Getting to the heart of Italy
Florence, a city of 400,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Arno River, is in the heart of central Italy, and is considered a true artistic treasure. It enjoyed its period of greatest splendor between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, when it was an independent city under the control of the Medici family. At that time they produced the major artistic and literary representations of the peninsula.A historic and cultural behemoth
Suffice to say that the Italian language was born in Florence through the works of writers such as Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, who were considered from the very beginning to be the embodiment of Italian literature. In later years, it was also chosen as a residence by the greatest exponents of the Renaissance: Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio all resided at one time or another in this Italian city, beside the unforgettable figures of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.Prestigious art
Today you can admire the work of these artists in the city's museums. The most important is the Uffizi Gallery, rightly considered one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world, along with the Bargello National Museum, the Museum of San Marco and the Accademia Gallery.Admirable architecture
But painting is not the only thing to see in Florence. Scattered throughout the city, you will find public and private buildings commissioned by the Medici family, including the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti, which are wonderful to see both from the inside and without. But all else pales in comparison to Florence's Duomo, with its splendid domed roof, and the Church of Santa Maria Novella, a fantastic Gothic building with heaps of character.
Wander through the streets around the Duomo, then on to Piazza San Firenze, where you will find the Bargello (a 13th-century barracks and prison that now houses a broad selection of Florentine sculptures). On the way, you will pass the home of Dante on via Dante Alighieri. Continue to the Mercato Nuovo arcades and end at the splendid Boboli gardens which are on the hill at the end of via Porta Romana.
After taking the typical path across the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, the Duomo and the church of Santo Spirito, cross the Arno to Piazza Michelangelo. This is one of the city's hidden wonders and offers a panoramic view of Florence from a different, less touristy point of view.
Instead of eating in the most touristy areas, walk a little to get away from the major tourist attractions. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu in a local restaurant.
Be wary when taking taxis in general and especially with those that bring travellers from the airport to the centre of Florence, they may charge extremely high prices if they think you are tourists.
We're certainly not short of adjectives to describe Tuscan cuisine. Food is taken very seriously in Florence, as it is all over Italy, with pasta dishes to try, fish staples to sample above all, the famous "bistecca alla fiorentina" to savour, or even tasty wild boar. Those with a sweet tooth should try the famous Cantuccini and Panforte, washed down with local wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Moscato d'Alba.
Take a look at the wallets and leather gloves in Florence, whilst gourmets should bring back local cheeses and wines. Taste before you buy!