Capital of Tuscany

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Population: 382,500 (Florentines)

Specialities: Tuscan bread, chianti, olives, olive oil, bistecca alla fiorentina, trippa alla fiorentina, crostini toscani, panzanella (bread salad), prosciutto, schiacciata alla fiorentina, zuccotto (ice-cream bomb)

Personalities: Dante Alighieri, Nicolas Machiavelli, Boccaccio, Carlo Collodi (writers), Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Sandro Botticelli, Benvenuto Cellini, Paolo Uccello, Giotto (painters and artists). Lorenzo de' Medici and the entire House of Medici. Galileo. Amerigo Vespucci (explorer). Giucco Gucci (fashion). Matteo Renzi and Giovanni Spadolini (former Prime Ministers). Gino Bartali, Franco Ballerini, Francesco Casagrande (cyclists). Franco Rossi (film-maker).

Sport: Fiorentina (football). I Medicei (rugby), RN Florentia (water polo). 

Culture and festivals: Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. Carnival. Florentine New Year (March), Scoppio del Carro. Maggio Musicale. Calcio Storico (historic football match played on 24 June). Florence Dance Festival (July). Sesto d'Estate Music Festical (July). Lantern Festival (September).

Economy: tourism, leather industry (Gucci), fashion, research, universities. Winegrowing.

Labels: the centre of Florence is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

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Florence is first and foremost known to cycling fans as the home of one of the greatest riders ever produced by Italy, Gino Bartali, winner of two Tours de France (1938 and 1948), as well as three Giri d’Italia, and who, had it not been for the Second World War, would undoubtedly have amassed an even more impressive list of achievements. Righteous Among the Nations for his help to Jews during the war, Gino 'the Pious' is also remembered for his rivalry with Fausto Coppi. The list of Tour de France winners also includes Gastone Nencini, winner of the 1960 Tour and born in Barberino di Mugello, a town some forty kilometres away. Among the many famous Tuscan riders are Franco Ballerini, twice winner of Paris-Roubaix and who died in a road accident in 2010; as well as stage winners in the Tour Paolo Bettini (2000); Daniele Bennati (2007 x 2); Francesco Casagrande, who finished in the Top 10 in three Grand Tours (2nd in the Giro in 2000); and his brother Filippo, who took part in a Tour de France. Andrea Tafi, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 1999, the Tour of Flanders in 2002 and the Tour of Lombardy in 1996, hails from Fucecchio, a town near Florence. Florence has also hosted the Giro 34 times, most recently in 2017 when Omar Fraile won the stage. The Tour de France is not the first French race to be held in Florence, as Paris-Nice stopped off here in 1959 and the Tour de l'Avenir in 1987. Florence was also the venue for the 2013 road world championships, won in the men's race by Rui Costa and in the women's race by Marianne Vos. Matej Mohoric won the U23 category and Mathieu Van Der Poel the junior category.  


Few champions have gone beyond the realms of cycling to touch on the sacred like Gino Bartali. Gino 'the Pious' represented much more than his own devotion, which led him to pray before meals or go to the Basilica of Lourdes every time the Tour de France passed through. The Tuscan rider was at least as proud of having taught three popes to ride as he was of having won two Tours de France. Having worked in a cycle shop since his teens, he was a precocious and much-admired champion, winning Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Lombardia at the age of twenty, before going on to win two Giros in a row. The Florentine then had the rare merit of crossing the Alps to try his hand at the Tour de France, which the campionissimi of his day shied away from. His first attempt, in 1937, was unsuccessful because of an unfortunate crash that forced him to retire, although he had dominated in the Alps and held the Yellow Jersey for two days. Henri Desgrange predicted that he would win the following year, and he did so, almost out of politeness, fending off the onslaught of the Belgians and his aversion to bad weather. It was again on the Briançon outskirts, very close to Italy, that Gino made the difference. What would his career have been like without the war? It's impossible to know, but his two victories in the Tour, a record 10 years apart, suggest that he would probably have won more. No matter. Far from wasting his time, Bartali played a role as secret as it was important during the conflict. Under cover of training and protected by his fame, he travelled miles to obtain false papers for Jews and help a resistance organisation. His actions remained hidden for a long time, and Gino the Pious did not make a show of them. Once peace had returned, he again found himself embroiled in political issues. On July 14, 1948, in the middle of the Tour de France, the leader of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti, was the victim of an assassination attempt and Italy was on the brink of insurrection. Legend has it that the president of the Italian parliament, Alcide de Gasperi, called Bartali to ask him to win the Tour in order to divert attention from the troubles in his country. If this is true, he carried out his task with zeal, winning seven stages, including the three Alpine ones, to reach Paris twenty-six minutes ahead of his runner-up, Belgian Briek Schotte. At the height of his glory, Bartali was spurred on by a gifted youngster determined to steal the show, Fausto Coppi. Everything opposed them: age, convictions, personality. Bartali embodied pre-war heroic cycling, Coppi modern sport. They were irreconcilable, even if the older helped the younger win the Tour in 1949 for a historic Italian double. But their enmity was long and passionate, to the extent that at the 1948 world championships, they preferred to put their foot down and watch Schotte win rather than help their arch-rival to victory.  Shunned by Coppi, the 1950 edition tarnished the great man's image somewhat. Caught in a crash with Jean Robic, winner of the 1947 edition, he claimed that the crowd had attacked him and that a spectator had threatened him with a knife. The official version is that the man was just making himself a sausage sandwich. Stung to the core, Bartali refused to start again the next day and dragged off the two Italian teams, including the one led by Florenzo Magni, who would otherwise have had a chance of victory. Bartali was thirty-six years old and his time had passed. In 1952, he could only watch helplessly as Coppi won the Giro-Tour double. A car accident in 1953 precipitated the end of his career, which took effect two years later.  


  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore and the Duomo

Construction: 1296 to 1436

Styles: Gothic / Renaissance

History: construction began on the ancient foundations of the church of Santa Reparata by Arnolfo di Cambio and was continued by Giotto di Bondone from 1334 until his death in 1337. Giotto only began building Giotto's campanile, and it was Francesco Talenti and Giovanni di Lapo Ghini who continued the construction in 1357. In 1412, it was renamed Santa Maria del Fiore. The church was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on 25 March 1436, when work on Brunelleschi's dome was completed.

Features: Santa Maria del Fiore (St Mary of the Flower) is the fifth largest church in Europe after St Peter's Basilica in Rome, St Paul's Cathedral in London, Seville Cathedral and the Duomo in Milan. It is 153-metres long and the base of the dome is 41.98-metres wide, with a basilical plan comprising a nave with three aisles, the side aisles being less high than the central aisle; a chevet with three radiating chapels; supporting the immense dome/cupola by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Special features: The cathedral's dome is the largest masonry dome ever built. Inside, one of the largest narrative wall painting can be seen: 3,600 m2 of frescoes by Giorgio Vasari and Federigo Zuccaro.

Trivia: Filippo Brunelleschi's rivals had expressed a desire to see his cupola model. Brunelleschi refused to show it but suggested that the choice should be made between an Italian or a foreigner who could make an egg stand upright on a marble slab, having thus demonstrated his talent. Everyone tried without success, so Brunelleschi showed them the solution by slightly crushing the egg at the base, which kept it upright and balanced. In the end, it was decided to entrust the construction to him and Lorenzo Ghiberti, who had already won the contract for the Gate of Paradise from Brunelleschi.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982.  

  • Uffizi Gallery

Construction: 16th century

Style: Renaissance.

Architect: Giorgio Vasari.

History: in 1560, Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany wanted to bring together the 13 most important Florentine magistracies in a set of offices known as the Uffizi, in a single building under his direct supervision. The work was entrusted to Giorgio Vasari, who was responsible for the adjacent Palazzo Vecchio. The design was innovative: an elongated cortile formed a street flanked by two long buildings joined on the Arno side by a two-storey gallery. In 1581, Francis I decided to use the loggia on the top floor to house his collection of paintings and works of art. He subsequently opened this collection on request, making the Uffizi one of the oldest museums in Europe.

Features: the building was constructed in the Doric order. The Uffizi Palace is made up of two main longitudinal buildings, connected to the south by a shorter side that is completely similar, giving rise to a "U"-shaped complex that embraces a square and looks out towards the Piazza della Signoria, with a perfect view of the Palazzo Vecchio and its tower.

Collections: divided into a number of rooms with a chronological succession of schools and styles, the exhibition features items from the 12th to the 18th century, with the world's best collection of Renaissance works by artists ranging from Cimabue and Caravaggio to Giotto and Leonardo da Vinci. Some of the greatest masterpieces are housed here, painted by Michelangelo, Raphael, Mantegna, Titian, Parmigianino, Rembrandt, Giambattista Pittoni, Canaletto and Botticelli.

Trivia: for the wedding of his son Francis I de' Medici in 1565, the Duke ordered the opening of a secret elevated street between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti to ensure the Medici's safety: the "Vasari corridor".

Note: in 1998, the international competition for a "new version of the Uffizi Gallery" aimed to extend the exhibition space from 6,000 to 13,000 m2, which should give the public access to paintings that had long remained in storage. Another long-term project is the construction of the "Grandi Uffizi", which will double the exhibition space by relocating the archives.

Listed as: National monument.   

  • Palazzo Vecchio

Construction: 1299 to 1314

Style: medieval.

Architect: Arnolfo di Cambio.

History: Florence decided to build a palace to showcase its power and guarantee greater security for the city's magistrates. The palace would house the Signoria (the "Lordship"), the government of the Florentine Republic. The building is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and the church of Santa Croce. Arnolfo di Cambio based the structure of the façade on the ancient tower of the Vacca and Bizzo families. This is why the tower (94 m high) is not in the middle of the building. This tower contains two small cells that were used as prisons by Cosimo the Elder (1433) and Savonarola (1498). The watchtower bears the name of its designer, Torre di Arnolfo, and is a crenelated belfry in typical Tuscan architectural style. A replica of Michelangelo's David stands in the public square in front of the building, as does Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus.

Features: Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, the capital of Tuscany in Italy. This palace-fortress, in the shape of a parallelepiped in the Piazza della Signoria, is one of the city's most beautiful buildings. It stands alongside the Loggia dei Lanzi and the Uffizi.

Trivia: its name dates back to the transfer of the Medici family to the new Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. From then on, the palace was known as vecchio ("old" in Italian). Listed as : Italian cultural asset.

  • Ponte Vecchio

Construction: 1335 to 1345

Style: medieval.

History: it was first built in wood during the Roman Empire. Destroyed in 1333 by a flood, the bridge was rebuilt in stone by artist Taddeo Gaddi and architect Neri di Fioravante, according to sources. Masonry quays (lungarni) were built to contain the Arno. Its shops were initially occupied by butchers, trimmers and tanners, who were soon replaced in 1593 by jewellers at the behest of Ferdinand I de' Medici, who could not stand the smell. Vasari's corridor, with its three central arches, was built in 1565. Thanks to this corridor, the Medici could move safely between the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti.

Features: The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge in Italian), built in the 14th century, is the shopping arcade, the pedestrian street and the oldest, most famous and most touristic bridge in the city, of which it is one of the emblems. A major centre for the city's and Italy's luxury jewellery and goldsmiths, it crosses the River Arno at its narrowest point, almost opposite the Uffizi Gallery, between the Oltrarno (left bank) and the Lungarno (right bank). This covered bridge is supported by three arches, the largest of which measures 30 metres and the other two 27 metres.  

  • Pitti Palace

Construction: 1458 to 1464

Style: Renaissance.

History: the immense Pitti Palace was built in the Oltrarno district (on the west bank of the River Arno), not far from the Ponte Vecchio. The heart of today's palace was originally the residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the main residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Over time, it became a veritable treasure chest, with successive generations amassing paintings, silverware, jewels and other luxury items. At the end of the 18th century, the Pitti Palace was used as a political base by Napoleon I, and then briefly as the royal palace of the newly unified Italy. The palace and its contents were ceded to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919 and its doors opened to the public, revealing one of the largest art galleries in Florence.

Features: the Pitti Palace is characterised by its simple, severe architecture. A continuous architectural theme through four centuries has produced massive but impressive facades and elevations that do not reflect the long evolution and history of the complex. The architecture catches the eye because of its size, strength and the reflection of the sun on the glass and stone, coupled with the repetitive, almost monotonous nature of the theme. Special feature: the Pitti Palace is now the largest museum complex in Florence. The main building covers an area of 32,000 m2.

Listed as: Italian cultural asset.  

  • Basilica of Santa Croce

Construction: from 1294.

Style: composite.

History: The construction of the Basilica of Santa Croce began with plans by Arnolfo di Cambio, and it is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Built at the expense of the people and the Florentine Republic, it was erected on the foundations of a small church built in 1252 by the friars shortly after the death of Saint Francis. From its very beginnings, Santa Croce has been closely linked to the history of Florence. It has been constantly remodelled, acquiring new symbolic connotations: initially a Franciscan church, it became a place of meditation for the great families and corporations of Medici Florence, and then in the 19th century a place of worship symbolising a reunited Italy.

Features: With its imposing Gothic architecture, frescoes, altarpieces, precious stained-glass windows and numerous sculptures, this church represents one of the most important pages in the history of Florentine art from the 13th century onwards. It features works by Cimabue, Giotto, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Vasari, Ghiberti, Andrea Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, Della Robbia, Giovanni da Milano, Bronzino, Michelozzo, Domenico Veneziano, Maso di Banco, Giuliano da Sangallo, Benedetto da Maiano, Canova and many others, including the tomb of Cassone della Torre by the sculptor Tino di Camaino (c.1280-1337). The presence of Giotto in particular, and his entire school, makes this a very complete work, a precious testimony to Florentine art in the 14th century.  

  • Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Construction: from 1278.

Style: Gothic and Renaissance.

History: In 1219, twelve Dominicans arrived in Florence from Bologna. In 1221, they obtained the oratory of Santa Maria delle Vigne, built on this site in the 9th century. In 1242, the Dominican community decided to begin work on a new building. The first stone was laid in 1279. Construction was completed in the mid-14th century, but the church was not officially consecrated until 1420 by Pope Martin V. Commissioned by the Rucellai family, Leon Battista Alberti designed the large central portal, the entablature and the upper finish of the façade in white and green marble, completed in 1470. After the Council of Trent, between 1565 and 1571, the church was remodelled by Giorgio Vasari, with the removal of the choir wall and the reconstruction of the side altars. In October 1919, Pope Benedict XV elevated it to the rank of minor basilica. A major restoration was carried out in 1999 in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, while the façade was restored between April 2006 and March 2008.

Features: the marble façade is one of the most important works of the Florentine Renaissance, although it was begun in earlier periods and completed in 1920. The first intervention took place around 1350, when the lower register was covered in white and green marble thanks to the funds of Turino del Baldese, who had died two years earlier. Work was interrupted for a century, but in 1458, merchant Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai commissioned Leon Battista Alberti to restore it. The architect harmoniously blended Gothic and Renaissance elements, creating one of the world's first Renaissance façades. In Florence, it was one of the first churches to use elements of Gothic architecture and served as an example for many later buildings. The basilica is 99.20-metres long and 28.30-metres wide, while the transept measures a maximum of 61.54-metres. Its Latin cross plan with a flat chevet is divided into three naves with six wide bays that narrow towards the altar, giving the impression that it is longer than it actually is. The width of the central nave and its height, at the limit of the static possibilities for such a building, mean that the aisles seem to merge harmoniously into a single, very large hall.

Special features: On the façade are scientific instruments added in 1572-1574, including a marble astronomical quadrant with gnomon, the work of Dominican friar Ignazio Danti (1555-1586). Thanks to these instruments, the monk astronomer was able to calculate the difference between the true solar year and the Julian calendar, which led to the promulgation of the new Gregorian calendar in 1582.  

Galleria dell'Accademia Opening: 1784.

History: the Galleria dell'Accademia is a museum in Florence housed by the Florence Academy of Drawing, founded in 1562 and transferred to its current buildings in 1784 when the Florence Academy of Fine Arts was created.

Features: the gallery exhibits the largest number of sculptures by Michelangelo in the world (seven), including the famous David, which has become the museum's emblem. Other sections inside the museum include the world's largest and most important collection of pictorial works on a gold background and, since 1996, the Museum of Musical Instruments, where numerous artefacts belonging to the historic collection of the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory are on display.

Michelangelo's David: the statue was created by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504. It is 5.17-metres high (not including the pedestal) and is taken from a block of white Carrara marble that had been left abandoned after other sculptors had failed to work on it. Michelangelo took advantage of the narrowness of the block of marble and worked around one of its flaws (a gap in which he hollowed out the space between the right arm and the torso). The work depicts David, with a sling (a leather strap used as a slingshot) in his hand, just before his battle with the giant Goliath. Originally placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio to symbolise the determination of a young republic in the face of tyranny, the original has been on display in the Galleria dell'Accademia since 1873. The David that can now be seen in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica that was installed in 1910.  

  • Bargello Palace and Museum

Construction: 1255

Museum opening: 1865

History: in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, the Bargello was the seat of the city's police force and its People's Captain. It is said to have been built by Lapo Tedesco, father of Arnolfo di Cambio, for the Podestà. From 1502 to 1574, it housed the Council of Justice and the Ruota judges. It was later converted into a public prison. When Savonarola was arrested in 1498, he was taken to the Bargello for interrogation and torture. In 1840, a portrait of Dante painted by Giotto was discovered in the palace chapel, rekindling interest in the building, which was restored. In 1859, a royal decree dedicated the palace to a museum of Tuscan civilisation. On 22 June 1865, the museum was inaugurated as the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, the name it still bears today.  

Gino Bartali Cycling Museum It is located in Via Chiantigiana, in the Ponte a Ema area, in the premises adjacent to the L'Unione recreational club, and was opened in April 2006. The museum is dedicated to cycling fans and admirers of Gino Bartali, who was born here in 1914. The first room is dedicated to the champion, nicknamed "Ginettaccio", a great cyclist and fighter who won three Giri d'Italia (Tours of Italy), two Tours de France and other trophies in the 1930s and 1950s; his memorabilia and trophies are on display here.  


  • Bistecca à la Fiorentina

The centrepiece of Florentine cuisine is the bistecca alla fiorentina, a T-bone steak, somewhere between a fillet and a ribeye, weighing between two and eight pounds. Red meat lovers will love the wood-fired bistecca alla fiorentina at Da Burde, a historic trattoria that serves bistecca alla fiorentina di Chianina, a local breed of cattle that produces very tender meat.  


  • Chianti

Chianti is an Italian red wine produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, just outside Florence, with a history dating back to the 13th century. In 1716, Cosimo III de' Medici

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