FLORENCE, ITALY

Like Pisa, Florence, Italy is located on the River Arno. It has a glorious history, even being called the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the “Athens of the Middle Ages.” Florence is also a major fashion center, and has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

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Noteworthy in Florence is the Uffizi Gallery, a museum built over the course of 21 years, and completed in 1581. With time it came to house much of the collections of, and works commissioned by, the noted Medici family. According to Vasari, the Uffizi’s architect and author of the “Lives of Artists”, the Gallery was frequented by such personalities as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The Uffizi is home to masterpieces by, inter alia, da Vinci, Rafael, Tetian, and Botticelli. But not only Italian art: You will find there ample representatives of French, Spanish, German, and Dutch schools, as well as pieces from the ancient period.

Da Vinci himself – inventor, writer, scientist, and artist – was born not far from Florence. And Dante, of “Divine Comedy” fame, was born in Florence.

Well, when you see bridges anywhere, they seem to be just *begging* to be photographed; how can you in good conscience not oblige? (A bridge has feelings, too!) Florence surely has its share of these grand constructions. Most famous is the Ponte Vecchio, the “Old Bridge”… and it *is* old – built in 1345, but it still looks rather the same as it did from the very start (or so is the word on the street). The butchers’ shops of those memorable if distant times have more recently given way to jewelry and souvenir outlets.

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Not far from Ponte Vecchio is Ponte Santa Trinita (Holy Trinity Bridge), the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world. Its three flattened arches give the bridge its distinctive appearance, and it is considered the most elegant bridge in Florence. Originally built of wood, it was redone in stone after being destroyed in a flood in 1333. The Nazis destroyed the Santa Trinita in 1944, and it was subsequently restored from the ruins recovered from the River.

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Not rarely have we mentioned Italian-Russian connections in this blog. And in Florence we find yet another: On a certain house near Florence center is posted a tablet declaring that Dostoevsky completed there his famed novel “The Idiot”. And way, way down another tortuous street you can find the house where Tchaikovsky completed his opera “Queen of Spades” based on Pushkin’s short story of the same name.

Where there are tourists there are also hotels, and Florence has plenty of both. Noteworthy there is the Hotel Il Salviatino, a hand-restored 15th century villa with stunning views of the city and the rolling Tuscan landscape. (Even the hotel’s own website cannot deny or conceal this fact.)

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