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Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence as well as being the most populous city in Tuscany.
The city lies on the River Arno and is known for its history and its importance in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially for its art and architecture. A centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the richest and wealthiest cities of the time, Florence is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance; in fact, it has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. It was long under the de facto rule of the Medici family. From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The historic centre of Florence attracts millions of tourists each year and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. Florence is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and its artistic, historic and cultural heritage and impact in the world remains vast up to this day. The city has also a major European impact in music, architecture, education, cuisine, fashion, philosophy, science and religion. The historic centre of Florence contains numerous elegant piazzas, Renaissance palazzi, academies, parks, gardens, churches, monasteries, museums, art galleries and ateliers. The city has also been nominated, according to a 2007 study, as the most desirable destination for tourists in the world.
It has been the birthplace or chosen home of many notable historical figures, such as Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Niccolò Machiavelli, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo Galilei, Catherine de' Medici, Antonio Meucci, Guccio Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Roberto Cavalli, Florence Nightingale and Emilio Pucci.
Tourism is the most significant industry in central Florence. From April to October, tourists outnumber local population. Tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia museums are regularly sold out and large groups regularly fill the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, both of which charge for entry. In 2007, readers of Travel + Leisure magazine for the third time ranked the city as their favourite tourist destination, followed in order by Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Rome, Sydney and New York City. Florence is believed to have the greatest concentration of art - in proportion to its size, in the world. Thus, cultural tourism is particularly strong, with world-renowned museums such as the Uffizi selling over 1.6 million tickets a year. The city's convention centre facilities were restructured during the 1990s and host exhibitions, conferences, meetings, social forums, concerts and other events all year.
Florence is the most important city in Tuscany, one of the great wine-growing regions in the world. The Chianti region is just south of the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends. Within twenty miles (32 km) to the west is the Carmignano area, also home to flavorful sangiovese-based reds. The celebrated Chianti Rufina district, geographically and historically separated from the main Chianti region, is also few miles east of Florence. More recently, the Bolgheri region (about 100 miles / 200 kilometres southwest of Florence) has become celebrated for its "Super Tuscan" reds such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Florence's Peretola Airport is one of two main airports in the Tuscany region, the other being Galileo Galilei International Airport near Pisa. The principal public transport network within the city is run by the ATAF and Li-nea bus company, with tickets available at local tobacconists, bars and newspaper stalls. The centre of the city is closed to through-traffic, although buses, taxis and residents with appropriate permits are allowed in. Cars without permits are allowed to enter after 7.30pm, or before 7.30am in the morning. The rules shift somewhat unpredictably during the tourist-filled summers, putting more restrictions on where one can get in and out.
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