Florence is the capital of Tuscany and lies on the Arno River. The Romans built many of the bridges that cross the river, with one bridge being particularly unique – The Ponte Vecchio – which has a number of small shops built on it. Florence is the birthplace of Italian Renaissance and is most famous for its art and architecture. The most famous palace is San Lorenzo; and the Santa Croce church has monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo and many others. Legend says Santa Croce was founded by St Francis himself.
The setting for a number of movies and fiction, including Hannibal, Florence is also famous for Michelangelo’s statue of David.
Rome is on the Tiber and Aniene rivers, and with a history dating back around 2,800 years, the city is littered with Roman ruins from as far back at 100BC.
Highlights include the Spanish Steps – a monumental stairway built in 1723-25 to link the Bourban Spanish embassy to the Holy See; Trevi Fountain –the endpoint of an ancient aqueduct which originally supplied water to Rome; and the Colosseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre and used for gladiatorial combat. It’s said 9000 wild animals were killed
in the 100 days of celebration for the amphitheatre’s opening.
If you’re looking for something different, head to the catacombs of the Capuchin Monks. The catacombs date back to the 1599 when the Capuchin monks of Palermo removed some bodies from their graves and discovered they had undergone natural mummification. Realising the religious potential, local priests mummified the body of a holy monk, Brother Silvestro, for public viewing, and in time, locals wanted their relatives remembered in this way, so the catacombs filled up rapidly. There are separate areas dedicated to Priests, Monks, Men, Women, Virgins, Children and Professionals and the last corpse to be placed in the catacombs was two-year-old Rosalia Lombardo in 1920. It is certainly one of the most interesting things you will see in Rome.
Vatican City is a landlocked enclave in Rome and is the smallest independent nation state in the world. The Pope is head of state and he rules along with the heads of government, secretary of the state and governor of the city.
The area itself dates back to before Christianity, with the first church built in 326 AD over the supposed site of the tomb of St Peter. It wasn’t until the early 20th Century that Vatican City became a state and Roman Catholics received special status in Italy. The population is just over 900 and consists mostly of clergy – high dignitaries, priests, nuns and the Swiss Guard (a voluntary military force); and cardinals.
The Vatican City also has great cultural significance, with buildings such as St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel - home to the works of artists such as Botticelli and Michelangelo.