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Few cities in the world can boast the exceptional artistic and cultural riches of Florence, an enormous open-air museum that leaves millions of visitors breathless and enchanted every year.
Florence is not just a city of art but "a work of art itself," as stated in the notes accompanying the election of Florence's city center as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: heritage created with the creative genius of great artists like Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti, Masaccio and Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Donatello, Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, Giotto, Beato Angelico, not forgetting Galileo and the two great geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Florence, an open-air museum
And all this because there is a surprise hiding around every corner: along the Arno or in the lanes known as "chiassi" (which still seem to reverberate with medieval chatter), on the bridges offering charming views or from the superb high viewpoints, from the hills surrounding the city (from Fiesole the panorama covers the entire Arno valley and the sunsets are unforgettable), or from the top of the dome of Santa Maria in Fiore or from the grand terrace, Piazzale Michelangelo, with San Miniato al Monte, the church "that subjugates," to quote Dante, from where there is a view over the city, in all its magnificence.
The charm and mystery of Ponte Vecchio
Going back down along the Arno, we must mention the history of the Ponte Vecchio, with its air of ancient daily life and characteristic little houses, seemingly "hung" on the piers, built haphazardly by butchers, who were initially isolated on the bridge to protect public hygiene before being moved on to make way for the goldsmiths' and jewelers' workshops that would provide more luster and prestige to the de' Medici family. For his son Francesco's marriage to Joanna of Austria, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I charged Giorgio Vasari with designing an ambitious elevated passage, connecting Palazzo Vecchio, the political and administrative center, with the private quarters in Palazzo Pitti, passing through the prestigious Uffizi Gallery. The work was completed in just five months, in 1595, and the Grand Dukes could move around, safely, enjoying a privileged, 360-degree view of the city and... eavesdropping undisturbed on the mood of the people through the open portholes along the way.
The "Vasari Corridor," which is over a kilometer long, can now be visited with advance booking.
The political heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria, now, as in the past, pulsates with "democratic" art, in a way that is almost unique in the world, a harmonious wide-angled view of masterpieces exhibited in the square and available to be enjoyed freely, day and night, where history and legend intertwine:
the Loggia dei Lanzi, a genuine gallery with sculptures of priceless value, all original, Michelangelo's David, the preeminent symbol of the city (the original statue is kept in the Galleria dell'Accademia), Ammannati's Neptune and of course the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, the city's administrative headquarters.
On the other hand, the religious heart of the city is located in Piazza Duomo, with the Baptistery of St. John with Ghiberti's gates of paradise, the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria in Fiore and Giotto's famous Campanile, a complex that seems a harmonious whole thanks to the colors of the marble.
Bear in mind that, as well as the really famous Uffizi Museum, Florence boasts over 70 museums, each of which would make a visit to the city worthwhile and, although we know that too many flavors end up tasting of nothing, our advice is to choose in advance, to balance the available time in the best way.
Shopping and entertainment
For those who love shopping, Florence is a real paradise with countless stores, elegant haute couture boutiques and the famous workshops that keep alive the traditions of Florentine craftsmanship and high-quality products made in Italy. Also worth a visit are the central market of San Lorenzo, the popular Le Cascine market and the small covered market of the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo (also called the Porcellino because of the famous wild boar fountain) and the typical flea market in Piazza dei Ciompi.
Florentine cuisine, an authentic delight for those who love to eat (and drink) well, thanks to the quality and freshness of the raw materials and the knowledgeable processing, had as its prime ambassadress Catherine de' Medici, the Queen of France, who took cooks and pastry chefs with her, introducing the flavors and scents of Florence to the French court.
Enjoy typical dishes like the "fiorentina," so famous that there is no need to call it "steak," the Tuscan crostini (the typical liver-based starter), tomato puree, Florentine crespelle (crepes), ribollita soup and fagioli all'uccelletto (bean stew), all strictly accompanied by a good Chianti DOCG.
What are you waiting for? Immerse yourself in beauty and fly to Florence.