I'm currently slowly reading Irving Stone's 1961 best-seller The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo.
The book is excellent--well-written, a great way to learn about Renaissance art before my trip to Italy this fall, and an excellent guidebook to Florence.
I've been looking up places on my iPad and learning about the geography as I go. Stone also has some lovely lyrical descriptions that make me catch my breath, and so I have lots of ear-marked pages.
Here's one from the first section of the book, entitled "The Sculpture Garden," where Michelangelo Buonarroti as an eleven-year-old begins working as an apprentice to Ghirlandaio's fresco studio. He steals out one night and crosses the Arno and climbs up to the Belvedere fort and looks down on Florence:
Florence, luminous in the full moonlight, so close that he felt he could touch the Signoria or the Duomo with his fingers, was a sight of such incredible beauty that he drew in his breath sharply. No wonder the young men of the city sang their romantic ballads to their town, with whom no girl could compete. All true Florentines said, "I will not live out of the sight of the Duomo." For him the city was a compact mass of pietra serena, the streets cut through with a mason's chisel, looking like dark rivers, the cobbled piazzas, gleaming white in the moonlight. The palaces stood sentinel, a couple of ranges higher than the modest houses clustered so tightly about them; and piercing the creamy gold sky the spires of Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, the magnificent three-hundred-foot thrust of the Signoria. Making a little group of its own were the great red dome of the cathedral, the glistening small white dome of the Baptistery, the noble pink flesh of the Campanile. Around all was the turreted, tower-studded city wall.