Florence, a city of half a million people, sits on the banks of the Arno River almost at the exact center of the Italian peninsula. A network of superhighways links it to the rest of the country and minimizes the distances between the cities: 87 kilometers to Bologna, 283 kilometers to Milan, 80 kilometers to Pisa, 468 kilometers to Naples, and 267 kilometers to Rome. Siena is only 70 kilometers away. Today Florence boasts over 350 hotels and pensiones, which can accommodate 20,000 visitors. Restaurants and trattorias dot the landscape, savory witness to Tuscan gastronomy. And yet, at every street corner and at every piazza we are reminded that this is the city of Cimabue, Giotto, Brunelleschi, and Donatello; that it was here that Ghiberti, and the Delia Robbias lived; and that it was in this place where the genius of Filippo Lippi, of Leonardo, and of Michelangelo held sway. Despite the automobiles trapped and braying in narrow streets, despite the pseudo-authenticity of many of the bridges reconstructed after the bombings of World War II, and even in spite of the electric wiring that somewhat defiles a Romanesque baptistery, we have stepped into the Renaissance when we enter Florence.
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