For hundreds of years, Florence has been celebrated as one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Brunelleschi’s astonishing cathedral dome dominates the cityscape, and from nearby the view is even more breathtaking, with the multicoloured Duomo rising beside the marble-clad Baptistry. From here, you can stroll towards the River Arno and beyond the broad the river is spanned by the medieval, shop-lined Ponte Vecchio, with the lovely church of San Miniato al Monte standing proud on the hill behind.
No other European city can match Florence’s art offerings. The Galleria degli Uffizi is housed in what was originally built as the Medici Whitehall – the governing dynasty’s administrative centre, and is Italy’s richest and most celebrated art gallery. Must-see exhibits include Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi, Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, Piero della Francesca’s twin portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, and Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni.
La Specola is Florence University’s natural history museum, houses a charmingly old-fashioned collection of botanical and zoological specimens. The final rooms are what most visitors come for: a series of increasingly gruesome wax anatomical models, sculpted in eye-popping detail between 1775 and 1791 as teaching aids for trainee doctors.
The greater Florence area has a number of towns and attractions to entice you on a day-trip from the city or even act as a base for exploring the region. City buses run northeast to the hill-village of Fiesole, while inter-town services run south into the hills of Chianti, Italy’s premier wine region.