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Florence

Updated: Jan 11, 2011 03:56 PM EST
Climb the soaring cupola of the Duomo for views over red rooftops to Tuscany's undulating hills beyond. (©iStockphoto.com/Evgeny Kuklev)) Climb the soaring cupola of the Duomo for views over red rooftops to Tuscany's undulating hills beyond. (©iStockphoto.com/Evgeny Kuklev))
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By John Moretti

Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci all left their mark on Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance and Tuscany's alfresco museum. With the graceful Duomo as a backdrop, follow the River Arno to the Uffizi Gallery, soaking in the Old Masters paintings. Then wander across the Ponte Vecchio bridge as dusk descends, silhouetting the red rooftops and lengthening the shadows of Florence's tangled medieval alleyways. Finally, sample seasonal Tuscan cuisine in an authentic trattoria. You've discovered the art of fine living in this masterpiece of a city.

Things to Do

Climb the soaring cupola of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or Duomo, for views over red rooftops to Tuscany's undulating hills beyond. Michelangelo's David stands proud behind the doors of the Galleria dell'Accademia, only rivaled in scale and splendor by the Uffizi Gallery where Boticellis, da Vincis and other Italian Old Masters hang out. Traverse the River Arno via the medieval Ponte Vecchio to picnic beside statues and fountains in the regal Boboli Gardens.

Shopping

Florentines are slaves to style. Italy's leather capital strains at the seams with handmade gloves, belts, bags and shoes in artisan workshops, as well as at San Lorenzo Market, where haggling is de rigueur. Splurge on designer wear from Italian fashion houses along glamorous Via Tornabuoni or Renaissance scents from convent-turned-perfumery Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. Goldsmiths and silversmiths crowd Ponte Vecchio bridge, just steps from Bottega delle Antiche Terme, famous for tailor Simone Abbarchi's made-to-measure threads.

Nightlife and Entertainment

As the sun sets over the River Arno, fashionable Florentines hit Lungarno's people-watching bars for a negroni (Campari-based cocktail) at aperitivo hour. For the finest views, head to the chic Terrazza dei Consorti roof terrace. Street entertainers, guitar-strumming students and caricature artists amuse evening crowds on Piazza del Duomo, a central starting point for a bar hop. Dress for opera in Teatro Comunale and casual for open-air summer concerts in the city's piazzas, like Piazza di Sant'Ambrogio.

Restaurants and Dining

Hearty Tuscan dishes cooked with lashings of local olive oil called "liquid gold" are complemented by full-bodied Chianti wines in Florence. Explore Oltrarno's labyrinthine backstreets and cozy up in the rustic trattorie in working-class San Frediano for staples like succulent bistecca alla fiorentina (charcoal-grilled steak) and ribollita (bean stew). Seasonal cuisine is served by candlelight in Santa Croce's romantic bistros and in the Duomo's shadow in the Centro Storico. Florence's enoteche (wine bars) are relaxed lunchtime stops for antipasti.

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