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Florence is the capital of Tuscany, located on the Arno River, and has been known as the centre of art in Italy since the Middle Ages. The city was founded by the Romans and displays the artistic heritage of two thousand years of Italian and European culture. The city’s rich history makes it one of the top tourist attractions in Italy, with some of the best art museums in the world and a variety of distinctive and beautiful architecture. Florence is also located in a very scenic area of Italy, right in the middle of the Italian Peninsula. The charm of the city is complemented by the beauty of the surrounding countryside, which is also a famous area for wine production. The city is delightful year round, though becomes very crowded during the height of the tourist season, with tourists far outnumbering the native population.
Florence has a Mediterranean climate, which makes for dry, very hot summers and surprisingly cold and damp winters. The most pleasant seasons to visit are in spring and fall. There is little rainfall in the summer, and most rain comes in spring and fall. Average temperatures for the summer months are 17-31º C (63-87º F) and winter temperatures are usually between 2-12º C (35-54º F). Snow falls very rarely.
The language spoken in Florence is Italian. There is also a Tuscan dialect spoken in the area around Florence known as “Fiorentino.”
It is common practice to tip both waiters in restaurants and taxi drivers between 5-10% of the bill. In restaurants a service charge of around 15% is usually already added to the bill, but this additional tip is still expected. Tipping is widely practised in Italy for other services as well, so small tips to hotel staff, ushers, restroom attendants, etc. are sure to be appreciated. For hotel service, a tip of € .50 – 1.50 per day is typical, though more in very expensive hotels.
Tax is included in the price of all goods in Italy. For items purchased over € 155, tourists from outside of the EU can get the tax reimbursed. This can be done by filling in a form in the shop and then presenting it to the customs officials at major airports or border crossings.
Florence has many public telephones available. Now they only accept phone cards, which can be purchased from newsstands, vending machines and tobacco shops. The country code of Italy is 39 and the local area code for Florence is 55. To dial Florence from abroad, dial 00 39 55, followed by the local number.
There are several internet cafés in Florence, most of which are located in the city centre. The most well-known shop is a chain called Internet Train, with locations near the Duomo, the train station and thirteen other places within the city. The cards they issue are good at all Internet Train cafés. Rates are expensive, €4 per hour and €1 for 10 minutes. Many hotels in Florence also have an internet connection, which can usually be used by the guests free of charge.
For police call 113 and for an ambulance call 118. For the fire department call 115. For medical service during the night call +39 (0)55 477891, and during the day you can call +39 (0)55 475411. The number for customs is +39 (0)55 214316, and for civil protection you can call +39 (0)55 27831.
Most shops in Florence are open from 9.30 am - 1 pm and from 4 pm - 8 pm. It is common for some shops to only open for the afternoon on Mondays, while some of the bigger shops skip the lunch break and are open all day, indicating this by the sign “Orario No-Stop.” On Saturday many stores close earlier.
The post office is open Mon - Fri from 8.15 am - 7 pm and Sat 8.15 am - 12.30 pm.
Banks are generally open weekdays from 8.30 am - 1.30 pm and 2.45 pm - 3.45 pm
The following holidays in Italy are days when most businesses are closed and transportation may be more limited.
1st January, New Years Day
6th January, Epiphany
Good Friday/Easter Sunday and Monday, late March or early April
25th April, Liberation Day
1st May, Labour Day
15th August, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st November, All Souls Day
8th December, Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
25th December, Christmas
This area of Italy is generally extremely safe, and violent crime rates are unusually low. There are pickpockets to watch out for of course, some of them children, which is mostly a problem around the train station and very touristy locations. A couple places that become rather seedy after dark and are better avoided are Cascine park and the Lungarno embankment area. These places tend to be hang outs for junkies, and are places where people are occasionally mugged.
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