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The Joys Of Florence

When thinking of Florence images of old cobbled streets lined with magnificent architecture and bustling with stylish Italians on Piaggio mopeds (known locally as 'motorinis') darting in and around famous monuments and bridges spring to mind.

Florence has a true Italian feel to it. The impeccably dressed Italians wander the streets, passionately gesticulating to each other as they walk. You may think they're arguing but they're just very passionate people! The noise of their conversation is only drowned out by the motorinis freely using their moped horns as they tear around the winding streets at break-neck speeds.

A popular destination

The city receives millions of visitors each year and it's easy to see why. There is such a variety on offer in Florence ranging from its wealth of artistic and architectural heritage, the designer shopping, the beauty of the River Arno, and the wealthy roots of the city to its enviable location in the rolling Tuscan countryside with its associated delicious foods and wines. A visit to Florence is a delight for all the senses.

Cultural delights

For those interested in art and culture then Florence will have been high on your list of destinations to visit anyway. It claims to have the greatest concentration of art (in proportion to its size) in the world. However, even those who claim to know nothing of art or architecture are bound to have heard of a few of Florence's more famous stars. How about Michelangelo's David, or the Ponte Vecchio?

David di Michelangelo

There are world-famous museums, galleries and statues on every corner. The Uffizi Gallery is one of the finest art museums in the world containing works of art by famous Italian artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello, with the majority of the art dating back to the periods between the 12th to 17th centuries. It is worth booking tickets early as the queues to get into the museum are now almost as famous as the art it contains.

The Santa Maria del Fiore, known locally as 'The Duomo' is one of the most photographed cathedrals in the world. Designed by Felippo Brunelleschi, and built over 600 years ago, the dome is still the largest dome built of brick and mortar in the world. It looks magnificent from the outside, but the inside will truly take your breath away.

Il Duomo

One of the world's most famous bridges can also be found in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio, which simply translates as 'old bridge'. The unusual bridge, which spans the River Arno, is the only one to have survived the World War 2 bombings. It is lined with shops on stilts and offers fantastic photo opportunities of the city from its sides.

Ponte Vecchio

For those who fancy some time outdoors to enjoy the city's Mediterranean climate, the Boboli Gardens are well worth a visit. The beautifully landscaped gardens are dotted with magnificent sculptures. You will feel as though you have stepped back in time.

Shop til you drop

History and culture aside, Florence is a shopaholic's dream. Milan may be Italy's fashion capital, but Florence has just as much to offer in a much smaller area meaning you can easily walk it all. The city is steeped in fashion history on the Via de'Tornabuoni. Shopping giants such as Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci all have headquarters in Florence.

If the designer prices make your head reel then head to the San Lorenzo Market for bargains on leather, clothes, sunglasses and stationery. If you're a serious shopper, no matter what your budget size is, a visit to Florence is a must.

Food and drink

Florence is a city well-situated for foodies. As the capital of Tuscany it benefits from the incredible food and drink produced in the region. When the shops close, residents and visitors alike head to the restaurants and cafes to eat and drink.

Chianti vineyards

The famous Chianti region is situated just South of the city. Just over 30km to the west is the Carmignano area, home to the full bodied sangiovese-based reds. Some of Tuscany's lesser known wines are now making a name for themselves such as Montalcino's Brunello, and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. When visiting Florence it is easy to visit the beautiful vineyards in the neighboring Tuscan hills, or if you're feeling less energetic you can just sample the wines in one of the many restaurants within the city's walls.

Getting around economically

There is so much to do within the city, but if you are feeling more adventurous and want to see more, the medieval splendors of Siena, Pisa, Lucca and San Gimignano are all within easy reach. To explore the region in true Italian style you can hire a moped and join the local motorinis. This can be a very economical and easy way to experience the city. Just be sure you hire from a reputable company with the correct moped insurance in place. If you don't feel quite brave enough for that you can hire a car, or there are numerous organized day-trip tours which leave from the city.

Tuscany, with its capital of Florence, is an area blessed with natural beauty and a wealth of architecture and art. It never fails to impress.

Image attributions:
David di Michalengelo by Tommo1975 (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DavidMichelangelo.jpg) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Il Duomo by Marcus Obal (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Il_Duomo_Florence_Italy.JPG) Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Ponte Vecchio by Linda Pollari (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ponte_Vecchio_visto_dal_ponte_di_Santa_Trinita.jpg) Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Chianti vineyards by Matthew Hutchinson (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chianti_vineyards.jpg) Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Florence & Tuscany

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Florence & Tuscany
by Christopher Catling
  The DK Eyewitness Florence & Tuscany Travel Guide will lead you straight to the best attractions Florence & Tuscany have to offer. The guide includes unique cutaways, floorplans and reconstructions of the city's stunning architecture, plus 3D aerial views of the key districts to explore on foot.
  More information and prices from:
Amazon.com - US dollars
Amazon.ca - Canadian dollars
Amazon.co.uk - British pounds
Amazon.de - Euros
Amazon.fr - Euros



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