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Florence - Out and About

Florence is the capital city of both the Florence Province and the region of Tuscany. It is situated 50 metres above sea level and stands on both banks of the river Arno. To the north and north-east the city stretches along the foothills of the Careggi, Fiesole and Settignano hills, to the south along the Arcetri and Bellosguardo Hills.

Florence dates back to the Pre-.Roman age, has a regular urban layout and spans the river with numerous, architecturally splendid bridges. The artistic and cultural heritage of Florence is among the greatest in the world. Its academies, libraries and museums are renown. Its religious monuments, churches, civil architecture and buildings are exceptional. All the tourist attractions are grouped together in four zones, all of which can be easily visited on foot. The geographical and historical fulcrum of Florence is recognised as those parts which contains the city's Duomo, the Santa Croce district,the north zone of San Lorenzo and San Marco, the zone running from the Santa Maria Novella train station to the west to the Piazza della Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio, Mercato Nuovo and in the district of Oltrarno with the Pitti Place, Santo Spirito, the Boboli Gardens and the Santa Maria del Carmine Church. The eastern zone of the city maintains its Medieval atmosphere, with its hive of narrow streets and ancient alleyways. The Santa Maria del Fiore or Duomo, with its baptistery designed by Ghiberti and its bell-tower designed by Giotto, dominates this area. The Orsanmichele, one of the finest examples of 13th century architecture in the city, is located in Via Calzaiuoli. The Bargello Gallery is situated in via del Proconsolo. The gallery houses a collection of Florentine Renaissance sculptures, with works from Michelangelo, Donatello and Cellini. The magnificent Gothic Santa Croce Basilica,in the Santa Croce Piazza, is a collection of monastic buildings grouped around cloisters, forming what is today a museum of paintings and religious sculptures. The basilica houses tombs and cenotaphs by Galileo and Michelangelo, the crucifixions by Donatello and Cimabue, the Pazzi Chapel by Brunelleschi and the Bardi Chapel, with Giotto frescoes. The Piazza della Signoria was both the centre of political power and city life until the era of the city council. This large and sunny square is dominated by the imposing Palazzo Vecchio, which forms the back drop to the Signoria open arched gallery, one of the most important Medieval buildings in Italy. The Medici zone winds it way along via de Martelli, one of the city's main streets, which starts at the passage between the Duomo and the Baptistery. The zone is the site of the San Lorenzo Basilica, which houses the mortal remains of some of the most illustrious Medici family members. The Palazzo Medici Ricccardi, the family's main residence, is situated a short distance away. The roads situated around Piazza San Lorenzo, are bustling with a large and colourful market, which includes the central market, a two-storey building selling fresh food.The zone ,which at the time of the Medici, housed the Granduke's stables, is now the San Marco district, with its Convent. This district has a young feel , owing to the large presence of students from the University, Conservatory and the Academy of Fine Arts. The block of buildings that begin on the corner of via Ricasoli, is the site of the Academy's Gallery, the Gem Factory and the Archaeology Museum. The city is bordered in the west by the railway station and Ponte Vecchio. The bridge houses numerous antique and modern jewellery shops. The Piazza della Repubblica, one of the liveliest zones of Florence, is situated a short distance away.This zone is renown for its cafes and shopping area which includes via Vigna Nuova and via de Tornabuoni, both highly elegant, lined with refined shops and important buildings from the 15th to the 18th century. The Palazzo Strozzi is an example of the zone's fine buildings, built in Florentine Renaissance style, it is the seat of numerous cultural institutions, including Gabinetto G.P. Visseux.

Oltrarno, is a tranquil zone of low buildings, antique shops and work-shops. The area is dominated by the Palazzo Pitti and the intricately shaped hedges of the Boboli Gardens. The zone is the site of Via Maggio and the Piazza di Santo Spirito, both lined by aristocratic buildings. The Santa Maria del Carmine, situated in the Piazza del Carmine,is famous for its frescoes in the Bancacci Chapel, painted by Masolino and Masaccio.

Ecologically friendly buses run from Santa Maria Novella Central Station to the centre, calling at Piazza Beccaria, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza Ferucci and Oltrarno. Bus number 62 goes to the airport, 12 and 13 run to Piazza Michelangelo, number 7 to Fiesole. Tickets can be bought from ATAF in the station, automatic vending machines and authorized distributors. Tickets are valid for 60 minutes with various options to save on the price, 3-24 hours, 2-3-7 day travel cards and monthly or yearly bus passes. It is possible to travel around the city by bike, a service offered by Florence by Bike, which organizes guided theme tours. The tours last three hours and provides the visitor with views of Rennaissance Florence and the surrounding hills.

Florence - Not to be missed

The Uffizi Gallery, with its entrance under the portico of the Palazzo degli Uffizi, is one of the most important art galleries in Italy and the oldest museum in modern Europe. It houses Italian works of art from all periods, from Medieval to Modern. Presently 2,000 individual works are exhibited. The ground floor houses ' The Ciclo di Uomini' by Andrea del Castagno (1450) and the ' Annunciazione' fresco by Sandro Botticeli (1481).

The first large section comprises works from Tuscan Medieval painters from the 12th century to the 14th century including Duccio di Buoninsegna, Cimabue, Giotto, Ambrogio e Pietro Lorenzetti, Masaccio, Masolino, Beato Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli ( Nascita di Venere, Primavera), Leonardo (Adorazione dei Magi), Verrochio and Perugino. Rooms number 16 to 24 are the oldest rooms in the gallery, in particular room number 18, the octagonal Tribune, which houses classic statues and paintings from 15th century Florence.The other rooms contain paintings from the 14th and 15th century from different schools, together with sculptures including Luca Signorelli, Perugino, Albert Durer, Jan Brueghel il Vecchio, Lucas Cranach il Giovane, Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna.The first room along the third corridor is dedicated to the Florentine painting of the late Renaissance period including Michelangelo, Raffaello, Andrea del Sarto, Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino and Bronzino.The rooms dedicated to the Venetian school and works from the Emiliano- Ferrara and Central Italy regions, follow on and include the works of Tiziano, with an entire room dedicated to his work ' Venere di Urbino', Palma il Vecchio, Parmigianino, El Greco and Tintoretto. Rooms 41 to 45 house the works of artists from the 16th and 17th century including Rubens, Van Dyck and Justus Sustermans.

The Vasarian Corridor , accessible from the gallery's third corridor, was built in 1565 by Vasari to link the Uffizi to the Pitti Palazzo by means of the Ponte Vecchio. This zone houses works from Italian and foreign artists from the 17th and the 18th century, together with the beginning of the portrait gallery, with works dating back to the 15th century. The Bargello National Gallery, in via Proconsolo, is located in the Podesta building, erected between 1255 and 1345. Opened in 1865 with contributions from the Uffizi, the Mint and the State Archives, the museum is today one of the most important in the world, especially for Florentine Renaissance sculptures, French Medieval ivories and a collection of bronze mannerists. Visitors should see the Donatello Room, with the original moulds used during the competition to design the Baptistery doors.

Florence - Walks and tours

The walk which should be undertaken by first-time visitors to Florence is, above-all, that which leads to Fiesole. These picturesque hills can be reached by bus n°7, which leaves from the central train station.

The area provides the best views over the city and has fine buildings of artistic and archaeological interest including the Duomo, the Roman Theatre and the S.Francesco church, positioned high on a hill, in a position that has won the admiration of poets and writers. Every second Sunday in the month sees the main square host to a characteristic antique market. The Estate Fiesolana festival with concerts, dances and plays takes place in the Roman theatre during the summer.

Florence - The traveller's notebook

Currency : Euro

Electric supply: 220 Volt, two or three pin plugs

Climate : typical of the Tyrrenhian region, with mild but rainy winters and warm and dry summers.

Opening hours : shops are open 9am to 7.30pm except Saturday afternoon in summer and Monday morning in winter. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 1.20pm and from 2.45pm to 3.45pm. The post offices are open from Monday to Saturday from 8.30 to 1.20pm. Restaurants are open from 12:30 to 3:30 pm and from 8pm to mid-night.

Telephones : the code for Florence is 055

Florence - A pocket guide

A short guide to markets and fesitvals: Second-hand and Flea Market in Piazza dei Ciompi (last Sunday in the month), International Antique Show in Palazzo Corsini (September -October),Florence's Musical May (end of April to June), Internationl Craft Fayre( April-beginning of May), Grillo Festival (Ascension), Historic Florentine Football (June), San Giovanni Festival, with fashion shows and firework display in Piazza Michelangelo (24 June), Rificolona Festival, which takes place on the river Arno (Annunciation) International Antique Festival ( odd-numbered years. September-October).

It is possible to make excellent purchases in the narrow lanes and streets of Florence. The best time is during the January and July sales. The city centre is rich in all sorts of shops, from used book shops to fashion stores. The widest choice of shops are to be found around Piazza Santa Croce, Piazza dei Compi and Piazza Santo Spirirto. Via Maggio, Festa and Borgo Ognissantii, house fine Florentine antique shops.

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