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Florence, Chianti, Siena & Surroundings - Emma Jones Preview:
Visitors have been drawn to Florence's architectural and artistic treasures for centuries - and for good reason. But, with an historical center of only half a square-mile, it can be hard to see the sights through the crowds. The throng on the Duomo steps, the lines for the Uffizi and the jostling for photos on Piazzale Michelangelo all require a good dose of patience, especially under the blistering summer heat. Fortunately, early evening offers a respite; the quieter streets and softer lighting at that time bring out the colors of the marble-clad cathedral topped by Filippo Brunelleschi's archetypal dome, the sheer immensity of the Palazzo Vecchio and the charm of the medieval Ponte Vecchio, with its shops latched shut for the night. But avoiding the lines when you enter the buildings and museums takes some preparation, especially if you arrive in the busiest and hottest summer months when the only option is to drag yourself out of bed at sunrise to beat the crowds to the 8:15 am openings. Not to be missed: * Piazza del Duomo: Famous address of the Duomo, Campanile and Battistero. * Galleria degli Uffizi: The most select picture gallery in the world and potent symbol of Medici power. * Palazzo Vecchio: Medieval town hall architecture at its most forceful. * Galleria dell'Accademia: Home to Michelangelo's David. * Via dei Tornabuoni: Even if you can't afford to buy, you'll enjoy the window-shopping on this luxury-laden street. * Piazza Repubblica: The 19th century makes its mark. * Museo Nazionale del Bargello: Florence's national sculpture museum. * Giardino di Boboli: Sculpture-packed gardens behind the museum-packed Palazzo Pitti. * The Oltrano: A warren of narrow streets filled with artisan workshops and some great restaurants. * Piazzale Michelangelo: The classic Florentine view. * The churches: Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, Orsanmichele, Santa Croce, Santo Spirito and San Miniato al Monte are just some of the delights on offer. * The markets: Shopping the Florentine way. * Ponte Vecchio: Medieval bridge architecture at its most splendid. * Le Murate: Atmospheric ex-convent and ex-prison now the venue for Firenze Estate events. This guide focuses on Florence and the surrounding region, including San Gimignano, Chianti, Mugello, Upper Valdarno, Val d'Elsa, Fiesole, Pistoia, and Prato - all easily reached in day-trips. This history-rich region offers some of Italy's classic landscapes - pole-straight cypress trees lining dusty farm roads, rolling hills that stretch as far as the eye can see, fields of vibrant sunflowers, medieval villages perched on rocky spurs above crashing surf. Visit them all with this comprehensive guide that helps you explore the very best places. A largely untouched coastline and protected wild areas only add to the appeal of this top vacation destination. Regional chapters take you on an introductory tour, with stops at museums, historic sites and local attractions. Places to stay and eat; transportation to, from and around your destination; practical concerns; tourism contacts - it's all herel Detailed regional and town maps feature walking and driving tours. Then come the adventures - fishing, canoeing, hiking, rafting, llama trips and more. Never galloped along a beach on horseback, trekked up a mountain, explored ancient sites? Also includes extensive lists of recommended outfitters, with all contact details - e-mail, website, phone number and location. Adventure Guides are about living more intensely, waking up to your surroundings and truly experiencing all that you..