Florence is home to approximately one and a half million inhabitants (as of 2014), if you include the metropolitan area, and will always be thought of as being home to some of the greatest painters, sculptures and for being the birthplace of renaissance architecture.
Thousand upon thousand of visitors frequent the city every year to see the works of Masaccio, Ghiberti and Donatello in its museums and churches, and those of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian and Leonardo da Vinci in its art galleries, gardens and palaces.
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, between the 14th and 16th centuries, Florence was looked upon as one of the most important cities in Europe and also the world, both economically and culturally, with the city’s original language of the age still spoken and accepted as the modern Italian language.
Florence was once home to one of history’s most important noble families, the Medici, who were considered a great political and cultural influence in the late 15th century. In fact, two members of the family were elected Popes in the early 16th century as Leo X and Clement VII.
The Medici reigned as Grand Dukes of Tuscany, beginning with Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1569 and ending with the death of Gian Gastone de’ Medici in 1737.
The city was not only declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982, it has also been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful and striking cities in the world.
And there’s lots more, too. Florence has seen the birth of some of the world’s greatest clothes designers, like Roberto Cavalli and Gucci, whose gorgeous creations (and sometimes the designers themselves, if you’re lucky) can be seen in the high end designer shops along the Via de’ Tornabuoni and sometimes in the San Lorenzo Market.
But sometimes it’s a good idea to experience some of the off the regular Florence tourist route attractions too, and you can do this by taking a walk through the Oltrarno (the other side of the renowned Arno River) which will bring you to the rows of cafes, restaurants and shops within the Piazza Santo Spirito.
The piazza is mostly filled with anybody but tourists; in fact, it’s generally frequented by Florentine housewives, artisans, students and market sellers, giving it a taste of the ‘real’ Florence. It’s fun just to sit with a gelato, cappuccino or aperitivo (if you’re staying for lunch) and watch it all going on around you.
The Piazza is home to a daily market, where you’ll be able to find everything from fruit and vegetables, to jewellery, discounted designer clothes and shoes, and, in the evening, is popular with the local, who visit the many little bars and edgy restaurants. There is also an interesting antiques/flea market which is held every fourth Sunday of the month.