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UNESPAR 2011

36 Hours in Florence

By ONDINE COHANE

 

With its Renaissance treasures and centuries-old stately palaces, Florence is sometimes treated like a living museum rather than a vibrant city with contemporary culture. That myth is harder to sustain these days, thanks in part to Matteo Renzi, the city’s 35-year-old mayor, who was elected last year with promises to stir up the Tuscan capital. Evidence of a more youthful and revitalized Florence is everywhere. Dilapidated squares have been refreshed, contemporary art galleries have sprung up, and old-school palaces have been turned into trendy restaurants. Traffic has also improved, making the city even more pleasant to navigate. As one of Mr. Renzi’s first moves as mayor, Florence’s symbolic heart is now a pedestrian-only square. Without buses, taxis and cars jamming up the street, it is a pleasant and totally new experience, even as it remains one of the city’s most popular attractions. Don’t miss the stunningly detailed bronze doors of the Baptistery. Another landmark that’s received the car-free touch is the square of Santa Maria Novella, the restored black and white marble facade of the basilica is all the more striking, as is the neighborhood around it.

 

Florence may be known for old masters, but its contemporary art scene is heating up. For Gallery is a sleek space that specializes in photography including portraits and cityscapes. Biagiotti Arte Contemporanea focuses principally on young Italian artists. And the new outpost of Galleria Alessandro Bagnai represents betterknown names like Sandro Chia and Mario Schifano. Photo buffs will also want to check out the Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia which is expected to reopen on Sept. 8, and Palazzo Strozzi, for major retrospectives.

 

Summer night life in Florence is centered around small aperitivo bars that come alive after dinner, spilling into the street. A new hot spot is Volume, a bar that opened in April in a former wood workshop. On balmy nights the bar is filled with a varied yet beautiful crowd, from fashion editors to exchange students, who anchor one corner of the festive Piazza Santo Spirito.

Adapted from: New York Times, July 16, 2010.

 

Why is Florence sometimes treated like a living museum?

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