The concentration of artistic treasures in this relatively small city is extraordinary. Big Hitters include the Uffizi, housing such iconic images as Botticelli’s Primavera, and the Accademia with Michelangelo’s David, the world’s most famous nude statue. The churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella are famous for their fabulous frescoes, and the Pitti Palace is home to the vast Medici haul of paintings. But don’t ignore the lesser sights—Florence is full of hidden gems that few tourists bother with. Book tickets for the principal museums in advance (well in advance in high season): for a couple of euros, you will save hours of time in line.

Florence’s colorful traditional festivals include Easter Sunday's Scoppio del Carro, when a heavy wooden cart loaded with fireworks is pulled through the streets by two white oxen and escorted by flag throwers and musicians. June's Calcio Storico is a no-holes-barred cross between rugby and football with medieval origins that is played out in period costume in Piazza Santa Croce. Classical music fans should catch the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival of music, ballet, and opera (May-June), while the Estate Fiesolana hosts an eclectic program of dance, music, opera, and theater in Fiesole’s Roman amphitheater.