Florence, for all her timeless charm, is no stranger to destruction. In 1944, all her bridges, save the Ponte Vecchio, were destroyed by the Nazis, in an attempt to stall the advance of the allies. In 1966, the banks of the River Arno burst, flooding the city with her muddied waters and devastating homes and artworks. Most recently, in 1993, a bomb exploded near the Uffizi Gallery, ripping through the museum's interior and claiming several lives.
Situated in the northwest of Italy, surrounded by the wine-growing hills of Chianti, the city attracts rapture and frustration in equal proportions. Few can dismiss the image of Brunelleschi's cathedral dome bursting through the morning mist - a terracotta balloon hovering above the medieval rooftops.
It is best for visitors to avoid the peak summer months of July and August, when the weather can be unbearably sticky and the prospect of trailing around museums becomes unappealing. Early autumn, when the countryside glows with mellow fruitfulness, is the best time to visit, avoiding the heat and the queues and capitalising on the soft light, empty streets and the abundance of wild mushrooms and just-pressed olive oil.