to capture the scope of Florence, or take long-exposure shots as the evening lights illuminate below. For a few different images, walk to Giardini delle Rose, the garden right next to the piazzale. There, you’ll find trees, flowers, and bushes that can be used to frame the city skyline and the Duomo.
Ponte Vecchio and the Arno River
A visit to Florence wouldn’t be complete without a stroll along the Arno River and across the Ponte Vecchio. For optimal lighting, have your camera ready during Golden Hour (just before sunrise, or right after sunset). The soft light combined with the yellow hues of the buildings, the Ponte Vecchio, and the reflective water of the Arno make for lovely images.
Piazza della Signoria and Statues
This square in the city center of Florence is full of sculptures and statues, perfect subjects for photography! Try to avoid visiting at midday, as the light will be harshest when the sun is directly above. Instead, explore the square and its public works of art during the morning or evening. Snap photos of the 10 masterpieces in “Loggia dei Lanzi” — the open, arched area on one side of the piazza — practice photographing “David,” and examine Neptune’s Fountain and its details. If you come back at night, you’ll want to take long-exposure shots and increase your ISO to make up for the low lighting.
Colorful Side Streets and Terracotta Rooftops
Part of the fun in exploring Florence is getting a bit lost in its winding side streets and alleyways. So grab your camera and use it to capture the life of Florence: the shops, people, vendors, and scenes found around the city. Keep an eye out for street art, unique to Florence and hidden on walls everywhere! On the other hand, head up to the top of the Duomo or the Campanile to photograph the buildings of Florence — a sea of red-orange terracotta rooftops best photographed in the soft light of early morning or evening.
Piazza della Repubblica
This photogenic square features a towering archway, covered walkways, and a carousel, making it a popular place for locals and travelers alike. Visit early on Thursday mornings, when plant and flower vendors congregate under the porticoes on the southwest side of the piazza. Or, make a stop later in the evening, when the carousel lights up the square.
While the pride and joy of Florence may be its physical landmarks, don’t forget to photograph one of the most important culinary inventions in Florentine history — gelato! It is said that locals often enjoy two or three cups of gelato every day, so do the same, and don’t forget to snap a photo before you devour your tasty treat! Even better, capture Florence in the background to show where you are.
Header image by Vincenzo Fusco.