Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany as well as of the province of the same name and lies about 300 kilometres away from the country's capital of Rome. Almost 380,000 people live in this cultural metropolis, which is crossed by the river Arno. In the north of Florence, you see the Apennine Mountains, while the south borders on the Chianti region. The climate is continental and temperate with hot summers and cool, humid winters.
Florence is a significant city of culture and art which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC. The merchant family of the Medici as well as the work of numerous artists (Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Leonarda da Vinci, Galileo Galilei) made the city famous and wealthy. Italy's former capital (1865-1870) is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and is often called the "Athens of Italy" because of its cultural and artistic significance. Since 1982, Florence's old town has been part of the World Cultural Heritage of the UNESCO. The city's main attraction is without doubt the cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore with its beautiful dome, the Baptistery and Giotto's bell tower. Furthermore, the Ponte Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti with its gorgeous gardens are true highlights. The Piazza della Signoria with the Fountain of Neptune and the Palazzo della Signoria is a landmark of the cultural metropolis. Near the latter you do not only find many well-known statues, e.g. a copy of Michelangelo's David, but also one of the most famous museums on earth, the Uffizi Gallery. It accommodates an impressive art collection with works of world-famous artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
You can enjoy the typical Tuscan cuisine in Florence, which mainly consists of local vegetables, bread and olive oil. One of the city's culinary specialities is the Florentine steak (bistecca alla fiorentina), beef with olive oil, salt and pepper. In addition to the lively nightlife in the narrow alleys, on the many squares or in clubs and discos, several local festivities take place in Florence such as the folklore festival Festa della Rificolona in September, which includes a parade and a boat race on the city's river. Travellers who want to spend money on a special purchase have many opportunities in Florence. Besides shopping miles and international fashion labels, there is a number of individual designer boutiques. Since the Middle Ages, Florence has been an important handicraft centre, which produces jewellery, leatherware and hand-made paper. You can buy these products in workshops or on one of the many weekly markets.
The nature in and around the city offers excellent conditions for a number of leisure activities. While the Mediterranean surroundings are perfect for hikes, cycling tours and horseback rides, the Parco delle Cascine or the Giardino di Boboli invite holidaymakers to go for walks. The latter is part of the Palazzo Pitti, which can best be reached via the Ponte Vecchio, and offers relaxation after a long sightseeing tour.
The best time for travelling Florence are autumn and spring. It is very hot and stuffy in the summer months, so that city tours can quickly become exhausting, not least because of the great crowds of people.