My #EXPOTuscany: Two Summer Specials in Florence (A Fortress and A Tower)

One of the best things of being an expat is that you live in a city with heart of a tourist. Florence makes my expat life so easy (so far) as there are lots of interesting stuff going on. I am constantly surprised by this city for all the new things happening.

Maybe because I arrived in Florence at the right time: the dry summer season allows me to go out and enjoy the outdoor life (OK, this year the heat has gone a bit crazy. But I like sunny days a lot, just cover me with SPF30+, and I will be fine). And because of the EXPO, many things that we rarely can have nowadays are available to experience!

Rather than naming this post “Two places you MUST visit this summer in Florence”, I would say if you want to visit these two spots, do it this summer, because afterward you need to wait for another year, or even longer before they will be open again!

1. Forte di Belvedere and art installation HUMAN
I was delighted when knowing that Forte di Belvedere is open for visiting this summer! Thanks for the EXPO and Antony Gormley, who is having his art installation exhibition HUMAN in the fortress now, this place which usually only opens for special occasions is welcoming public now.

Built in the 16th century, Belvedere was originally used to protect the city. Although now all the cannons had been removed, standing here it is not hard to imagine in the old days, here is the point you overlooked the city and prepared for enemies. Due to this reason, Belvedere gives an open panorama of Florence. From a tourist standpoint, Belvedere comparing to Piazzale Michelangelo offers better vibe. Here I don’t need to squeeze myself in between people just to take a quick photo of the city. I can actually slow down, enjoy the quietness, sit on the lawn to relax, and take as many photo as I want. It truly has the Bel-vedere (beautiful view)!

Antony Gormley is having his installation exhibition HUMAN here. Some of you may know from my last post, I am not a very artistic person. Fine art in museum is too overwhelming for me. I like those playful art, which wakes up my imaginations. This is why I enjoyed HUMAN. Antony has placed more than 100 cast statues in different corners inside and outside the fortress, which allows visitors to actually touch them, see them from 360° angles, and discover them by moving around.

Our guide thought this statue is a happy man, while I thought he (yes, we both agreed that it is a male!) was very sad and annoyed. Taaaadaaaaa, the magic of art!
post 67 human 7

Another purpose of this architecture is for the Duke to relax and enjoy the Dolce Vita. This fortress is in connection to the Boboli Garden, and eventually the Pitti Palace, which are another beautiful places to see in Florence ! Imagine having an aperitivo with such a view in front. What a hard life!
the countryside part of Florence

In the old days, Forte di Belvedere and the area behind were considered the countryside. Thanks to Eleanor, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the Duchess of Florence, she decided to leave the Old Palace (Palazzo Vecchio), and move to the new palace Pitti in the countryside. And from there, she started to build the Boboli Garden.

Eleanor is often thought as a spoil consort in the Medici with love of luxury. But I’d like to think maybe because she enjoyed hosting big parties and would like to have a place making her guests more relaxed and comfortable. Or maybe she DID has too many pairs of shoes and numerous dresses, but because of her we have THIS available nowadays!

The view from Boboli Garden to Pitti palace
The view from Boboli Garden to Pitti palace

Get more information of this art exhibition by tuning in the official website:

2. San Niccolo Tower
If there lived a princess in the tower of San Niccolo, I bet she would be super happy in summer, just like Anna in FROZEN! Because since 2011, “for the first time in forever”, San Niccolo tower opens for public visiting only in summer days.

In the 16th century, because of the invention of cannons, tall constructions became easy targets in wars. As such the Florentine decided to cut all the towers, only leaving San Niccolo with the original height. This is why a lot of my friends from San Niccolo district are very proud when they introduce this heritage to me.

San Niccolo not only was a critical architecture for wars, it was also used to be the gate dividing Florence city and the countryside. In the old days traders came to Florence to do business. They needed to pay an entering fee to the custom officers (italian: gabelliere) at San Niccolo tower before entering the city. Nowadays the Florentine still use “gabella” in their dialect referring to certain payment, such as “duty” or “tax”.

Most of the high points in Florence give us the panorama in the city center side. But on top of San Niccolo, you can also have the view to the other sides of the city. It is a place you really enjoy 360° of Florence.

Views from San Niccolo tower. (left) View towards Ponte Vecchio direction, the city part of Florence; (right) Florence city landscape facing the tower

(Left) This side which used to be the countryside, nowadays has became part of the Florence city; (right) Piazzale Michelangelo at the back side of the San Niccolo tower. Can you spot the Davide statue?

The opening time is from 5 – 8pm, with guided tours. But don’t forget it is only available in summer (this year June 24 – 30 September, 2015)! So if you are already convinced, don’t hesitate to book your visit (recommended), and see Florence from an exclusive point.

Place for more information and visit booking:

#EXPOTuscany is a series of blog posts featuring my latest blog tour “Tuscany Among The Stars” by Visit Tuscany. More content can also be found here:

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