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Florence

FASCINATING FLORENCE
Florence is, without doubt, one of the must see cities of the world. Famed as a fabulous melting pot of overly ornate churches, stunning, one of a kind statuary and wonderful, world famous museums, it has a quite extraordinary stance. Straddling both banks of the River Arno, the entire spectacular scene is like some incredible medieval theme park, miraculously preserved through the ages.

Getting the best out of all this in a short time is a tall order, but it can be done. You should certainly stroll the sublime expanse of the Ponte Vecchio, to get a real idea of how Renaissance Italians traded and lived from day to day. Part building, part stock exchange and all river spanning bridge, the Ponte Vecchio is, quite possibly, unique. It is certainly a world wide icon.

The world famous Uffizi Gallery dates back to 1560. It is almost awash with masterpieces but, if you do go, I advise getting a ticket in advance. In summer the lines can take up to five hours to move. The cool, marble replica of Michelangelo’s David is still in place to this day.

The Fountain of Neptune is a stunning brew of marble and masterful, ornate carvings. Nearby, the city’s trademark is without doubt the imperious Duomo cathdral, still the largest such brick and mortar building in the world Together with its nearby baptistry and bell tower, it gives the medieval masterpiece a still beating heart that thousands flock to see, year in and out. The entire city was declared a World Heritage Centre in 1982.

I’d also recommend taking in the Palazzo Vecchio, a swaggering bell tower and castle in one building. It has a vast, imposing fa├žade and looming battlements that have witnessed some of the greatest events in European history. The footsteps of Leonardo, Machiavelli and numerous others still echo in the side streets of this tremendous, crowded city of lore and legend to this day.

Also near the centre is the Piazza della Republica, an enormous square flanked by numerous, umbrella shaded pavement cafes. One of the most famous is the Giubbe Rosse, once famed as an artists and writers hang out, and a long time Florentine favourite. It begs your indulgence for a spot of laid back people watching; an ideal distraction after a hectic few hours of admiring the monumental glut of overblown grandeur that Florence flaunts at almost every single turn.

Getting there: From Livorno train station, trains run to Florence once an hour every day, except for Sundays. The journey time is around 90 minutes, and costs around eighteen euros in second class (or twenty-four in first). For the sake of convenience, the latest return train you should consider leaves from Florence at 3.27 each afternoon.

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