Florence

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Situated in north-eastern Tuscany, the province of Florence covers areas with different geographical and environmental characteristics such as: Mugello, Montagna Fiorentina, Valdarno, part of Chianti and Empolese-Valdelsa.

At the centre of the province, in a basin crossed by the Arno, stands the magnificent city of Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, filled with historical relics and artistic masterpieces by the greatest masters of Humanism and the Renaissance. These people made an indelible mark on the world’s architecture and art : from Giotto to Brunelleschi, from Michelangelo to Vasari, from Michelozzo to Leon Battista Alberti, just to mention a few. Every year, Florence, unanimously recognized as the cradle of the Renaissance, attracts crowds of Italian and foreign tourists to admire the marvelous churches, sumptuous buildings, and museums that make it so unique..

The city’s charm also extends to its territories, beginning with the natural amphitheater created by the hills surrounding Florence, where unique places such as the small towns of Fiesoleand Certosa del Galluzzo stand. The whole area is made up of stunning landscapes such as the Chianti area, where you can follow numerous art, or wine and food itineraries, and other areas, from Mugello to Valdarno, which hold a wide variety of surprises: ancient castles, medieval rural churches, and villas.

Wherever you turn, historical towns and art treasures make the this province unique, a perfect union between nature and culture. Each and every town, with its own particular features, is a world to be discovered: Empoli with its rich cultural heritage contained within 15th century city walls, Sesto Fiorentino with the famous “La Montagnola” Etruscan tomb, Impruneta, with its terracotta production or Borgo San Lorenzo with the remains of its 14th century fortifications and a magnificent church, and Castelfiorentino and Barberino Val d’Elsa, to mention but a few.
The Florentine territory provides a surprising number of itineraries, making a holiday here an ideal excuse to explore this enchanting area.

The territory’s city par excellence is Florence, the splendid city of art, recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site for the wealth and beauty of its monuments.

The enchanting historical centre never ceases to arouse your interest with its countless masterpieces, and the colourful marble of the churches, and the architecture, which remind us of Florence’s previous splendour and the part it played inthe development of Renaissance culture and art. The heart of the city and the religious and historical centre is the Piazza del Duomo , the site of a monumental complex of extreme value : the Duomo or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, rich in works of art and topped by Brunelleschi’s majestic dome, the Battistero di San Giovanni (St John’s Baptistry), a magnificent example of Florentine Romanesque architecture, and Giotto’s Bell tower, a masterpiece of Florentine Gothic architecture. The magnificent Loggia del Bigallo completes the Piazza’s splendour.

Behind the Duomo is the magnificent Museum of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore which displays a precious collection of artwork originally from the Cathedral, Baptistry and Bell tower. The historical centre of secular life is the Piazza della Signoria, home to the 14th century Loggia della Signoria or Loggia dei Lanzi, adorned with ornate and famous sculptures, like the Fountain of Neptune and Palazzo della Signoria otherwise called Palazzo Vecchio , one of the city’s symbolic monuments.In front of which there are several statues , including a copy of Michelangelo’s famous David (the original is on display in the Galleria dell’Accademia).

Alongside the Piazza runs the majestic Uffizi Gallery, home to one of the most important and famous museums in the world, which includes artworks by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and many other great artists, providing a journey through artistic masterpieces that must not be missed. A noteworthy architectural element of the Uffizi Gallery is the Vasari Corridor, a bold, elevated corridor, designed by Vasari in the mid-16th century, which connects the building with Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. Near the Uffizi Gallery is the Museum of science history, where more than five thousand scientific tools and pieces of experimental apparatus are displayed.

Between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria, there are a number of singular monuments such as the Museo Casa di Dante (Museum of Dante’s house), where there is a collection of detailed documentation on the life and works of the great master of Italian language. Other monuments include architectural treasures such as the Church of Orsanmichele, and the 13th century Palazzo del Bargello, now the National Museum, which displays a vast collection of precious sculptures.

Not to be missed are the monuments of particular prestige situated around Piazza della Repubblica: the 16th century Loggia del Mercato Nuovo, also called Loggia del Porcellino (Loggia of the little pig) for its characteristic bronze statue, which is in fact in the shape of a wild boar and considered as a bringer of good luck; the historical Palazzo Davanzati, home to the Museo della casa Fiorentina Antica (Museum of the old Florentine house) which represents a typical high-class Renaissance era home; and the grandiose Palazzo Strozzi (late 15th century, early 16th century) with its magnificent internal courtyard.

A particularly fascinating place is the medieval quarter of Santa Croce, dominated by the Basilica of Santa Croce. Famous for its artworks and Giotto’s frescos in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels. The church is also home to the tombs of many illustrious Italians, including Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. The marvellous Pazzi Chapel is also part of this complex, a masterpiece – albeit unfinished – by Brunelleschi. The extraordinary monument complex of San Lorenzo is also worth visiting. It includes the Church, the Old Sacristya singular architectural creation by Brunelleschi and decorated by Donatello, and the marvellous Medici Chapels. The latter are made up of the Chapel of the Princes, a mausoleum that hosts the splendid funeral monuments of the Medici Grand dukes, as well as the New Sacristy, a grandiose Michelangelian work that is also a funeral chapel for the Medici.

Another masterpiece of architecture is the convent complex of Santa Maria Novella, comprising the Church, which preserves famous frescoes and precious artworks, and the Museum, which includes the famous Green Cloister and the Spanish Chapel. Near Piazza San Lorenzo but in the other direction, along Via Cavour, stands an illustrious example of a Renaissance noble residence: Palazzo Medici Riccardi, by Michelozzo, with the Magi Chapel decorated with frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli.

Another point of particular interest is Piazza San Marco, dominated by the historical complex of St Mark, it dates back to the 14th century though it was later restructured and expanded. This group includes the church, with a wealth of frescoes, and the convent, a part of which was turned into St Mark’s Museum.

A short distance away is the complex of St Apollonia, a former Benedictine convent with the marvellous Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia the old refectory that is now the Museum of Andrea del Castagno and holds various precious frescoes by this artist. Of great historical and architectural value is the nearby beautiful Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, where we find the old Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents), by Brunelleschi which is now home to an art collection of inestimable value, and the Basilica–Sanctuary of the Santissima Annunziata, with its wealth of frescoes and decorations.

In the immediate surroundings there is the National archeological museum, with its extremely important Etruscan and Egyptian sections and the Galleria dell’Accademia, an extraordinary collection of artworks, including sculptures by Michelangelo and 14th – 16th century Florentine paintings.

The old and striking Ponte Vecchio, populated with historic gold-smith’s shops, leads to the Oltrarno quarter, where other important secular and religious masterpieces stand, starting with the small church of Santa Felicita, which preserves, amongst other things, a number of Pontorno frescoes. Particularly noteworthy is Piazza Santo Spirito where the 16th century Palazzo Guadagni and the magnificent Santo Spirito Basilica stand, the latter is completely covered in Renaissance decoration and houses the Cenacolo di Santo Spirito, the old convent refrectory abundantly decorated with frescoes.

Just a little further ahead lies the beautiful piazza dominated by Palazzo Pitti, the imposing and sumptuous palace that was home to the Medici, the Habsburg-Lorraine family and to Victor Emanuel II for the brief period during which Florence was the capital. Today this immense building is a musuem of great importance where the Palatine Gallery, home to a vast collection of paintings and sculptures, with masterpieces by famous artists such as Raffaello, Andrea del Sarto and Tiziano, is particularly interesting. Other museums which stand out are the sumptuous Royal apartments, rich in furniture and decorations, the Modern Art Gallery and the Museo degli Argenti (The Medici Treasury). The Palazzo’s marvellous park, the Boboli Gardens, which stretch out over a hillside of the same name, is a grandiose Italian-style garden that harmoniously blends natural elements with architecture, statues, and fountains. It is home to the Museo del Costume (Traditional costume museum), the Porcelain Museum and the Carriage Museum, and also offers a spectacular panorama of the city from its lookout point.

Other points of interest of the Oltrarno area are Piazzale Michelangelo, a favourite tourist destination thanks to its marvellous view of Florence and of the surrounding hills, the church of San Miniato al Monte, one of the finest examples of Florentine Romanesque architecture and the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, famous for the splendid frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, painted in the 15th century by great artists such as Masolino, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi. The city of Florence is amazing, and the surrounding territory is also well worth exploring for its countless natural attractions and historical and artistic points of interest.

One site of particular religious and artistic interest, situated in the immediate surroundings of the city, is Certosa del Galluzzo also known as Certosa di Firenze, a historical architectural complex clinging to the hillside, which hosts important works of art and frescoes by Pontorno.
Another town of particular importance in the Florentine area is Fiesole, which offers a magnificent panorama of the city from its hilltop position. This small town unites the beauty of the landscape with a remarkable cultural heritagewhich includes Etruscan and Roman remains.. Another centre of particular archeological interest is Sesto Fiorentino where the Etruscan tomb “La Montagnola” was found. It is a monument of great value and is in an excellent state of conservation. Particularly rich in artworks is the Mugello area, which preserves spectacular architecture such as the parish church of Sant’Agata in Scarperia, the massive Trebbio Castle and the Villa Medicea in Cafaggiolo, Lorenzo the Magnificent’s favourite hunting estate. The main town of the area is Borgo San Lorenzo. The nearby town of Barberino di Mugello is the home of some remarkable artistic heritage: from the impressive Cattani Castle to Palazzo Pretorio.

Other captivating towns in the area include Empoli with the Sant’Andrea Collegiate Church, which constitutes a magnificent example of Florentine Romanesque architecture and Certaldo, the writer Giovanni Boccaccio’s home town, which is home to the 14th century Palazzo Pretorio and Boccaccio’s House which has a library specialising in ”The Decameron”.

There are many places that preserve the memory and evidence of the arts and people who were born in this area. In the Montalbano hills amidst the vineyards and olive groves stands Vinci, the birth place of Leonardo. The town is now also home to the Leonardo Museum housed in an old castle, with an abundant display of tools and models made following the great genius’s projects and designs.

In Incisa Valdarno it is possible to visit Petrarca’s House, the place where the poet spent his childhood, while Vicchio is the site of Giotto’s House. The house where the artist was born has been transformed into a museum with plentiful documentation. There are many more characteristic towns and villages, and numerous examples of religious art, and castles, making this land a treasure chest just waiting to be explored and discovered. From Barberino Val d’Elsa to Greve in Chianti, the charm of the Chianti area is strongly linked to the small medieval-looking towns and villages scattered across its farmland,dominated by vineyards and the area’s famous wine.

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