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Piazza della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Arcetri, Italy, Europe: Palazzo Vecchio's tower dominates the skyline.
Italy's insider take:

This monumental square, dominated by the somber Palazzo Vecchio and its iconic tower, has been Florence's administrative hub for hundreds of years, and it still functions as city hall today. It is home to several vast statues (including copies of Michelangelo's David and Donatello's Judith and Holofernes), a monumental fountain by Ammannati featuring a rather thuggish Neptune, and a plaque marking the spot where rabble-rousing priest Savonarola burned in 1498. Today, it's lined with cafés and restaurants, and on warm summer nights it becomes an impromptu theater for all kinds of street performers and a general hangout for backpackers. Inside the Palazzo Vecchio are acres of frescoes depicting the Medici family's leading figures and feats. It's worth signing up for one of the Percorsi Segreti guided tours that give access to normally off-limits parts of the building. Some of these tours are in English, but times vary: Take your chances by turning up in the morning (9:30 and 11 are good bets), or book here for the following day.

Palazzo Vecchio open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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