First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.
— Beppe Severgnini

Florence sits awash in the glow of its treasures, treasures which in a way helped awake and illuminate the western world. The drama surrounding the ebb and flow of Florentine power and indeed the struggle for power within Italy itself breathe life and humanity into the ancient streets. Marked below are but a tiny selection of sites worth exploring.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore/Baptistery: Perhaps the most iconic structure in Tuscany, the Basiclica di Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly referred to as The Duomo dominates the Florentine skyline. Dante himself watched it rise, his perch having become part of local lore. The Duomo boasts largest brick dome in the world, 140 years of construction, temporarily halted by the black death in fact, and a layered history to match the city which hosts it. Saint Zenobious, Florence's first bishop from the 4th century is laid to rest here. The Duomo also played host to opening moves of the dramatic Pazzi Conspiracy, which saw Giuliano de' Medici murdered within.

Uffizi Gallery: A gift to Florence and indeed to the world by the last Medici. Home to The Birth of Venus, works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrant, Caravaggio and other masters.

Ponte Vecchio: Thrice swept away by the Arno, this bridge has been home to Florentine goldsmiths since the 15th century. It was here a family feud sparked decades of bloodshed between Guelph and Ghibelline factions. In another example of Medici power and influence, a private corridor (the Vasari corridor) connected the Medici family home with Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall across the river. This was also the only bridge in Florence spared by the retreating Germans in 1944, the rest having been demolished to slow the Allied advance.

Palazzo Vecchio: Medieval and Renaissance seat of Florentine Government. Sitting within the Piazza Delle Signoria, Florence's central square. It was here thatpuritanical Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola burned priceless works of art in his "Bonfire of the Vanities" and he himself burned alive for falsifying prophecy in the same spot. Many Pazzi Conspirtors met their end hanging from the walls of the palazzo. A copy of Michelangelo's David stands outside the Palazzo with many more treasures residing under the Loggia dei Lanzi.

at once grand and imposing, haphazard, crude and elegant, no shortage of character or history at the Palazzo Vecchio.

at once grand and imposing, haphazard, crude and elegant, no shortage of character or history at the Palazzo Vecchio.

Accademia Di Belle Arti: Art school and museum houses the original "David" statue by Michelangelo.

Basilica of San Lorenzo: One of Italy's largest cathedrals and resting place of most of the Medici nobility.

Badia Fiorentina: An unassuming abbey first built in the 9th century, later partially demolished for failing to pay state taxes. The abbey serves as home to monks and nuns who sing vespers at 6PM every day just as they have for centuries. Dante lived "in the shadow" of the abbey and referenced the singing in his writing.

Piazza della Repubblica: Roman Forum, turned ghetto, turned social center. Surrounded by cafes and palaces as well as a magnificent arch dedicated to Vittorio Emmanuel II. As the inscription on the arch says, "The ancient center of the city / restored from age-old squalor / to new life"

Piazza Santa Trinita: Triangular square with an ancient Roman column with a representation of "Justice" perched atop.

Porcellino: Meaning "Little Piglet" this unassuming boar is perhaps one of the quirkiest bits of Florentine public art. A bronze copy of a marble statue found in the ruins of Rome, the boar's polished snout has been rubbed by locals and visitors alike for centuries to ensure an eventual return to the city.

Porcellino receiving the customary coin and nose rub.

Porcellino receiving the customary coin and nose rub.