Walking Tour of Florence with a Visit to the David

Piazza della Signoria on a florence italy walking tour

On my LivItaly walking tour, a wonderful view standing in the doorway of the Palazzo Vecchio looking out on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

On Wednesday, I spent a wonderful afternoon with a small group tour from LivItaly Tours.

This tour was nothing like those groups of 20 to 40 you see herding past where the guide is holding a little flag and chirping at the people on a radio transmitter. If you are trying to choose from among the many Florence tours available, this is not the direction I would go.

The maximum group size on a LivItaly Tour is six people. This means your walking tour of Florence feels more like a stroll with friends than one of those larger, impersonal groups — which frankly make me want to run in the opposite direction.

Walks of Florence with LivTaly Tours - Rape of the Sabine

Rape of the Sabine by Giambologna in the Loggia dei Lanzi. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Our guide, Francesca, met us in the Piazza della Signoria right in front of the famous Caffé Rivoire.

This three hour walking tour started in the Piazza della Signoria, went past the Uffizi to stop on the Arno, lead us through the Piazza Repubblica to the Duomo, then down the Via de Martelli to the Palazzo Medici. We arrived at the Academia, and swept right in past the line to see Michelangelo’s David. The final 30 – 40 minutes of time were in the Academia with the David.

Francesca, a licensed guide for Florence and many other cities in Tuscany, was not only knowledgable — but very funny.

My afternoon with her was like having my own storyteller in the middle of the most important city of the Italian Renaissance. The great thing about the group of six, is that our afternoon was a conversational experience. Everyone had a chance to ask questions.

While I’ve been to Florence a number of times, Francesca connected the Florence of the Roman period, the medieval period, the Renaissance period, and finally the modern period in a way that increased my understanding and connection to the city, really bringing it to life.

walks of italy florence - we stopped in the Piazza della Repubblica

The Piazza della Repubblica in Florence. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Walking tours of Florence with LivItaly - use bronze 3D map of Florence

Our guide from LivItaly Tours uses the 3D bronze map of Florence to show the course of the medieval wall around the city. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Just a block away from the Arno, Francesca led us down one of the remaining medieval streets in Florence as we talked about the cramped city and the lack of light of that period, then out into the Piazza della Repubblica.

This had been the site of the forum during the Roman period, then the old market, and finally the Piazza della Repubblica when Florence was briefly the capital of the newly united Italy (1865 – 1871).

We paused in the Piazza to use the bronze model of the city to discuss the original streets dating back to the Roman period, then to look at where the medieval walls had been, before walking towards the Duomo.

Il Duomo -- walking tours of Florence with Livitaly

Francesca explained the machines Brunelleschi used to build the Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore — knowledge that had been lost following the fall of the Roman empire. Walks of Italy, Florence. Photograph, Ann Fisher

In front of the Duomo, we stopped at the Baptistry to look at the copy of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise (originals are in the Opera del Duomo) as Francesca explained the doors, and then the competition for the first set of Baptistry doors that marked the beginning of the Renaissance. We were a lively group with questions, and the whole thing was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

Walking tour of Florence - no line for the David

If you have a limited time in Florence, which is true of most visitors, it is very important not to waste your day standing in line to see the David. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Skipping the Line to Visit Michelangelo’s David

If you do not make plans ahead, and you simply arrive expecting to walk in and see the David, you may be out of luck.

When we arrived at the Academia museum, and the line to see the David still stretched most of the way down the block — so far, that with the time left before the Academia closed, that the people at the very back might get to enter.

Long line outside the Academia waiting to see Michelangelo's David.

It’s not unusual to have to wait two hours in line at the Academia to see the David. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Our little group waited while Francesca picked up our reserved tickets, and as we did, a husband and his wife had a very public melt-down outside of the museum.

“I don’t know why you thought you knew SO MUCH BETTER about how to do this than someone who ACTUALLY LIVES HERE!!” said the husband, his face increasingly red as he spoke.

His wife seemed close to tears. “I just didn’t think the line would be this long, since we aren’t here in the summer.”

“We’re not going to get in today, and we leave first thing in the morning! Mary Ellen bought a reserved ticket ahead, like Piero told her to . . .  but now there are no more of those left this afternoon!”

“Joe, I’m so sorry.”

He bellowed, “Well, at least SHE’S going to get to see him!”

“I wish you would just calm down . . . ”

“You knew that the David was the only thing I really wanted to see here, and now it’s not going to happen!! . . . And I’m not going to calm down!”

We saw the David on our walking tour of Florence.

The David, created 1501-1504 by Michelangelo, walking tour Florence. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

At this point, Francesca re-appeared and whisked us straight into the Academia.

I felt incredibly sorry for that couple. Can you reserve tickets to see the David without taking a tour? Yes, you absolutely can, and if you’re not going to take a walking tour, you definitely need to do that.

The reason this is so much better is that visiting the David with a guide gives you the full context for this amazing work of art. Francesca did a fine job of telling the story of how the young Michelangelo returned from Rome after his success with the Pieta and won the contract to carve the enormous block of marble.

The citizens of Florence were awestruck with the David when they first saw him completed in 1504. David was a GIANT then, and he is a GIANT now.

Francesca concluded the LivItaly Tour at his feet, leaving us to spend as much time with this masterpiece as each of us liked.

I finished my day with a cocktail at Caffé Rivoire, to watch the light in the piazza, and to think about my walk — which had been perfect. Returning to sit in the Piazza della Signoria was coming full circle, a contemplation of my afternoon of time-travel through Italian history.


If you’re looking for: walks of Italy, Florence — you’ve found a review of my 2017 walking tour of Florence with Livitaly Tours.


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Small Group Walking Tour of Florence with the David


Disclaimer: Many thanks to LivItaly Tours for hosting me on their walking tour. As always, opinions and experiences are honest and my own. I’ll never recommend anything I didn’t love myself.

 

19 Comments on Walking Tour of Florence with a Visit to the David

  1. I’m so glad that you actually got to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece! When I was studying abroad in Rome in 2006, we took a quick trip over to Florence. We were waiting in line to get in to the Academia, and were literally the next people who were going to be let in when my friend said, “Oh my God, our train leaves in 10 minutes!!” Needless to say, we booked it over to the train. I still have yet to see the mysterious David. ;-D

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  2. I’d definitely pick this intimate tour just to skip the line for Michelangelo’s David! Hope to visit Florence soon!

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  3. I found that walking tour is the best way to learn about the city and its history! We did one of those in Mexico and I was glad we did since we were tight were time. I felt sorry for that couples too. At least know I know reserved tickets are required to skip the line to see the David!!

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  4. I always do several small tours when I visit a new city, and even when I’ve been a few times, which is the case for Florence, I think they have such a great offering – the town is wonderful for walking. I try to go the first few days of my visit because the local guides are an excellent resource for recommendations and I love picking their brains! This looks like a great tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a great point — in addition to learning all you do on the small group tour, guides are a treasure trove of suggestions, from the best things to do, to great local restaurants.

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  5. If Joe and his wife had only read real stories from real people in the blog world……

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    • Thank you, Paul. Or really read any guides on Florence at all — because they would have known they needed to reserve a spot to see the David, even if they didn’t do a tour.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love tours like this. You really learn so much more about the culture than you would on your own. Otherwise, you have two choices – read about where you’re visiting which is great and all but there is a reason you see it in person. Or- Just go in cold and see what you can pick up. Either end of the spectrum leaves you feeling just a little bit empty.

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    • I agree. And of course the huge bonus to taking a tour with someone like Francesca, who was born and raised in Tuscany, is you get a local perspective along with the history that simply doesn’t come out of a guide book.

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  7. When a tour is good – it’s such an amazing experience. I always learn so much more than I would on my own, and I’m able to connect a lot of dots between history, culture, etc. But when a tour is bad, it feels like pulling teeth. Glad to hear about this positive experience in Florence. Will keep it in mind!

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  8. Every time I hear about Florence, I kick myself for not finding a way to include that city in my trip to Italy two years ago. I’m sure it simply means I need to go back, but posts like these make me so sorry I didn’t visit Florence then.

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  9. I loved your story but not for what I imagine are obvious reasons. I’ve travelled a lot but rarely as a ‘tourist.’ Give me a good restaurant on a quiet street where I can watch and engage with local life. Reserved tickets are a good idea though. I went to Granada last year and reserved a ticket for the Alhambra, online, in advance and, even then, chose a time when there were fewer people there. I took a small apartment in the Albaicin because my primary interest was in Islamic Granada.

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    • I like your restaurant on a quiet street . . . and the best of travel happens when you fold yourself into the local culture. Glad you enjoyed my piece, and it was great to find your blog as well. — Ann

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for showing your pictures.

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  11. I’ve been to Florence (years ago) so I loved your post as I got to go again through your eyes! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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