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FLORENCe, The birthplace of art a brief history

baround useful tips


Relevant zones


Gastronomy: Tradition and baking




Eventos culturales: Un Calendario para todos


Points of interest

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A brief history he city at the heart of the Renaissancewas founded by the TItalics between the X and VIII centuries B.C. In 59 B.C., veterans of Caesar’s army set up camp at a site that is known today as Florence. The name comes from the Ludi Floreales period, which was celebrated in honour of the Goddess Flora. The city was later invaded by the Barbarians who defeated a somewhat passive Lombard army, whose main interest was protecting Lucca, the

Autonomous organisation

A large number of the most valuable works

Crisis prior to the Medici

of art in the world are on view in countless

Florence continued to grow in terms of business, power, freedom and independence. Nonetheless internal conflict failed to come to a halt and the dictatorships of Carlos de Calabria and Gautier de Brienne, together with the plague of 1348, submerged the city in a profound crisis. This period preceded the Medicis rise to fortune. In 1434, Cosimo de Medici took control of the city, having spent one year in exile. From this point on, Florence became the epicentre of Italian humanism. Artists, architects and literary figures flocked to the city, which underwent one of its most fruitful periods that would last until1494.

museums in this magnificent city. Lying in the shadows of the unforgettable Duomo de Brunelleschi are churches, narrow streets, restaurants and ice-cream parlours, providing lots of opportunity for pleasant stops en route. It may not have the status of the capital of Italy or the elegance of Milan, but Florence offers visitors plenty of wonders for the eyes, nose and taste buds, including works of artby Michelangelo and Botticelli, not to mention the delicious smells of mushrooms and olive oil. Crossing the Ponte Vecchio and the threshold of the Uffizi Gallery are a must for art lovers and travellers alike. Where Dante saw his beloved Beatrice.

A practical guide

FLORENCE, The birthplace of art

While the city maintained its independence from the emperor, its citizens started to become politically organised around 1138. The nobility of the time were all-powerful and decisions made by the twelve consuls were restricted by two assemblies, a senate and a parliament. From the XIII century onwards the city’s importance within the country grew, rivalling Siena and Pisa and establishing the post of Podestá, which allowed an outsider take control of judicial, executive and military power. Regional clashes continued and the city was razed after a defeat at Montaperti in 1260, at the hands of the army of Siena, which was supported by the gibelinos. Later the gibelinos were defeated by the Florentine güelfos.

The city of Florence is located in the north east of Italy. It lies in a tranquil plain traversed by the Arno river. The city’s geographic references are the Mediterraneanto the east, the vineyards of Tuscany - famous for their Chianti wine, to the south, and the Tuscan Apennines to the north. Florence iscovered by lush vegetation in the form of gardens, forests and countryside. It is from here that the region’s endless supply of mushrooms originates. Cooked in generous volumes of olive oil, they are one of the region’s classic culinary dishes. This guide takes you on an interesting route through the streets of Florence, covering the main landmarks and offering you a first impression of the city. We have selected what we consider essential viewing for an unforgettable weekend, or 3 or 4-day stay in this wonderful city. The following pages contain information on some of Florence’s must-see areas, monuments and museums. Unfortunately we cannot include everything. To see it all would require a much longer visit.

Savonarola and more wars Savonarola, the severe and unstable

capital of Tuscany at the time. Charlemagne re-founded the city and in 854 managed to unite the two counties of Florence and Fiésole, making it the most influential county in the region. The residence of the Marquis of Tuscany was transferred to Florence, and from 1000 onwards the city flourished economically and demographically.

Dominican monk tried, as the Medici lost their grip on power, to establish a more democratic rule. But his initiative was unsurprisingly hindered by the more important families of the time and the merchant classes. His influence ended and he was burned at the stake in Piazza della Signoria in 1498.

The city lived under the rule of Piero Soderini for ten years, ending in a defeat by the Spanish army. The Medicis briefly returned, after being overthrown during the plundering of Rome. The Republicans won and lost power in a war against the Spanish, and restored Cosimo de Medici to power. Full authority was concentrated in Cosimo, with the support of Carlos V who had helped him conquer Siena. He declared himself dukes of Florence and Grand Dukes of Tuscany.

Economic crisis Cosimo’s heirs tried to safeguard everything he had built up. They strengthened political ties but were unable to avoid a major economic crisis that debilitated the entire textile industry not to mention commerce. Florence could not compete with the more advanced powers in Europe. The lower classes lived in abject poverty, while the Jesuits were expelled from the city.

Social and capitalreforms The Duke of Lorraine assumed power on 1737. Full of illustrious ideals he implemented a series of social and economic reforms. The Duke of Lorraine allied with

the Habsburgs and important cultural figures from England and France began to arrive, bringing with them a moderate liberalism, and investing the city with an undeniable wealth of culture. In 1859 Florence expelled the absolutist and conservative Duke Leopoldo II and subsequently asked to join the Piamonte-Sardinia region. In 1865 Florence was chosen as the capital of the new kingdom of Italy.

Humanist values Florence’s status as capital was shortlived. It was over by 1871, the year that troops led by Víctor Manuel II took Rome and made it the epicentre of the transalpine country. At the same time Florence suffered a period of grave recession. Nonetheless, as the XX century was heralded in, Florence established itself as the cultural capital of Italy and adopted the humanist and liberal values with which it was to challenge the invasion of fascism. The city’s rising up against the allied troops in 1944 is famous. Despite massive unemployment after World War II, Florence remained a popular place, especially in terms of culture and the humanities. The final blow to the capital of Tuscany came in 1966 when part of the city was flooded after a sudden rise in the Arno river. Since then Florence has enjoyed a spring-like period, promoting its cultural heritage and watching over the growth of several cities in its surrounding area. This olive oil and mushroom-growing region has continued to grow in importance, in the context of a country polarised by Milan and Rome.

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bzone Relevant zones Oltr’Arno

This area, which literally means “the other side of Arno” is still the popular heart of Florence. Situated on the other side of city’s surrounding walls, Oltr’Arno is a working class neighbourhood that is home to loading, hiding and tanning workers, for whom the Arno’s water was essential. Via Maggio is noted for the numerous luxurious palaces and antique shops lining it. Piazza del Santo Spirito is presided over by a church of the same name, making it another interesting spot. The piazza has undoubtedly become the epicentre of the area. At night, the patios of bars and restaurants on the piazza create a colourful atmosphere. The same craftsmen still work on the streets of Santo Spirito and San Frediano, where laundry can be seen hanging from the windows. This neighbourhood provides an authentic view of daily life, and a number of locations from which to enjoy the collage of red fabrics, and the towers and bells of Florence. The Roman church of San Miniato al Monte, the Boboli gardens and the Bardini foundation are also located in this unique and popular area, which despite being on the other side of the river still breathes a Florentine air.

baround Useful tips Florence is a city that is densely populated with historical monuments. With almost half a million inhabitants and nine million visitors to the city each year, Florence reveals itself as a dynamic location respectful of the artistic and cosmopolitan culture (there are high levels of Chinese, North Americans and Middle Eastern Arabs) . The artistic city of Florence is in the same time zone as the rest of Western Europe, GMT +1 hour. The climate is relatively mild, with low temperatures in winter (5º C average in January) and warm temperatures in summer (temperatures can be quite high in July and August. The average temperature in July is 30ºC). In any case, there are no extreme temperatures in almost every month of the year. We recommend you visit the city in spring or autumn to appreciate the changing colours of the surrounding countryside. Aside from that you will also avoid excess heat and tourists. During spring and autumn there is a noticeable rise in the level of the Arno river (which devastated the city in 1966). The currency of the capital of Tuscany is the euro as in the rest of Italy. Shopping in the city is more than enjoyable. If you want to buy a memento or something genuinely Florentine, try the antique shops on via Maggio, or the Ognissanti or San Jacopo burrows. Jewellery, handmade gifts, leather goods (hides), accessories, lingerie and prêt-à-porter fashion are all available in Florence, specifically in streets such as via de’Tornabuoni and via della Vigna Nuova, which house boutiques by the best couturiers in the country. Prices usually go

up slightly in summer, when more tourists visit the city. However bear one rule in mind as you move through Florence. You cannot drive private vehicles in the old quarter before 6.30 in the evening. An unequivocal move by local authorities to preserve the vast artistic legacy of the native city of Michelangelo and Rafael. Therefore, the best way to explore or get around (or get lost) the centre of Florence is to walk.

practical option. Nonetheless there are several car rental companies in Florence (it is a relatively expensive option) and if you are driving a foreign registration car you are not required to comply with local restrictions to reach your hotel. As for parking there are dedicated parking spots on Piazza de la Libertad, Piazza de la Estación, Piazza Ghiberti, Viale Strozzi, Parterre, Piazza del Carmen and Piazza Brunelleschi, among others.

San Lorenzo

The city’s public transport system is run by ATAF (, and offers visitors more than 100 city bus-routes and twenty intercity lines. City buses cover almost every corner of the city , while intercity buses will take you into the surrounding Tuscan countryside, as well as Arezzo and the Siena region). A single ticket costs 1.20 euro. Alternatively you can buy a 2 euro ticket that allows you to travel on different routes during a maximum period of 70 minutes. A 24 hour card costs 5 euro and a 3-day pass 12 euro. Buses run from 5.30 in the morning until midnight. You can buy tickets from ticket machines, kiosks, cafes, bars and ATAF points of sale. You can also buy tickets on the bus (although only at night). Remember to stamp your ticket in the machine at the front of the bus. The most practical and useful routes are those running from Central Station to San Domenico, Campo Marte, Piazza Michelangelo, Piazza de la Libertad, Sesto Florentino and Puerta Romana.

Taxis may be flagged down on the street, but beware that most will only stop at designated taxi ranks or in response to calls to a central number. The minimum charge is normally 5 euro and tips are around 10%. Aside from glamorous limousines, a very traditional way of getting from one monument to the next is by calash. It also happens to be a very romantic way of exploring the city. You can rent these singular carriages around the Duomo. Just remember to negotiate the price before you get in.


As we mentioned earlier, driving a private vehicle through the city is not the most

Finally, like in every other Italian city, you can rent motorbikes, mopeds and scooters. If you prefer exploring the famous hills of the Tuscan countryside, you can rent bikes at one of the bike-rental agencies in the centre, and ride out. Florence is still considered a relatively safe city, but it is advisable to avoid areas a long way from the city centre, especially at night. Shop opening hours run from 10 in the morning to 7 in the evening. Banks open at 8.30 and close at 3.30, with a break at midday .

You can find almost everything you need in this neighbourhood. An outdoor market, small winding streets, craftsmen’s workshops, the Palacio de Congresos and monuments of undeniable artistic quality. San Lorenzo is an area populated by many young (and not so young) foreigners and students ofItalian language and culture. It is also a centre of activity for art, music and crafts. This pedestrian area houses one of the city’s most attractive and interesting markets, the Central Market. Built in 1860, the market sells all kinds of products. It is home to traditional wine cellars, carts selling pigs trotters, and canteens and inns. It offers visitors a taste of the oldest and most authentic Florentine traditions in one of the city’s most picturesque piazzas. Located only a few kilometres from the historical heart of the city, Fiesole is framed by the mountainous valleys between the rivers of Arno and Mugnone, offering spectacular views over the capital of Tuscany. Relax among the dizzying monuments, and explore the traces of Etruscan, Roman and Renaissance history. You can visit the art museum, archaeological sites and the remains of a theatre and Roman baths. If you haven’t seen enough monuments in the historical centre of Florence, try the San Francisco Convent, the Basilica of San Alejandro, the Duomo and the church of Santa María Primeraza. Its pleasant streets and traditional restaurants round off an enjoyable visit. An interesting anecdote recalls how the cobbled streets of Fiesole served as a refuge for figures such as Boccaccio, Proust and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Borgo de’Greci

This part of the city comprises lots of narrow streets, among them the oldest in the city. It makes for an essential visit for any traveller. The Via Torta, Borgo de’Greci and the Piazza de’Peruzzi represent some of the main vertebras of the area. You can visit the church of San Remigio, the Palacio de Peruzzi (a symbol of the influence of the family, built in the XIV century) and the National Library, which houses more than three million valuable pieces (including manuscripts, engravings and early print books). Take advantage of a walk through this neighbourhood to stop and taste a real capuchino or to buy something in one of the numerous shops (crystal, clothes and wooden pinocchios in all sizes for even the youngest members of the family). Borgo de’Greci forms part of the neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, one of the most popular parts of Florence for its leather workshops, craft shops and little grocery stores.

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bdelicious Gastronomy Tradition and baking Traditional and home-made Tuscan cuisine has earned a significant reputation as regards Italian cuisine. Ingredients are prepared in abundant olive oil (there are more than 40 classes in the region), and white truffle, and are washed down with Chianti, the Tuscan wine par excellence, (one million hectolitres are produced per year). Some of the specialties of the region include bistecca alla florentina, crostini (toasted bread topped with pâté, capers and anchovies), fagioli all’uccelletto (white beans in tomato sauce) and ribollita (beans with oil), tripe in tomato sauce, and cold meats like salami and spiced pork sausage. Also worth mentioning are the numerous desserts, including catuccini (biscuits topped with almonds), castagnaccio (chestnut flour, pine nuts and sultanas), well-known ice-creams (gelatos, semifreddos, etc) and zuccotto, one of the most traditional desserts you can find in the city. A standard meal begins with antipasti (starters), first dish (pasta, soups and risottos), second dish (meat or fish accompanied by vegetables or salad) and cheese, fruit or dessert. And remember that customers normally leave a tip in most bars and restaurants (around 10%), although sometimes it is included in the bill.

bparty Cultural events The Three Kings Cavalcade

On 6 January, a day later than in other European countries, the Three Kings from the East pass through the streets of the historical old centre.

Cart Explosion

This is a colourful procession of ox and carts that ends in a spectacle of fireworks and a cart exploding. Holy Saturday is celebrated in the Piazza del Duomo.

In Aprilstate museums open their doors to the public for free. Fiesta del Grillo (Cricket Festival) This peculiar ritual consists of loved ones exchanging hand-knit crickets in small cages. It takes place in the Cascine Park on Ascension Day.

Mayo Musical Florentino

FromApril to May different events are organised for those who love to dress up.


Fiorita Festival

Performances of all kinds including music, exhibitions and street parties take place over three weeks in April, in Altrarno.


Week of Cultural Property

This is the biggest cultural event in the Florentine calendar. The festival takes place in May, and attracts major names from the worlds of music and ballet. The festival has been running for more than 60 years with its own orchestra and dance company


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A calendar for all

On 23 May in Piazza della Signoria locals commemorate the death of Savonarola, the crazy monk who lived in what is today the museum of San Marco.

Fiesole summer Festival

Various dance, music and theatre performances in Fiesole, held during the summer months in the Roman theatre.

Calcio storico

An unusual game of football played between two teams of 27 men dressed in medieval attire, as part of the celebrations to commemorate the patron saint of the city - Saint John, on 24 June.

St.John’s Festival

The patron saint’s day iscelebrated with a procession originating from the Palazzo Vecchio, as well as fireworks in the Piazza de Michelangelo.

Festival of Torches

A procession of torches is held every year on 7 September to commemorate the Virgin Mary. The windows of the city are also illuminated in a festival inherited from an Austrian tradition.

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bmoving Points of interest Piazza del Duomo

A work of incalculable artistic value, it grants welcome shade on the hottest days. It is made up of three large bodies, a main façade of, the bell tower and the baptistery. Some of its best treasures are housed in the Cathedral Museum, in defiance of climate conditions. Brunelleschi was charged with building the biggest Duomo in Italy, a feat that took almost 150 years to complete. At times it seems to defy the laws of gravity. The front piece - constructed in pink, white and green marble, hides the interior of the cathedral, which has very few decorative objects. The copula is decorated with frescoes by Giorgio Vasari. This part of the cathedral offers you the chance to enjoy an aerial view of the city… that is, if you climb the 463 steps to the top. The bell tower or Campanile was built by Giotto, Pisano and Talenti. You can admire the pink garlands of frieze hanging from the facade, and various sculptures by Donatello, as well as the majestic crown by Brunelleschi. To reach the top of the tower you must climb 414 steps, but the views over the piazza and the city are entirely worth it. Finally, the baptistery, the city’s oldest building. This famous octagonal building is known for its bronze doors (known as the doors to paradise) which were completed 27 years after they were started, by Lorenzo Ghiberti. They trace the history of the Old Testament in bronze .

Galleria degli Uffizi

Without a doubt, one of the most valuable art collections in the world. This stunning collection of treasures is located in the Palacio Uffizi de Vasari which also houses the legacy of the Medici family. There are so many rooms that despite being organized by artistic technique, it is impossible

to visit every room in one single session. Even though it is hard to make a recommendation when it comes to such a vast collection, we would suggest that you do not miss the Botticelli, Rafael and Leonardo pieces, including The Birth of Venus, Madonna of the Goldfinch and The Annunciation, respectively. Works by Duccio, Michelangelo, Martini, Titian and Tintoretto are also a must-see.

Ponte Vecchio

The bridge dates from the Roman empire, although its present structure dates from 1565, when the Vasari corridor was added. It is surrounded by ruins next to the Manelli tower and a path running along the other side of the Arno River. The famous bridge houses shops and businesses trading gold, as well as a wealth of tourists who aim to immortalize this XIV monument in digital form. It has the added attraction of having resisted the advances of the Nazi army during World War II. Today the businesses lining the bridge attract elegant tourists, but in previous times they were commercially occupied by butchers. Cosimo de Medici changed the style of the bridge by throwing the meat into the Arno river. Situated between Vías Guicciardini and Por Santa Maria, the “secret” passageway that connects the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace is an essential stop. Take as much time as you need to visit this fascinating area, which served as a haven for the Medici family, during their reign. From the bridge the views over the river are stunning, particularly at sunset. In summer the bridge is even more crowded with street performers, portrait artists, and more. All in all, one of the signatory landmarks of this magnificent city.

bmoving Points of interest ential as the Medicis, governed this vast construction. Once the immense palace was completed, becoming the most monumental Renaissance building in Florence, the family saw its wealth diminish and had to sell it to the Medicis. The palace houses numerous private rooms, eight museums, various collections and galleries, including the Palatina Gallery (which houses works by Rafael, Rubens and Titian), the Modern Art Gallery, the Museum of Precious Stones, the Museum of Porcelain and the Fashion Gallery. Outside the palace you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens, one of the finest landscaped areas in all of Italy, interspersed with fountains, an amphitheatre, cypress-lined lanes, grottos and peaceful routes that are ideal for a picnic.

Academy Gallery

Florence’s cultural appeal is proportional to the majesty of Michelangelo’s David. The reputation of this immense statue reigns over the city. This Italian made masterpiece was sculpted from a single block of marble in 1502, and symbolizes republican Florence and hyperbolically depicts the size and musculature of the human body. In addition to the much photographed David, visitors can also enjoy the works of Granacci, Albertinelli, Santi di Tito and Lorenzo Monaco. This well known and popular museum also houses a space dedicated to paintings by the great Duke Pietro Leopoldo, an artist who was a mentor to young Florentine artists from the Academy of Art located next to the gallery.

Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

The Pitti family, who were almost as influ-

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Other places of interest

Santa Cruz

An elegant and majestic Franciscan church, whose spacious square set the stage for contests, fights, and at the height of the Inquisition, the burning of heretics. Today it is occupied by vendors selling souvenirs. Worth noting is the fact that the church is the resting place of artists such as Michelangelo, Alfieri, Maquiavelo and Rossini, who are all buried in the right nave, and Galileo, Alberti and Ghiberti (creator of the baptistery doors) who are buried in the left nave . Dante’s tomb remains empty on account of the refusal by Ravenna, the city in which he died, to return the body to Florence. The Bardi chapel by Giotto, and the Pazzi chapel by Brunelleschi are both charming extensions of this attractive church. Note that the Florentine authorities attribute the ‘Stendhal syndrome’ to this treasure – the theory that a person is overcome by dizziness and stupor when they gaze upon an object of true beauty. The story goes that upon approaching the church the French writer actually felt dizzy.

National Bargello Museum

This museum was once a prison and torture chamber where many Florentines were decapitated. On a happier note, from 1865 to today it has housed one of the city’s most important collections of renaissance sculptures, including works by artists of the stature of Donatello, Michelangelo and Cellini. Donatello’s David is a sensual sculpture distinguished by its perfect finish, next to which stands San Jorge, as an observer. The bronze statues by Cellini, the chapel of La Maddalena, the Mercurio de Giambologna and the bronze panels by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, illustrating the Sacrifice of Isaac, are some of the additional artistic treasures awaiting visitors here.

Cappella dei Medici

As the name suggests these chapels were built by the wealthy Medici family, further proof of their ostentation and influence. It was decorated for the most part by Benozzo Gozzoli. Worth noting are the Capilla de los Príncipes, decorated with precious stones and evocative works of art, and the New Sacristy, designed by none other than Michelangelo. These chapels formpart of the monumental San Lorenzo complex – the Medici’s official church. Michelangelo worked on the sculptures in the sacrophagus until 1533, but the only ones to be completed were the statues of Dukes Lorenzo and Giuliano, the allegories of dawn and dusk, night and day and the Madonna and Child. You can also visit the museum located in the rear of the basilica of San Lorenzo.

San Marco Museum

The Museum lies in one of the city’s liveliest piazzas. It was once a Dominican monastery that was home to Antonio Pierozzi, Fra Angelico and Girolamo Savonarola. The former was a charming and devout monk who painted numerous frescoes in the monks’ cells (more than a hundred, especially noteworthy are those in cells 3, 7, 9 and 38). Very religious paintings imbued with austerity and sobriety . However, the story goes that Savonarola was a fanatical and unhinged member of the religious order, and he used to burn books and paintings in the Bonfire of the Vanities during moments of frenzy.

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At first glance Florence might come across as a cold, dark city. However it has a busynight life buoyed by thousands of foreign students who come to the city to live and learn Italian and Art History. The young and not so young can enjoy a range of shows, ranging from theatre and dance to ballet. Once you settle into Arno be sure to check out theFirenze Spettacolo guide, whichprovides a full list of Florence’s cultural offering.

Bars The most bohemian area is Oltrarno, south of the river Arno. This is where you are most likely to find Florence’s most elegant citizens. Entry to nightclubs is expensive, around 13€, but it often includes a free drink. Another option is to enjoy a good bottle of wine accompanied by some traditional aperitifs (such as salami). A pleasant atmosphere suffuses the areas of San Nicolás, Via de’Benci, Santa Cruz, Piazza Michelangelo and Forte Belvedere. Enjoy dinner or an aperitif in any of these areas, especially in summer when the outdoor patio scene is in full swing. Le Volpi i L´Uve, Rex, La Dolce Vita and La Cantinella del Verrazzono are some of the best options.

Music The world’s first piano was invented in Florence. The city was also the site of the first ever opera. It follows that Florence is a city with deep-rooted ties to musical culture. The opera season begins in September in the Teatro Communale. Florence’s main orchestra whose headquarter are in the Teatro Communale, headlines the Mayo Musical Florentino festival. Another option for music lovers is a chamber music session at the Teatro della Pergola on weekends. The XVII century theatre also stages concerts and operas.

Theatre The Teatro della Pergola and Teatro Verdi are major landmarks in Florentine theatre. Companies normally perform classic plays. Another of Florence’s theatres - the Teatro Puccini, stages more vanguard productions. New Italian theatre is shown in the Teatro di Rifredi, while theatre-lovers can enjoy experimental productions at the Teatro Studio di Scandicci.

Dance TheFlorence Dance Festival was first organised in 1990 and it has been running every year since. The aim of the festival is to bring together the most important figures from the world of contemporary and classical dance. During the Maggio Fiorentino festival there are also ballet performances.

Cinema Florence has setthe scene for numerous classic films, and also houses a number of top class cinemas showing films in dubbed version - very few are shown in original version. The Odeon Cinehall, a wonderful art nouveau theatre, and the Goldoni and Fulgor Cinemas are some of the most popular venues among local Florentines looking to enjoy the Seventh Art.

Information The city’s main touristoffice is located in the popular Via Manzoni. There are other offices dotted around the city, in the central station, the airport and the Santa Croce district.

Azienda di Promozione Turistica Via Manzoni 16 (055) 23320.

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Florence City Guide  
Florence City Guide  

Florence City Guide