When one thinks of a city, often a feeling or mood becomes associated with it. Paris for example is considered the city of love, whereas London brings to mind fashion, New York is theatre and so on, but when it comes to art and museums there are none other than the Italian renaissance city of Florence.
Nestled on the banks of the Arno River, Florence has long been the cultural capital of Europe. I recently came back from my third visit to this spectacular city and must admit that this stay, like the previous, was as if I had never been before. I was surrounded by artistic splendour and expected Michelangelo to greet me at any moment.
Prior to visiting Florence you should know that there are no automobiles allowed in the downtown part of the old city. Even taxis need special permits and parking is unheard of. If you are doing a driving holiday, arrange for a hotel on the outskirts of town or leave your car far away and take a taxi to your downtown hotel. I stayed at the Hotel De La Ville, located on the main shopping street and within walking distance from anything worth seeing in Florence. Another point to note is that hotels in Italian cities charge a city tax upon checkout. The tax is anywhere from 3 to 5 Euros per person, per night.
Now enough of the housekeeping rules, let's get down to sightseeing in this beautiful city. The first stop is the Cathedral of St. Mary (Santa Maria del Fiore). It is the 4th largest cathedral in the world and not to be missed. When you arrive at the square beside the church, find an outdoor cafe (there are many of them), order an espresso and just take in the sheer magnitude of the place. You will be amazed at the attention paid to detail on the facade. Give it a minute and you will begin to notice the artists sitting on stools, painting different views of this architectural marvel.