Florida (pronounced floh-REE-dah) is the capital of Florida Department in the Central Interior of Uruguay. Surrounded by farmland, Florida is a fairly quiet city of 30,000 people—in contrast to nearby Montevideo, it has a small-town feel. Despite its small size relative to Montevideo, Florida has a couple of impressive attractions, including a beautiful cathedral and the site of Uruguay's 1825 Declaration of Independence. Located less than two hours from Montevideo by bus, it's very doable as a day trip if you don't want to spend the night.
Uruguay's independence was proclaimed on Florida's Piedra Alta and signed in a building located in the current center of the city in front of the Plaza Independencia.
The Italian saint San Cono is important to the inhabitants of Florida. He is a saint who was introduced to the country by Italian immigrants in a two-year long process which started in 1882, when the Italian community that was populating the city gave Mr. Blás Aloy the task of traveling to Teggiano, Italy (the city in which the saint was born) in order to acquire a replica of San Cono. The astonishing wooden replica of the Saint was then placed in a humble chapel that the community started to build in 1883.
The saint is a protector against plagues, wars and earthquakes, and he was not truly accepted by Florida's existing inhabitants. However, the rejection of the saint was suppressed when, in 1888, an earthquake took place in the region and caused the inhabitants to panic since earthquakes are not a frequent event in the area. This episode was taken by the people as a punishment inflicted by the saint as a consequence of the rejection he suffered by the non-believers. Since that event, the saint's popularity saw an exponential increase even though the local church authorities refused to accept him at the beginning.
Buses from Montevideo, Durazno, and other cities are available several times a day. As of 2017, buses from Montevideo are a little over U$200 each way. The Florida bus terminal is centrally located, about a block from the cathedral and the central plaza, Plaza Asamblea.
Walk, drive, or ride a motorbike – local bus service is very limited. The roads are in very good condition, at least in the main part of the city.
- 1 Piedra Alta (on Avenida Wilson Ferreira Aldunate, at the eastern edge of town). A large rock that was the location of the Declaration of Independence in 1825. Adjacent to a nice park. When trying to find it, be aware that there are a few things in Florida named after the rock, so map apps seem to get confused—you're looking for the spot near the eastern edge of town, by the Río Santa Lucía.
- Cathedral of Florida (Catedral Basílica de Florida) (adjacent to Plaza Asamblea, the town's central plaza). An impressive cathedral for a town of 30,000. Make sure to go inside!
- Chapel of San Cono (Capilla de San Cono), corner of Rodó and Coralio Lacosta. Where multitudes gather every June 3rd. The Chapel saw the beginning of its construction in the year 1883 and opened its doors for the first time in the year 1884, with 1885 seeing the first procession of the saint. It is home to the statue of San Cono, as well as a museum called “Museo de las Ofrendas” which displays an impressive collection of offerings brought by believers as symbols of gratitude towards the saint. Free.
- Florida Historical Museum (Museo Histórico de Florida), Rivera 373. Free.
If you happen to visit the city at the beginning of June, San Cono's pilgrimage is a must-see event. Every June 3rd – which is a local holiday – thousands of people of different nationalities gather in San Cono's Chapel for the mass given by the bishop of the diocese. The mass takes place in the morning, and after this there a procession where the saint is carried around the city in order to finish the pilgrimage.
Additionally, for those who are not devoted, a ten-block-long market fair is created from June 3rd to June 10th with an enormous variety of merchandise, ranging from religious trinkets to crafted accessories and clothing stands.
- Café del Centro, Corner of Independencia and Rodó, ☎ . 9AM to late evening. One of the oldest establishments in Florida. Spacious, well organized, good service, and it has photos on display depicting the history of the city.
Free (though unreliable) public WiFi is available at the Plaza Asamblea. Look for the network "Ceibal".