Daily Escape

ll Duomo di Firenze

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ll Duomo di Firenze

Florence, Italy

It looks like a Fabergé egg. But, in fact, the 150-foot-wide dome, which represents the birthplace of the Renaissance, is an immense, double-shelled, herringbone brickwork feat of masonry. The largest dome of its kind, Il Duomo towers over Florence's red-roofed skyline, and comprises part of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century, the dome has 463 brutally steep steps which lead up to a breathtakingly beautiful panoramic view of the city.


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the duomo, santa maria del fiore cathedral, florence, italy
The Duomo

The Duomo

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Florence, the Duomo is a cathedral built in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore. Visitors can climb to the top for amazing views of the city or explore the Gothic building’s amazing artwork, including Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgment. Self-guided tours are free, or you can pay about $2 per person for the audio tour.
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Mercato Centrale

Mercato Centrale

Go shopping at the Mercato Centrale, or Central Market, in Florence. This 2-level, indoor food market has butchers, fishmongers and delis on the first floor, and on the second floor, shops sell vegetables, fruits, cheese, homemade sauces and more. Don’t leave the market without tasting homemade mostarda, a spicy jam usually eaten with cheese or roasts. 960 1280

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Piazza San Lorenzo

Piazza San Lorenzo

Piazza San Lorenzo is the square in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. It is also a popular spot for locals and tourists to go shopping at the open market, visit the Cappelle Medicee, or stop by the Laurentian Library, a repository of more than 11,000 manuscripts and 4,500 books. 960 1280

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The Campanile

The Campanile

Climb to the top of the Campanile, or bell tower, to get perfect views of the Duomo and Florence. Italian painter and architect Giotto di Bondone designed the 277-foot-tall structure, which is divided into 5 levels. It is often referred to as Giotto’s Campanile. 960 1280

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Piazza della Signoria

Piazza della Signoria

A popular meeting place for Florentines and tourists, the Piazza Della Signoria is a square located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall. 960 1280

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Fountain of Neptune

Fountain of Neptune

Located on Piazza Della Signoria in front the Palazzo Vecchio, the Fountain of Neptune was used as a washbasin for laundry before the 16th century. The popular statue was restored in 2007 after vandals tried to climb it, damaging the trident and one of the hands. 960 1280

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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Built over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the only remaining bridge in the city that was built during the 1300s. The others were destroyed during World War II. Ponte Vecchio is lined with shops that sell jewelry, art and souvenirs. 960 1280

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Galleria dell’ Academia

Galleria dell’ Academia

Thousands of tourists converge on the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s most famous sculpture, the statue of David.  In addition to works by Italian artists, the museum also has a section that displays musical instruments created by Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano, and a tenor viola made by Antonio Stradivari in 1690. 960 1280

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Galleria degli Uffizi

Galleria degli Uffizi

Art aficionados will appreciate visiting the Galleria Degli Uffizi. This museum is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in Europe and the world. Artwork created by well-respected artists such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci is on display here. Expect to wait up to 5 hours to get into the museum in July, during the city’s high tourist season. 960 1280

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Basilica of Santa Croce

Basilica of Santa Croce

While touring some of Florence’s popular churches, visitors may want to check out the Basilica of Santa Croce, located southeast of the Duomo. Well-known Italians such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried here. 960 1280

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St. John Baptistery

St. John Baptistery

Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, this baptistery is the oldest religious monument in Florence. Although its origin is unknown, it’s believed that it was built over the ruins of a Roman temple that dated back to the fourth or fifth century. Up until the 19th century, all Catholics in Florence were baptized here. 960 1280

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Linguini Carbonara Pancetta

Linguini Carbonara Pancetta

Foodies will definitely want to sample the traditional Italian cuisine offered at hundreds of restaurants in Florence, including linguine carbonara pancetta. Feeling really adventurous? Take a class at a local cooking school to learn how to make classic Italian dishes. 960 1280

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Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

Built in 1869 and designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi, Piazzale Michelangelo, or Michelangelo Square, is the perfect place to get panoramic views of Florence. Dedicated to the Italian artist and sculptor, it features copies of his work, including a replica of the statue David. 960 1280

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Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

If you’re visiting Palazzo Pitti — once the home of Florentine banker Luca Pitti — then don’t miss out on strolling behind it through the Boboli Gardens, which house a collection of sculptures from the 16th through 18th centuries. It’s not uncommon to see these historical gardens undergo some form of restoration throughout the year to maintain the landscape and dozens of statues on site. 960 1280

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Positano, Italy
Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is home to several towns -- and the village of Positano is arguably its star attraction. Situated on a steep, rocky slope, the town is dotted with colorful stucco buildings that enliven the Mediterranean scene. 960 1280

Abdulsalam Haykal, flickr  

Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

At a dizzying 3,000 feet above Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Taktshang Monastery is the most famous Buddhist Himalayan monastery in the South Asian country. It was built in 1692, with subsequent restorations in 1958 and 2005. 960 1280

Douglas J. McLaughlin, Wikimedia Commons  

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

On a rocky hill above the German village of Hohenschwangau stands Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by the king of the German state of Bavaria Ludwig II. At an elevation of 2,620 feet, the palace offers amazing views of the Alpine foothills to the south and hilly terrain to the north. 960 1280

Nite Dan, flickr  

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

On the southwest tip of the French island of Corsica you’ll find Bonifacio. This ancient fortress town was established in the 12th century by the Republic of Genoa to thwart invasion by the Moors. Here’s a view of the Bonifacio fortress, perched on a limestone plateau overlooking the harbor of the same name. 960 1280

Antony Stanley, flickr  

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Small white houses dot the rocky hillside of the Greek village Oia, overlooking the Aegean Sea. The porous volcanic rock upon which the houses stand are the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred during the Minoan period -- about 3,500 years ago. 960 1280

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Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Perched on a cliff 1,224 feet above central Greece’s Meteora Valley, the Greek Orthodox Holy Monastery of Varlaam stands in tribute to faith -- and engineering precision. Built on natural sandstone rock pillars in 1541, Varlaam is one of 6 similarly constructed monasteries in the region. 960 1280

Dido3, Wikimedia Commons  

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

The Spanish town of Castellfollit de la Roca is situated on a rocky precipice -- over 164 feet high and more than half a mile long. The eye-catching terrain is a result of volcanic eruptions that took place thousands of years ago. Once solidified, the lava became the hard rock basalt upon which the town resides today. 960 1280

Juanito Ricart, flickr  

Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

This stone mansion -- known as the “Rock Palace” -- served as a summer retreat for the imam of Yemen in the 1930s (in his day, the country’s equivalent of a president or king). Intricately built on a towering rock, the 5-story structure dates back to 1786. The upper level was added in the 1930s. 960 1280

Franco Pecchio, flickr  

Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

The rock-cut architecture of Petra, Jordan, stretches back to the 6th century B.C., yet it remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. Since then, the “rose-red city half as old as time,” as an 1845 poem described it, has become an enviable tourist destination -- described by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top places to see before you die. Among Petra’s sites is the Al Deir monastery, pictured here. 960 1280

Dennis Jarvis, flickr  

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

This ornate castle stands atop a cliff 130 feet high, on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Built between 1911 and 1912, the neo-Gothic structure offers great views of the Black Sea. And while the castle may look a little shaky there on the edge of Aurora Cliff, don’t be fooled -- the castle was strong enough to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake in 1927. 960 1280

flickr  

Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Nestled in the foothills of the Aravili mountain range in western India is Neemrana Fort Palace. The 25-acre fort was built in the 15th century, then converted into a luxury hotel about 25 years ago -- with gardens, a pool and an amphitheater on its sweeping grounds. 960 1280

Akshay Davis, flickr  

Xuankong Monastery, China

Xuankong Monastery, China

Built -- amazingly -- more than 1,500 years ago, the Xuankong Monastery stands more than 246 feet high, on a precipice in China’s Shaxi province. Its remarkable endurance over a millennium is a result of oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the rock. 960 1280

Brunner Emmanuel, Wikimedia Commons  

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Perched on the rocky islet of Mont-Saint-Michel (less than a mile from the Normandy coast) is this 13th-century, Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Its eye-catching location stands in technical and artistic triumph: For centuries, the abbey’s bay location has been subject to some of the strongest tides in Europe, as high as 39 feet. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

At more than 2,417 feet high, the vast volcanic plug of Taung Kalat in central Burma is home to this Buddhist monastery. At the top of the summit, enjoy a panoramic view: the ancient Burmese city of Bagan to the south, a conical peak to the north. 960 1280

Robert Tyabji, flickr  

Hearst Castle, California

Hearst Castle, California

At an altitude of 1,600 feet, you’ll find the Hearst Castle in Sam Simeon, CA. The mansion was built in this area of coastal California over a 28-year-period for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He nicknamed the estate “La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) -- you can see why with dramatic views of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains and nearby Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

Anna Fox, flickr  

Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Ecuador

Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Ecuador

Tucked into a mountain valley at 8,000 feet you’ll find Cuenca, the largest city in Ecuador’s southern highlands. The town’s most amazing sight is Las Casas Colgadas, or "overhanging houses" -- a row of 14th-century homes a nail-biting distance from Huécar river canyon. 960 1280

  

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