A short break in the compact city of Florence, capital of Tuscany and birthplace of the Italian language and Gucci will highten your senses, romantically, artistically and restfully. So don't miss...
Piazzo del Duomo
The city's cathedral, Duomo, is the fourth largest cathedral in the world and a sensational landmark. It was designed by Brunelleschi and the frescoessupplied by Vasari and Zuccari and stained-glass windows by Donatello, Andrea del Castagno, Paolo Uccello and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Climb the 400 steps to the top for a great view over Florence.
The Uffizi Gallery
This gallery, itself an architectural beauty, is located in the heart of the city, near the River Arno on the Piazzale degli Uffizi. It has been open since 1785 and today houses Botticelli's works as well as showstoppers created by Da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Tickets are €6.50 (£4.85) for adults, €3.25 (£2.50) for EU citizens aged 18-25, free for EU citizens under 18
One of the oldest pharmacies in the world...
Located in Via della Scala next to Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Founded by Dominica friars shortly after 1221, the pharmacy used medicinal herbs grown in the monastic gardens for balms and pomades for the monks. The products were so good that in 1612 the pharmacy opened to the public.
Ancient recipes are still used to produce smelling salts and a product called Acqua di Santa Maria Novella used for controlling hysteria. Their signature product though is their Officina Profumo Farmaceuitca di santa Maria Novella's pot-pourri – a mix of herbs and flowers from the Florentine hills.
Cross the Ponte Vecchio…
Symbols are important and this bridge, a delightful piece of architecture is one. It is the city's oldest bridge and crosses the Arno river at its narrowest point. It was once home to blacksmiths, butchers and tanners but they were banished by Cosimo during the Medici reign to save his nose from offensive aromas and taken over jewellery artisans. The Medici's all their gold and silver there and the bridge is still flanked by jewellery shops.
Be sure to look up though and you will glimpse the Vasari Corridor.
Take a walk through Vasari Corridor…
Spanning the Ponte Vecchio bridge is the Vasari Corridor with its square windows. It was built in 1564 by architect Giorgio Vasari and served link up the Pitti Palace, where the Grand Duke resided, with the Uffizi (or offices) from where he ruled the city. This 1 km walkway starts at the gallery towards the Arno and then raised by arches follows the river over the Ponte Vecchio, snakes through the interior of the church of Santa Felicita, over the gardens of the Guicciardini family finally reaching the Boboli gardens and the apartments in the Pitti Palace.
The Corridor can only be visited by appointment or to groups (the entrance is between rooms 25 and 34). Apart from the views through its windows, visitors also get to see 1000 paintings, a unique collection created by Cardinal Leopoldo de' Medicit, all dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the important collection of self-portraits by some of the most famous masters of painting of the 16th to the 20th century.
This huge statue is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture. Italian artist and architect Vasari said of it: "Whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture". You decide.
Galleria dell'Accademia (Academy Gallery), Via Ricasolo 58-60
Must try gelato
Florence is Italy's gelato capital and the best ice-cream is available at Vivioli on the Via Isola delle stinche. A quaint atmosphere, unique flavours (pear and rum, chestnut, cinnamon) and local atmosphere makes this a winner.
Dine at The Ristorante Sabatini
This period restaurant has high ceilings, wood floors, wooden chairs and church pews lining its walls. Owner Carolo Lazzerini even found a church pulpit to use as stairs to reach another level of the restaurant. The restaurant had a film debut when Hanibal Lector was tracked down to here by a FBI agent whilst disguised as an art scholar.
Typical Florentine dishes include a "fiorentina" steak that is cooked to order on a charcoal grill, a Ribollita - a bread and vegetable soup with black cabbage and white beans and Zuppa Ingrelse, made from biscuits using a recipe brought to Italy by the English.
Via Panzani 9A
Shop at Central Market
Less well known than the city's galleries is the Mercato Centrale, Europe's largest covered markets. It's a great one-stop food shopping destination.
Where to stay
The Grand Hotel Baglioni was once home to Carrega Bertolini princes and is a fine example of classic old world Italien style. Its polished mahogony and wrought irons give a a wonderful elegance. It is located on the Piazza Unita Italina near everything worth seeing.
Standard rooms start at £281 per night.
Piazza Unità Italiana 6
How to get there
Santa Maria Novella train station (Firenze SMN) is in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the Duomo cathedral.
Florence is served by Peretola Airport, which is about 30 mins from city centre. Find flights to Florence:
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