Florence, Italy

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyEuro
Local languageItalian
Country Italy

Introduction

As one of the most prominent art centers of the world and the birthplace of the Renaissance movement, no other city appreciates beauty as Florence does. Founded by Julius Caesar its artistic treasures are no secret (approximately one third of the world’s most important artworks are in this city) and as a consequence it continues to attract tourists by the million. If at all possible plan your visit outside of high season when the crowds will be thinner and the temperatures more bearable!





Situated in the Tuscany region in northwest Italy, Florence is surrounded by the Chianti hills whilst the Arno River runs through the city. Although only about two and a half hours from Rome it is a city like no other in Italy. Initially you may be somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer scale and wealth of the art found here. The best thing to do is to accept that you won’t be able to see it all, and instead to try and appreciate and enjoy the sights you choose to visit by taking your time. Relax, sit down for a café at the Piazza della Signora, enjoy the view of Michelangelo’s David (albeit a copy!) and watch the people go by.

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Things to do

Most agree that the best place to start is the Piazza del Duomo (the cathedral square). The Cathedral dominates the Florence skyline and defines the city. View the three bronze doors of the Battistero (baptistery), enjoy the view from the top of the Cathedral and visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (the Cathedral Museum).

The most obvious place to visit next is the Piazza della Signoria situated near the river, where the number of treasures to view is immense but also remember to look out for the Palazzo della Signoria (Palace of the Lords) also know as Palazzo Vechio (Old Palace). On the right flank of the same square is the majestic Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery). The name is somewhat misleading as in fact what is housed here is a priceless collection of art spread over thirty-five exhibition rooms.

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the only bridge to have survived the Nazi bombing of Florence. Dating back to the fourteenth century, these days it is home to Florence’s gold- and silversmiths.

Another must see is Santa Croce, an elegant Franciscan church, said to be one of the most esthetically beautiful churches around, and final resting place of some of Italy’s most gifted artists including Dante and Michelangelo. Situated on Piazza Santa Croce take bus C fourteen or twenty-three.

Lastly, Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy Gallery) houses Michelangelo’s real David which draws the crowds in massive numbers to its splendid beauty. (Bus one, six or thirty-three).

Local transport

The best way to get around Florence is to walk. The city center is fairly compact and most of the key attractions are close together, though much easier to find when armed with a good street map. Alternatively the bus network is very comprehensive, tickets are valid for one hour and allow any number of changes or return journeys within the sixty minutes. Make sure you validate tickets onboard the bus. An alternative ticket options is the three-day/seven-day bus pass, which can be bought at newsagents, many coffee bars, and vending machines located at all major stations. Taxis will rarely stop if hailed on the streets and are fairly expensive.

Day trips

Sienna, which can easily be reached by coach, is a great day trip although you won’t be able to appreciate all that this city has to offer. Make sure you view the Cathedral, the Palazzo Publico (town hall) and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The heart of this city is around the piazza il Campo from where you can wander through the web of streets soaking up the atmosphere. From Florence take the coach at the station on Via Santa Caterina which departs once an hour.

If on the other hand you want to escape the city life entirely take bus number seven from Piazza del Duomo and a short journey will take you to the valleys of Fiesole. Here you can enjoy the fresh air and the wonderful scenery surrounding you including the lush olive groves.

Recommended places and events to visit in Florence

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