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Florence and surroundings

Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, is one of the most valuable cities of art in the world (UNESCO World Heritage Site), which in a limited space encloses an unthinkable amount of architecture, paintings, sculptures, historical and scientific memoirs, making the city an true museum. Right here in this city, a young tourist, who was dazed by too much beauty, was struck by the "Stendhal Syndrome". Every street, every alley, every building, every view of the Arno River offer surprising glimpses and the image of a vibrant life, full of curiosity.

Geography and history

Florence is located in the center of a wide, amphitheater-shaped hollow, marked by the sinuous curves of the Arno, and surrounded by hills covered with olive groves, vineyards and the woods of Cercina, Fiesole, Settignano, Arcetri, Poggio Imperiale and Bellosguardo. From the terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo in just one glace you can embrace the entire landscape surrounding the city.

Already around the year 1000 Florence was a city of primary importance, with a republican government: mercantile and craft activities flourished and were organized into powerful guilds called "Arti" and bloody conflicts divided the Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the 1400s the city came under the rule of the Medici and became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Then in the 1700s  it passed to the Habsburg-Lorraine. From 1865 to 1871 it was the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy.

The most important places to visit are: Piazza della Signoria with the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall), and the open-air gallery in the Loggia dei Lanzi; the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with its majestic dome by Brunelleschi, next to which is Giotto's Campanile and the Baptistery of San Giovanni with doors carved in bronze; Ponte Vecchio with its characteristic jewelry shops.

Passing overhead is the Vasari Corridor, which is now part of the Uffizi Museum - one of the most important and visited museums in the world  and in continual expansion.  

Among the many other museum to be seen, we suggest the Galleria dell'Accademia, the Bargello, the Pitti Palace with the Palatina Gallery.

Nearby and of particular interest is the town of Fiesole, situated on a hill overlooking Florence. This town is of Etruscan origins and contains a vast archaeological site with important Roman artifacts. The Romanesque cathedral of St. Romulus is also of great historical value, with its characteristic bell-shaped tower, as well as the Bishop's Palace and the ancient Church of St. Mary Primerana, which was built on Etruscan structures.

South of Florence, near the town of Galluzzo, is the Certosa, a structure of fourteenth-century origins. The Certosa has a severe aspect and looks like a fortress, yet it preserves rooms of the monastery and a valuable Pinacoteca (picture gallery).

Other important sights include the Medici villas which are located between Florence and Sesto Fiorentino: Villa La Petraia with its tall tower is surrounded by a garden with Italian-style terraces, while in the back you can visit the large romantic park, the result of nineteenth-century additions.

Wine and food

An essential component of Florentine cuisine is Tuscan bread, free of salt, with a crisp crust and  delicate insides that can be appreciated by simply dribbling extra-virgin olive oil on top of it (the "fettunta"). The meat dishes are also rich and tasty whether it be valuable dishes such as Florentine beef steaks, roasted venison or wild boar, rabbit or deer braised with wine, or less valuable dishes such as the famous "cibreo", composed of animal entrails or tripe.

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