Florence, the highlight of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Famous for its beautiful architecture with terracotta tiled floors and roofs, UNESCO has recognised the historic city centre of Florence or Firenze as a World Heritage Site.
It is this same site that was, in 2013, ranked the 40th most visited place in the world out of 100 cities. Florence is situated in a basin-like valley, surrounded by various hills; one of the four notable rivers that run through the city is the Arno River.
The wine from this part of the Tuscan region in particular is known the world over. It is also a bastion of the fashion world, being among the top 51 fashion capitals in the world. In other words, if you’re travelling to Italy but not stopping in Florence, you’re missing out!
It has a subtropical almost Mediterranean climate, which lacks wind as a result of its geographical situation, resulting in weather slightly warmer than the coastal regions of Italy. This makes for perfect days ambling through the narrow streets, taking in the laid-back Tuscan atmosphere. Book a walking tour to get the full value of the historical and cultural sites that are set to meet your eyes. Florence’s rich cultural and artistic heritage is everywhere to be seen.
The main church of Florence, the Cathedral is also known as Il Duomo di Firenze or The Dome, can be seen from almost every corner of the city. It took a century and a half to complete the construction of this majestic building, the largest dome built from brick and mortar in the world, completed in the early fifteenth century. It is located in the Piazza del Duomo, together with the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, which all form the historic city centre of Florence.
The famous David sculpted by Michelangelo together with various other Renaissance paintings are found at the art museum, the Galleria dell’ Accademia. Another important art gallery to visit when in Florence is the Uffizi, which is located next to the Piazza della Signoria. Built in the sixteenth century its main purpose was once the offices of the town’s magistrates. Today, however, it boasts paintings by Michelangelo, Rembrandt, da Vinci and various other notable Renaissance painters’ works. The Piazza della Signoria, a square of prominence in Florence, hosts the marble sculpture of the Fountain of Neptune which today remains a functioning drinking water fountain. This square also features a replica of Michelangelo’s David. All within walking distance of each other, the Palazzo Vecchio dominates the skyline of Florence together with The Dome. It is both the town hall of Florence and an art museum.
An important part of the economy of Florence, food and wine are some of the city’s best attributes. Florence is significant for its ability to grow grapes for its beautiful wines; it is no wonder that there is a wine named after the Chianti region in Florence. At the Piazza della Repubblica, enjoy a fragrant glass of wine at one of the many cafés on the square’s outdoor terrace. Florentine cuisine is more closely associated to peasant food than anything fancy in the gastronomical department. Coming from a tradition of eating the entire animal, tripe is still served in most restaurants. If that does not sit well with you, try a gorgeous offering of antipasti, a selection of cold meats such as prosciutto and salame served with melon. A very traditional Florentine dish is ribollita, a wholesome Tuscan soup of vegetables served with locally made bread.
Take a day trip from Florence via rail to Pisa, to visit the famed Leaning Tower. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the main Cathedral of the city and this tilting structure is a symbol synonymous with Italy.
The trip is about one hour one way and so making a day out of this must-see tourist site is easy. Try and make time to take a fifteen-minute train ride to the port city of Livorno on the Western Coast of Tuscany, particularly if you do not get the chance to visit the ocean elsewhere in your trip to Italy.