By Chris Dale
Florence: Florence is full of ancient riches and treasures, it is also the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Florence is a colourful, living museum that rejoices in the great works of Michelangelo, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. Florence has the world's largest collection of Renaissance art and stunning architecture, it is often referred to as being one enormous museum or art gallery, with more art treasures per square meter than any other place on earth.
This classic destination is nestled on the banks of the river Arno, below the wooded foothills of the Appennines. The beautiful and romantic city of Florence makes a great choice for a classic short stay or an exciting weekend break of discovery.
How to explore Florence: Florence encourages exploration and is best enjoyed on foot. Be sure to wear a sturdy (but stylish) pair of walking shoes in order to explore the many fascinating palaces, museums and galleries. If discovering Florence for the first time start by simply wandering around the city without referring to your guide or map, you will soon feel yourself being drawn in amongst the elegant architecture that dominates the warm, colourful and ancient narrow streets. Continue strolling around the elegant buildings and atmospheric piazzas and you will soon understand why Florence has helped inspire artists to produce many of the city's spectacular sculptures and paintings.
What to see in Florence: Take time out to visit the Uffizi gallery, one of the oldest and most significant art galleries in the world. It houses an impressive collection of works from the Renaissance period including Botticelli's Birth of Venus; this important collection was mostly commissioned by the Medici family. Also worth a visit is the Galleria Dell' Accademia, which contains Michelangelo's original statue of David.
The magnificent and imposing structure of the 'Santa Maria del Fiore' Cathedral (commonly known as the Duomo of Florence) dominates the city, with excellent views from its famous cupola and Giotto's Bell Tower.
To relax take a stroll across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge or enjoy the beautiful Pitti Palace and its lovely gardens. For the best views of the city take a walk from Porta Romana to Piazzale Michelangelo and then onto San Miniato, one of Tuscany's most beautiful Romanesque churches and the oldest still standing in Florence.
Eating out in Florence: Florence has many restaurants serving traditional Tuscan and international cuisine. Some of the best authentic eateries are the small friendly trattoria that can found around the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Try one of the local Tuscan wines (Chianti) at the top-floor café of the 'La Rinascente' department store, the café has great views, plus excellent coffee and pastries.
Shopping in Florence: Italian fashion can be found at the Via della Vigna Nuova. For the best deals check out the out-of-town outlet stores, plus the flea market of Piazza Ciompi for more bargains, also visit the large street market at San Lorenzo. The medieval Ponte Vecchio is famous for hand-crafted jewellery and traditional goldsmiths.
Popular Pre-Bookable Florence Excursions:
1. The 3-4 hour city tour of Florence - be prepared, you pack-in a lot of culture on this tour, including: Brunelleschi's Cupola, Giotto's Bell Tower, Palazzo Pitti (or Bargello Museum or Medici Chapels), the Palatine Gallery, the Piazzale Michelangelo, the Church of Santa Croce and the Galleria Dell'Accademia which houses Michelangelo's original statue of David.
2. Pisa afternoon tour - a relaxing excursion to the site of Italy's famous leaning tower, plus the Piazza dei Cavalieri, Piazza dei Miracoli and the Cathedral.
3. San Gimignano and Siena - a full day excursion (at least 9 hours) driving through the picturesque Tuscan countryside to the fascinating medieval hilltop village of San Gimignano, then onto Siena, the famous venue for the Palio horse race.
4. Chianti countryside wine tour - a very popular tour (and welcomed break from the heat and buzz of the city) visiting the Chianti countryside, includes a visit to a Castle Farm for wine tasting, also included are traditional Tuscan snacks.
Airport Transfers: Pisa. Galileo Galilei International Airport (PSA) serves Florence. The airport is located one mile (2km) northeast of Pisa. A bus service from the airport departs regularly to Pisa city centre. Trains from Pisa Centrale station connect to Florence and other cities in the region. Taxis are readily available, check the taxi driver has switched on the meter before your journey begins. From Pisa, there is a coach service to the centre of Florence taking approximately 1hour 30mins.
Florence - once visited always remembered.
Author Chris Dale is based in the UK and has over 25 years experience in the retail Travel Industry. This article has been prepared for Ticket-3.com http://www.ticket-3.com and Flight4.com.
Flight4.com provides updated travel news, guides and advice for the discerning traveler, plus online search and price comparison services for cheap flights and discount airfares.
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