Photo: Renaissance Florence

The towers and domes of Renaissance Florence form a time-honored vista from the gardens of the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte.

Photograph by Atlantide/Corbis

A city-size shrine to the Renaissance, Florence offers frescoes, sculptures, churches, palaces, and other monuments from the richest cultural flowering the world has known. Names from its dazzling historical past—Dante, Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli—are some of the most resonant of the medieval age. But to see the Tuscan capital simply as Europe’s preeminent city of art would be to ignore not only its role as a dynamic and cosmopolitan metropolis, but also to overlook its more unsung charms—Italy’s most visited gardens (and its best ice-cream parlor), idyllic strolls on balmy summer evenings, a broad range of specialty shopping, sweeping views over majestic cityscapes, eating experiences that range from historic cafés to the country’s most highly rated restaurants, and the kind of seductive and romantic pleasures that somehow only Italy knows how to provide.

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