According to Google Translate, the English translation of the Italian word “piazzale” is “large square.” Accordingly, before visiting it, I thought that the Piazzale Michelangelo would be a larger version of a typical Italian piazza*. Thus, I was expecting to find a large, lovely, lively, fully pedestrianized public square. What I found instead would be more appropriately classified as a parking lot.
With that knowledge in mind, why should you visit Piazzale Michelangelo if you find yourself in Florence**? One word: views.
Yeah, yeah. I hear you. OK, it’s not the word, but rather the views themselves that should induce you to go. But stop being such a damned stickler. You get the point.
The views of Florence and beyond from up there are gorgeous. If I were a half-decent photographer, there’d be much better pictures of those views on this page. I’m not. Instead, you’re stuck with the lousy shots I took with my iPhone that I posted here. Sorry about that.
Piazzale Michelangelo is part way down the hill from San Miniato al Monte, so the field of vision from the Piazzale is not quite as wide and deep as it is from the basilica. However, one of the benefits of that is that you get a closer and therefore more detailed, but still wide-angle view of the Arno River, the buildings of Florence and the scenery beyond.
One warning: The Piazzale Michelangelo is almost entirely open except for the scant shade provided by the few souvenir stands dotting the sides of the square. In addition, the tarmac of the parking lot seems to intensify the heat. Thus, if you visit on a hot day—it was sweltering when I was there—expect to perspire heavily. In fact, “perspire heavily” is merely the polite way of saying it. “Sweat like a pig” is somewhat more accurate, but still doesn’t adequately describe the oppressiveness of the heat when I was there.
Replica David in Piazzale Michelangelo
A bronze replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David sits on a pedestal in the parking lot. The bronze David there is not as large or impressive as the stone original that resides in the Accademia Gallery, but the base of the pedestal includes a couple of decorative sculptures that aren’t present with the original. The smaller statues at the base are not terribly inspiring (in fact, I forgot they were there until I looked again at the picture I took of the statue), so the copy of the David is nowhere near a sufficient reason to visit the “square,” particularly not on a hot, humid day, but, did I mention the views?
A short flight of stairs off to the side of the piazzale leads down to a small bar/bistro. There were umbrellas over some of the tables and there were misters to cool it down a bit. However, I didn’t stop at the bistro because all of the tables under umbrellas were occupied and there was no way I was going to sit out under the blazing sun. So don’t expect a food and drink review here. You’re not going to get one.
After visiting the Piazzale Michelangelo I walked back down into town. There was a nice foot path that took me through a shaded area. As a result, the heat on my stroll back to the centre of Florence wasn’t nearly as oppressive as it was up at the square. So there’s that.
* Not to be confused with pizza. Particularly not to be confused with pizza if you’re hungry, as the result will be even greater hunger if there are no restaurants (pizza or otherwise) in or near the piazza.
** Hopefully you will find yourself there with an intent on your part to be there, as opposed to, say, finding yourself inexplicably in Florence after waking up from an alcohol-induced coma when the last place you remember being was somewhere on the other side of the planet. Then again, Florence is a beautiful, interesting city. If you’re going to be inexplicably transported somewhere, that’s a good spot for it.