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Charm of Florence ranges from culture to Chianti

By Mark VanekBy Mark Vanek

Considered the birthplace of Renaissance and the capital of the Tuscany region of Italy, Florence – Firenza – is a must-see destination for the romantic as well as the sophisticated traveler. Florence is a diverse city, distinguished for its medieval culture as well as a multitude of museums, historical landmarks and stunning cathedrals. You can go just about anywhere in the Tuscany region and bask in the scenic and tranquil countryside.

Door of Paradise: One of the oldest buildings in Cathedral Square is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, renowned for its 10 distinctive bronze quatrefoil sections depicting the life of John the Baptist. A top visitor attraction in Florence, The Baptistery ( http://bit.ly/Y3tNFy) is believed to have been constructed in the 5th or 6th century.

The Duomo: The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is a mere 800 years old and is celebrated as one of the most magnificent cathedrals in Europe. This impressive Gothic cathedral complex is known for its distinctive Renaissance dome, stunning frescos and ornate stained glass windows.

Fearless visitors can climb the 463 steps of the narrowing and spiral staircase to the top of the dome. The breathtaking vistas of Florence and the countryside prove worthy of the effort. Plan on paying 8 Euros (about $10.68) to ascend the cavernous stairwell.

Chianti Hills: The famous Tuscan Hills is the birthplace of Chianti wine. Florence Tours ( http://bit.ly/Vrx5Uj) can take you to the small, sleepy community of Greve and into the Tuscan countryside. Along the way you will visit a Franciscan monastery, a charming wine cellar, and share an authentic Italian lunch with the locals. You can get a comprehensive understanding of the area’s heritage, local produce, and the Chianti wine-making process.

Piazza Santa Maria Novella: With all these concrete city streets and cobblestone walkways your feet will most assuredly appreciate a respite. So share a park bench with the locals at this open-air park. Cautionary note: Pick-pockets abound.

Trattoria al Trebbio: This warm and inviting restaurant is just of few steps from Piazza Santa Maria Novella. Enjoy unique fine dining – savory and traditional Tuscan dishes in a cozy atmosphere. Trattoria al Trebbio ( http://bit.ly/W6k1kj) offers a complete range of vino from all over Italy. Also, save room for the homemade dessert fare that is nostalgically presented on a push cart.

Vanek lives at Lake Norman and has unlimited standby flight privileges. http://flying-standby.blogspot.com.
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