Florence is the beating heart of Tuscany, home of the greatest collections of Renaissance art and sculpture in the world, a regional epicentre of fashion, fine food and wine, and a beautiful medieval urban jewel worshipped by writers throughout history as an escape for the soul. It’s a city of over 300,000 people, sliced by the gleaming river Arno and dominated by the vast duomo of the cathedral, still (600 years on) the largest brick and mortar dome in the world. In the Uffizi, it has one of the country’s best art collections; in the Bargello and surrounding piazzas some of its finest sculptures. Throughout the city are churches, markets, shops – and, wherever you look, whenever you go, throngs of tourists.
Few of them leave disappointed. Everything is there, compact and impeccably preserved, just as you expected it, only more so. But you can escape too - to the riverside gardens and forts, to the bohemian quarters away from the centre, to the winelands and landscaped mansions in the rolling hills around the city. A growing number of stylish little hotels offers a modern ‘room with a view’ (Forster's novel was set here), There's no shortage of fine restaurants and fashion boutiques, street cafes and ice cream parlours, as well as direct flights from London and other cities. Whether you come for a short city break or as part of a 21st-century grand tour, it's one of the world's must sees.