The sobriquet Cradle of the Renaissance suits Florence the best.
Florence is a veritable jewel of Italian Art. Strolling round its streets and piazzas, one observes that at every corner there is an historical building, a site to take a picture of, or an artisan's shop where products, apparel and jewelry, of craftsmanship are created.
Here the dexterity and experience is found—the pride of the Florentines.
The 5-star Hotel River & Spa, located in the centre of Florence at Lungarno della Zecca Vecchia, a few minutes on foot from so many monuments of Florence to see, is the best point of departure to begin to discover this superb city.
Piazza Santa Croce is found only 10 minutes on foot from the hotel. Constructed in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambio, the church is famous above all for its extraordinary polychromic facade of the 18th century period. It is the annual location of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino. Inside one finds the tombs of many famous personages including Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli and Galileo. A must-see is the frescos of Giotto in the Cappelle dei Bardi and the Peruzzi. The Annunciazione of Donatello is also located here.
This is truly a magnificent panoramic sight of the city of Florence. Piazzale Michelangelo was constructed in 1865 by Giuseppe Poggi on a hill well-seen from the Hotel River & Spa. It offers a unique view of the city. From here one can observe on high the Arno River and its bridges, the Duomo and the Campanile of Giotto, Piazza Signoria and Santa Croce. This is a must visit where one may enjoy the most spectacular sunsets of Florence.
BARDINI GARDEN & MUSEUM
The Bardini Garden is without doubt one of Florence's most underrated locations. It is worthwhile to visit it, if you have the patience to walk a bit uphill. At the top one sees an oasis of green that descends along the Oltrarno hills and which face the city. Here one is gifted with a sight that vies only with that of Piazzale Michelangelo. Inside the Villa Bardini one can have a coffee and view diverse exhibits and the Museo dedicated to the works of the artist Pietro Annigoni.
THE DUOMO OF FLORENCE
This is the symbol of Florence. The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo of Florence, was constructed starting in 1296 as a project of Arnolfo di Cambio, and was subsequently succeeded by such illustrated architects and artists such as Giotto, the Talenti and Andrea Pisano. The dome was the genial creation of Brunelleschi, who, graced with a formidable intuition employed smooth bricks without centering and created the most enormous masonry dome existent in the world. Inside the Duomo one comes upon, at first, an austere and simple that hides the real treasure of the cathedral. The paintings of Vasari and la Deposizione di Michelangelo are located in the Duomo.
CAMPANILE OF GIOTTO
It is impossible not to note the incredible bell tower of Giotto that is adjacent to the Duomo and which was realized by Giotto as a true and proper decorative masterpiece rather than a simple bell tower. At the height of it, the last three floors of it were created by F. Talenti in the splendid form of a panoramic terrace from which it dominates, with its glance, the entire city.
Located next to the Duomo, the baptistery, with its characteristic octagonal shape, is remembered above all for its famous “Porta del Paradiso” realized by Ghiberti and reminiscent of Old Testament episodes. The wonderful door that had been in restoration, has now returned and is preserved in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. Inside the BAPTISTERY it is worthwhile to admire the byzantine mosaics of the Second century.
PALAZZO VECCHIO AND PIAZZA SIGNORIA
This masterpiece of medieval architecture of the Third century and today the headquarters of the Florence city hall, Palazzo Vecchio was constructed at the end of the Second century as a residence for the Priori delle Arti, but shortly after it became the Palace of the Granduchi. Inside, one can observe the Salone dei Cinquecento with the picturesque decorations of Vasari, the courtyard with its masonry designs and the Quartieri Monumentali of Leone X, of Eleonora di Toledo, which preserve numerous decorations of the Fifth-Sixth centuries. In front, there is the marvellous Piazza della Signoria with the statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici and the Ammanniti Fountain.
GALLERY OF THE UFFIZI
Transformed into a museum in 1581, the Uffizi houses today the grandest collection of art in the world. Here one can savor masterpieces of the most magnificent prestige such as the Primavera and the Nascita di Venere of Botticelli, the Ritratto dei Duchi di Urbino of Piero della Francesca, the Battaglia di San Romano of Paolo Uccello, the Madonna col Bambino of Filippo Lippi, the Madonna del Cardellino of Raffaello, the Bacco di Caravaggio and the Venere of Tiziano. A extraordinary sojourn through the Renaissance that leaves one breathless.
Ponte Vecchio is perhaps the most famous bridge in the world. It initially housed shops of every type. Ferdinando I de’ Medici ordered that its space be used exclusively for gold and jewelry products in order to render the city more prestigious. Even today one finds some of the most famous gold shops in Florence.
PALAZZO PITTI - THE BOBOL GARDEN
The grandiose Palazzo Pitti was projected by Brunelleschi in 1440, and today it hosts numerous museums with collections of the highest artistic value. It includes the Galleria Pelatina, the Museo degli Argenti, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, the Museo delle Carrozze and the Museo delle Porcellane. For centuries it was the residence of the Medici, as well as the Savoy when Florence became the capital of Italy. Behind the Palazzo is found the splendid Boboli Garden where even today one might leisurely pass through statues, trees and well-attended plants.
GALLERY OF THE ACCADEMIA
Built in 1873 in order to host the original statue of David by Michelangelo, the academy also houses other important artistic works such as the tables fused in gold, the collection of the musical instruments of the Medici family, and numerous paintings of the Second-Fifth centuries.
THE BARGELLO MUSEUM
Housed in the very old Captain of Giustizia in Florence, today this imponent palace accomodates an extraordinary collection of artistic works, such as the Bacco and l’Apollo of Michelangelo, the David of Donatello and other works including those of Verrocchio, Giovanni and Andrea Della Robbia, of Pollaiolo and of Cellini.
The street most famous of Florence, Via de’ Tornabuoni, hosts the boutiques most prestigious of High Fashion Made in Italy. Ferragamo, Gucci, Armani, Pucci and many others, have their showcases along this walkway of world-famous brands. If you prefer to go shopping as the Florentines do, we recommend that you take a walk in the dynamic Via Gioberti, only a few minutes from the hotel, where you will discover fantastic shops selling fashion conscious apparels or modern antique collections. Or, in the maze of streets of the historical neighborhood of San Frediano, where you can find shops of artisans and antiques. Also, visit the Porta Romana section of town and the streets that go from Piazza Signoria to Piazza Santa Croce.