FlorenceCopyright: Jonathan Körner/unsplash
FlorenceFlorence, the regional capital of Tuscany, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. It is acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and stepping onto its historic cobbles, it is easy to see why. Cradled between the surrounding hills, the city hosts some of the most famous works of art on the planet, and the whole of the city centre is packed with stunning palaces, churches, and monuments. The surrounding countryside is well-known for its rolling hills and its wine, particularly the Chianti area between Siena and Florence.
The CityFlorentia — literally "florid city" — was the name given by the Romans to this settlement founded in the I century A.D. along the Arno river, at the foot of Fiesole, an Etruscan city whose ruins are visible on the hill which dominates the city. The flowering of Florence in art, culture and international trade began in the 13th century and it reached its peak in the 15th century under the reign of the Medici family, who ruled over the city for more than three centuries. Everywhere you turn in Florence, you find extraordinary works of art and architecture, which attract almost 8 million tourists every year — from the Palazzo Vecchio to the world-famous Uffizi Gallery to the Cathedral with its magnificent dome and the tower designed by Giotto. Along the river Arno, the Ponte Vecchio with its jewellery shops is a must for all those who pass through the city, as well as the splendid Boboli gardens across the river. Florence is also an international wine and gastronomic centre, Chianti is its most famous local product together with the celebrated Fiorentina steak on the bone.
Do & See
Visiting Florence during spring is an obvious option. It is one of the best times of the year to explore Tuscany's capital city due to warmer temperatures and all the beautiful flowers in bloom. In Florence, there is so much to see and do. The city attracts millions of tourists each year, and it has been ranked as one of the world's most visited destinations by Euromonitor International.
Florentine cuisine is known throughout the country for its combinations of fresh ingredients proceeding from its extended countryside. As in any other city of Italy, there are some local specialities that you simply cannot miss, like the ribollita (a sort of minestrone), pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup), and the famous bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine t-bone steak). Tuscanian cuisine also has delicious starters, including crostini and bruschetta (toasted bread with various kinds of toppings). Lastly, be sure not to miss cantucci with vin santo (crunchy almond biscuits to be dunked in a sweet Italian dessert wine) when you long for something sweet!
In bustling Florence, you will find a wide array of cafés to sit down and relax, and for those with a sweet tooth, this city will not leave you disappointed. Many of the national Italian sweet specialities were born in Florence. It is even claimed that the modern gelato, as we know it today, was invented by a Florentine architect called Bernardo Buontalenti, who worked for the Medici family. So even today if you ask for 'crema Fiorentina' (with milk, honey, egg yolk, and citrus) the creation of Buontalenti, you will actually get ice cream made with his original recipe. Eating ice cream is not the only Italian pastime. Enjoy drinking true Italian espresso while having a conversation with friends and family. So to escape the heat of the sun, just pop into a cafe and have some Italian desserts accompanied by a cup of coffee.
Bars & Nightlife
Florence boasts a lively nightlife scene. Most bars have really generous happy hours, which actually last for many hours and are often accompanied by live music or DJ sets. Dance clubs typically open quite late in the evening and only begin to get crowded at about 1 or 2 in the morning. Insider's tip: it is possible to find free passes to clubs around the city in order to avoid cover charges.
Florence's two central streets — via Tornabuoni and via della Vigna Nuova — are the best places to head to when it comes to the most exclusive boutiques, leather goods, and stylish shoes. Here you can find internationally known Italian fashion brands such as Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Ermanno Scervino. Besides shops, Florence is rich in open-air markets. If you want to buy leather goods or clothes, go to the market of San Lorenzo in the Old Town or to the Market of the Porcellino, sheltered under the sixteenth-century Loggia del Porcellino.