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Few cities in the world can boast the exceptional artistic and cultural riches of Florence, an enormous open-air museum that leaves millions of visitors each year breathless and enchanted.
The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is not only a city of art but "a work of art itself", as stated in the notes accompanying the election of Florence's city center as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: heritage of such great value and so well preserved, within the limited space of the city center, that city and art appear to be fused, creating a union of compelling beauty.
You are invited to discover Florence gradually in the open air, either on foot or by hiring a bike (there are over 80 kilometers of cycle routes), to experience it, letting yourself be inspired and marveling at the "beauty" that is displayed everywhere, before the masterpieces of the great artists who enriched Florence and were inspired by Florence, such as Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, Masaccio and Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Donatello, Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, Giotto and Beato Angelico, not forgetting Galileo and the two great geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
And indeed there is a surprise hiding around every corner: along the Arno or in the lanes known as “chiassi” (which still seem to echo with medieval chatter), on the bridges offering charming views or from the superb high viewpoints, from the hills surrounding the city (from Fiesole the panorama encompases the entire Arno valley and the sunsets are unforgettable), or from the top of the dome of Santa Maria in Fiore or from the grand terrace, Piazzale Michelangelo, with San Miniato al Monte, the church "which subjugates", to quote Dante, from which there is a view over the city, in all its magnificence.
Going back down along the Arno, we must mention the history of the Ponte Vecchio, with its air of ancient daily life and characteristic little houses, seemingly "hung" on the piers, constructed haphazardly by butchers, who were initially isolated on the bridge in order to protect public hygiene before being moved further away to make way for the goldsmiths' and jewelers' workshops that would provide more luster and prestige to the de’ Medici family in the eyes of the great European powers. For his son Francesco's marriage to Joanna of Austria, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I charged Giorgio Vasari with designing an ambitious elevated passage, connecting the Palazzo Vecchio, the political and administrative center, with the private quarters in Palazzo Pitti, passing through the prestigious Uffizi Gallery.
The "Vasari Corridor", which is over a kilometer long, can be visited with advance booking.
The political heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria, now as in the past, pulsates with "democratic" art, in a way that is almost unique in the world, a harmonious wide-angled view of masterpieces exhibited in the square and available to be enjoyed freely, day and night, where history and legend are interwoven:
the Loggia dei Lanzi, Michelangelo's David, the pre-eminent symbol of the city (the original statue is preserved in the Accademia Gallery), and of course the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, the city's administrative headquarters, but also a museum district that well deserves a visit. The rich program for younger travelers at the Museo dei Ragazzi is also worth bearing in mind.
On the other hand, the religious heart of the city is located in Piazza Duomo, with the Baptistery of St. John and Ghiberti's gates of paradise, the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria in Fiore and Giotto's famous Campanile, a complex that seems to blend together harmoniously thanks to the colors of the marble: white from Carrara, green from Prato and red from Maremma.
Bear in mind that, as well as the very famous Uffizi Museum, Florence boasts over 70 museums each of which would make a visit to the city worthwhile and since we know that you can have too much of a good thing, our advice is to make a choice in advance, to make the most of the time available.
To find a lively and still authentically "Florentine" atmosphere, go for a walk in Santo Spirito, a historic district in Oltrarno, on the left bank of the river, not far from Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Garden, the famous monumental park, an oasis of green that is well integrated in the fabric of the city, visited and loved by the local residents.
Santo Spirito church, which is famous for Brunelleschi's charming facade, dominates the entire square of the same name, which is always swarming with life, during the day, thanks to its distinctive craft workshops and market and, at night, thanks to its restaurants and bars, meeting places for an "aperi-cena" (aperitif and dinner).
After sunset, there is no shortage of entertainment in Florence, which is always full of young (and not so young) people from across the world, and there is plenty of choice of restaurants, wine bars (where glasses of good wine are accompanied by snacks of all kinds), live music, theaters, concerts and events of all types.
For those who love shopping Florence is a real paradise with countless stores, elegant haute couture boutiques and the famous workshops that maintain the traditions of Florentine craftsmanship and high-quality products made in Italy. Also worth a visit are the central market of San Lorenzo (closed Sunday and Monday), the popular market of Le Cascine (every Tuesday) and the small covered market of the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo (also known as the Porcellino because of the famous wild boar fountain) and the traditional flea market in Piazza dei Ciompi.