Florence, Italy - Stein Travel
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The principal Tuscan city of Florence (Firenze) nestles below the wooded foothills of the Apennines, along the banks of the Arno River. The works of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Bruneschelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Boccaccio, Alberti, Masaccio, Donatello, Vasari and Fra Angelico imbue the city with the magnificence of their contribution to art and life. The city itself is muse to some and home to many stylish citizens, who enhance the cobbled streets and fashionable piazzas with their inimitable Italian flair.

The heart of the city, where everyone from tourist to tout seems to congregate, is the Piazza de Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria. The statues dominating the Piazza della Signoria commemorate major historical events of the city's life, and the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio still performs its original role as Florence's town hall. The adjacent Uffizi is the oldest gallery in the world, with a collection of the greatest works of the Renaissance commissioned largely by the Medici family. The man who founded the great long-ruling Medici dynasty was Cosimo il Vecchio. His legacy is imprinted in the city's northern area, marked by the churches of San Lorenzo, San Marco and the Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

The western stretches of the city are formed by Florence's railway station at one end and the Ponte Vecchio at the other. The quaint Ponte Vecchio bridge was built in 1345, and was one of the few areas to emerge unscathed from the wartime bombs. Little workshops that used to belong to butchers, tanners and blacksmiths peer onto the river from their timber supports. The church of Santa Maria Novella also rises from the city's western boundaries in true gothic splendour, preserving some of the most important works of art in Florence.

The Oltrarno (meaning 'over the Arno') area became the place from which the Medici ruled from the Palazzo Pitti. The magnificent Boboli Gardens were designed and laid out around it. The area surrounding Via Maggio and Piazza di Santo Spirito boasts a collection of other palazzi built during the late-16th and 17th centuries.

Information & Facts


Florence enjoys a humid, subtropical climate. Summers are hot and muggy with temperatures higher than those found along the coast. Relief rainfall prevails in the winter, with cool to cold temperatures and occasional snow.

Eating Out

Florentine cuisine is, quite simply, good old-fashioned, home-cooked fare that we all know and love. Stemming from a more peasant-type style of eating, with a strong emphasis on meat, and various kinds of tripe - trippaand lampredotto- still being used widely in Florentine dishes.

Expect to see antipastilike sliced rounds of bread topped with chicken-liver pâté or sliced meats, known as crostini toscani, as well as soup served with saltless Tuscan bread in dishes like ribollitaand pappa al pomodoro.

Dining out in Florence can be a tiring affair. With so many restaurants, cafés and other eateries abounding on just about every street corner and around every major tourist attraction, travellers wary of tourist-traps might have a hard time deciding where to begin. Head to the Santa Croce and Oltrarno areas, where the highest concentration of authentic and quality restaurants can be found.

Visitors should note that it is customary for a 15% service charge to be added to the bill - or if it isn't, that they should leave this amount.

Getting Around

The best way to explore Florence is on foot: the city centre is compact, and traffic is restricted. There is a comprehensive bus network (ATAF) operating from 5.30am until midnight. Tickets are valid for either 70 minutes for a single-use ticket, or multiple-ride tickets of four 70 minute-uses can also be purchased. Tickets must be validated by punching them in a machine when you board the bus. Tickets, and various bus passes, are available from any vendor displaying the ATAF sticker, such as newsagents, automatic dispensers, coffee bars and on-board the bus. Tickets cost 1.20 Euro beforehand, or 2 Euro if bought on the bus, and exact change is needed.

Florence has also started an open-top sightseeing bus tour of all the city's major sights. These tour buses leave every half hour in summer and every hour in winter. This hop-on, hop-off tour stops at 15 sights around Florence, such as Piazzale Michelangelo and Santa Croce. There are two routes but only one ticket is needed. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, and cost 22 Euro.

Using taxis in Florence is difficult, as they cannot be hailed on the street. Taxi ranks are to be found outside the train station and most tourist sites, or they can be called. The flag fee is 3.20 Euro, additional fees are charged for luggage, as well as night-time and Sunday travel. Women travelling alone between the city-centre and their hotel or apartment from 9pm to 2am can ask for a 10 percent discount on their taxi fare.

Kids Attractions

Since most of Florence's attractions are either historic or religious, many kids travelling with their parents may not at first be too thrilled about what there will be for them to do while on holiday in Florence. But with a bit of imagination and these few suggestions, parents will find there is more than enough to keep the kids occupied while travelling through this romantic city.

The Galleria dell'Accademia is not too overwhelming for children and is home to the magnificent statue of David by Michelangelo. Once the little ones are enchanted by the story of David and Goliath, the statue will come to life for them in a whole new way, while they can get up close and personal to the statues at the Piazza della Signoria.

On warm summer days, pack a picnic and take the kids to the Oltrarno district, which boasts the Boboli Gardens at Palazzo Pitti. The kids will love the open space, where they can run around, climb trees and let off some steam. The Piazza Republica, with its antique carousel, will appeal to little girls of all ages; and there are also many places to take the kids for some chocolate-tasting.

Florence also claims to be the home of the inventor of gelato, Bernardo Buontalenti - and buying a gelato on a warm summer's day is a great way for kids to enjoy an iconic experience of the city.


The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.


The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureaux de change. ATMs are widespread. Travellers cheques can be exchanged with ease in the large cities, not so in the smaller towns. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends, but tend to have better rates than casas de cambios.


Renowned more for its classical architecture than for its bargain shopping, Florence was, in fact, the historical home of fashion in Italy. Home to the likes of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, the father of the Italian school of fashion (the country's equivalent of France's haute couture), Giorgini held informal fashion shows and soirées in Florence in the early 1950s. Florence still manages to pack a powerful punch compared to sister-cities Rome and Milan when it comes to shopping. With everything from luxurious designer boutiques and vast shopping malls to bustling open-air markets and street-side hawkers, visitors to Florence will be able to shop to their hearts' content. Head to the Via de' Tornabuoni, Florence's main upmarket shopping street, where luxury fashion houses and jewellery stores abound and high-quality leather goods, shoes and clothing can be found; or head to The Mall, a huge designer outlet where labels such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Fendi and Burberry (to name a few) can be found. For jewellery, visit the Ponte Vecchio, where tiny shops dot the sides of this medieval bridge over the Arno River; while the place to find great antiques and objets d'artfrom the 16th century is the Via Maggio. Those looking for something a little less pricey should visit the local markets, such as San Lorenzo, a popular spot where souvenirs and leather goods abound. Head for the Mercato Centrale in Via dell'Ariento, the best food market in Florence, or visit the Sant'ambrogio in Piazza Ghiberti, where everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses, clothes, flowers, shoes and homeware stalls are plentiful. Travellers should beware of buying fake designer goods from hawkers, as it is illegal, and you could be faced with a hefty fine if caught by the police. Shops generally open from 9am to 1pm, and reopen at 3.30pm until 7pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Most are closed on Sundays and on Monday mornings.


The entire Renaissance city of Florence is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy with countless churches, cathedrals, art galleries and museums. Deciding where to start your sightseeing tours may prove to be the most tricky part of the whole process. Head to the most popular site, the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore , which began construction in 1296, was consecrated in 1436, holds 20, 000 people, and offers some breathtaking views over the city. Visit one of Florence's oldest buildings, the Baptistery of John the Baptist to enjoy views over the Arno River; and stroll across the Ponte Vecchio to the Giardino di Boboli to enjoy the park dotted with fountains behind the Pitti Palace. Navigate the crowds at the Galleria degli Uffizi I to view some of the world's most important Renaissance art. Culture-lovers will enjoy a trip to Santa Croce, the largest Franciscan church in Italy and which holds the tombs of Michelangelo and Dante; as well as the Piazza della Signoria, the heart of the historic centre and an open-air sculpture exhibit, where one can sip on a cup of coffee and watch the world go by from one of the surrounding cafés.

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