From Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, topped by Filippo Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome, I pound cobbled streets through the Piazza della Signoria and its replica of David.

Along the arched colonnade of the Uffizi, a line of Renaissance-era glitterati stare down from stone perches—Michelangelo Buonarroti, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Lorenzo de’ Medici among them—reminding me of this part of the world’s lavish hoard of artists, scientists, poets, and downright geniuses.

At the Arno River, a quick right and left and I’m on the Ponte Vecchio, the picturesque old bridge where the gold vendors have not yet opened their shutters.

Left along the river to Piazza Giuseppe Poggi and up I go, climbing quiet tree-shaded steps and pathways to Piazzale Michelangelo. The anticipation is mine alone, and I’m not disappointed as the lovely city of Florence spreads beneath me in all her Renaissance glory.

I pick out the slim steeples and Tuscan Gothic facades of Santa Croce (where many great Florentines are buried) and Santa Maria Novella, the Jewish Synagogue, and, lording above them all, Brunelleschi’s revolutionary red-and-white dome.

Run Stats

Mileage: three-mile loop
Best Time: Early morning, before the city crowds clog the streets
Start and End: Santa Maria dei Fiori, Piazza del Duomo

Route

  • From Santa Maria del Fiore, go down Via dei Calzaiuoli to Piazza della Signoria
  • Leave the square via Piazzale degli Uffizi
  • At Lungarno Generale Diaz, go right to Ponte Vecchio
  • Cross the bridge
  • Go left on Via de’ Bardi following the river downstream (the street name changes to Lungarno Torrigiani then to Lungarno Serristori)
  • At Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, follow the staircases and pathways up Monte alle Croci to Piazzale Michelangelo

Barbara A. Noe is senior editor at National Geographic Travel Books.