There are many ways to see Italy. Whether you take a guided tour or go on your own, there is much to see. One of my favorite places in Italy is the city of Florence.
Though its history dates back to Roman times, the most famous sights are from the Renaissance era.
Florence boasts works from the Renaissance's greatest artists, including Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli and, of course, Michelangelo and da Vinci.
Upon your arrival in Florence, the first thing you'll probably see will be Brunelleschi's Duomo.
Located atop Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, it is visible throughout most of the city. Brunelleschi's cupola, finished in 1436, was an engineering feat in its time. The area that the dome was to enclose was so big that Brunelleschi had to develop an entire new method of construction. The Florentines are so proud of the Duomo that their phrase for "homesick" is nostalgia del cupolone or homesick for the dome.
Needless to say, a visit to the Duomo should not be missed. For a fee of about 6 Euros you can climb the 463 steps to the top and enjoy a 360-degree view of the city.
In the cathedral, you'll find a fine example of Florentine Gothic. Much of the cathedral's best-known art though, has been moved to Museo dell' Opera del Duomo, which is nearby. Be sure to explore the upper and lower levels of the cathedral as well to see an 11th century cemetery and the remains of a Roman wall.
The most popular museum in Florence, also on the must see list, is the Uffizi Gallery.
The Uffizi is one of the most famous museums of sculpture and paintings in the world. Its collection of Renaissance works includes masterpieces by some of the greatest masters of all time like Bottlcelli, Correggio, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Raphael. The Uffizi Gallery is on the top floor of a building built by Giorgio Vasari between 1560 and 1580.
No trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the Academy of Fine Arts to see Michelangelo's David.
Sculpted by a 25-year-old Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504, the 17-foot tall David began as a block of marble abandoned by another artist decades earlier.
Shopping in Florence is wonderful. You'll find designer shops such as Gucci, Prada and Versace along Via Tornabuoni and Via Vigna Nuova. A wide variety of leather goods can be found in the areas around San Lorenzo and Santa Croce. You can even visit the Leather School of Santa Croce to see works in progress and shop. I enjoyed watching as my initials were put on my new handbag.
Italian gold and jewelry can be found in the shops at Ponte Vecchio. Bargain with the shopkeeper for your best price.
All this fabulous art and shopping aside, what is one of the best features of any place in Italy? Italian food!
Some restaurants to try for a great Italian meal are Garga, Trattoria Al Trebbio and Buca Mario.
At Buca Mario, they even give you a bag of delicious biscotti when you leave.
There are many hotels in Florence, so book according to your budget. The best time to go is from April to June and in September and October. The weather is usually nice, prices are lower and there are fewer tourists. Whenever you choose to go, I'm sure you'll love Italy's Renaissance city.
Lisa Vivirito is a travel consultant at Diamond Travel in Vero Beach. Call her at (772) 567-8481 or (800) 795-1986. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.