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FLORENCE

FLORENCE

In a valley on the banks of the Arno river and set among low hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, Florence is immediately captivating. Cradle of the Renaissance and home of Machiavelli, Michelangelo and the Medici, the city seems unfairly burdened with art, culture and history. Despite the relentless traffic, stifling summer heat, pollution and industrial sprawl on the city’s outskirts, Florence attracts millions of tourists each year. The French writer Stendhal was so dazzled by the magnificence of the Basilica di Santa Croce that he was barely able to walk for faintness. He is apparently not the only one to have felt overwhelmed by the beauty of Florence – they say Florentine doctors treat a dozen cases of “Stendhalismo” a year. You will need at least four or five days to do Florence any justice at all. Whether you arrive by train, bus or car, the central train station, Santa Maria Novella, is a good reference point. Budge hotels and pensioni are concentrated around Via Nazionale, to the east of the station and Piazza Santa Maria Novella, to the south. The main route to the city centre is Via de’ Panzani and then Via de’ Cerretani, about a 10 minute walk. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you first glimpse the duomo. Most of the major sights are in easy walking distance – you can stroll from one end of the city centre to the other in about 30 minutes. Florence has two street numbering systems: red or brown numbers indicate commercial premises and black or blue numbers denote a private residence. When written, black or blue addresses are denoted by the number only, while red or brown addresses usually carry an ‘r’ for rosso (red) after the number. It can be confusing, as the black and blue numbers tend to denote whole buildings, while the others may refer to one small part of the same building. When looking for a specific address, keep your eyes on both sets of numbers – backtracking is something inevitable.