Florence is probably the most beautiful city in Italy. Widely considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is all about marveling at some of the most magnificent displays of art and architecture ever created. According to the World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Italy has 60% of the world’s most important artworks. And Florence easily has half of that. It was, after all, the home of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Fra Angelico (not to mention Dante and Machiavelli).
While the churches, monasteries, palaces, museums, and galleries of Florence make it an artistic, cultural, and architectural gem, its geographical setting could be described in just the same way. Located in the heart of Tuscany, the picture of Florence is one of Tuscan vineyards, fields of sunflower, and calm river streams in the backdrop of rolling hills.
There are several things to do in Florence. Visiting the famous Duomo of Florence or Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is one. This church is the sixth largest in the world and was completed in 1466 after 170 years of construction. The octagonal dome with its polychrome marble panels was designed by Brunelleschi with the help of Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci. The Duomo is also the scene of Guiliano di Piero de’ Medici’s assassination in 1478. Next to the Duomo is the Giotto’s Tower, which provides a panoramic view of Florence for those willing to climb more than 400 steps of stairs.
The Galleria degli Uffizi, the world’s most famous fine arts museum, is also a must. There, you can enjoy a collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures. There are also more Renaissance and Mannerist sculptures including some works by Michelangelo and Donatello at the National Museum of the Bargello, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (or Cathedral Museum) and at the Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s “David” and his unfinished “Slaves”. More art can be seen at the Pitti Palace, the former palace of the Medici family. The famous Boboli Gardens, which has landscaped sculptures and stunning views of the city, is located behind the palace.
Florence seems to be growing outward in rings of highways and upward in blocks of apartment houses. The heart of the old city, however, has remained unchanged for centuries. Narrow streets are now thronged with cars, creating a new problem for all who want to save the city's treasures from gas and noise pollution. Yet the city remains unrivaled in art and architecture. Within the span of a very few blocks there are some of the world's greatest masterpieces. The skyline is dominated by the tower of the Palazzo della Signoria (city hall), Brunelleschi's graceful dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and Giotto's campanile. Ghiberti's doors for the nearby baptistery are works of art.
The Church of Santa Croce is known for its works by Giotto, Andrea del Castagna, Luca della Robbia, and Donatello, as well as works by many other painters and sculptors. The Church of San Lorenzo, the burial place of the Medicis, who ruled the city-state of Florence from the 14th to the 16th century, is famous for its sculptures by Michelangelo. Florentines and the city's many visitors are constantly discovering new treasures in their city and its distinguished museums—the Bargello, the Pitti, the Uffizi, and many others.