San Marco

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San Marco

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Compared to much of the rest of city center, San Marco is quiet and pleasantly unhurried. This is no bad thing, of course: you can see and experience what genuine, day-to-day life is like for a local Florentine, and Florence city center, fit to bursting with architectural and artistic gems, is only ever a 15-minute walk away. You can also find some of these on San Marco's doorstep, as the Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze is home to David. The lines to see Michelangelo's masterpiece and the rest of the collection are long and start early, so book tickets in advance to enter via a less busy entrance. You can also admire the artwork of Fra Angelico in the Museo de San Marco, who lived in the building in the 15th-century when it was a convent.

However, wander north of here and you leave most of the crowds behind you, with the neighborhood's quiet streets, pretty piazzas and plush botanic gardens. The hip, laid-back bars and cafes are a reflection of the presence in the neighborhood of the University of Florence, while Piazza San Marco and Piazza Santissima Annunziata, although close to the Galleria dell'Accademia, are ideally suited to plonking yourself down and doing some people watching. The beauty of San Marco, therefore, lies as much in its simplicity and neighborhood atmosphere as it does in its museums and galleries.

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Stories about Florence

Peek over the walls and you'll see the real Florence

Peek over the walls and you'll see the real Florence

“Rome is a whore,” says Giambaccio, a ploud Florence native. It has just gone midnight, and we have wandered through the moonstruck streets around Florence’s Piazza San Spirito for hours before winding up here: in a haphazardly cluttered art studio Giambaccio has modeled on a ship’s deck. “She opens her legs for everybody. But Florence...” He mimes chastity – the shutting of two knees – with his fingers. “We are a walled city. We are closed.”