Let us bring you to Florence, the marvellous ‘cradle’ of the Renaissance and of the culture of Italy. A city pf unrivalled elegance, enchantment and exclusiveness. An unforgettable experience. Our chauffeur-driven car journeys to Florence will bring you face to face with a literally stunning city – a city that combines the delicate charm of a provincial city with the audacious glamour of such events as the Pitti Uomo men’s fashion show, not to mention the exclusive exhibitions organised by Florence’s galleries and museums. If time is a major consideration, our chauffeur-driven car rental service option will bring you the Florence experience under ideal conditions – taking you to the very heart of the region of Tuscany… where past and present blend… seamlessly! Where should you go to see Florence at its best? The main attractions are the old bridge (Ponte Vecchio) and the cathedral (Duomo). Florence must surely be one of the most beautiful of Italy’s cities! It is the ‘cradle’ of the Renaissance period. A visit to this open-air museum brings you into contact with the history of Italy as a whole. Here, the leading thinkers of Italy’s cultural landscape gathered. Individuals who transformed the globe, who created a new world and filled it with marvellous inventions. Hence, the sights here become more than merely attractions. With its stunning monuments, the city attests to the historic birth of a world entire! This is Florence! Spend a day amid the marvels of a city − of a re-awakening Tuscany −, providing joy to the eye, heart and mind. Florence’s marvels belong to a realm where art, history and architecture are reflected in everything you see, feel or touch. Take the Arno river, for example. In the waters of the Arno the writer Manzoni is said to have ‘washed’ the ‘cloth’ of Italy’s idioms, to create the language that we call Italian. The old city centre is just one of Italy’s glories, and a UNESCO heritage site since 1982. Florence’s art galleries, churches and old palaces are the envy of the world! Charming hill country provides a stupendous backdrop to the city. The glories of Florence take us back to the Italian Renaissance, as we see it in the works on display at the Galleria degli Uffizi and at the Galleria dell’Accademia (where visitors may also admire Michelangelo’s monumental ‘David’). Not to mention the cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. So, what must you absolutely not miss out on when you come to Florence?
As you tour Florence, Ponte Vecchio is one of the sites that will surprise you most. Ponte Vecchio is one of the city’s six main bridges. It dates back to Roman times. The Romans built the uprights in stone and added wooden boarding. This is where the Via Cassia crosses the Arno river. Until 1218, this was the only bridge across the Arno. It collapsed repeatedly, in 1117 and 1333, due to the force of floodwaters, and was repeatedly rebuilt. Under the rule of the Medici house, the bridge was fully restored and a raised corridor was added linking the Uffizi palace and Palazzo Pitti. The old bridge thus also featured an upper closed bridge above the bridge’s shops and storerooms. This corridor, designed by Vasari, enabled the nobles to avoid contact with the common folk and provided protection also from the elements. Vasari was eager to finish the work as soon as possible. His solution was both functional and a marvel to behold as a work of art. Take a photograph here. It is thought that this bridge is more frequently photographed than even the bridges of Rome! Not only does the bridge serve as an icon for the city; it is also the only bridge to be entirely (or nearly entirely) occupied also by raised shops and homes, looking down over the Arno’s waters. The corridor, a well-known feature of the city, also plays a role in Dan Brown’s literary works. Built by Vasari – who was also an author responsible for the biographies of major Renaissance figures – it enabled the Duke Cosimo I (de’ Medici) to move back and forth between Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchio.
The large Palazzo Pitti is a ‘must’ for visitors touring Florence. This enormous fifteenth-century structure stands near the south bank of the Arno river. It served for a long time as the residence of the city’s rulers. During the early decades of the twentieth century, the palazzo was passed on to the Italian State, which turned it into a museum, much loved by the Florentines themselves and by tourists flocking here from all over the world. Palazzo Pitti towers over the cityscape and occupies a strategic site. This elegantly refined architectural work is one of the major ‘exhibits’ of this open-air private museum.
This basilica − Basilica di Santa Croce − is less well known than Florence’s cathedral. It hosts the tombs of major Renaissance figures such as Galileo Galilei and Machiavelli. Italy’s rebirth owes so much to protagonists of renewal such as Rossini and Michelangelo, who also rest here. The church was built in the late fourteenth century for the Franciscan order. The basilica is much loved by the faithful, arriving from all over the world. Over and above its spiritual beauty, the church also hosts frescoes by Giotto and a wooden ceiling marvellously painted at the time of its construction.
What would a tour of Florence be without some shopping? You may want to purchase some traditional items or perhaps just to savour an experience to be shared with the Florentines themselves. Either way, San Lorenzo is the place for you! This famous downtown market showcases much of traditional Florence, not to mention echoes of the local folk culture. The mercato di San Lorenzo includes a two-storey food market. Here, in this marketplace dating back to the fifteenth century, gourmets will find many items of interest. Let us now turn to the other stalls, so popular among tourists on the lookout for souvenirs, clothing and in particular leather goods. Why not pick up a handmade leather bag here? The ideal souvenir! Enjoy the bright colours and fragrances, handed down from one generation to the next. Beauty for all the senses. The San Lorenzo marketplace stretches from the church of San Lorenzo (also known as the Medici church) to Via Nazionale. For nearly 300 years, the Medici church was the cathedral (before cathedral status was conferred upon Santa Maria del Fiore). Admittedly, with its unfinished facade, its rather rustic look and the location (outside the old city walls), it hardly looks like a cathedral building at all. However, Popes, politicians and artists have come to greatly love this location, because here we find Florence’s oldest church (as officially recorded). The consecration came through the intervention of Saint Ambrose in 393 AD. Still today, the church hosts very many artistic works that reflect the splendour of Italy’s arts.
When we think of Florence, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Uffizi Gallery. This is Florence’s largest and most important art gallery, hosting any number of paintings, sculptures and antiques that date back to Renaissance times. The collection is made up of more than 100,000 items, including drawings and old prints. This year-round exhibition features the Venus of Urbino by Titian, Bellini’s works, the Vicentian annunciation, Botticelli’s Venus and a thousand other works familiar to all who enjoy artbooks. Galleria degli Uffizi is therefore yet another ‘must’ on the itinerary of any Florence tour!
How do we convey a sense of the beauty of the world-renowned Campanile di Giotto? It is one of the most fascinating of Florence’s sites, located in the cathedral square, Piazza del Duomo − world-renowned, indeed, as a symbol of beauty and art. It is nearly 85 metres high, and affords one of the most impressive views of Florence. Again, a ‘must’ for day visitors (or, at least, for visitors who aren’t too scared of heights!!). Of course, some dedication will be required (‘just’ 414 steps up from ground level of the city of birth of the Renaissance and Italian culture in general). The views take in the church of San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Chiesa di Santa Croce, and, in part, the river Arno. The truly stunning view here, however, is the cupola or dome built by Brunelleschi. An amazingly unforgettable vision.
The two most beautiful piazzas in Florence – which we absolutely must include in our itinerary – are Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale Michelangelo. Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the city. It is flanked by Palazzo Vecchio and one of the wings of Galleria degli Uffizi. The square hosts many events such as open-air concerts and itinerant exhibitions. These events are enjoyed by the citizenry and by tourists who come to the square throughout the year. Piazzale Michelangelo, the most famous among Florence’s piazzas, is more discreetly positioned, with its panoramic view over the city reproduced in any number of postcards and prints picked up as souvenirs. Another Florentine sight which we must also visit is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The cathedral of Florence, the Duomo di Firenze, is the city’s spiritual heart, and a site that is world-renowned for its artistic beauty (the key attraction is the famed cupola or dome built by Brunelleschi). This cathedral, located in the stunning Piazza del Duomo, was built in the Gothic style. It is flanked by its belfry, the campanile di Giotto (another major Florentine attraction). Consider a chauffeur-driven car tour of Florence one of the necessities of life!