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Florence, Italy

Florence

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Best liked by Mid and Centric-Venturers and Centric Authentics

Did You Know….?

  • The Duomo has the largest cupola ever constructed (diameter: 143 feet).
  • Dante, author of “The Divine Comedy,” was born in Florence but died in exile.
  • Florence was the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1870.
  • Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo are buried in the church of Santa Croce.
  • Ponte Vecchio has been devoted to only two trades (goldsmiths and jewelers) since 1593.

Money and Renaissance art

Located in the heart of Tuscany in western Italy, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, which lasted from roughly the 14th century through the 17th. Great artists and poets, including Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo Buonarroti, were born in Tuscany. The very wealthy Medici banking family supported many of these artists and the construction of a number of Florence’s great buildings.

Florence is a small city, with the Arno River cutting a wandering path through town. The amount of art and beauty in this city surprises even seasoned travelers. Old buildings show little of the ravages of time, and there are great museums galore.

Some must-see attractions include Il Duomo (Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore) with a massive dome by Filippo Brunelleschi, which dominates the city’s skyline and has influenced architects for centuries including builders of the White House.

Many agree that the Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art with thousands of paintings from medieval to modern times and many antique sculptures, illuminations and tapestries.

The green and white marbled Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St John) from the 11th century is believed to be the oldest building in Florence. It is famed for its three sets of magnificent bronze doors (reproductions — the originals are in the Duomo Museum).

Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia holds important paintings and sculptures from the 13th to 16th centuries, including Michelangelo’s original “David.”  The Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, estate home of the Medici family, encompass several museums that also include paintings by a number of Italy’s masters.  Santa Croce houses the tombs of the famous, along with extraordinary stained glass windows and frescoes.

In Florence, great restaurants are scattered around town. In addition, the city has fine shopping for leather goods, jewelry, art reproductions — plus gold on the picturesque Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge).

Visitors can sightsee on foot in this compact city, but it is best to avoid the busy tourist season in summer when the weather’s hot, the narrow streets are crowded and tourists wait two to four hours to get into popular museums.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Visit the Campanile bell tower in Piazza del Duomo. It provides great views of Il Duomo and Florence from the top, but you’ll have to climb 414 steps (no lift).  Il Duomo itself has 463 steps to its top, just waiting to be climbed as well. This magnificent structure is said to hold up to 20,000 people.
  • Look for a house that’s not too well known: Dante’s House (Casa di Dante Alighieri), in the medieval section of the city, is a museum.
  • Enjoy Florentine cuisine, which ranks high and features simple preparation of fresh, basic ingredients. Grilling (alla Fiorentina) is common, especially of steak with vegetables.  Also, you can prepare a picnic lunch by shopping at Mercato Centrale.
  • If you’re a jogger, head uphill from your hotel. You’ll pass interesting neighborhoods and ultimately get to the top of hills with panoramic views.
  • Italy is cycling country. Rent a bike and ride anywhere around Florence. Rolling hills and great scenery await you, but you will want to avoid the hot summer months and the coldest days of winter.
  • Take Italian language classes.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Visit the Galleria degli Uffizi and plan to spend several hours there. It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer number of statues, paintings and tapestries in the Uffizi, a Medici office building that was completed in 1581. Get advance reservations before you leave home, or you’ll spend several hours in line.
  • If cooking is a passion, sign on for a cooking class. Florence has several culinary arts institutes that offer short summer sessions for tourists.
  • Spend time at the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s political center since the Middle Ages. The adjacent Loggia della Signoria holds important statues including a copy of Michelangelo’s “David.” This is all open air and free.
  • Cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli), a huge park on a hillside behind the Pitti Palace. It has beautiful gardens and fountains, and a great view of Florence from the Forte Belvedere.
  • Have a quick meal and the local wine (Chianti) at one of the traditional stand-up wine bars to add memories to your trip. Florence also offers hundreds of cafes, bars, wine bars and pubs.
  • Drive to Castello di Verrazzano, a picturesque winery only an hour away. Its silhouette can be seen on the horizon, and the road leading up to it is lined with Italian cypress trees.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Shop for leather. As the leather capital of Italy, Florence showcases gloves, belts, bags and shoes in its many artisan workshops, as well as at San Lorenzo market. Designer boutiques line up along Via Tornabuoni.
  • Visit the Ponte Vecchio to admire the shops that are cantilevered over the Arno River.  Price and maybe buy some of the gold jewelry sold in the small shops. When built in 1345, the bridge accommodated blacksmiths and butchers.
  • For a change of pace, relax in Parco delle Cascine along the Arno River.  It was a Medici estate and includes architectural wonders and lots of green space.
  • Arrange for a guided walking tour to cover more attractions than you might cover on your own. Your hotel concierge can make recommendations for a personal guide or a tour company.
  • Restaurants tend toward the pricey in Florence. Ask your hotel concierge to suggest places that feature local cooking and more modest prices.
  • Find culture throughout the year. The Teatro Comunale features opera and ballet in autumn and symphonies in winter. The Teatro della Pergola has chamber music on weekends, and city piazzas, notably Piazza S. Ambrogio and Piazza SS. Annunziata, feature jazz concerts in the summer.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Florence Tourism at www.firenzeturismo.it and click on the British flag for the English-language version, if necessary.