Independent Florence: From Medieval to Modern Culture

Florence has served as an inspiration to residents from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo. Experience its magic for yourself as you explore on your own and with experts.
Rating (4.91)
Program No. 22589RJ
8 days
Starts at
Flights start at

At a Glance

What kind of city could inspire the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighieri or Michelangelo? There is only one answer: Florence. With its intrinsic passion for beauty, cuisine, architecture and design, Florence has been a hub of creativity and achievement since its origin as a Roman military encampment. Discover the magic of Florence as you explore its piazzas and museums, study the legacy of the Renaissance and marvel at its holy spaces and cathedrals. Throughout your adventure, enjoy the insight of experts as you explore the masterpieces of the Uffizi or Medici Chapels, as well as ample time to experience the treasures of Florence on your own.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
The small historic city center is mostly closed to traffic. It is easy to walk to major sites along the stone paved streets and sidewalks over mostly flat terrain. Most sites visited in the itinerary are within a mile of the hotel.
Independent City Discoveries
Independent City Discoveries
Learn with a Group Leader and enjoy educational programming while also getting independent time to explore on your own. Most Independent City Discoveries include lectures, self-guided excursions and passes for public transit and museums.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Marvel in the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and others as you spend an afternoon at the renowned Uffizi.
  • Set out on foot to the Piazza del Duomo — the heart of historic Florence — and join an expert for an exploration of the Duomo Museum.
  • Hear stories of the famed Medici Family as you join an expert at the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, a palatial home commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici in 1444.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
The Medici: Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance
by Paul Strathern
From Amazon: A dazzling history of the modest family that rose to become one of the most powerful in Europe, The Medici is a remarkably modern story of power, money, and ambition. Against the background of an age that saw the rebirth of ancient and classical learning, Paul Strathern explores the intensely dramatic rise and fall of the Medici family in Florence as well as the Italian Renaissance, which they did so much to sponsor and encourage. Interwoven into the narrative are the lives of many of the great Renaissance artists with whom the Medici had dealings, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello as well as scientists like Galileo and Pico della Mirandola. In his enthralling study, Strathern also follows the fortunes of those members of the Medici family who achieved success away from Florence, including the two Medici popes and Catherine de' Medici, who became queen of France and played a major role in that country through three turbulent reigns.
The Stones of Florence
by Mary McCarthy
From Amazon: Renowned for her sharp literary style, essayist and fiction writer Mary McCarthy offers a unique history of Florence, from its inception to the dominant role it came to play in the world of art, architecture, and Italian culture, that captures the brilliant Florentine spirit and revisits the legendary figures—Dante, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and others—who exemplify it so iconically. Her most cherished sights and experiences color this timeless, graceful portrait of a city that's as famous as it is alluring.
A Room with a View
by Director: James Ivory
From Amazon: Helena Bonham Carter plays a young, independent-minded, upper-class woman who is trying to sort out her feelings, divided between a free spirit (Julian Sands) she meets on vacation and the bookworm (Daniel Day-Lewis) to whom she becomes engaged back home. Funny, sexy, and sophisticated, this art-house hit features a sublime supporting cast and remains a touchstone of intelligent romantic cinema.
Tea with Mussolini
by Director: Franco Zeffirelli
From Google: In 1930s fascist Italy, adolescent Luca (Charlie Lucas) just lost his mother. His father, a callous businessman, sends him to be taken care of by British expatriate Mary Wallace (Joan Plowright). Mary and her cultured friends -- including artist Arabella (Judi Dench), young widow Elsa (Cher), and archaeologist Georgie (Lily Tomlin) -- keep a watchful eye over the boy. But the women's cultivated lives take a dramatic turn when Allied forces declare war on Mussolini.
Florence: The Paintings & Frescoes, 1250-1743
by Ross King & Anja Grebe
From Amazon: A magnificent, never-before-published collection of every painting and fresco on display in the Uffizi, the Galleria Palatina of the Pitti Palace, the Accademia, and the Duomo, and more -- nearly 2,000 works of art -- all presented in a beautiful slipcased package.
Insight Guides Pocket Florence
by Insight Guides
From Amazon: Compact, concise and packed full of essential information about where to go and what to do, this is an ideal on-the-move guide for exploring Florence. From top tourist attractions like the Duomo, the Accademia and the Uffizi, to cultural gems, including the glorious Santa Croce church, the beautiful medieval bridge - Ponte Vecchio, and Cappella Brancacci, the site of Masaccio's sublime frescoes, plan your perfect trip with this practical, all-in-one travel guide.
Brunelleschi's Dome, How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
by Ross King
From Amazon: On August 19, 1418, a competition concerning Florence's magnificent new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore--already under construction for more than a century--was announced: "Whoever desires to make any model or design for the vaulting of the main Dome....shall do so before the end of the month of September." The proposed dome was regarded far and wide as all but impossible to build: not only would it be enormous, but its original and sacrosanct design shunned the flying buttresses that supported cathedrals all over Europe. The dome would literally need to be erected over thin air.
The Renaissance: A Short History
by Paul Johnson
From Amazon: The Renaissance holds an undying place in our imagination, its great heroes still our own, from Michelangelo and Leonardo to Dante and Chaucer. This period of profound evolution in European thought is credited with transforming the West from medieval to modern and producing the most astonishing outpouring of artistic creation the world has ever known. But what was it? In this masterly work, the incomparable Paul Johnson tells us. He explains the economic, technological, and social developments that provide a backdrop to the age’s achievements and focuses closely on the lives and works of its most important figures. A commanding short narrative of this vital period, The Renaissance is also a universally profound meditation on the wellsprings of innovation.
Fodor's Florence 25 Best
by Fodor's Travel Guides
From Amazon: Compact and affordable, Fodor's Florence's 25 Best is a great travel companion for travelers who want a light, easy-to-pack guidebook to one of Europe's most exciting cities. Recommendations, pull-out map, practical tips and phrases, gorgeous photos and maps, and trip-planning tools.
Light in the Piazza
by Director: Guy Green
From Amazon: Meg Johnson (Olivia de Havilland) is eager to discover the glories of Italy with her beautiful daughter Clara (Yvette Mimieux), who was mentally impaired in a childhood accident.
The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall
by Christopher Hibbert
From Amazon: At its height Renaissance Florence was a center of enormous wealth, power and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family's huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de' Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence's slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.

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