One of the most beautiful ways to enjoy Florence’s hypnotic skyline is by viewing it at sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo – high above the streets of Florence’s old town.
We recently ascended the stairs just above San Niccolò and were greeted by a wonderfully clear, blue sky that, as time went on, gently faded into the most beautiful of tangerine sunsets – forcing the waters of the Arno to glitter with a mirror-like sheen, casting the whole city in a romantic, abstract haze – not unlike Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (only with the captivating silhouettes of Florence’s impeccable time-defying skyline).
This typical 19th century viewing terrace was designed in 1869 by the Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi, and offers what are easily the most revered panoramic views of the entire city of Florence and of course the Arno valley. All kinds of plans were laid out for the terrace, including structuring in a Michelangelo museum, in what is now a restaurant at the top of the hill – most of which unfortunately never saw the light of day. However a number of Michelangelo copies, including a David made from bronze, reside at the top – paying homage to Florence’s renaissance master. Do be aware though – that the terrace is always full – with verything from tourists, local men on the prowl, gypsy bands and of course street vendors selling the usual crap that tourists seem to love spending their money on – selfie sticks being the main attraction – why, oh why?!
How To Get To Piazzale Michelangelo?
Simply look up when you’re anywhere on the river Arno (within Florence of course) and you’ll see a mass of people peering over an old brick terrace surrounded by the lush green hills of the Tuscan countryside and one or two very beautiful churches. Then simply walk along the south side of the river towards the Torre San Niccolò (an old tower from the medieval city walls) then you simply need to follow the glorious looping ramps and stoney paths all the way up to the top of the hill.
Alternatively – for those that prefer taking on a slightly challenging set of (couple of hundred) steps. Start at San Niccolò and head through the Porta San Miniato gateway, up a short though admittedly rather steep street, and then point yourself in the direction of the wide stone steps that lay to the left of the pathway. This is by far the quickest route for walkers and also my favourite. As you walk up the steps – don’t be afraid to take a break or two – and be sure to turn around, as you climb higher and higher above the streets of Florence, you’ll note that the view becomes more and more spectacular. Those less adventurous types can take the local bus: number 12 or 13. From the train station either of these busses will take you all the way up to Piazza Michelangelo and will cost approx. €1.20 each way (purchase the ticket in advance at a tabaccheria/tobacconist or from the Santa Maria Novella Station).