Florence needs no introduction: it is the cradle of Italian culture. From our accommodation near Florence, you can get to the city by car in 1 hour (about 60 km). Alternatively, you can take a train from Castelfiorentino station (10 km away from here) to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station, which is just a short walk from the city centre. The train journey takes 45 minutes.
Florence is a multi-faceted city with stunning views at any time of day or night. Albeit relatively small, it is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Known as the "cradle of the Renaissance", every year it is visited by millions of tourists who come to enjoy its amazing charm and its romantic atmosphere. To put it simply, spending holidays near Florence is unmatched experience. Its urban fabric has not changed much since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are of such high quality that the tag "fiorentino" has become a synonym of excellence all over the world.
In addition, Florence is home to fashion and luxury brands, with chic shops parading on the famous Via dei Tornabuoni. Gucci was born here, as were Roberto Cavalli and many other successful Florentines.
When should you go?
The best time to visit Florence is in spring, when days are longer and warmer (but not too hot) and the city and its museums are less crowded than in high season. Late spring marks the beginning of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Italy's oldest arts festival, whereas autumn is the season of culinary delights, including porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, and recipes that use delicious local produce.
Among the places where to stay in Tuscany near Florence we offer a perfect point of departure to plenty of itineraries. Start this fascinating tour with a visit to the Accademia Gallery, which houses Michelangelo's original marble statue of David. From there walk to the wonderful Piazza della Signoria, where you will find a copy of Michelangelo's statue, and then continue to the Bargello Museum, which houses Donatello's and Verrocchio's Davids. We highly recommend a visit to the Laurentian Medici Library - an architectural masterpiece designed by Michelangelo - and a stop at Piazzale Michelangelo, where you can have a coffee and enjoy the sunset. Finish your day tasting chocolates at Scudieria.
Have your morning coffee at a nice bar in the breathtaking Piazza della Repubblica (we recommend the Caffè Gilli) and then visit the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, where you can admire frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio. After a nice lunch at the Trattoria da Mario, head to the Museum of St. Mark, where you will be enraptured by the beauty of Beato Angelico's frescoes. Finish your tour with a visit to the Medici-Riccardi Palace and Benozzo Gozzoli's Magi Chapel.
Devote the entire morning to visiting the stunning Uffizi, one of the largest museums in the world, and then stop for a farmhouse-style lunch at the Cantinetta dei Verrazzano or a panini lunch at 'Ino. Continue your day with a guided tour of the Vasari Corridor, which offers an unforgettable experience for art enthusiasts, or, as an alternative, treat yourself to an afternoon of luxury shopping in Via dei Tornabuoni. In the evening, cross the Arno river and enjoy an aperitif and/or wine tasting at Le Volpi E L'Uva or Il Santo Bevitore.
The origins of Florence can be traced back to Fiesole, a small village founded by the Etruscans. Later on, Julius Caesar founded the Roman colony of Florentia, making it a strategic garrison designed to control the Via Flaminia, which linked Rome to northern Italy and Gaul.
After the end of the Roman Empire, Florence was invaded first by the Goths and then by the Lombards and Franks.
The year 1000 AD marked a watershed in the history of the city as margrave Hugh of Tuscany moved the capital there.
In 1115, Florence became a free comune (town council). At first it was ruled by a Council whose members belonged to differing factions, but this caused practical difficulties in the administration of the city and, as a consequence, an impartial head of state (podestà ) was appointed in 1207.
Florence was a rich and important city in the Middle Ages, famous throughout Europe as a financial and cultural centre. It was well known also for its manufactured goods, such as wool, silks and leather. Since trade flourished, merchants formed a significant part of the population. They were organized in guilds and financed the numerous artists active in the city.
At the time, two important factions competed for power: the Guelphs (Guelfi), who supported the papacy, and the Ghibellines ( Ghibellini), who supported the Holy Roman Empire. Their conflicts lasted for about one century, and artists like Giotto and Dante Alighieri were born during this period of civic strife.
In 1348 the city's population was halved by the plague, which was described by Giovanni Boccaccio in the Decameron.
The year 1434 saw the beginning of the Medici era, with the rise to power of Cosimo il Vecchio (the Elder, also known simply as Cosimo de' Medici), who supported the talent of artists such as Brunelleschi, Alberti, Luca della Robbia, Beato Angelico, Donatello and Filippo Lippi.
Upon the occasion of the Ecumenical Council of 1439, which attempted to reunite the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, many intellectuals and craftsmen arrived from Byzantium. This influenced the following historical period, known as the Renaissance.
The court of Lorenzo il Magnifico (the Magnificent), Cosimo's grandson, attracted a multitude of artists, including Michelangelo, Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio. Lorenzo's rule marked the beginning of Renaissance humanism and fostered a flowering of all the arts.
Not long before Lorenzo's death, the Medici bank failed and, in stark contrast with the wealth and artistic glory of the previous years, the city fell under the control of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican monk who led a puritanical republic and under whose rule many works of art considered immoral were burned. However, Savonarola soon lost control over the city and was eventually burned as a heretic.
Conflicts with the pope and his Spanish allies ensued, since the Council that governed Savonarola's republic had expressed sympathies for France. After the Spanish army defeated Florence in 1512, the Medici came back to power, but they acted as tyrants and were strongly opposed by the population. Therefore, when Pope Clement VII (that is, Giulio de' Medici) surrendered to emperor Charles V, the Medici were once again expelled from the city.
Three years later, however, the imperial and papal armies besieged Florence, forcing the population to submit to Alessandro de' Medici, Lorenzo's great-grandson.
The Medici continued to reign for two centuries, but the glory of their predecessors (especially Cosimo I and Lorenzo I) remained unparalleled. With the death of Gian Gastone, the last heir, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany passed to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which retained control until Tuscany was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
During WWII, Florence was bombarded and severely damaged by the retreating Germans.
Floods ravaged the city in 1966, while in 1993 the Mafia exploded a car bomb in Via dei Georgofili, killing 5 people and destroying part of the Uffizi.
What to see and do
Florence is so rich in art galleries, museums, things to see and do that it can be hard to decide where to begin. Since it is impossible to see everything in one trip, just choose what interests you the most and take your time to walk around the city. Churches do not allow shorts, short-sleeved shirts or low-cut dresses; please be aware that last admission is usually 30 minutes before closing time.
One week a year, usually in spring, state museums are free of charge.
Let's start from the Piazza del Duomo.
Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294, Florence's Duomo was built on the site of an earlier cathedral dedicated to Saint Reparata. Despite its harmonious appearance, it is the result of the collective efforts of several generations: after Arnolfo's death, its construction was entrusted to Giotto, Andrea Pisano and, finally, Francesco Talenti. Brunelleschi's dome was completed in 1434 and crowned with a gilt copper ball and cross by Verrocchio in 1468.
On the exterior, nothing is left of Arnolfo di Cambio's original fassade. The current one was added in 1871 to ensure that the main cathedral of the capital of the Kingdom of Italy was not left unfinished, but Emilio de Fabris, who designed it, reproduced the style of fourteenth-century Florentine architecture. The oldest parts of the exterior are those on the right side, as suggested by a relief of the Annunciation dated 1310. On the Porta del Campanile (the portal closest to Giotto's bell tower) are a lunette with the Madonna with Child and a tondo relief depicting Christ Blessing, both in the style of Andrea Pisano. On the Porta dei Canonici, sculpted by Lorenzo di Giovanni Ambrogio and Pietro Giovanni Tedesco in 1378, is a lunette with another Madonna with Child, probably by Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti. The external apse is magnificent: on one side is an unfinished gallery by Baccio d'Agnolo and Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio which was famously dismissed by Michelangelo as a "cricket cage"; on the left side are the 14th-centuryPorta della Balla and early-Renaissance Porta della Mandorla, which is an example of early Renaissance style. The Prophet on the right pinnacle of Porta della Mandorla is attributed to Donatello.
The interior is on a Latin cross plan. A gallery runs around the nave and along the transept, while along the walls are 55 windows, 44 of which are stained glass (a record for Italy). These were made by some of the major artists of the Renaissance: Donatello, Ghiberti, Paolo Uccello, and Andrea del Castagno. Especially notable are two equestrian monuments, one by Paolo Uccello (Equestrian Monument to John Hawkwood) and the other by Andrea del Castagno (Equestrian Monument of Niccolò da Tolentino). The interior of the dome is painted with a representation of The Last Judgment: this beautiful fresco was started by Giorgio Vasari and completed by Federico Zuccari. The Sagrestia delle Messe (Mass Sacristy, also known as Sagrestia Nuova, New Sacristy), where Lorenzo the Magnificent took refuge from the Pazzi conspiracy, is decorated with inlaid wood panels by Benedetto and Giuliano da Maiano.
Brunelleschi's dome, which was built using techniques that were innovative at the time, is impressive for its elegant and imposing structure. The climb up its 463 step staircase rewards with an unforgettable panorama of the city.
Giotto's Campanile (open daily 8.30am-6.50pm, except January 1, September 8, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday; admission 6 Euros)
84.7 metres high and standing on a square plan with a side of 14.45 metres, this slender but robust tower is a striking example of Florentine Gothic architecture. Giotto worked on the campanile until his death in 1337, after which Andrea Pisano succeeded him before being replaced in his turn by Francesco Talenti, who completed the bell tower in 1359.
The exterior is decorated with white marble from Carrara, pink marble from Siena, and green marble from Prato. The large terrace on the top, with its stunning panorama of the city, can be reached by climbing up a 414-step spiral staircase.
Baptistery of Saint John
Florence's Baptistery operated as a church until 1128, when it was converted to a baptistery only. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city and all Florentines were baptised there until the 19th century. The Baptistery has an octagonal plan and three sets of bronze doors. The south doors are by Andrea Pisano, while the north doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was also commissioned the construction of the east doors, dubbed by Michelangelo the "Gates of Paradise". Most notable in the interior are, above the altar, the Mystic Lamb in the celestial sphere and, in the vault, the majestic Judging Christ.
Museo dellâ€™Opera del Duomo
"Opera del Duomo" is the name of the lay association that was entrusted with the construction, maintenance and overall administration of the cathedral (its members included administrators, artists and workers). The museum houses the most precious works of art from ( or created for ) the Duomo, Baptistery and Campanile, including Lorenzo Ghiberti's relief panels for the Baptistery doors called the "Gates of Paradise"
The famous portrait of Dante Alighieri is in the Palazzo dell'Arte dei Giudici e Notai, not in this house, which apparently is not Dante's birthplace. In fact, the great Italian poet was more probably born in one of the houses of the Alighieri family located in the street of the same name, whereas this is a later building constructed in a medieval style at the beginning of the 20th century. The museum holds iconographic and documental material, as well as artefacts from the age of Dante.
Via dei Calzaiuoli, the street that connects Piazza del Duomo, the centre of religious power, to Piazza della Signoria, the centre of political power â€“ is often crowded with tourists and offers a great opportunity to do some shopping.
As you walk past the windows of the Hugo Boss store, Piazza della Repubblica opens up before your eyes.
Its present appearance dates back to 1885, when the cityâ€™s old ghetto and piazza del Mercato Vecchio were demolished to restore the ancient centre of the Roman city. Surrounded by elegant cafÃ©s and beautiful shops such as the Rinascente and bustling with tourists and street artists, this square is the dynamic crossroads of Florence.
Walk through the grand Arch of the piazza to get to Via Strozzi, where you will find the following places of interest:
The Strozzi were a family of successful bankers who built palaces all over the city. This palace was their residence and is one of the most important examples of Renaissance architecture. It houses temporary exhibitions and is now home to a number of cultural institutions, including the Renaissance Studies Institute and the Gabinetto Scientifico Letterario G.P. Vieusseux ( www.vieusseux.fi.it)
From here, take Via Pellicceria and stop at the 16th-century Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, which has a market selling leather bags and goods where you can bargain the price. The building is popularly known as the Loggia del Porcellino due to the name of its fountain (Il Porcellino), which features a bronze copy of a Hellenistic marble wild boar housed at the Uffizi Museum. Local tradition has it that letting a coin fall through the boarâ€™s gaping jaws and then rubbing the boarâ€™s snout brings good luck and ensures a return to Florence.
This church was constructed on the site of the kitchen garden (â€œortoâ€) of the monastery of San Michele, which is now gone. Originally built by Arnolfo di Cambio, it was restored by Francesco Talenti between 1337 and 1350 after being damaged by a fire. Its unusual three-floor rectangular structure is the result of the different stages of its construction.
Exit Orsanmichele on Via dei Calzaiuoli, where you can relax and have lunch or a glass of wine, and then head to Piazza San Giovanni, which leads to Via dei Pecori and Piazza dellâ€™Olio. Continue on Via dei Cerretani, where you will find some beautiful bookshops. From Via dei Cerretani, a busy street leading to the main train station, turn left towards Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. Here you will find Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the oldest extant churches in Florence. Head to Piazza degli Antinori, where you can admire Palazzo Antinori, a Renaissance palace. Visitors are not admitted inside the palace, but from the main entrance you can access the Cantinetta Antinori, a wine bar and restaurant where you can taste the wines produced by the Antinori family.
On Via dei Tornabuoni, magnificent buildings house the most fashionable shops in the city, including Roberto Cavalli, Todâ€™s and Hogan. On the side of the street towards the Arno river, you can admire Palazzo Tornabuoni-Corsi, designed and built by Michelozzo at the end of the 15th century. Here you will find Procacci, a famous wine bar and gourmet grocery store.
Piazza della Signoria
The best way to take in the overall beauty of this square is to access it from Via dei Calzaiuoli. The Uffizi Gallery and the adjoining Loggia della Signoria, also called the Loggia dei Lanzi, will immediately catch your eye. The Loggia, built between 1376 and 1382 to hold public assemblies and ceremonies, is like an outdoor museum. Most notable are Benvenuto Celliniâ€™s Perseus and Giambolognaâ€™s Rape of the Sabine Women. In the square lies the Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati. Due to its massiveness, the marble statue of Neptune was dubbed â€˜Il Bianconeâ€™ (the white giant) by the Florentines. Next to the base of the fountain, a round granite plaque marks the exact spot where Girolamo Savonarola was burned.
At the end of the 13th century, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a fortified palace, worthy of the cityâ€™s importance and giving greater security to its magistrates. Thus, in 1299 Arnolfo di Cambio begun constructing the Palazzo dei Priori (or Palazzo della Signoria), later renamed Palazzo Vecchio. The palace is now the town hall of Florence, but most of it can be visited.
Courtyards: The first courtyard was designed by Michelozzo. The statue on top of the fountain in the centre, designed by Giorgio Vasari, is a copy of the Putto with Dolphin by Andrea del Verrocchio. The frescoes on the walls, representing city views, were painted by Vasari. The second courtyard, also called â€œThe Customsâ€, contains massive pillars built to sustain the great Salone dei Cinquecento on the first floor.
First floor: A massive staircase by Vasari leads to the stunning Salone dei Cinquecento. The hall was enlarged and decorated by Vasari in 1540. Michelangelo and Leonardo were commissioned to paint the walls (Leonardo never finished the fresco depicting the battle of Anghiari) during Savonarolaâ€™s Republic, but the surviving decorations on the walls and ceiling were made by Vasari and his helpers. The most important sculpture in the hall is Michelangeloâ€™s marble group â€œThe Genius of Victoryâ€.
Studiolo of Francesco I. One of the doors of the Salone dei Cinquecento leads to a small, secret room where Francesco I deâ€™ Medici devoted himself to his studies in alchemy and the arts. Filled with paintings, stuccoes and sculptures, this masterpiece was designed and decorated by Vasari and his School in a Mannerist style.
Second floor. Among the many rooms on the second floor are the private apartments of Cosimo I, originally commissioned to Battista del Tasso but completed by Vasari. The other rooms are dedicated to members of the Medici family, and some contain real masterpieces, such as the bronze statue â€œJudith and Holofernesâ€ by Donatello.
Between the Loggia della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio lies the spectacular Piazzale degli Uffizi. The square and palace were commissioned by Cosimo I to Vasari and completed by Buontalenti. The Uffizi Gallery is considered the oldest museum in modern Europe and is now one of the major museums in the world for Italian and European painting.
Among the works housed at the Uffizi Gallery are the Rucellai Madonna by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Santa Trinita MaestÃ by Cimabue, Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto, Madonna and Child by Masaccio, and Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello. Also present are works by Filippo Lippi and Renaissance masterpieces such as Botticelliâ€™s Birth of Venus and Leonardoâ€™s Annunciation, as well as works by Pietro Perugino, who introduced a â€œsofterâ€ painting style. Works by non-Florentine artists include paintings by Luca Signorelli, Giorgione, Mantegna and Bellini. Among later works by Florentine artists are Michelangeloâ€™s Doni Tondo and Raphaelâ€™s Self-Portrait. The gallery also houses works by Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino and Titian, who inaugurated the age of Mannerism, as well as two self-portraits by Rembrandt.
There was a time when the public and private spheres were separated by a distance of less than one kilometre and connected by a corridor. In 1565, to celebrate the wedding of his son, Cosimo I commissioned to Vasari â€“ who had already begun construction of the Uffizi â€“ a corridor connecting the Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of political power, to Palazzo Pitti, Cosimoâ€™s residence. This private passageway was intended as a means to save resources and avoid the crowds on the Ponte Vecchio. Today, the Vasari Corridor is a separate museum and portrait gallery administered by the Uffizi. It can only be accessed via guided tours that must be booked in advance.
FROM THE PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA TO THE PONTE VECCHIO
After a traditional hot chocolate at one of the cafÃ©s opposite the Palazzo Vecchio, take Via dei Conti, where you can shop for souvenirs, and head towards the Piazza of San Firenze, where you will find the former seminary of San Firenze, whose faÃ§ade has been recently restored. The building, which was the seat of the Court of Florence until 2008, is part of a complex that includes a church dedicated to Saint Philip Neri. Open to visitors, the church is a wonderful example of late Florentine Baroque. The piazza features other buildings notable for their architecture, such as the Palace of the Capitano del Popolo (â€œCaptain of the Peopleâ€), which today houses the Bargello National Museum.
This majestic palace, a Gothic stone building incorporating an earlier tower, was originally built to house the Captain of the People and in 1574 became a prison and home to the chief of police - hence the name bargello, which meant â€œcopâ€ in local parlance. The Bargello National Museum houses an impressive collection of paintings, bronze sculptures, weapons and armour, etc.. The highlight of the museum is the Michelangelo Room, which contains some of Michelangeloâ€™s most famous works, such as the tipsy Bacchus, Pitti Tondo (a marble bas-relief), Brutus, and David-Apollo (circa 1530).
Opposite the Bargello museum is one of the oldest churches in Florence, the Badia Fiorentina.
From the Piazza San Firenze, take Via dei Leoni and continue towards the Arno river until you reach a building known as the Loggia del Grano. From there, head to the Piazza dei Giudici, where you will find Palazzo Castellani, now home to the Museo Galileo, the former Institute and Museum of the History of Science ( www.museogalileo.it), which owns an impressive collection of scientific instruments, including unique artefacts by Galileo Galilei.
Walk along the Lungarno Anna Maria Luisa deâ€™ Medici and stop on the terrace opposite the Uffizi Gallery to enjoy a beautiful view of the city. Then walk through Via Por Santa Maria, surrounded by shop windows, until on your left you see the peaceful, lovely Piazza di Santo Stefano with the church of Santo Stefano al Ponte. Housed in a former monastery annexed to the church is the Diocesan Museum of Santo Stefano al Ponte, which contains Giottoâ€™s Madonna enthroned. Take a rest at one of the cafÃ©s in Piazza del Pesce before continuing towards the Ponte Vecchio.
The Ponte Vecchio (â€œOld Bridgeâ€) is the most famous bridge in Florence and an enduring symbol of the city. It spans the Arno at its narrowest point, on the site of an ancient ford. Tanners, butchers and greengrocers sold their goods here until the construction of the Vasari Corridor for Cosimo I, when their humble and smelly shops became unsuitable for the prestigious bridge and were substituted with the goldsmithsâ€™ and silversmithsâ€™ shops that are still one of its main attractions.
From Piazza San Giovanni, continue to the district of San Lorenzo and the square of the same name. You will find yourself at the heart of the largest street market in Florence, where the stalls sell goods of all kinds. Amidst all this stands the church complex of San Lorenzo.
The Medici decided to transform the ancient Basilica of San Lorenzo into a burial place for the members of their family and commissioned the construction of a new church to Filippo Brunelleschi. Most notable are the inner faÃ§ade by Michelangelo and bronze sculptures by Donatello. When you exit the basilica, take a relaxing stroll in the cloisters of the complex - the main one is the Chiostro dei Canonici, designed by Brunelleschi. From the back of the basilica you can access the Medici Chapels, which include the Sagrestia Nuova (New Sacristy) by Michelangelo and the Medici mausoleum.
Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Designed by Michelozzo for Cosimo deâ€™ Medici, this palace is an example of Renaissance architecture. It was the residence of the Medici until 1540, when Cosimo I moved to the Palazzo Vecchio, and was acquired by the Riccardi family in 1659. It now houses the Prefecture of the Province of Florence.
The Accademia Gallery was established by Peter Leopold in 1784 to provide a study venue for the students of the Academy of Fine Arts. The highlight of the museum is the Galleria delle Prigioni (Gallery of Prisons), which houses Michelangeloâ€™s four unfinished Prisoners â€“ a wonderful example of his sculpting technique, i.e., that of â€œliberatingâ€ the figure from the block of marble that imprisons it â€“ and his world-famous masterpiece, David. Sculpted by the great artist when he was just 29 years old, this statue soon came to symbolize the civil liberties embodied in the early-sixteenth-century Florentine Republic.
Spedale degli Innocenti
Designed by Brunelleschi, the â€œHospital of the Innocentsâ€ was the first childrenâ€™s orphanage in Europe and still houses nursery schools, preschools and group homes for children in foster care, as well as UNICEFâ€™s Office of Research. The building also houses a small museum that contains important Renaissance works, such as the Adoration of the Magi by Domenico Ghirlandaio.
The district of Santa Maria Novella
In 1932 a group of architects called Gruppo Toscano was awarded a contract for the design and construction of the Santa Maria Novella railway station, which is now considered one of the best expressions of the modernist architectural movement known as Italian Rationalism.
The Square of Santa Maria Novella was used for preaching, festivals and jousts since the Middle Ages. Fronting on the square is the church of the same name. On the left side of the churchâ€™s faÃ§ade is the entrance to the adjoining museum of Santa Maria Novella, which contains the Green Cloister frescoed by Paolo Uccello, as well as the Spanish Chapel, Great Cloister, and Cloister of the Dead.
Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia
Italyâ€™s first national museum of photography was established in Florence by the Fratelli Alinari Foundation. The museum is split into two areas, one for temporary exhibitions and the other for permanent collections. The permanent display is divided into seven sections that take you on a journey through the history of photography, tracing the development of photographic techniques and styles. The museum overlooks Via della Scala, a street that is home to the wonderful Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a perfumery-pharmacy established by the Dominican friars of Santa Maria Novella when they began to prepare pomades, balms and medicinal unguents.
Maybe itâ€™s because you get there through dim and narrow streets, but there is an incredible sense of freedom and spaciousness to the Piazza di Santa Croce. On the square stands the Basilica of the same name, famous both for the works of art it contains and as the burial place of some of Italyâ€™s most illustrious cultural figures. In the right aisle are funerary monuments, including the tombs of Michelangelo and Machiavelli. The refectory of the Museo dellâ€™Opera di Santa Croce houses the most important works in the Basilica, such as Cimabueâ€™s Crucifix.
OLTRARNO, FORTE BELVEDERE AND SAN NICCOLOâ€™
The beautiful buildings on the Piazza Pitti are notable for their architecture and were once the residence of illustrious Florentines. The most impressive of these buildings is the Palazzo Pitti, the largest palace in the city, which extends around three sides of the square. Commissioned by Luca Pitti, a merchant and banker, it became the Mediciâ€™s chief residence in 1549 and later passed to the Houses of Lorraine and Savoy.
The Palatine Gallery - the main gallery of the palace - was created by the Lorraine family. Located on the first floor, it contains works by Raphael, Titian, Andrea del Sarto and many others. Among its finest rooms are: the Room of Venus, which houses the Venere Italica by Antonio Canova; the Room of Apollo, which contains the Madonna with Saints by Rosso Fiorentino; the Room of Mars, which accommodates works by Rubens; the Room of Jupiter, with Raphaelâ€™s Veiled Lady; the Room of Saturn, which contains other famous works by Raphael; and the Room of Jupiterâ€™s Education, with Caravaggioâ€™s Sleeping Cupid. The gallery overflows into the Royal Apartments, which feature beautiful decorations, furniture and tapestries.
The wonderful Boboli Gardens, commissioned by the Medici family and initially designed by NiccolÃ² Tribolo, extend from the backside of the Palazzo Pitti and contain artworks such as the Grotto by Buontalenti, the Fountain of Neptune (which features a bronze statue of Neptune) and the Isolotto. Other galleries in the Palazzo Pitti include the Silver Museum, Porcelain Museum, Costume Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.
The Museum of Zoology and Natural History, better known as La Specola and housed in the Palazzo Torrigiani, is part of the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florence. Its most notable feature is a collection of late-18th-century wax anatomical models famous for their incredible accuracy. The museum also contains impressive collections of vertebrates and invertebrates.
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito, often called simply Santo Spirito, is a prime example of Renaissance architecture. The Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi and the Corbinelli chapel are a must-see.
Forte di Belvedere
The Fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere is a fortress designed and built by architect Bernardo Buontalenti at the end of the 16th century. Located on a high hill, it dominates the city as well as the surrounding valley and hills of the Arno River. The Fort was constructed to protect Florence and the Pitti Palace, but also served as a symbol of the power of the Medici family, who kept their treasures in a secret hiding-place inside the hill.
This square is the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of Florence. It was opened in 1875, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the birth of Michelangelo, and has copies of some of the works of the great sculptor, including a bronze cast of David at the centre of the square. The steps on the left of the David provide a perfect spot from where to enjoy the beautiful view of the city. A remarkable staircase located at the back of the square takes you to San Salvatore al Monte, while the first part of Via Galileo Galilei leads to the wonderful church of San Miniato.
San Miniato al Monte
This basilica is one of the oldest and finest Romanesque structures in Florence â€“ it is the second oldest building after the Baptistery of Saint John.
Traditional events and festivals:
Feast of Anna Maria Medici: 18 February
Scoppio del Carro ( â€œExplosion of the Cartâ€): EASTER
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino: music festival (www.maggiofiorentino.com), from the end of April to the beginning of July
Feast of San Giovanni (Saint John): 24 June
Santâ€™Ambrogio Summer Festival: June-July
Jazz & Co: music festival (www.santissima.it) in late June-September
Festival Firenze Classica: July (www.orcafi.it)
Festa delle Rificolone (Paper Lantern Festival): 7 September
-Firenze Musei: www.firenzemusei.it
-Firenze Turismo: www.firenzeturismo.it
-Firenze LowCost: www.firenzelowcost.it/it
Getting away from it all:
Being one of the most visited cities in the world, Florence is always crowded with tourists. If you need peace and quiet, here are some suggestions:
- Escape to the Florentine hills and enjoy a leisurely lunch, coffee or drink and spectacular views.
- Visit the Giardino Bardini and relax while enjoying the beautiful view.
- Take a tour of the Vasari Corridor.
- Hire a Vespa or a Fiat 500 and go for a ride/drive among the olive groves and vineyards that surround the city.
Discover all advantages of our accommodation outside Florence for your ideal holiday in the heart of Italy.