Santa Croce

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Santa Croce

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To stay centrally in Florence and still be able to experience the buzz and quirks of neighborhood life in the city, look no further than Santa Croce. The likes of the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo are only a 10- to 15-minute walk away, but Santa Croce has retained its local character. Near or along the Via dei Bonci is one of the best spots in the city for bars and nightclubs, while the streets that run off from Piazza de' Ciompi and the Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio are perfect for snapshotting local evening life in Florence.

The inexpensive but excellent restaurants along Via de' Macci are perfect for an evening meal or, indeed, lunch, as there's plenty to keep you occupied during the day, too. The Basilica de Santa Croce is perhaps the highlight; buried here are the likes of Michelangelo and Machiavelli, earning the church the nickname of Temple of the Italian Glories.

The square outside is a hive of activity all year round, with numerous festivals and events held throughout the year. By far the most passionately attended is the Calcio Storico Fiorentino in June, where teams from each of the historic four neighborhoods compete in what represents an early form of football. To live life as a local in Florence, if only for a few days, you can't go wrong with Santa Croce.

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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.”