Florence (Firenze in Italian) is the capital of Tuscany, on Italy's northwest coast. A small city located in the Arno River valley, it is surrounded by olive-planted hills on the north and south. The centro storico (historic center), where visitors spend most of their time, is a tangle of medieval streets and piazzas (squares). In the Renaissance period, Florence was one of the most powerful and influential of the city states. The de' Medici family ruled the city from 1434 to 1743 and had a great influence on the architecture and arts. They built many palaces and commissioned such artists as Michelangelo to design them.
Florence is a walking city. Visitors can stroll between the two most often visited sights, the Duomo and the Uffizi, in less than five minutes. The walk from the most northerly point, the Accademia with Michelangelo's David, to the most southerly, the Pitti Palace, should take no more than 30 minutes. Florence is also a city of incomparable indoor pleasures. Its chapels, galleries and museums capture the spirit of the Renaissance. Florence is called the capital of the arts. From the 13th to the 16th century it was a seemingly endless source of Italian masterpieces.