The cultural and historical impact of Florence is overwhelming. Close up, however, the city is one of Italy's most atmospheric and pleasant, retaining a strong resemblance to the small late-medieval centre that contributed so much to the cultural and political development of Europe. Unfortunately, it can be one of Italy's most clogged tourist traps, with up to 2000 tourist buses arriving daily in the peak season.
Where Rome is a historical hot-pot, Florence is like stepping back into a Fiat and Vespa-filled Renaissance: the shop-lined Ponte Vecchio, the trademark Duomo, the gem-filled Uffizi Gallery, the turreted Piazza della Signoria and the Medici Chapels. Thankfully, these unforgettables are all within walking distance of each other.
Time: GMT/UTC plus one hour (plus two hours in summer)
Telephone area code: 055
Florence is the capital of the region of Tuscany, on Italy's north-west coast. A good reference point for navigating your way around Florence is its central train station, Santa Maria Novella, although the Duomo is pretty hard to miss. The city has two airports - Amerigo Vespucci is a few kilometres north-west of the city centre, and Galileo Galilei (for international flights) is about 75km (46mi) west of the city. You can walk from one end of the city centre to the other in about 30 minutes.
Florence has hundreds of hotels, hostels and private rooms, and more than 150 budget hotels; even so, it's best to book ahead. Hotels and pensions are concentrated near the train station and in the old section of the city, from the Duomo to the river. Tuscany is known for its fine culinary traditions - in particular, its olive oil, meat dishes and classic Chianti. Atmospheric trattorie abound, and there are clusters of lovely little eateries south of the Arno and near the central market in San Lorenzo.