The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore, 1463), the enormous florentine cathedral. It is the fourth biggest church in Europe, and its dome dominates the landscape on any postcard of the city.
In front the Duomo lies the Batisterio, from the 4th Century, which makes it one of the oldest buildings in Florence. That's where many Florentine were baptised, including Dante.
Take money, lots of it...
Florence is a city you can take a suitcase to. The route from the train station to the Duomo area is all sidewalk, with a little cobblestoned areas, but easily travelled. Plus, it is walking distance. If you intend to visit the Duomo, or other churches while visiting, bring a shawl with which to cover your bare arms and shoulders. Or, better still, buy one from the many stalls, cheap enough.
I always suggest running shoes, or a good comfortable walking shoe. If you have a need for heels, carry them, wear sandles, and change before going into the restaurant. I always suggest Advil, because they are not available in Italy. So, if Migrains are a part of your life, stock up. Lots and lots of photo ops. Bring film, extra memory for your digital, and spare rechargeble batteries. Buy a charger here if necessary. About 12 euro. Florence is so expensive, at least around the Duomo. We were with my mother-in-law who is 78 yrs., so we didn't venture too far from our hotel this trip. (Aug 04) Food is horrendously expensive, and to buy a drink of ordinary pop, expect to spend 3.30 euro. Outrageous, and unnecessary.
If you happen to be heading to Venice first, and travelling in the hot summer months, pick up a fan, but look for the all wood type. Last longer, and quite necessary ladies.
HAVE A STROLL THROUGH HISTORY
A lot of visitors to Florence take pictures of the Ponte Vecchio, but don’t go and see the many shops on the bridge. It is worth a look around. Mostly the businesses are Jewellers and I have to admit it was way beyond my budget, but you don’t have to buy anything. It is said that the practice of ‘Bankruptcy’ was invented here. The Italian words ‘il banco’ meaning sellable goods were combined with the word ‘rotto’ meaning broken. Combined they are: banco-rotto (bankrupt). In practice merchants used to have their tables broken into pieces if they could not pay their debts. No table = not able to sell anything, so no money. You can also get some great views of the River Arno from the middle of the bridge. Rowboats are frequently seen going under the bridge as well.
Just Walk It
The City Center in Florence is so small that you can walk it with great ease. It's better that way, too, 'cause then you can take in all the visual sites.
Just watch out for cars and scooters 'cause they come awfully close to hitting pedestrians.
A glass of Scacciapensieri...
This osteria is next to the church of San Niccolò and the lower part of the restaurant was once a chapel dating from the 11th century. If you take a look above your head, you'll find salami and cheese hanging from the floor. The tables are made of marble and it all sounds very tuscan :) The menu is based on true Florentine specialties: tripe, eel, boiled tongue in green sauce... or penne in a light cream sauce, farro soup, or soups of the season like ribollita or pappa al pomodoro. You can also choose a plate of assorted sliced meats and cheeses or generous salads.
I had crostini toscani and pasta pasticciata al forno . Very yummy!
And last but not least, let's mention wine: there's a good selection of wines, with the emphasis on those of Tuscany. I had a Chianti Scacciapensieri .