With its rich Renaissance history and air of timeless romance, Florence is one of the most alluring travel destinations in Europe. The birthplace of Botticelli and Donatello is still home to several of their most celebrated creations, while the winding Florentine streets remain largely unchanged since their time. Florence’s gastronomy is world-renowned, encapsulating the very best Italian cuisine. Just outside the city limits, vineyards and ancient monasteries are tucked away in the surrounding hills, awaiting travellers fortunate enough to stumble upon them.
Capital of Tuscany, cradle of the Renaissance, City of Lilies; each of Florence’s nicknames is more evocative than the last. The historic seat of the powerful de Medici family, signs of their Mediaeval dominance can be found around the city.
On the north side of the river lies the magnificent 14th-century Palazzo Davanzati, the interior of which provides a meticulous reconstruction of Mediaeval life in Florence for an affluent merchant family. Stroll through the courtyard into the inner chambers to admire well-preserved frescoes, sculptures and artefacts that span the centuries of the building’s existence.
Florence’s central cathedral is the magnificent Santa Maria del Fiore. Capped by Brunelleschi’s Dome, which offers unmatchable views over the Romanesque rooftops of the city, the ancient building has an enchanting history of its own. Its green-and-white marble walls have witnessed events including the 1478 murder of Guilano de Medici, part of the dramatic Pazzi Conspiracy, a failed attempt at redressing the balance of power in the city.
To learn more about the Medicis, visit the imposing Palazzo Pitti. Bought by the family in 1549, it has also hosted both Napoleon and King Victor Emmanuel II. The rooms are stunningly ornate, but even they are outdone by the entrancing Boboli Gardens.
For fine local produce, visit the bustling Mercato Centrale in the historic San Lorenzo quarter. The area was once at the artisanal heart of the city, and the new market is a key part of its creative revival. Housed in an impressive 19th-century building designed by Guiseppe Mengoni, the market maintains a strong focus on local gastronomy and Florence’s arts-and-crafts heritage. Visitors can sample pasta, buffalo mozzarella, salamis, seafood and pastries, or enjoy freshly made dishes at the on-site restaurants.
Art and culture
The Uffizi Gallery provides the best possible evidence of the city’s huge impact on art as we know it. The collection housed in the world-famous gallery dates back to the 12th century, with a natural focus on the vibrant creations of the Renaissance. Combining exceptional quality with staggeringly vast quantity, you’ll gaze upon works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo Da Vinci and Rafaello as you stroll through the endless corridors.
Florence’s artistic heritage is widely known, but its contributions to the field of science are equally profound. Visit the Museo Galileo to learn about scientific discoveries that changed the course of the world and, of course, the groundbreaking work of Galileo himself. Housed in the ancient Palazzo Castellani, the collections and didactic displays create an atmosphere of curiosity and exploration.
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