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Florence, Italy is the capital city of the region of Tuscany, Italy. Florence lies on the Arno River and has a population of around 400,000 people, plus a suburban population in excess of 200,000 persons.

The city is located close to Peretola Airport which has scheduled services run by major European carriers such as Air France and Lufthansa.

Florence, Italy

Florence (Firenze in Italian) is the capital of the region of Tuscany, on Italy's northwest coast. Florence is a small city, located in the Arno River valley, and surrounded by olive-planted hills on the north and south. It extends west and slightly east along the Arno valley with suburbs and light industry. The centro storico (historic center), where visitors spend most of their time, is a tight tangle of medieval streets and piazze (squares). Most of Florence, and the majority of the tourist sites, lie north of the river, within a vintage artisan's working-class neighborhood wedged between the Arno and the hills on the south side.

The center is encircled by a traffic ring of wide boulevards, known as the Viali, that were created in the late 1800s by tearing down the city's medieval walls. Since the 14th century the cultural heart of the city has been the Piazza della Signoria with the Palazzo Vecchio (Town Hall), the Uffizi Gallery and a large number of publicly displayed world famous sculptures.

In the Renaissance period, Florence was one of the most powerful and influential of the city states. The wealthy and powerful de' Medici family ruled the city almost continuously from 1434 to 1743 and had a great influence on the architecture and arts. They built many palaces and commissioned such artists as Michelangelo to design and decorate them.

In fact, Florence is called the capital of the arts. From the 13th to the 16th century it was a seemingly endless source of creative masterpieces and Italian genius. Both Dante and Michelangelo were born there. Boccaccio wrote his 'Decameron' in Florence. The Italian Renaissance (Europe's richest cultural period ) began in Florence when the artist Brunelleschi finished the Duomo, the cathedral, with the huge dome.

Florence is also a city of incomparable indoor pleasures. Its chapels, galleries and museums are an inexhaustible treasure, capturing the complex, often elusive spirit of the Renaissance more fully than any other place in the country.

Florence is a walking city. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll between the two most often visited sights, the Duomo and the Uffizi, in less than five minutes. The walk from the most northerly point, San Marco with its Fra' Angelico frescoes and the Accademia with Michelangelo's David, to the most southerly, the Pitti Palace across the Arno, should take no more than 30 minutes. From Santa Maria Novella rail station across town to Santa Croce is an easy 20 to 30 minute walk.

Most of the streets were designed to handle the moderate pedestrian traffic and occasional horse-drawn cart of a medieval city. Sidewalks, where they exist, are narrow; often less than two feet wide. Though much of the centro storico is supposedly closed to traffic, taxis, residents with parking permits, people without permits who drive there anyway, and the endless stream of noisy motorini (mopeds) still enter, drive and park.

Planning is extremely important when visiting Florence. Most visitors come to the city with a common purpose: to spend hours viewing and absorbing the beauty and wonder of Florentine works of art and architecture. However, trying to pack too much into a single, brief visit can result in cultural overload. Florence is not the choice of those seeking a seaside resort or a holiday with small children. Older children, well disciplined, and well prepared, can benefit from accompanying their parents on a tour of the museums, palaces, and churches, but interest for most youngsters will rapidly wane in the crush of crowds and intense heat of the small city. Adult tempers will fray as well. Boboli Gardens can provide a respite from the heat and activity, but the landscaped grounds of the Pitti Palace are designed to rest the eyes and delight the imagination. It is not primarily a playground.

Festivals, shopping, feasts for the senses along every street, in every square, and in every museum: these are the gifts Florence offers to the visitor.

Tuscany is known for its fine culinary traditions - in particular, its olive oil, meat dishes and classic Chianti. Restaurants of every type, offering bills of fare ranging from fast food to world-class cuisine abound, and there are clusters of little cafés in every neighborhood. Tuscan food is simple and excellent with a variety of bean dishes, soups, pork dishes, grilled meats and vegetables. Fine Tuscan wines accompany the meal.

The Tuscan economy is rooted in craft traditions. The top designers of Milan use the textile factories of Florence for the execution of their designs. Gold working has been perfected over the centuries in workshops near the Ponte Vecchio, where jewelry is produced that is sold throughout Europe. Visitors will find a beautiful assortment of leather goods, including shoes, as well. Marbled paper, handmade perfumes and toiletries, decorative ceramic pieces, and sculpture are also locally produced.

When planning a visit to Tuscany, put its small geographical size and its many opportunities for exploration in perspective, and allow time to savor its infinite possibilities.
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