Perhaps the most influential Renaissance city anywhere in the world, Florence (Firenze to the people of Italy) is the main travel hub in the Tuscany region, visited time and again for its incredible cache of art and history. As the portal to Chianti wine country, the Apuane Alps, and the lovely Tuscan coastline, Florence also proves to be a great starting point for the many adventures that exist outside of the city limits.
The city itself is quite compact, making a walk from the historic city center across the Arno River to a neighborhood like Oltrarno an easy task to accomplish. Fixtures of the skyline, the Duomo and Baptistery, also anchor many itineraries, while the nearby Piazza della Signoria is a major social thoroughfare. Then again, you could probably spend a good week of your itinerary wearing your eyes out on the many canvases chosen by the range of Italian greats represented in the Uffizi Gallery, the Bargello Museum, and the Galleria dell’Accademia (home to the renowned sculpture of David), all of which are of international repute. Due to the amount of art in Florence's museums, piazzas, and churches, many travelers have found themselves dizzy and overtaxed, leading to collapse (this is a legitimate issue called Stendhal Syndrome; no joke!). To avoid being lambasted by excess art, get yourself to at least one of the two fantastic lookouts on the city: the more approximate Piazzale Michelangelo and the Church of San Miniato al Monte (which is worth a visit in its own right). If you are looking to go culture-crazy, then pick up a Firenze card, which lasts for 3 days and applies to most popular attractions. You may also browse our culture summary and listings for more insight on the full range of landmarks, highlights, and more on offer in Florence.
If you'd like to escape the city, there are numerous ways to do it. Many like the quiet solitude of the mountains to the north, where you'll encounter the small towns of the Garfagnano valley and the refuges of the Apuan Alps. This is where you go to escape with a glass of locally-made Chianti or clip yourself to via ferrata a few thousand feet in the air- or any of the wide range of options in between. The Tuscan coast and the seven islands of its archipelago also supply plenty of summer sun, essential scuba diving opportunities, and surfing/windsurfing conditions that are optimal for those that seek a few thrills. Take a look through our adventure information for further insight on how to get out and active in Tuscany.
The nightlife is spread throughout Florence, from Piazza Santa Maria Novella in the city's northern end to the destinations that abound near Piazza Santa Croce to the south and even a smattering of bars, lounges, and wine bars across the Arno in Altrarno. Tuscan cuisine is also typically ubiquitous; just use your best judgment in avoiding the overpriced restaurants near the popular Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, and the Piazza della Repubblica. The gelato made in local establishments has also garnered a reputation worldwide, while Florentine classics that are synonymous with Italy (lasagna, many bean-based dishes) can be had in almost any restaurant.
All told, Florence's calling card is its contribution to Western development. Galileo made breakthroughs in astronomy here. Opera was invented here. Neoclassical and Renaissance architecture made their starts here. And one of the most influential families in European politics and support of the arts, the Medici family, helped to create the powerhouse that Florence became for hundreds of years. Do yourself a favor of experiencing the fruits of this cultural tradition.