A reverential hush permeates the corridors of the palatial Uffizi Gallery, where great masters of the Renaissance like Raphael, Michelangelo and da Vinci are collected under one vast roof. The white marble figure of Michelangelo’s David rises 17ft at the nearby Accademia Gallery. Even the ceiling frescoes are works of art in the gold-corniced, opulent halls of the Palatine Gallery, south of the river.
Compact central Florence streets open into many squares, or piazzas. Drink a smooth glass of chianti in the open under lantern light at Boccadama restaurant on the Piazza Santa Croce in front of the basilica. Dine on the street at the Casa del Vin Santo trattoria and tuck into oven-fired pizza in view of the loggia (arcade) of the Straw Market. On balmy summer evenings relax to open-air opera or ballet in the Renaissance setting of the Boboli Gardens.
On a Florence city break, the churches are museums in their own right. Giotto’s flamboyant frescoes enrich the chapels at Santa Croce, and the walls of San Lorenzo church are the backdrop to the canopies of the bustling market district. The dome of Florence’s cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, was the largest in the world in the 15th century. Climb 400 steps to the top for views of the rolling Tuscan hills.