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Firenze "Florence"

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Florence, Italy

The main reason most people come to visit Toscana is Firenze (also known as Florence). "Florentia" the city’s original name, was given by the Romans to this small settlement located at the foot of the ancient Etruscan Fiesole in the 1st century BC. The Etruscans of whom we know very little, but for some reason who numerous testimonies around about Firenze, settled on the hills surrounding the plain of the river Arno as far back as the 7th centuries BC.

Florence
Piazza della Republica

At first erected as a Roman "castrum", Florentia soon assumed the appearance of a real town with a Forum, now Piazza della Repubblica, thermal baths, via delle Terme, and amphitheater, via Tòrta. The city was flourishing as a Roman suburb, then the period of the decline of the Empire arrived. The city remained occupied but really never expanded, older structure were torn down for newer ones. That is why today there are hardly any Roman ruins. Because of the towns virtual unimportance at the time its history is very sketchy. We know that for a time it was controlled by the Lombard Empire and the Charlemagne for a while.

Florence, Italy
Santa Maria Novella, fin. 1357

The town, constituted as a Commune at the beginning of the twelfth century, began to expand until it spread over half of Arno valley and surrounding hillsides. This is when Firenze began to flourish in the history as we know it. Despite the internal struggles, first between rival families and then between the Guelfs (loyal to the Pope) and the Ghibellines (loyal to the Emperor), from the thirteenth century onwards it began to flourish as a city of art, culture and international trading, reaching its zenith in the fifteenth century under the Signoria of Cosimo and Lorenzo dè Medici. After Lorenzo’s death in 1492, Firenze witnessed a long period of wars that led to the end of the Florentine Republic and saw the birth of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled first by a younger branch of the Medici family and following, by the Hapsburg-Lorena family. Despite alternating events the Grand Duchy survived up until the political unification of Italy, of which Firenze was capital from 1865 to 1871. This marked the beginning of a profound restructuring of the city that led to the knocking down of the walls and the erasing of several ancient quarters in the center that endowed Firenze with its present-day appearance.

Florence
Duomo di Firenze

If anyone stops in Toscana it would be a sin not to step foot in Firenze, every year countless people flock to see one of the world’s finest cities of art. There is so much history and tradition here that any art historian would die for the opportunity to delve into the back halls of some of the world’s greatest museums.

How important is Florentine art? Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo all spent some time working in Firenze. There are countless other great artists all of whom are mentioned in the art history books and whose works can be seen all over the city. Art pieces are showing up all over the city, it is not uncommon for stores and boutiques to uncover a Renaissance picture when they remodel the building.

David, Florence
David

A city with such great history has so many sites that it would take one at least a month to see most of its beauty. So for those who do not have the time to go everywhere there are a few select spots one won’t want to miss. There are two museums that come to mind right away each with its own unique beauty. The first spot is the Uffizi Gallery. You won’t want to miss some of the world’s greatest paintings. You can see such paintings from the likes of Rembrandt and Leonardo on display. Countless other collections that will keep your day busy marveling at their beauty. On the other spectrum we have the Bargello museum Nazionale that is filled with sculptured works. The famous works of Donatello such as The David can be displayed in all its grandeur. It is the perfect compliment to the Uffizi.

Florence

If you want to see some beauty make sure you stop by the Cathedral Baptistry and Museum. Something interesting about the baptisteries past is that every year on the 21st of March, which is the New Year on the old Florentine calendar, all the children born over the last 12 months would be brought there for a great communal baptism. Thus is what prompted it to become one of the great religious and civic monuments in all of Italy.


Santa Croce

After that it would be wise to take a stroll across the cities famous bridge the Ponte Vecchio. It is said to be the only standing bridge left from the old Firenze. For those of you who love to see churches fear not, a stop by the Santa Croce, Santa Maria del Carmine, and the monastery of San Marco will show you another side of Firenze’s beauty. Finally try and make it to the San Miniato al Monte on the outskirts of town for its beautiful breathtaking view of the whole city. Santa Maria Novella finished in 1357, near the train station is another enriching church that is easy to get to.


Piazza della Signora

Firenze also has some of the worlds most historic and beautiful Piazzas. Piazzas that have remained unchanged since the days when Dante, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raffaello walked through them. Piazza Della Repubblica, Piazza della Signora, and Piazza del Duomo are all within a few blocks of each other. Be sure to see the church of Orsanmichele between them. On the other side of the Ponte Vecchio are the Church of Santa Felicita and Palazzo de Pitti.

Firenze is compact and most of the sites are all within walking distance. Driving is not recommended because the streets are very narrow and some of them are closed to traffic in the historic center, which makes following an roadmap very difficult.

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