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ITALY : FLORENCE

Florence (Italian : Firenze)  is the capital city of the region of Tuscany in Italy and also capital of the province of Florence. The River Arno winds through the red-tiled buildings, under the Ponte Vecchio, like a silver ribbon; the Duomo of Brunelleschi - the fourth largest in the world, towers over this Renaissance city. Florence is a shining jewel set amongst countryside rich in wine, food and sunshine. Capital of Tuscany and a landmark of Western culture, Florence was the birthplace of the Renaissance and no other city in Italy can match the variety of artistic treasures found in its galleries and museums. Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and Michelangelo's "David" are just two of the most well-known of the thousands of stunning works that can be found in the Uffizzi, the Galleria dell’Accademia, and so many more. 

From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Florence lies on the Arno River and has a population of around 400,000 people, plus a suburban population in excess of 200,000 persons. The greater area has some 956,000 people. A center of medieval European trade and finance, the city is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and was long ruled by the Medici family. Florence is also famous for its fine art and architecture. It is said that, of the 1,000 most important European artists of the second millennium, 350 lived or worked in Florence.

At the heart of the city is the Fountain of Neptune, which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct. The Arno river, which cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the men who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno — which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood. Many of the bridges across the Arno were built by the Romans. 

One of the bridges in particular, however, stands out as being unique — The Ponte Vecchio, whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact. 

The most famous palace in the city is San Lorenzo, which has become a monument to the Medici family who were one of the most powerful families in Florence during the 15th century. Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art galleries in the world.


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