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Alluring Florence

One of the most written about cities in Italy, Florence (Firenze) has a strange effect on visitors. Travellers who normally loathe art galleries queue for hours to get into them, and people with no interest in Renaissance architecture start raving about tiered facades and frescoed apses. The list of its famous sons reads like a Renaissance Who's Who – under M alone you'll find Medici,Machiavelli and Michelangelo – and its celebrated cityscape lingers in the memory long after you've left town.

Many hold that Florentia was founded around 59 BC, but archaeological evidence suggests an earlier village, possibly established by the Etruscans around 200 BC. A rich merchant city by the 12th century, Florence grew into a powerful city-state under the Medici family, its cultural, artistic and political fecundity culminating in the 15th-century Renaissance.The Medici were succeeded in the 18th century by the French House of Lorraine, which ruled until 1860 when the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. From 1865 to 1870, Florence was, in fact, capital of the fledgling kingdom.

Piazza del Duomo & Around

One of the world’s largest cathedrals, Florence’s Gothic Duomo is quite an eyeful. Officially the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, it was begun in 1294 by Sienese architect Arnolfo di Cambio and consecrated in 1436. Its most famous feature, the enormous cupola, was built by Brunelleschi after his design won a public competition in 1420. The interior is decorated with frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari, and the stained-glass windows are by Donatello, Paolo Uccello and Lorenzo Ghiberti. The characteristic red, green and white marble facade is actually a 19th-century replacement of the unfinished original, pulled down in the 16th century.

  

Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery)

Home to the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art, the Galleria degli Uffizi is one of Italy’s biggest and most popular galleries, so unless you've booked a ticket, expect to queue.

 

 

Ponte Vecchio

Lined with jewellery shops, the 14th-century Ponte Vecchio was originally flanked by butchers’ shops. But when the Medici built a corridor through the bridge to link Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio, they ordered that the butchers be replaced with goldsmiths.

Palazzo Pitti

Built for the Pitti family, the vast 15thcentury Palazzo Pitti was bought by the Medici in 1549 and became their family residence. Today it houses four museums, of which the Galleria Palatina is the most important. Works by Raphael, Filippo Lippi, Titian and Rubens adorn lavishly decorated rooms. Three other museums – the Museo degli Argenti (Silver Museum), the Museo delle Porcellane (Porcelain Museum) and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna & del Costume (Modern Art & Costume Gallery) – are also here. A group ticket gets you in to all three as well as the Renaissance Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens) and Giardino Bardini (Bardini Gardens). 

Galleria dell’Accademia

The Galleria dell’Accademia is where you’ll find David, arguably the Western world’s most famous sculpture. Michelangelo carved the giant figure from a single block of marble, finishing it in 1504 when he was just 29.

Basilica di San Lorenzo & Cappelle Medicee

One of the city’s finest examples of Renaissance architecture, the Basilica di San Lorenzo was built by Brunelleschi in the 15th century and includes his Sagrestia Vecchia (Old Sacristy), with sculptural decoration by Donatello.

The sumptuous Cappelle Medicee are around the corner. Highlights are the extravagant Cappella dei Principi, the principal burial place of the Medici grand dukes, and the incomplete Sagrestia Nuova, Michelangelo’s first architectural effort.

 

 


Dining 

Borgo Antico  On a vibrant piazza, this trendy eatery is great for whiling away a summer evening over a pizza and glass of something cool. Select from the menu of leafy salads, wood-fired pizzas and Tuscan specialities.

Sud Caffè Italiano  An ode to southern Italian casual chic, this place is perfect for a simple meal of pasta or pizza washed down by your choice from an impressive wine list.

Trattoria Casalinga  If you’re after a filling meal at rock-bottom prices, look no further. Family-run and refreshingly unpretentious, it’s always full of locals.

 

 

Drinking and Dancing 

 

Colle Bereto

Slip into something Dolce & Gabbana and join the fashionistas at this glam bar. It’s known for excellent cocktails and a lavish aperitivo spread.

 

Caffè Gilli

Save yourself an arm and a leg by standing at the art nouveau bar at this, Florence’s grandest cafe.

JJ Cathedral

JJ’s is a magnet for vacationing foreign students, who come here to swill beer and admire the views of the Duomo. Try to snaffle the upstairs balcony table.

Moyo

A mixed crowd of young locals and foreign students drink at this funky modern bar. It’s good for coffee and free wi-fi during the day, drinks and upbeat music at night.

Negroni

The famous Florentine cocktail gives its name to this popular bar in the trendy San Nicolò district. It’s known for its art exhibitions, excellent aperitivo spread and cheap lunch buffet.

Buses service the city centre. The most useful terminal is just outside the train station’s eastern exit. Take bus 12 or 13 for Piazzale Michelangelo. Tickets, are sold at tobacconists and newsstands; you can also buy a 70-minute ticket on board the bus.

Recommendations

Soundwave

Definitely go to the Red Garter Bar, we had so much fun with our group that night."

Carly, Australia

#hopon to Florence