Florence is characterized by the warm light that streams through the alleys of the old city centre, the stone walls of stately palaces, domes and bell towers that punctuate its architectural texture. But also by its craft workshops, the fragrances wafting from its restaurants, the lively and genuine spirit of its inhabitants.
A welcoming city, despite the streets teeming with bustling Florentines and tourists lost in front of so much beauty. Florence is in fact an open-air museum, especially in its historic centre, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1982.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the fifth largest in the world, stands in Piazza del Duomo. Its external appearance is unmistakable, with Brunelleschi's majestic dome that dominates the polychrome marble-clad structure: an elegant geometric design alternating white, green and red slabs. The same marbles adorn the nearby Giotto's Bell Tower, a magnificent example of 14th-century Florentine Gothic architecture.
A few steps away, in front of the cathederal entrance, stands the Baptistery of San Giovanni, also mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy. One of the oldest churches in the city, it is distinguished by its octagonal plan covered in white and green marble and topped by an eight-segment dome.
Piazza della Signoria is the symbol of Florence's political and cultural life, with its mediaeval tower overlooking the entire city: Palazzo Vecchio also hosted Cosimo I during the rule of the Medici family and was the seat of government during the years when Florence was the capital of Italy. Now housing the City Hall, it is also a must-see monument for visitors to the city with its striking Salone dei Cinquecento, where Giorgio Vasari's work can be admired.
Not far away is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most famous and visited museums in the world: an outstanding display of 14th-century and Renaissance art, it houses masterpieces by Caravaggio, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Piero della Francesca, as well as great names in European art.
The Uffizi is part of a rich museum complex that includes the Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and Vasari Corridor, an enclosed passageway that from the Uffizi passes over another symbol of Florence - the colourful Ponte Vecchio, with its distinctive artistic handicraft workshops - to arrive at the Pitti Palace and Boboli, the 'Oltrarno court' of the Medicis, later enriched and enlarged by the Lorraine and Savoy families.
The area of Santa Maria Novella is also not to be missed: the basilica of the same name, with its Gothic structure, houses works by Giotto, Ghirlandaio and Masaccio.
Another key stop for culture lovers is Galleria dell'Accademia, which houses Michelangelo's David, a unique masterpiece of beauty.
But the spirit of Florence can also be breathed in its streets and squares, among the stalls of the Central Market - where you can discover the excellence of Florentine culinary tradition - and among the works of artists in the district of San Niccolò, until you widen your gaze and embrace all its beauty from the panoramic terrace of Piazzale Michelangelo.