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Florentia—literally "florid city"—was the name given by the Romans to this settlement founded in the I century AD along the Arno river, at the foot of Fiesole, an Etruscan city whose ruins are visible on the hill which dominates the city. The flowering of Florence in art, culture and international trade began in the 13th century and reached its peak in the 15th century under the reign of the Medici family, who ruled over the city for more than three centuries. Everywhere you turn in Florence, you find extraordinary works of art and architecture, which attract almost 8 million tourists every year—from the Palazzo Vecchio to the world-famous Uffizi Gallery to the Cathedral with its magnificent dome and the tower designed by Giotto. Along the river Arno the Ponte Vecchio, with its jewellery shops is a must for all those who pass through the city, as well as the splendid Boboli gardens across the river. Florence is also an international wine and gastronomic centre, Chianti is its most famous local product together with the celebrated Fiorentina steak on the bone.
Visit Florence during spring is an obvious option, it is one of the best times of the year to visit due to warmer temperatures and all the beautiful flowers that are in bloom. In Florence there is so much to see and experience outdoor that a pleasant weather is the ideal, and alternate this with a good Italian ice cream can make your holiday unbeatable. In addition, the century city of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year, and it has been ranked as one of the world’s most visited destination by Euromonitor International.
Florentine cuisine is known throughout the country for its combinations of fresh ingredients proceeding from its extended countryside. As in any other city of Italy, there are some local specialties that you cannot absolutely miss, like the ribollita (a sort of minestrone), pappa al pomodoro (tomato soup) and the famous bistecca fiorentina (Florentine t-bone steak). Tuscanian cuisine also has delicious starters, including crostini and bruschetta, toasted bread with various kind of toppings. Lastly, be sure not to miss cantucci with vin santo when you long for something sweet!
In the bustling Florence, there is wide array of cafés to sit down and relax, and if you have a sweet-tooth this city will not leave you disappointed. Many of the national Italian sweet specialties was born in Florence, it is even claimed that the modern gelato, as we know it today, was invented by a Florentine architect called Bernardo Buontalenti who worked for the Medici family. So even today if you ask for ‘crema Fiorentina' (with milk, honey, egg yolk and citrus) the creation of Buontalenti, you will actually get ice cream made with his original recipe. Eating ice cream is not only a favorite Italian pastime, but also drinking true Italian espresso while having a conversation with friends and family. So to escape the heat of the sun, just pop in to a café and enjoy some Italian desserts accompanied with a coffee.
Florence boasts a lively nightlife scene. Most bars have really generous happy hours, which actually last for many hours and are often accompanied by live music or dj set. Dance clubs typically open quite late in the evening and only begin to get crowded at about 1 or 2 in the morning. Insider tip: it is possible to find free passes to clubs around the city in order to avoid cover charges.
Florence’s two central streets - via Tornabuoni and via della Vigna Nuova - are the best places to head for when it comes to the most exclusive boutiques, leather goods and stylish shoes. Here you can find the internationally known Italian fashion brands such as Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Ermanno Scervino. Besides shops, Florence is rich in open-air markets. If you want to buy leather goods or clothes, go to the market of San Lorenzo in the old town, or to the Market of the Porcellino, sheltered under the sixteenth-century Loggia del Porcellino.
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