Florence, Tuscany, Italy
This beautiful city famed for its medieval streets, beautiful squares, mighty palaces, stately mansions and astonishing churches. As well as the many historical attractions, Florence also offers classy shopping, lively markets and fantastic restaurants and authentic nightlife.
Known locally as Firenze, capital of the region of Tuscany, has a population of around half a million inhabitants, spread on the banks of the Arno, between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian seas, almost in the middle of the Italian peninsula.
Florence is an ideal destination for families and couples and with its vast array of attractions, it is easy to see why. There are many shopping outlets, Pistoia Zoo and of course many art galleries and museums. Not only is Florence one of the most appealing cities in the world for a city break, it is also one of the most romantic.
Out of Italy's main tourist destinations, Florence is the furthest from the sea, however, there are many beaches within reach. The easiest one to reach, Viareggio, is an hour and a half train ride away and is a beautiful long stretch of sand with plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas to rent. The water is shallow until quite far out so it is perfect for children. The town of Viareggio also has plenty to offer in the way of shops and restaurants so it is definitely worth taking the trip from Florence.
Things to Do
Florence is said to be one of Italy's most beautiful cities and offers endless museums, galleries and many other fine attractions.
Not only do the museums house some amazing sculptures and painting etc, the buildings themselves are worth seeing. There are also lots of beautiful churches and cathedrals, many of which were designed, built and decorated by some of the most famous artists of the time eg Michelangelo.
Make sure you visit The Duomo, it's one of Italy's most iconic landmarks and it is as impressive inside as it is outside and if you are feeling energetic, you can climb the 463 spiral stairs to the top. The Museo Gucci houses some of Gucci's own luxurious pieces and is a must for any fashion lover.
If you want a little time away from the crowds, visit the Giardino Bardini, a beautiful Italian Renaissance Garden, the perfect spot for some quiet time. You may wish to take part in some wine tasting or enjoy a course at one of the many cookery schools, a great way to improve your knowledge of Italian food.
Out and About
Although Florence is famous for it's many great buildings, galleries, museums etc, it is also very well known for shopping. You will find a range of shops such as H and M and Disney Store, designer boutiques, antique stores, craftsmen shops and many markets offering a variety of goods.
Perhaps the most famous and popular market is the Mercato Centrale which sells fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bread, cheese, spices, clothes and other household items. The Mercato Alimentare is also good and perhaps a little less touristy. The San Lorenzo Market sells Murano glass ornaments, handmade leather gloves and other Italian souvenirs so whatever you are looking for you will find it at one of the city's markets.
As you can imagine, there are some fantastic Italian restaurants, plenty to suit every pocket and palate. There are also many other types of restaurants should you want to try something different. Of course the kids and grown ups too will be delighted with the variety of ice cream and there is no shortage of ice cream parlours.
One of the best ways to tour the city and it's tight network of streets is by foot but if you are a little more adventurous, why not try a Segway day trip, a Vespa day trip or a cycling tour, all great ways to see the sights. The bus system is also very good so no excuses for getting about.
Throughout the year, Florence is packed with different events and festivals, perhaps your visit will coincide with one of the exciting events. The Jazz festival runs from June to September and is just perfect for Jazz music enthusiasts. The most prestigious festival is the Festa di San Giovanni which celebrates the life of the city's patron saint John and takes place on 24th July each year. There is lots going on throughout the festival with a fantastic firework to mark the end of the festival. There is also a music festival from April to June so certainly something for everyone.
A must see is Pisa which is home to the Leaning Tower. Although you really have to see the tower and perhaps climb it, there are lots of other things to see and do in Pisa, such as Church of San Sisto, Cathedral Square and Knights Square. There are lots of impressive buildings and monuments and tons of art and architecture to be found within the city walls.
There are lots of little villages that can be found close to Florence, so take the train and spend some time seeing what the area has to offer.
A great family day out is a trip to Pistoia Zoo, it is just 45km from Florence and is home to a good variety of international species.
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