Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Politically, economically, and culturally it was just about the most important city in Europe for something approaching 250 years - from sometime before 1300 until the early 1500s.
Florentines reinvented money - in the form of the gold florin - which was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages" a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine. They financed the development of industry all over Europe - from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon, to Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of Avignon and the reconstruction of Rome when the papacy returned from the "Babylonian captivity".
Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio pioneered the use of the vernacular - the use of a language other than Latin, in their case, Tuscan, which, because of them, became Italian. Because Dante, et al., wrote in Tuscan, Geoffrey Chaucer - who spent a lot of time in Northern Italy and who stole Boccaccio's little stories - wrote in English. And others started writing in French and Spanish and so on. This was the beginning of the end of Latin as a common language throughout Europe.
The Florentines - perhaps most notably Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1466) and Leon Batist'Alberti (1404 - 1472) - invented both Renaissance and neoclassical architecture, which revolutionized the way Rome, London and Paris and every other major city in Europe - from Barcelona to St. Petersburg - were built.
Florentines were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery. Florentine bankers financed Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East. It was a map drawn by the Florentine Paulo del Pozzo Toscanelli, a student of Brunelleschi, that Columbus used to sell his "enterprise" to the Spanish monarchs, and which he used on his first voyage. Mercator's famous "Projection" is a refined version of Toscanelli's - taking into account the Americas, of which the Florentine was, obviously, ignorant. The western hemisphere, itself, is named after a Florentine explorer and mapmaker, Amerigo Vespucci.
Gallileo and other scientists pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy, anatomy, and so on. Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, and many others laid the groundwork for our understanding of political science.
Opera was invented in Florence.
And that is just a smidgen of what went on in this city, which never had a population above 60,000 from the first attack of the plague, in 1348, until long, long after it became unimportant.
And there were the Medici, perhaps the most important family that ever lived - the family that changed the world more than any other. Forget all the art for which they paid. They taught first the other Italians how to conduct state-craft, and then they taught the rest of the Europeans. Just to cite one example: Catherine de Medici (1519-1589), married Henry II of France (reigned 1547-1559). After he died, Catherine ruled France as regent for her young sons and was instrumental in turning France into Europe’s first nation-state. She brought the Renaissance into France, introducing everything from the chateaux of the Loire to the fork. She also was to 16th and 17th century European royalty what Queen Victoria was to the 19th and 20th centuries – everybody’s grandmamma. Her children included three kings of France, Francis II (ruled 1559-1560), Charles IX (ruled 1560-1574) and Henry III (ruled 1574-1589). Her children-in-law included a fourth king of France, Henry IV (ruled 1589-1610), plus Elizabeth of Hapsburg, Philip II of Spain (of Armada fame), and Mary Queen of Scots.
And that is without mentioning any "artists". From Arnolfo and Cimabue to Giotto, Nanni di Banco, and Uccello; through Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello and Massaccio and the various della Robbias; through Fra Angelico and Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, and on to Michelangelo and Leonardo, the Florentines dominated the visual arts like nobody before or since. And this list does not include many who, in any other place would be considered among the greatest of artists, but in Florence must be considered among the near-great: Benvenuto Cellini, Andrea del Sarto, Benozzo Gozzoli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Fra Lippo Lippi, Buontalenti, Orcagna, Pollaiuolo, Filippino Lippi, Verrocchio, Bronzino, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelozzo, the Rossellis, the Sangallos, Pontormo, just to name a few. And this list does not include the prolific Ignoto. Nor does it include the near-Florentines, such as Raphael, Andrea Pisano, Giambologna, the wonderfully nicknamed Sodoma and so many more, such as Peter-Paul Rubens — all of whom spent time in Florence and were nurtured by it.
In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII said that Aristotle was wrong, the universe was made out of five elements, not four: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Florentines.
The cathedral - the third largest Christian church, topped by Brunelleschi's dome, dominates the skyline. The Florentines decided to start building it - late in the 1200s - knowing they did not know how they were going to do it. It was "technology forcing" - like the Kennedy Administration's decision to put a man on the moon. The dome was the largest ever built at the time, and the first major dome built in Europe since the two great domes of Roman times - the Pantheon in Rome, and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In front of it is the medieval gem of the Baptistery, where every Florentine was baptized until modern times. The two buildings incorporate in their decoration the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. In recent years, most of the important works of art from the two buildings - and from the wonderful Bell Tower, designed by Giotto, have been removed and replaced by copies. The originals are now housed in the spectacular Museum of the Works of the Duomo, just to the east of the Cathedral.
Florence is filled with many other churches stuffed with some of the finest art in the world - San Miniato al Monte, San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella, Santa Trinita, the Brancacci Chapel at Santa Maria della Carmine, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, SS Annunziata, Ognissanti, and more.
Then there are the art galleries. The Uffizi and the Pitti Palace are two of the most famous picture galleries in the world. But the heart and soul of Florence are in the two superb collections of sculpture, the Bargello and the Museum of the Works of the Duomo. They are filled with the brilliant, revolutionary creations of Donatello, Verrochio, Desiderio da Settignano, Michelangelo, and so many other masterpieces that create a body of work unique in the world. And, of course, there is the Accademia, with Michelangelo's David - perhaps the most well-known work of art anywhere, plus the superb, unfinished prisoners and slaves Michelangelo worked on for the tomb of Pope Julius II.
In all, Florence has something over 80 museums. Among those at the top of most lists - other than those above - are: The magnificent city hall, the Palazzo della Signoria (aka Palazzo Vecchio), a wonderful building with magnificent rooms and some great art; the Archeological Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Palazzo Davanzatti, the Stibbert Museum, St. Marks, the Medici Chapels, the Museum of the Works of Santa Croce, the Museum of the Cloister of Santa Maria Novella, the Zoological Museum ("La Specola"), the Bardini, and the Museo Horne. There is also a wonderful collection of works by the modern sculptor, Marino Marini, in a museum named after him. If you are interested in photography, you should not miss the superb collection of works by the early photographers, the Alinari brothers. The magnificent Strozzi Palace is the site of many special exhibits
To get a great overview of the city, you have plenty of choices: climb the dome of the Cathdral or Giotto's Bell Tower - which is much easier - or head for Piazzale Michelangelo a large parking lot on the hillside just south of the center of town, or climb a bit further to the church of San Miniato al Monte, a sublime 11th century masterpiece, with superb Renaissance scultpures. At vespers, the monks add to the beauty with chants.
There are also a few places to buy things, from the high-end jewelry stores lining the Ponte Vecchio to some of the most famous shops in the world - Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, Valentino, Prada, Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Buccellati, Frette, etc., as well as many wonderful shops that aren't world famous - yet. It is increasingly difficult to find bargains, but keen-eyed shoppers can still find good deals on smaller, side streets running off of those above and elsewhere in the center of town. The San Lorenzo market is now largely for tourists. There are also a couple of collections of "outlets" in the suburbs.
Great places to walk include along the Arno and across any of its bridges, through narrow, medieval back streets in the Santa Croce area and in the Oltr'Arno - on the south side of the river, in many ways like Rome's Trastevere or Paris's Left Bank - but far, far smaller. There are also superb shopping streets, such as the Via Tornabuoni, the Via del Parione, and the Via Maggio.
Florence's Amerigo Vespucci international airport (IATA : FLR) (known to locals as "Peretola") has good connections to the center of the city, which can be reached in about fifteen minutes by taxi or bus. The Ataf-Sita "Vola in Bus" ("Fly by bus") service costs €5.00 one way, and makes the circuit between the airport and the central train station every half an hour from 5:30AM to 8:00PM, then once an hour afterwards. Note that the €1.20 bus no longer exists.
Note that 5:30AM bus leaves from the corner of Valfonda and Piazza Adua which is north of the train station instead of from the ATAF-SITA bus station which is on the west side of the train station. You can buy the ticket on the bus.
There is a €25 flat rate for taxis from the airport to any place in the historic center of Florence. They will charge €1 extra for each piece of luggage handled by the driver.
Much cheaper flights to destinations throughout Europe can be found at Pisa airport . Low-cost airlines which fly to Pisa include Thomsonfly, Easyjet, Ryanair, Transavia and HLX. Pisa airport and Florence are connected by rail and by bus. Both leave from and arrive at the main entrance to the airport. The bus station in Florence is immediately across the street from the main railroad station, "Firenze SMN". Train schedules are available at www.trenitalia.it. Bus schedules are available at www.terravision.eu/florence_pisa.html. The train costs €5.70, the bus costs €10 one way. The buses run more often. Some trains do not arrive at the main railroad station, and others require a change at Pisa Centrale.
Modern, fast Eurostar trains connect Florence with Italy's main cities, and local trains from other parts of Italy and express trains from around Europe arrive in Florence. The main station is Firenze Santa Maria Novella , on the edge of the historic old town. Other small stations are Firenze Campo Marte (near Florence Stadium) and Firenze Rifredi. If you take an Intercity train to Florence, you may need to change at Rifredi for another train to Firenze S.M.N. The transfer between stations via train is usually already covered by your train ticket (to check for this, your train ticket should not differentiate between the Florence train stations and will simply say "Firenze"). If you happen to have a long wait for the transferring train, it is also possible to take a bus to the city centre, but this is probably not covered by your train ticket.
You might want to consider the overnight train connections to Florence from Paris or most German towns. For example, the train from Florence to Munich leaves at 21:53 and arrives in Munich the next morning at around 08:00. You can sleep comfortably the entire way and it costs about €100.
The train to Vienna takes about 12 hours and costs €70.
Florence is connected by good highways to the rest of Italy. The easiest way to get in and out of the city from the A-1 Autostrada, which connects Florence to Bologna, Milan and the North, and to Rome and the South, is to use the "Firenze - Certosa" exit. This is the same route for those leaving for or arriving from Siena on the "Fi-Si" highway. If you are arriving from or leaving for Pisa and the West on the A-11 Autostrada, it may be best to go by way of Firenze-Certosa and use the A-1 to connect to and from the A-11.
Driving in the historic center - inside the wide "viale" where the old city walls were (and still are, on the southern side of the Arno)- is strictly prohibited, except for residents with permits. Enforcement is by camera, and is ferociously efficient. If you drive in the prohibited areas, you will be tracked down, and you will receive stiff fines in the mail.
There is a very strictly defined route to get in and out of the city for car rental agencies in the Via Fineguerra and the Borg'Ognissanti, just south of the Firenze SMN railroad station. If you rent there, be sure to ask at the office how to get in and out without violating the ZTL.
Parking in garages and parking lots is expensive, costing upwards of €1 per hour.
There are three kinds of parking places on the street: white, yellow and blue. White is for residents only, yellow ones are reserved, so you can park only on the blue places. The price is €1 per hour and you have to pay from 8AM to 8PM (12 hours). Leave the ticket inside the car in a visible place. Attention: you need coins for the parking - the machine won't accept banknotes or cards.
You can also find 'free' parking at all hours at "Piazzale Michelangelo" on the south side of the town. However, there are time limits for how long you can leave a car, which are rigidly enforced, and if you violate those limits, your car will be towed. It's about a 20 minute walk to the city centre (down the stairs and across the Arno). It has gorgeous views of the city as well.
Bus stops have clear, schematic labelling of the routes and are all named according to the street name or major landmark nearby. They do not always give an indication of bus times, however, so it is sometimes difficult to figure out how long it may take till the next bus arrives. Tickets must be bought in advance from Tobacconists or newspaper sellers, and are usually valid for one hour over the whole network, so that you can just hop on and off at will. They cost €1.20 for 70 minutes, and multiple day tickets are also available. Tickets are also available on the bus, sold by the driver, at an increased price of €2 (therefore, no more excuses in case of ticket control).
Most of the major tourist sights in Florence are within easy walking distance of each other. It is possible to walk from one end of the historic center of Florence to the other - North-South or East-West in a half hour. Walking is not only an easy way to get around, it also offers the chance to 'take in' much more of the city life. Be warned though, that electric motor scooters are small enough to fit where cars cannot. They are silent but quick and in the summer they often times travel into the plazas. Some of the streets in central Florence are closed off to traffic, and many more are simply too narrow for buses to get through. Therefor, bus and car tours are not recommended. This is a very small, very compact city that really needs to be seen by foot. And, of course, if you need to, you can always buy a new pair of shoes in Florence.
There is a bike rental service organized by the city. Bikes can be hired at several points in the city (and returned to the same place). One of the most convenient for tourists is located at SMN station. There are other locations at many railway stations, but often with restricted opening hours.
While there are hills north and south of the center of town, almost all of the historic center of Florence is easy for bikers, because it is as flat as a hat - flatter than that. But there is a problem: Traffic is terrible, and buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles, motorbikes bicycles, and pedestrians are all fighting for almost no space at all, so you'd better pay attention.
Beyond the city bikes, some of the hotels in town provide their guest with free bicycles. Bike shops also often rent bikes and some of them organize guided bike tours in the countryside.
Taxis are available, but it may be best if you have your hotel or the restaurant you are eating at call ahead. Taxis should be called by phone and the nearest one available is sent to you through the company's radio system with its meter ticking away. In Florence, it can be difficult to hail a cab from the street curb. You either call for one or get one at the very few taxi stands. One popular taxi stand is at the central Santa Maria Novella Train Station and in a few major squares. The first taxi in the taxi stand line should be free - ask in case of doubt. Be aware that most taxis do not take credit card for payment. Be sure to have cash and ask in advance in case you only have a credit card with you. Please note that taxis in Florence are relatively expensive. Tipping is not expected, unless the driver helps you carry luggage etc.
Another way of getting around is by using the public buses from ATAF. A day ticket costs €5 and a 3 day ticket costs €12. A four-ride ticket costs €4.50. You can buy tickets at tabacchi (shops selling tobacco, which are marked with official looking "T"s out front." kiosks/newsagents/bars where the symbol "Biglietti ATAF" is shown, as well as at the ATAF ticketing office at the bus station outside Santa Maria Novella train station. Several ticket options are available. One very convenient is the 4-rides ticket and the "Carta Agile". The former needs to be stamped when entering the bus (from the front and rear doors of buses - the central door is supposed to be exit only; though now it is more accepted to enter from the central door). The latter has an embedded electronic chip and needs to be held close ("swiped") to the upper part of the ticket machine inside the bus: the "beep" of the machine will inform you that a ticket has been paid and the display will show you how many more tickets ("swipes") you have left. Within 1hr of stamping/swiping you can hop-off & hop-on on any bus of the urban ATAF network. Unfortunately and completely against Italian law, it is not uncommon to see bus drivers talking merrily on their mobile phone while driving. Don't expect riders to complain about it and don't panic - they will still drive with the same non-comfortable style as when they are "only driving". Hold tight to hand rails as Florence traffic is very unpredictable and frequent sudden breaking is necessary. Bus rides are not by all means "smooth". Buses are "safe" but pick pocketing is quite common. Please keep a close eye to your belongings and avoid showing off cash/jewelry/etc. especially in very crowded buses (especially for lines 17/23/14/22 - generally speaking any crowded bus can give a chance to pick pocket).
Driving inside the historic center of Florence is virtually impossible.
Only residents with permits are allowed to drive there. Enforcement of the "Limited Traffic Zone" or "ZTL" is by camera. Violators will be tracked down and fined, but the fine may not arrive for a year or more after the infraction. The fines start at about €90. Once you enter the forbidden zone, it is virtually impossible to pass only one camera, and each time you do, it is a separate fine.
In addition, Florence has some of the teeniest streets in Europe, an amazingly fiendish one-way system that confuses even the locals, and some streets that just come to an abrupt end, with little or no warning.
Parking on the street in the historic center is out of the question. It may only be done by residents with a permit, and all other cars are towed away instantly - if not sooner - to some godforsaken suburb from which it will cost you hundreds of euros to get yours returned.
That said, you may be able to arrange a very temporary - about 30-minute - exemption through your hotel, which will need your license number and other information to make arrangements with the authorities. You will then have to get the car from the hotel out of the ZTL before the exemption expires.
A car can be useful to reach some destinations just outside the city centre, like Fiesole or Settignano (these sights are also reachable by bus service), or for day trips to wonderful places such as Siena, Volterra, Arezzo, etc. It is possible, if a bit tricky to rent a car in Florence and get out of town and back to the car rental agency without violating the ZTL. Those tempted to do so, should make sure to get precise directions from the rental agency.
The Uffizi is the most famous, but Florence also has other amazing museums a short walk away with world class artistic treasures.
For those making longer stays in Florence, the city also has an interesting archaeological museum (the Etruscan art collection is particularly good), a Contemporary Art gallery, seated in Palazzo Strozzi, and other collections.
In the old town center:
On the south bank of the Arno:
Remember that restaurants have separate prices for food to go or eaten standing up versus sit down service; don't try to sit at a table after paying for food or coffee from the restaurant's to go booth. Also ask always beforehand for the price if you want to sit at a table. Otherwise you might be uncomfortably surprised. Cappuccino al banco i.e. standing up might cost €1-3; but at a table €4.
Florence's food can be as much of a treat to the palate as the art is a treat to the eye! There is good food for any price range, from fine restaurants to take out food from window stands. The best price/quality ratio you will find outside the historical center where normal Italians go to eat. The worst ratio is probably in the neighbourhood of Mercato di San Lorenzo where there are a lot of tourist restaurants, while many of the best restaurants in the city are found in the Santa Croce district. In some, requests for pizza may be met with a rebuff. For local pizza look for small shops near the Duomo.
The best lunch places don't always turn out to be the best dinner places. Dinner in Florence really starts sometime between 19:00 and 21:00. If a place looks like they're preparing to close before 20:00, it might not be the best option for dinner. Reheated pasta is not very tasty.
Typical Tuscan courses include Bistecca alla fiorentina which is huge t-bone steak weighing from 500 to 1500 grams. It has always price given per 100 grams e.g. 3,5€ etto (etto is "hecto" pronounced in Italian). Crostini toscani are crostini with tuscan liver paté.
There is also a uniqely Florentine fast food with a 1000-year history - lampredotto, a kind of tripe (cow stomach, or calf for preference, but a different part than the more familiar white "honeycomb" kind, dark brown in color; the name comes from its wrinkled appearance, which apparently reminds locals of a lamprey fish). The trippaio set their carts in the public squares in the center, dishing out the delicacy straight from the cauldron in which it is being boiled with herbs and tomatoes, chopping it and slapping the portions between halves of a Tuscan roll; the top is dipped in the broth. A mild green parsley- or basil-based sauce or a hot red one goes with it.
There are many gelato (Italian ice cream) stands; some connoisseurs consider the better Florentine gelato the finest in the world. Often gelato is made in the bar where you buy it. Because of this there are many exotic flavors of ice cream like watermelon, spumante or garlic. It's hard to find a gelato place open very late, so after dinner might not be an option. Near the Duomo though, there are a few places open after 22:00.
Tuscany is also the wellspring of cantuccini, also called biscotti di Prato. (Please note that in Italian, the singular of biscotti is un biscotto.) It's traditional to enjoy them after a meal by dipping them in Vin Santo ("Holy Wine"), a concentrated wine made from late-harvested grapes, but you can also buy bags of them in stores throughout the city and eat them however you like.
There are numerous caffè and pasticcerie where you can find excellent sandwiches.
Pizza sold by weight is an equally excellent solution for budget dining, as is any caffè displaying a "Primi" card in its window where you'll find pastas and other dishes at low reasonable prices. The delis (rosticcerie) are very affordable (and the food is often quite good), and some also have dining tables if you don't want to take away.
You can buy the makings for a picnic or snack at the Mercato Centrale. This large market has everything you might need, often at more affordable prices than supermarkets. The stalls will also sometimes vacuum seal whatever you buy so you can take it home with you.
A general rule: the closer you are to the historic old town, the higher the price.
Tap water is safe and the taste is now good enough (it got really nasty right after the flooding and stayed so for many years), but those who still prefer bottled water will find it plentiful. Sample the excellent wines of the region.
Chianti is the local wine that can be ordered cheaply. Many eateries will offer carafes of various sizes of "house chianti", usually for under €4.
As elsewhere the price of hotels in Florence has been climbing quickly in the last few years. The golden rule here is if you want something cheap you'll have to stay outside of the historic center. The area around the train station is cheaper, but not as safe, especially for women travelers at night. If you are looking at big chain hotels you should be aware that they are usually quite a ways out indeed, the Novotel for instance is almost at the airport.
Certain hotels, particularly those oriented toward business travelers offer special reduced rates during the weekend (eg. Starhotel Michelangelo) or during slow weeks like Baglioni. Sometimes you can also get a substantial discount by reserving online. In the train station there is a tourist information office which also offers hotel reservations; you can often get good deals through them at the very last minute, but it's not guaranteed.
There are quite a number of one or two-star alberghi within a short distance of the station.
Young women can find accommodation with certain convents at very low prices, and usually in historic locations. On the other hand, you'll have to forget about any late-night Tuscan craziness.
Souvenirs related to art and Florence's sights can be found everywhere. Shops that are not located in the very centre of the city are significantly cheaper.
Books, leather goods, art handcrafted journals, frames, pencils etc. in that gorgeous Florentine paper with swirls of color and gold.
Better stores in/near the city center offer superb leathers at sometimes decent prices...perhaps after some bickering. Goldsmiths on the Ponte Vecchio display beautiful and quality work, but can be very expensive.
Some of the most uniquely Florentine shops and sights can be found in the Oltrarno, which is Florence's "left bank" and home to countless generations of artisans. This section of town can be found by crossing "Ponte Vecchio" (the old bridge) or Ponte Trinità from the center. This "undiscovered" Florence is a must-see!
Beware: If the police catches you while buying a knock-off version of something with a brand from an (illegal) street vendor, you can be fined up to €10,000. You'll see plenty of people on the street selling imitation Gucci sunglasses, Rolex watches, and Prada purses for dirt cheap. It's okay if the item doesn't have a real brand on it, but buying a knock-off is illegal.
Beware of Stendhal syndrome, namely, dizziness caused by being overwhelmed by Florence's fantastic art. Yes, it's a real syndrome, named after 19th-century French author Stendhal, who suffered from it during his stay in Florence. If you get overwhelmed, rest your eyes and legs, get some food (remember gelato?), and save the rest of Florence for tomorrow.
Florence is generally safe, but take precautions against the opportunistic thieves common to major tourist attractions: pickpockets and purse snatchers. Savvy thieves congregate in crowds, particularly around Santa Maria Novella train station. If you have a pocketbook with a classy, noiseless zipper, it will be opened.
Also exercise caution on buses: pickpockets can be active on crowded ones and, as everywhere else, they preferably target tourists.
Occasionally, some types of beggars can be insistent and distracting while at the same time another thief quietly steals your wallet or phone. Again, this is nothing new to major tourist spots.
Since there are a large number of tourists around, the center of Florence is brimming with webcafés and telephone call centers. Most evenings there are long lines for access to the phone-booths.
You can also buy a pre-paid card which will give you a steep discount on international calls by dialing a special number.
Wireless LAN access is becoming popular. Even when offered for free, you will need to provide your name and contact details to the provider of the service to obtain an access code. This is because of Italian anti-terror laws. Anonymous access is not possible.
Florence is a great starting point and base for a tour of Tuscany . Attractive day trips include Pisa , Lucca, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Fiesole, Lucignano, Siena , and of course the wine zone of Chianti. Greve in Chianti is the market town of the Chianti zone and it is in the hills surrounding Greve that you can rent a B&B room or a small apartment on a working vineyard for less than a hotel in Florence. The SITA Pullman buses take you to Greve and Panzano in about an hour. From then on you see few cars and many cypress and olive trees.
If you are to visit one place in Florence, it has to be the Piazzale Michelangelo. It offers an amazing view of the city. There is a lovely walking trail and even a large church, San Miniato, at the top of the mountain. It is a MUST SEE!
Fiesole is in the hills above Florence, only a short bus ride away from the center. It offers a beautiful view of the sunset, and a small museum located on ancient Roman and Etruscan ruins of a temple and an ampitheater.
World War II Florence American Cemetery and Memorial: 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Florence on the west side of Via Cassia. The Rome-Milan highway passes near the cemetery. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cemetery is the final resting place for 4,402 American military dead lost during after the capture of Rome and the battle for the Apennines. A monument is inscribed with the names of 1,409 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. The atrium of the chapel contains marble maps of World War II Italy campaign. 20 minute bus ride from the Sita Station, just ask agent (get a return ticket). Free to enter.
Biking options outside of the city include the Chianti area, where you can fully enjoy the hills and the elegance of the landscape surrounding you, which has been taken care of endlessly through centuries. Strong scents can be enjoyed in Spring. The warm temperatures and usually stable weather in the good seasons can make the ride even more enjoyable. If you feel more energetic, ascents to Vallombrosa from Pontassieve through Tosi can be very enjoyable. You start from the Arno river plain and you end up in a thick, shady, fresh forest. In all cases, avoid the hottest hours in Summer and be aware of the traffic, which can be heavy and not cyclist-savvy, until you get in secondary or less populated roads.
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