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Florence

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Travel Guide Europe Italy Tuscany Florence

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Introduction

Italian Fruit Stand

Italian Fruit Stand

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Florence is the capital of the region Tuscany in Italy and considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country. Famous for its art and architecture, this city of 400,000 inhabitants is viewed as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, home to such famous Florentines as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo and Machiavelli. Steeped in ancient history, it's little surprise that the historic centre of Florence was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1982.

The famous Duomo (Cathedral) is an icon of the Florence skyline and a great place to get a magnificent view over the city. Other well-known sites include the Santo Spirito church, Giotto's Bell Tower and Ponte Vecchio.

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Districts

There are five districts in Florence and the old area of town is divided into four sections. The city centre is the area that contains the vast majority of tourist sights. The newer areas of towns have the university and sports stadiums.

Old Town

  • San Giovanni;
  • Santa Croce;
  • Santa Maria Novella;
  • Santo Spirito Oltrarno.

Outside of the Old Town

  • Campo Di Marte;
  • Gavinana;
  • Isolotto e Legnaia;
  • Rifredi.

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Sights and Activities

The city of Florence itself is an amazing sight. Just looking at and wandering around the stone buildings and narrow streets makes one wonder about the old days. But the problem is Florence has so many sights that unless you intend to spend a month there it will be difficult to see everything. Therefore this section has been broken into "Must See" and "Other Sights and Activities." And even then this is only a fraction of the sights you can see in Florence. Some of the sights are described in more detail.

The David

Statue of David

Statue of David

© All Rights Reserved rshotwell

The statue of David is one of the master-pieces by Italian artist Michelangelo. It depicts David before the fight with Golliath, which was very uncommon, as around that time David was always depicted after the fight. The statue is made out of white marble. Work of the statue has begun in 1464, but several artists failed to complete the statue. It was young Michelangelo, he was 26, who convinced the commissioners that he could complete the statue of David. in 1501 he started where the others had left it, which was basically some rude shapes, and some worked out details of the feet. He would work on the sculpture for 2 years, before it was finished. The statue was unveiled at the 8th of September 1504 and placed outside of the Palazzo della Signoria. At the place of this original sight, now stands a copy, while the original is located at the Galleria dell' Accademia. It is recommended to reserve tickets (especially during holidays) if you want to avoid a long queue. Although at the Galleria dell' Accademia the David is the only thing worth seeing, if you go about 30 minutes before closing there will be no line on most days.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

© All Rights Reserved maridod

The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") is a bridge that crosses Arno River which is covered with little high end jewelry shops, art dealers and souvenir sellers, and a famous meeting place for lovers. The bridge is a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge and originally, butchers occupied the shops. The Ponte Vecchio's two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinità and the Ponte alle Grazie. The bridge spans the Arno river at its narrowest point and consists of three segmental arches: the main arch has a span of 30 metres and the two side arches each span 27 metres. No one knows why, but the Nazis did not destroy the Ponte Vecchio in World War II, even though they did destroy all the other bridges in Florence. Instead the Nazis blew up everything around the bridge so it could not be crossed.
For more information on famous bridges around the world read the article: Famous Bridges.

Must See

  • Duomo Cathedral - Duomo Cathedral is the main cathedral in the city with a nice a view from the top. Vasari's paintings inside the Cupola are a later addition - Brunelleschi's intention was simplicity.
  • Medici Chapels - Medici Chapels - do not miss the tombs designed by Michelangelo.
  • San Lorenzo - San Lorenzo is a stunning church with some nice private chapels.
  • Santa Croce - Santa Croce is a church that has the tombs of some of the most famous people from history buried in it. The perfectly proportioned Pazzi Chapel there, is a prime example of the work of Brunelleschi. Don't miss Giotto's fresco of The Life of Christ.
  • Uffizi Gallery - Uffizi Gallery hosts some of the most famous renaissance art work in the world.
  • Vasari Corridor - The Vasari Corridor takes you across the Ponte Vecchio, and is packed with artworks. Connects the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace.
  • Vecchio - Vecchio was the original government building during the Florence Republic.
  • Convento San Marco - Convento San Marco - along with beautiful cloisters, each of the 'cells' contains a fresco by Fra Angelico depicting the life of Christ.

Other Sights And Activities

  • Pitti Palace - Pitti Palace is a nice palace but houses lots of left over portraits from the 19th century.
  • San Michelangiolo is a church on top of the hill over looking Florence. Every evening at 4:00pm the monks come out and sing.
  • Strozzi Palace is a nice traditional Italian palace.
  • Rucellai Palace is another traditional Italian palace.
  • Piazza di Michelangelo overlooking the city is where the firework display for San Giovanni (24th June) takes place.
  • The jewel-like San Miniato al Monte church stand near the top of the Viale Michelangelo, and is well worth the walk there!
  • Capella dei Brancacci - Capella dei Brancacci in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine - Massaccio's amazing fresco - look out for the first shiver depicted in the History of Art!

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Events and Festivals

  • The Carnival of Viareggio - A spectacular Italian feast that has been celebrated for over a century. Viareggio’s Carnival dates back to a tradition formed in 1873, when some wealthy Italians decided to dress up in protest against taxes. This annual carnival celebrates parties throughout the day and lasting late into the night. Visitors can expect parades with magnificent floats, and masquerade balls held throughout the city. This event is typically held during the entire month of February.
  • [listing name=Mostra Mercato Internazionale dell'Artigianato (International Handicrafts Trade Fair) type=event url=http://www.mostraartigianato.it/en/ fromdate=2012-04-21 todate=2012-04-29]During the last week of April, a fair known as the International Handicrafts Trade Fair takes over the city of Florence. It's a fair where visitors can expect the finest in hand-crafted arts. Italian woodsmiths and artists skilled in a variety of different styles-- from traditional to modern-- present their most prized pieces to the public to sell at this event.
  • Festival de Popoli - Attracting some of the best international documentary filmmakers, this Festival del Popoli draws big crowds to Florence each year. Everyone is welcome to attend this important film festival held every October/November. The films are presented in their original languages with Italian sub-titles.
  • Festa del Grillo (Cricket Festival) - For generations, many people in Florence have believed that the song of the cricket brings good luck. It is also believed that if a young man decorates the door of his beloved's home and gives her a cricket, he will experience luck in his relationship. To commemorate this long-held belief, every May, the Festa del Grillo is held in Cascine Park. During the festival, crickets are sold in colorful, hand woven cages while music is played in the park by local musicians. In the days leading to the festival, children hunt for crickets in order to cage them.
  • Calico In Costume (16 Jun 2013 - 30 Jun 2013) - A football event featuring brutality and masculinity at its best. Each year, thousands gather to watch the reenactment of ancient Florentine football game, complete with costumes, and cheering crowds. If you're in Florence in June and enjoy sporting events, you won't want to miss this crowd-pleasing spectacle.
  • Festa di San Giovanni (24 Jun 2013) - A popular festival coinciding with Calico in Costume, this highly celebrated annual event is a feast commemorating Florence's patron saint. During the evening of the event, many businesses close and thousands flock to watch a magnificent fireworks display.
  • Rificolona (06 Sep 2013 - 07 Sep 2013) - During the first week of September, the children of Florence sing songs and in a beautiful procession carry papier-mâché lanterns, called rificolone, through the streets of Florence. This annual event includes a banquet with musical performances held at the Piazza Santissima Annunziata every 6th and 7th September.
  • Travelers should be on the lookout for special vacation deals during this time; some hotels are known to offer special rates during this period.[/listing]

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    Weather

    Florence has a Mediterranean climate with generally mild winters and warm summers, though with fairly cold winter nights and abundant rainfall throughout the year. From June to early September, daytime temperatures are mostly around the 30 °C mark, while nights are between 15 °C and 20 °C. Winters from December to early March see highs of 10-13 °C, while nights are just several degrees above zero on average. The average annual precipitation is around 900 mm, with summers being the driest time of the year and November and December the wettest months.

    JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
    Avg Max10.1 °C12 °C15 °C18.8 °C23.4 °C27.3 °C31.1 °C30.6 °C26.6 °C21.1 °C14.9 °C10.4 °C
    Avg Min1.4 °C2.8 °C4.9 °C7.7 °C11.3 °C14.7 °C17.2 °C17 °C14.2 °C10 °C5.5 °C2.4 °C
    Rainfall73.1 mm69.2 mm80.1 mm77.5 mm72.6 mm54.7 mm39.6 mm76.1 mm77.5 mm87.8 mm111.2 mm91.3 mm
    Rain Days9.48.48.69.18.66.33.55.95.77.4108.8

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    Getting There

    By Plane

    Florence Airport (FLR) is an international airport that serves most major cities in Italy and Europe, with regular public buses to the bus station.
    Meridiana has most flights, with connections to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cagliari, Catania, London-Gatwick, Madrid, Olbia and Palermo. Other airlines fly to Paris, Rome, Lyon, Vienna, Tirana, Brussels, Timisoara, Copenhagen, Elba, Geneva, Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich.

    By Train

    The train station is large and located in the northern part of the city. You can get trains to anywhere in Italy and most major European destinations. There are several daily trains to Venice, Milan, Rome and Pisa. Check Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), Italy's State Railways, for more information.

    By Bus

    The bus station in Florence is excellent for getting to towns in nearby Tuscany. There are several daily trains to the neighboring city of Siena, which was Florence's rival throughout history. Eurolines has connections to destinations throughout Europe.

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    Getting Around

    By Public Transport

    ATAF is the main company providing public buses throughout the city.

    By Foot

    Although the twisting, narrow streets of Florence make for stunning beauty and great pictures, they also make it next to impossible to find almost anything. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you buy a map or a tourist map in order to help find sights. Luckily the Duomo and the Vecchio can be seen from most of the city, making them a nice reference point.

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    Eat

    The food in Florence is stunning! The key thing is to get off the tourist track and get into the neighborhoods around the old town. It is amazing and it only takes walking a couple of blocks away from the main tourist areas for the food to get better and cheaper.
    Gelaterias away from the tourist track are also a must. Gelateria La Carraia, on the other side of the Arno by the Ponte alla Carraia, is one of the best in town (and only costs €1!).

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    Sleep

    Upscale

    View our map of accommodation in Florence or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

    Booking.com

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    Keep Connected

    Internet

    Almost all towns and cities in Italy have internet cafes. A growing number of budget hostels and nicer hotels have free Wifi. By law all public-access internet points must keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID: expect to be refused access if you don't provide identification. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest's room, although if the connection is offered in the main public hall then IDs are required. Publicly available wireless access without user identification is illegal, so open Wi-Fi hotspots (like the ones you might expect to find in a mall or cafée) all have some form of (generally one-time) registration.

    Phone

    See also: International Telephone Calls

    The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled), Vodafone, Wind, and 3 (only UMTS cellphones). Best advice is to buy a prepaid SIM card (from € 10 upwards) and a cheap mobile phone (€ 19 upwards) to put it in (if you don't have a cellphone already that you can use). It will be much more practical. All land line numbers start with 0. Mobile numbers start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. In case of emergency call the appropriate number from the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113 (police), 115 (fire), 118 (health) can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 (standard emergency number in GSM specification) can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone.

    Post

    Post Italiane is the national postal services of Italy and has quite an efficient network of postal offices and reliable postal services. Standard letters and postcards (up to 20 grams) cost €0.39 to send within Europe and the Mediterranean countries outside Europe and €0.41 to all other destinations throughout the country. Up to 50 grams, prices start at €0.52 for Europe, €0.62 for other areas. Packages start at €1.55 within Europe, and around €2.50 for other countries. Post office business hours in Italy are from 8:30am to 2:00pm from Monday to Friday, with closing times at Saturday and the last day of the month at 12 noon. In general, larger post offices in bigger cities and in tourist areas keep longer hours than those in local towns. Also note that business hours in the south might be different than the north, with longer hours at night, especially in summer! If you want to send packages you might try faster and more reliable/efficient private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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    Quick Facts

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    Coordinates
    • Latitude: 43.768732
    • Longitude: 11.256901

    Accommodation in Florence

    We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Florence searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Florence and areas nearby.

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