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Local Host Picks

PIAZZALE MICHELANGELO AND SAN MINIATO AL MONTE

Enjoy a sensational view over the "cradle of the Renaissance" from Florence's most panoramic square located high on a green hillside overlooking the city. A little further up the hill, see the beautiful basilica San Miniato al Monte where the Benedictines built a church in honor of St. Mennas.

THE CATHEDRAL OF SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE (DUOMO)

Better known as the ‘Duomo’ – it not only dominates the skyline but also represents the geographical, cultural and historical center of the city. Visit Brunelleschi's spectacular, 37,000-ton dome and climb Giotto's bell tower “the Campanile” – three-floors with 414 steps.

CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO

See Brunelleschi's early-Renaissance masterpiece and the mausoleum of the Medici family, built by Michelangelo, in the New Sacristy.

CHURCH OF SANTA CROCE

Built towards the end of the 13th century by the great architect Arnolfo di Cambio, this Franciscan basilica is a highlight of the specifically Italian architecture of the Gothic style. Wander along the three wide naves enriched by Galileo's and Michelangelo's tombs, and admire works of the Early Florentine School from Giotto and his followers in the transept chapels.

CHURCH OF SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

Enjoy the harmony of this medieval architectural jewel. Built in 1246 by the Dominicans, its beautiful arcades and its incredible vaults preserve works by many Renaissance artists.

MODERN ART

While the art scene in Florence is destined to be more classic than contemporary, modern art is alive and well. Many of the contributions come from the restaurants, bars and hotels that show the work of local and international artists. Astor Caffè, Rex Café, and Gallery Hotel Art are among those putting on regular, gallery-worth exhibitions.

CENTRAL MARKET

Florence's bustling Central Market (better known as the Mercato Centrale) is a fascinating place to visit, especially for foodies. Located in a towering cast-iron building dating from 1874, its entrances are often obscured by the stalls of the San Lorenzo market that line the streets outside (the San Lorenzo stalls feature crafts, leather clothing, shoes, souvenirs, etc). Inside the market are a myriad of vendors dedicated to the primary ingredients of Tuscan cuisine.

MUSIC IN FLORENCE

Numerous churches offer concerts and opera performances throughout the year. Try St Mark’s English Church or some grander settings which include the magnificent Chiesa di Orsanmichele and the gorgeous 12th-century Chiesa di Santo Stefano al Ponte Vecchio. Stop at Santa Maria dei Ricci for the daily organ concert. Ask your Local Host for more information.

OLD PHARMACY OF SANTA MARIA NOVELLA

The pharmacy/museum displays the results of more than 800 years of work by Dominican monks. Following centuries-old formulas, the officina sells ancient remedies and tonics alongside hand-molded soaps and perfumed powders.

FLORENTINE FASHION AND SHOPPING

Florentine leatherwork, gold jewelry, Italian craftwork, and art books are great gifts to take home. Florence is also famous for its out-of-town fashion outlets, but if you only have time to do one, visit the ‘Mall’- just a half-hour drive from the city, it is home to many designer names and discounts.

TUSCAN FOOD SPECIALTIES

Specialties to try include succulent bistecca fiorentina (Florentine steak); pappa al pomodoro (local bread and tomato soup); ribollita, (cabbage and bean soup); and biscottini di Prato con vin Santo (a special cookie and white wine) to finish off your meal. Sip Chianti wine, Brunello di Montepulciano, or the Super Tuscans.