The Florence Cathedral
Basilica of San Lorenzo
Ospedale degli Innocenti
Santa Maria Novella Train Station
Basilica Santa Croce
San Miniato al Monte
Peretola Florence Airport
In brief: Heart of the Renaissance, many leisure activities, picturesque and historical area.
Highlights: Basilica Di Santa Croce, Piazza Del Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza Della Signoria.
Getting there: buses 7 and 10 to Campo Di Marte, night bus 11-68, electric buses C1 and C2.
Why stay: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, touristy, with the best of the city on your doorstep.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the center of Florence has a population of fewer than 400,000. Not shy about being one of the most beautiful cities of the world, Firenze is a culture lover’s gem nestling in the remnants of its medieval walls. The city center dates back to around 59 BC, with the construction of a village called Florentia as a settlement for soldiers of the Roman army.
From this moment onwards it began to flourish. This was the birthplace of the Renaissance and the Italian language, and is lovingly known as one of the universal cradles of art and architecture where names such as Dante Alighieri, Brunelleschi, Boccaccio and Leonardo Da Vinci first appeared.
The powerful Medici family, renowned for their banking enterprise and love for art, were tremendously important to helping Florence realize its full potential as an international cultural capital. You will probably spot their trademark coat of arms - five red balls and one blue on a gold shield – adorning various buildings around town.
Caf�� culture and sociable squares
Florence is full of famous squares, called ������piazzas��, and in the historical center the most famous ones include Piazza del Duomo, Piazza San Marco, Piazza della Repubblica, Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Santa Croce. Locals tend to use the squares themselves as a point of reference. In every piazza you’ll find a coffee bar or two - just don��t commit a cultural faux pas by ordering a cappuccino after 11am!
Looking for a landmark café with a touch of elegance? Gilli in Piazza della Repubblica has been around since 1773 and is the perfect place for a coffee, with a splendid interior complete with Murano glass lamps, frescoed ceilings and a majestic cornered bar. You can often hear live music wafting from the nearby square of Piazza della Repubblica.
Know your neighbors
The Florentines are known to be a very proud lot and have a reputation as being rather aloof, particularly to tourists. Although this isn’t always the case, learning a few Italian words can go a long way to bridging the gap between tourist and friend. Fashion is important to Florentines, yet you’ll see the locals sporting a more classic look, preferring to dress in solid colors, expensive knits and leather shoes.
While some historical families still reside in the center, especially in the ���Oltrarno’ area of town across the river, high prices have driven many Italians towards a quieter life in the suburbs. The city centre is considered pretty safe though you might want to avoid the area around the Piazza Santa Croce and Piazza Santa Maria Novella late at night.
The center of Florence can be a shopper’s paradise and you will find many popular shops just a stone’s throw from the Duomo church on adjacent Via Roma. Here are popular brand names such as Zara, H&M and a popular leather market next to a famous statue of a wild boar.
For higher-end shopping, Via Tornabuoni is just as historic as it is expensive, home to brand names such as Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni and Tiffanys. Feeling peckish? Stop by historic caf�� Procacci, owned by the famous Antinori wine family, for their tiny truffle sandwiches and wine by the glass.
The historic center itself is very small and completely accessible on foot. The distance from the train station to the Duomo is no more than 5 to 10 minutes??? walk, and the same goes for all of the other major monuments. The main streets of town include busy pedestrian walkway Via Calzaiuoli which connects Piazza del Duomo to Piazza della Signoria.
Running parallel is Via Roma, in the shopping district, which passes Piazza della Repubblica and heads south towards the Ponte Vecchio. Via Cavour will take you to Piazza San Marco, a hub for different forms of transport. Public transport in Florence is efficient and the small C2, C3 and D buses run frequently within the city centre for those needing a break from walking.