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Florence For Beginners

Like many other Italian cities, the capital of art and culture is so vast you can never get to see it all, no matter how often you go back to the city. The Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Palazzo Pizzi and the churches are must-visit landmarks if you want to soak up the beauty of Florence. But, beware – trying to see it all in one go can bring on the Stendhal syndrome (also known as the Florence syndrome) or a mental block that can end up ruining your trip.

So, to make sure you go about calmly and enjoy things leisurely, we propose 6 essential venues which will help you come to grips with Florence without losing your nerves.

Uffizi Gallery – A Must-See Classic

One of the finest art galleries in the world, its collection of Renaissance art is peerless worldwide. Housed in a 16th-century administrative building, the Uffizi brings together some of the best works by Sandro Botticelli, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Your museum visit could take from three to four hours and it is worth lingering in the uncrowded rooms to discover some lesser known but equally interesting artists. To avoid having to queue up at the ticket office for over an hour, we recommend you book in advance.

Il Grande Museo del Duomo – a 21st-Century Museum

This is one of the newer attractions in the city. The museum showcases treasures from the Duomo, the Campanile and the Baptistery. Here you can see the original Baptistery doors, a masterpiece by Ghiberti, the relief work in the Campanile and the sculptures on the old Duomo facade. In fact, you can actually see a life-size reconstruction of the original facade, with sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio and Donatello, in the Room of the First Facade. Other highlights of the museum include the Pietà, which Michelangelo sculpted at the age of 80, and Brunelleschi’s death mask. Artworks are prominently displayed in this museum, geared to showcasing the past using the technology of the future.

Basilica di Santo Spirito – The Advent of theQuattrocento

While the churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are among our favourites, if you’re pressed for time in Florence and fancy seeing a church studded with chapels featuring retables from the Quattrocento, the “Basilica of the Holy Spirit” is the place to be. This church, designed by Brunelleschi, lies in the heart of the lively Oltrarno. It boasts no less than 38 chapels and such paramount artworks as the Madonna of the Relief, by Domenico di Zanobi, and Madonna with Child and Saints, by Filippino Lippi.

Boboli Gardens and Bardini Garden – A Romantic Walk

One of the most fascinating art galleries in Florence is housed in the Palazzo Pitti. But, today, instead of entering the famous palace designed by Brunelleschi, we take a stroll around its sumptuous gardens. The Boboli Gardens, dating from the 16th century, acted as the leisure resort for the city’s rulers. It stretches right up the slope of the Palazzo Pitti and is noteworthy mainly for the rose garden at the top, with spectacular views over the Tuscany countryside. A five minute-walk away, using the same entrance, lies the Bardini Garden, with splendid views over the city. The best vantage point is the restaurant set in the garden, La Leggenda Dei Frati, a stone gallery which affords a panoramic view of the city you will never forget.

Brancacci Chapel – For Specialists Only

Still in Oltrarno, the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine houses one of the loveliest chapels in the city, the Brancacci Chapel. Here, paintings by Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi are perfectly preserved within the space of a few metres. The frescoes by Masaccio, depicting the life of St Peter, are regarded among his finest works. They reveal a clean break between Gothic art and the early Renaissance. Only 30 visitors are allowed in the chapel at any one time, but it is well worth the wait.

Palazzo Vecchio – Discovering Florence By Night

In summer, the Palazzo Vecchio stays open until midnight from Friday to Wednesday. It makes for a great alternative and quiet visit to one of the city’s most emblematic landmarks. Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, it was once the seat of municipal power. Its rooms are adorned with outstanding frescoes, while the most prominent room is the Salone dei Cinquecento, notable for its sheer size and opulent decoration. The ceiling of the Green Room or Sala Verde features paintings by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, while still open to the public are the chambers of Giovanni de’ Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and future Pope Leon X.

 Be sure to visit these marvels of Florence – check out our flights here.

 Text by Aleix Palau for  Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Christine und Hagen Graf

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A secret Florence

By Mariana Calleja from TravelThirst | Illustration & Photography by Federico Rojas

Of course there is a lot about Florence. Such a rich city with tons of art, scenery, history and more to be seen and learned. But this time, we decided to go into a secret Florence within the same streets we all have visited some time.

Maybe you have done this before but there is always some more to discover. So take your map down and take this secret guide in hand, as you know you are already curious and going into this secret Florence we were able to find and sense for you.

1. Traces of a Roman Amphitheater

There a particular little street where you can sense a prominent curve, where buildings and homes are sitting today. But what it’s not known and told, even within its walls, is how this curve represents the place where an amphitheater was located back in Roman times!

Walking straight from Piazza Santa Croce, taking the narrow street called Via Torta. Keep walking until you surround it all! You will be able to notice and even imagine where this roman structure used to be located. No walls remain today.

2. Florence’s Floods

Arno River is a big part of Florence’s soul. Even though it seems steady nowadays, it wasn’t always like that. Did you know this river flooded up the city 3 different times in the past? Once even taking down the well known Ponte Vecchio back in 1333. Fortunately it was rebuilt and still standing.

But what travelers, locals or any curious person don’t get to know is that there are a few traces of these floods around town. And as an important part of history as it is, we want to share this tip with you.

The largest flood came in 1966, not long ago, when it reached 5 meters height. You can see commemorative plaques on this corner, recalling and remembering lost souls to the flood.

3. Thunderstorm Hits to the Duomo

In June 17th, 1600, Florence suffered a terrible thunderstorm, which had one lightning striking directly the copper-gold ball on the Brunelleschi’s cupola. It made the ball fall down hardly to the ground and fortunately not harming anyone. There was just a big hole in the ground which is featured today over a white circle on the same spot where the ball landed.

4. Bees of Ferdinand

At the Piazza Annunziata, there is a magnificent statue of Ferdinand di Medici, which if you get closer, you will see a large swarm of bees gathering around the queen bee,symbolizing Ferdinando’s coat of arms and the peaceful living they had at the time. It is said that bees are uncountable…but I believe that is untrue! We dare you to go count them. We got 91 bees!

5. San Zanobi’s Tree

Right on one side of the Baptistery in Florence, you can see a column standing all alone. Well, attached to this column there is a nice story of a very beloved bishop and the first one of the city of Florence.

One day San Zanobi passed away so the entire city threw a parade in his honor and buried him at San Lorenzo’s church. After a few years, they decided to move him to the ancient cathedral of Santa Reparata.

It was January on a dark winter day when the parade was held again. They took his body into the new location and it is said that when they passed by the Baptistery, the bishop’s bier brushed against the leafless branches of an elm tree, making it bloom right away. It was miraculous and beautiful as it is told.

In order to celebrate this, Florentines built up a column right on this spot, with a small iron detail of a tree full of leaves representing San Zanobi’s miracle. And it is celebrated every January on the 27th.

6. The Mysterious Portrait of Michelangelo

On a corner right next to Palazzo Vecchio’s main entrance, you can get to see a very small face carved into the same wall stone.

Exactly on the corner between Via della Nina and Piazzale degli Ufizzi, you will notice if you get close enough, a small carving the resembles a human face.

It is said it was sculpted by Michelangelo, maybe on a boring moment or on a rivalry moment. Legend says how Michelangelo might have been challenged by a sculptor friend mentioning how he was slow with his own works. Michelangelo, while listening and heading his back towards the wall, sculpted this face to prove his colleague wrong.

But another legend says instead, how Michelangelo was on the street when we has caught on a boring conversation with someone who approached him. In his boredom and once again, heading his back to the wall, he carved this figure on the corner stone.

Which one do you believe it was?

7. Former Jail and Today’s Apartment Building

At the Via Gibhellina, there is the Monastery delle Murate, best known for holding an important jail during 500 years. After it was closed and transferred to a new location, the infrastructure was used as a restaurant and recreational park for long time, until the 20th century. In this moment, a social project rescuing old structures for a better living, took this area in order to build a whole apartment and lifestyle project. Nowadays, you can still see and even visit the place, grab a coffee or just sit down on a bench and admire the incredible passing of time while whispering a story to your ear.

Inspiring and exemplar is what this is. One more great achievement of the city of Florence, moving towards better times and a better quality of life.

By Mariana Calleja from TravelThirst | Illustration & Photography by Federico Rojas

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.








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Vini and Panini in Florence

The capital of Tuscany is a striking city packed with appeal which is well worth spending a few days in. Awaiting you, among other inducements, is Michelangelo’s famed David, Spring by Botticelli, the Ponte Vecchio, the famous dome of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Piazza della Signoria with its bold Perseus by Cellini. A highly manageable city which lends itself to strolling about and can be enjoyed both day and night – the latter has a charm of its own. And, of course, it has to be tasted and savoured.

Wine is part of the city’s DNA, as is art, and you are duty bound to stop and have a drink in any of the salumerie (delicatessens) or wine bars, where they also offer boards of local sausage, cheeses and panini, which spice up the drink experience even more. There are loads of them but, to help put you on the right track, here are some recommendations:


Hidden in the back streets near the Uffizi gallery is this eatery – a must-visit – run by chef Alessandro Frassica, who you will see behind the bar counter or dancing in front of it. Panini made on the spot, with a long list of more or less classic options. When we were there we wolfed down one with bresaola (a cured beef), ricotta and zucchini, and another with mortadella e salsa al tartufo (mortadella and truffle sauce) which tasted divine. The food is freshly cut, the bread is good, a great atmosphere and a very trendy ambience. Needless to say, you have to wash down your panini with two glasses of local red wine.

Alimentari Uffizi

A delightful store with just three tables where you can purchase wine and drink it on the spot for an uncorking surcharge. To go with it –tastings of cheese, sausage, olives and a delicious homemade sobresada.Behind the counter is the helpful Alessandro, ready to guide you successfully through your culinary choice. Pure produce.

All’Antico Vinaio

One of Florence’s oldest wine bars, now run by a group of youngsters who have set a new seal on the business while maintaining its centuries-old essence. Chalked up on the blackboards are a host of panini options with seasonal ingredients which you can combine at will. Don’t let the queue in this eatery put you off, as it is well worth the wait. Order some wine and enjoy – it is sited in one of the liveliest streets for “wine crawling”. Apart from wine, they also have anosteriaif you prefer to eat at a table.

A Special Dinner at Il Santo Bevitore

We left the panini behind – but not the wine – and sat down in a restaurant offering Italian specialities in order to taste regional Florentine cuisine. And we made the right choice! A young, lively atmosphere and a cuisine that soars above the Italian standards we are used to, as well as a wine list with hundreds of Italian varieties. We followed their recommendations and ended up with a table full of terrina di fegatini de pollo (a tasty, typical Tuscan paté on a bun), tagliatelle alle castagne and risotto ai porcini (field mushrooms). The menu changes with the season and their wine bar on the same street is handy for whetting one’s appetite.

Shopping at Il Mercato Centrale and Sant’Ambrogio

So, we went shopping. The Central Market, located in the heart of San Lorenzo, is the most important market in Florence. Their display ranges from pastas of all types, cheeses, wines and olive oil to fresh delicatessen, fruit and vegetables, as in any market. One of their main draws is the food area on the first floor, influenced by street-food culture, where you can find all kinds of snacks. Another must-visit venue that will delight even the most seasoned foodies is the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Located on the Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, it features both inside and outside stalls where locals crowd around in search of the best titbits. Genuine and lively – before you leave, make sure you buy at least some olives and a birra (beer). Have a seat in the surrounding area and soak up the atmosphere. And, while you’re at it, head for the Trippiao Pollini street stall and pluck up the courage to try their tripe sandwich – you won’t regret it!

Let yourself get carried away by the flavours of Florence – check out your Vueling here.

Text and photos by Silvia Artaza of Gastronomistas.com

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Explore Florence through the locations from the movie Hannibal

Even without the reputation of Hollywood, Florence is also a very appreciated city to film movies. The capital of Tuscany has been the location for known movies such as A Room with a View by James Ivory, Tea with Mussolini from local filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, The Portrait of a Lady starring Nicole Kidman or Obsession, a of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, to mention a few. Already for 2015 the film version of Inferno, the best-seller story by Dan Brown is on production.

The beautiful city of Florence has delighted the greatest filmmakers with an intriguing atmosphere, medieval alleys and stunning historical buildings, is a unique referent in Europe and a much requested location for the greatest film productions.

A visit trough these movie locations doesn’t ignore all the worldwide-known cultural heritage of Florence. On the contrary, this is the hometown to many literary and arts great names and this is reflected anywhere, where you can always pass by a magic corner.

This time, we are taking a deep look to all the locations in the city from the famous movie Hannibal, a disturbing thriller based in a novel by Thomas Harris, sequel for The Silence of The Lambs, both two of the most famous movies by filmmaker Ridley Scott.

Thanks to the film, Santa María Novella pharmacy became a very popular and visited spot. Here is where the protagonist, played by Anthony Hopkins, goes to purchase perfumes and almonds soap to gift Clarice, character played by Julianne Moore. The business was founded in 1600, by Dominican friars who already worked with exotic aromas.

Hannibal is hidden on the false identity of Dr. Fell, who lives in Florence and works in the library at Palazzo Capponi (via dei Bardi, 36). However, the locations are usually relocated according to the movie production and when Pazzi goes to the library to pick up the belongings from the previous librarian, he goes upstairs at Spedale degli Innocenti, an old orphanage considered the first work by Filippo Brunelleschi. At the cloisters at this building there are terracotta works by Lucca della Robbia and paintings by Botticelli, Piero di Cosimo and Domenico Ghrilandaio.

The Piazza della Signora is another remarkable location in the movie. Here is where inspector Pazzi smokes before arriving to the reunion at Salone dei Cinquecento del Palazzo Vecchio, where there is a discussion to decide if Dr. Fell will be the new librarian at Capponi library. This square is the heart of the city, very close to the famous bridge Ponte Vecchio.

Also the Ponte Vecchio is featured in the movie. Here you will find many stores like the one where inspector Pazzi buys a silver bracelet that will help him getting Hannibal’s fingerprint. According to the legend, traders worked in the bridge because it was tax-free. It’s also believed here is where the expression ‘bankrupt’ started as, when traders couldn’t deal with the debt, soldiers broke his table so he couldn’t continue trading.

At the room in Gigli del Plazzo Vecchio is where the conference about arts takes place in the movie; here is also where the feared cannibal kills the inspector who follows him, Rinaldo Pazzi. It’s located at Piazza della Signoria and holds a museum with works by Miguel Angel, Visari or Brozino. At the main frontage, there is the famous tower, one of the symbols of Florence.

At the Santa Croce church is where the concert Dante's Inferno takes place and is where Hannibal meets with Rinaldo’s wife. This is the biggest Franciscan church in the world and, even the interior is not as remarkable as the façade, the decoration by Brunelleschi, Donatello or Giotto is remarkable. It’s known as the Temple for the Glories of Italy as it has the mortuary graves of historic characters like Miguel Angel, Galigelo, Dante or Maquiavelo.

Near Porcellino fountain, Dr. Lecter will stab gipsy Enrico Loverso when he tries to steal his bag. Porcellino is a funny sculpture made of bronze that represents a boar actually, not a pig. It’s a work by sculptor Pietro Tacca, a replica for the one at Palazzo Pitti, this is at Market Square in via Porta Rossa. The legend says that touching its mouth gives good luck and, to be even luckier, you must put a coin on its mouth.

If you get there, you’ll also see Mercato Nuevo that takes place daily around it, where you could purchase many craft products.

A place well worth discovering! Check out our flights here.

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