FLORENCE (Firenze) - 370.000 inhabitants Regional capital of Tuscany, Florence is crossed by the River Arno, the most important river in Tuscany. The foundation of the city dates back to 59 b.C., the Julius Caesar Age. After the Roman Empire fall Florence was invaded by the Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards and Frankish. At the beginning of the new millennium, when the various municipalities started to thrive, Florence became one of the most powerful cities and was characterized by the fight between Guelphs (in favour of the Pope) and Ghibellines (in favour of the emperor). The Guelph party will later be divided into the White and the Black part. Dante Alighieri, for example, sided the White part of the Guelphs. Later Florence will mints in gold its coin, named fiorino, which was one of the most powerful values at the time in the whole Europe. Fiorino comes from the emblem of the lily (from the Latin “flos”, flower) that was on it and that is still today the symbol of the city. At the height of its power Florence conquered Pisa, Volterra, Arezzo, Siena and many other cities in the current Tuscany. In 1348, as in the rest of Europe, Florence was scourged by the Black Death. Starting from the Middle Ages Florence has been an important financial, cultural and artistic centre. As far as politics is concerned, the most important and famous player was the Medici family, who in the XVIth century gained the grand-ducal title and turned Florence into the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The Medici were both astute bankers and also important patrons of the arts. The art collections of the family are nowadays fundamental for many museums of Florence and could be preserved thanks to the will of the far-sighted Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last heir of the dynasty. In the XVIIIth century the goods of the family were disposed by will to be ornament of the city for the pleasure of citizens and visitors. Two Popes came from the Medici family: Leo X and Clement VII. The most illustrious people of the family were: Cosimo de’ Medici (Cosimo il Vecchio), founder of the family, was elected gonfalonier and started to rule indirectly the city. Because of the behaviour of families such as Uzzano, Albizi, Strozzi, Peruzzi, Castellani that ruled the city before him, Cosimo was sent into exile in Venice. Yet he succeeded in coming back to Florence, supported by the citizens. This was the first important victory of the Medici on the other Florentine families. Cosimo de’ Medici obtained the support of the population by empowering the industrial and the trade sector. The successor of Cosimo was Pietro the Gouty who was not able to rule for a long time because of the illness; after him the power was taken by . He was said to hold the balance of political power because of his diplomatic skills; yet his political passion has never been as powerful as the literary, philosophic and poetic passion. The Medici Dinasty is long and crowded with people. Hereinafter you can find the most influent in illustrious members of the family:
  • Pope Leo X: He was elected Pope in 1513 and was considered to be a great patron of arts for artists such as Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raffaello Sanzio.
  • Giuliano Duke of Nemours and Lorenzo Duke of Urbino, brother and cousin of the pope, were sent to war in France and against the Della Rovere family (aftetr the battle Lorenzo was elected Duke of Urbino). Both of them died because of gout and in honour of the two, Pope Leo X had the Sagrestia Nuova in San Lorenzo built.
  • Pope Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici)
  • Caterina de’ Medici (Queen of France), wife of Henry II of France, ruled France, a country torn by religion wars.
  • Cosimo I He was an important supporter of economics, finance and art. He founded a school for the artists of the court, including Vasari and Bronzino. He was the first to move in Palazzo Vecchio and got married with Eleonora di Toledo (daughter of the viceroy of Neaples); thanks to this marriage he was able to rule Florence for a long period. Cosimo I also hired one of the most talented architect of the period to restore the Ville Medicee, Bernardo Buontalenti. He also extended Palazzo Pitti and was elected Grand Duke of Tuscany
  • Pope Francis I. he was the second Grand Duke of Tuscany and was interested in occult. Both the Studiolo of Palazzo Vecchio and the Villa of Pratolino were built by his will. He got married with Joanna of Austria and they had only daughters. Meanwhile he has an affair with Bianca Cappello and for this reason he was strongly criticized because she was said to be a witch.That is the reason why they lived their affair clandestinely. As they became widowed, they were poisoned and died.
  • Ferdinando I de’ Medici. He continued with the patronage of arts having for example the Val di Chiana reclaimed. He also empowered the infrastructures of the region that enabled the creation of the port of Livorno, which was until that moment only a small village of fishermen. He also promulgated the law that turned Livorno into a free trade zone.
  • Maria de Medici. Queen of France, wife of Henry IV of France.
  • Cosimo II. He was the son of Ferdinando and was very smart and intelligent but unfortunately fell ill with tuberculosis and died at the age of 30. He hosted Galileo Galilei at Villa il Gioiello in Arcetri. As the other members of the family did, also Cosimo expressed his will of helping artists by protecting them.
  • Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici. the last heir of the Dinasty.
After the unification of Italy, Florence was the capital of the country from 1856 to 1781. The city was included in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1982.

Important sights that are worth being visited .

  • The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Cathedral of Florence): Is one of the biggest churches in the world, was built in 1296 and various artists worked on it such as Arnolfo di Cambio, Brunelleschi, Giotto, Talenti, Ghini. It was consecrated in 1436 by Pope Eugene IV, when also the dome of Brunelleschi was ready.
  • Museo dell’Opera del Duomo: the projects and the drafts of the Cathedral, the bell tower and the baptistery are in this museum together with the machines that were used to build them. In the museum also the original reliefs of the door of the baptistery are worth being visited together with the works of Andrea Pisano and Arnolfo di Cambio.
  • Giotto’s Campanile: the building yard opened in 1298 with Arnolfo di Cambio and in 1336 Giotto took his place. The original project estimated a height of more than 110 metres but the bell tower is 84.5 metres high.
  • Brunelleschi’s Dome: The inferior part of the dome was ready in 1314; yet only in 1418, thanks to a public contest, Brunelleschi was chosen as the artist who would complete the dome. He was partly helped by Ghiberti. The dome has an octagonal base and rises up through eight gores. The dome was consecrated in 1439.
  • Baptistery: It was built in the Vth century AD and originally was located outside the walls of the town but by the will of Matilde di Canossa it was added to the Cathedral area. It was consecrated as baptistery in 1128. The baptistery was decorated with mosaics of white Carrara marble and the green marble of Prato by Coppo di Marcovaldo, Torriti and Cimabue. Between 1330 and 1452 the doors of the baptistery were accomplished. The first door, made of bronze, was accomplished by Andrea Pisano and has 28 little panels. Also the second one is made of bronze but was accomplished by Lorenzo Ghiberti (after he won a contest than allowed him to work at the baptistery). The third door was made in golden bronze and was accomplished by Ghiberti; it was named as “Porta del Paradiso” by Michelangelo (Heaven’s Door). The 10 panels on it represent the Old Testament; in each panel various scenes are portrayed, with a total number of 50. In order to accomplish this gorgeous piece of art, Ghiberti opened a workshop where a lot of workers in bronze took part, for example Donatello, Michelozzo and Paolo Uccello. In 1576 Buontalenti built the font located inside the baptistery on the occasion of the baptism of Francesco de’ Medici.
  • Basilica of Santa Maria Novella: The churchm has been owned by the Black Friars since 1221 and originally it was called Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Vigne. In 1279 the restoration works began and were accomplished in the XIVth century. The portal was built by Leon Battista Alberti by the will of the Ruccellai family. Other famous artist worked at the basilica, like Vasari, Giovanni Antonio Dosio, Enrico Romoli.
  • Basilica of Santa Croce: It is a famous church served by the Franciscans. Also Ugo Foscolo recalls the church in its Dei Sepolcri where he confesses that inside the church many illustrious tombs can be seen. Originally there was a Franciscan Church who had moved to the city in 1252 soon after the death of Francis of Assisi. At that time the church was situated outside the walls of the town. After the flood that occurred in 1966 the remains of the old building emerged. Arnolfo di Cambio began to work at the Basilica in 1294 but he died before finishing the work. The church was finally consecrated in 1443 and contains 276 marbled tombs and other funeral monuments. In the XIXth century it became a real pantheon of artists like Ugo Foscolo, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Gioacchino Rossini, Alberti, Alfieri. Also Dante Alighieri was supposed to be part of this group but the city of Ravenna refused to give the body to the city of Florence because of the exile of Dante. The basilica became a famous place where illustrious people of Italy were buried, reaching a total number of 15.000 bodies. Before being buried, the bodies were examined by the Grand Duke of the city.
  • Santissima Annunziata Church: It was founded in 1250 by the Servite Order. It was designed by Brunelleschi and contains various decorations of different artists but the master that accomplished the main part of the works was Michelozzo. The church is situated near to the Ospedale degli Innocenti (the first orphanage in Europe where nowadays the tradition is being held: it is seat of a nursery school, and other organization that take care of children and mothers). The same renaissance style characterizes the Ospedale of St Paul in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which is today the seat of the national museum of Photography Alinari.
  • San Miniato al Monte Church: This Romanesque church is situated on the most panoramic point of the city, near to Piazzale Michelangelo, and is dedicated to St Minias of Florence. He was a merchant that went in pilgrimage in Rome. In 250 he moved to Florence and lived as hermit. During the period of persecutions he was tortured and killed. According to the legend, after his decapitation he took his head and went to the place where he used to live as hermit. For this reason in that place a sanctuary was built, then a chapel and finally the today’s Basilica. The building yard was opened in 1013 by the will of Bishop Aldibrando. Originally it was a Benedictine monastery, then a Cluniac one and finally an Olivetan monastery. Florence
  • La Certosa -Charterhouse: It is situated in the Acuto Mount were the Ema and Greve river merge. Like all charterhouses it rises on a hilltop in a calm and silent place; an example is the Charterhouse built by St Bruno in 1084 on a hill near to Grenoble. The Florence Charterhouse was restored by Niccolò Acciaiuoli in 1341. Unfortunately because of the religious persecutions in the XIX th century both the friars and the Charterhouse was depredated and many pieces of art disappeared (paintings and statues that had been donated by noble Florentine families). In 1872, thanks to a new decree, Carthusian monks could come back to the Charterhouse. In 1958 They were replaced by Benedictine White monks that allowed tourist visits.
  • San Marco Church: At its place there was originally a Vallumbrosan monastery built in the XIIth century. In 1435 it was owned by the Black Friars and in 1437 Michelozzo began the restoration of the monastery by the will of Cosimo de’ Medici and Antonio Pierozzi, vicar of the Black Friars. The church was located in the area owned by the Medici. In 1866 one part of the church was converted into a museum (the one near to the cloister of St Dominic) and the other one hosted the Black Friars (who still live there).
  • San Lorenzo Church: The church is situated in Piazza san Lorenzo, where the leather market is regularly being held. It is one of the oldest churches of the city and was consecrated in 393 AD. In 1421 Giovanni Bicci de’ Medici hired Brunelleschi, who was already working at the Old Sacristy) to design the restoration of the church. Giovanni died during the works and he was buried in the Sacristy and Cosimo got ahead with the work hiring Michelozzo. Cosimo died after a few years too and his body was buried under the high altar. From that moment on, the church served as a burial place for the Medici family and the tradition was held until the end of the dynasty. Medici Chapel: the most important building that symbolizes the complex of the Medici Chapel is Cappella dei Principi, which is 59 metres high. Is was designed by Giovanni de’ Medici and it is the burial place of the grand dukes of the family; in the new sacristy there is the body of Lorenzo il Magnifico and his brother Giuliano.
  • Synagogue: It is located in via Farini. Its green dome can be seen from Piazzale Michelangelo, one of the most important panoramic points of the city. The ghetto was introduced in Florence in the XVIth century and originally three synagogues were built. These buildings were yet partly destroyed during the second world war and partly closed. In 1870 David Levi died, who was the president of the Israelite University, and left all his belongings in order to build a new synagogue were Jews could gather and have a worship place. It was built by three different architects: Treves, Falcini and Micheli. The building presents a Moorish architecture and has a façade covered with white and pink marble and the garden in front of it is surrounded by high iron bars.
  • Florence American Cemetery and Memorial: The area of the cemetery is located near Florence and was owned by the United States of America, who later decided to donate the area to Italy. The cemetery was built after World War II in memory of the American soldiers who died in the campaign that set Italy free in 1945. Five American architects were involved in the project: three of them were responsible for the buildings and two of them for the decorations. The building yard was opened in 1949 and the cemetery was inaugurated in 1961. An American Commission gathered all the bodies of the America soldiers spread throughout Italy and put them in the cemetery.
  • Palazzo Vecchio: It is located in Piazza Signoria and for this reason it is also called Palazzo della Signoria or Palazzo Ducale (due to political reasons). Nowadays it is known as Palazzo Vecchio and it was named like this after the move of the Medici family from that palace to the new residence of Palazzo Pitti. Today Palazzo Vecchio is the seat of the municipality of Florence; in the Palazzo Vecchio museum it is possible to visit all the rooms which were decorated by Michelangelo, Donatello, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Bronzino, and Vasari.
  • Piazza Signoria: It is considered as an open-air museum, because both Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi are located here (Loggia dei Lanzi is famous because of the presence of the Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini and The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna). Piazza Signoria is also the location for the Neptune and the copies of both the David by Michelangelo and the Judith by Donatello,I Lanzi, The copy of the David by Michelangelo, Hercules and Cacus, Neptune’s Fountain and other bronze pieces like the Marzocco and the Judith by Donatello are located here.
  • Uffizi Gallery: The Uffizi Gallery is one of the biggest museums in Italy and shows pieces of arts by Giotto, Raffaello, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Cimabue. The building was designed by Vasari by the will of Cosimo I. It was supposed to be the seat of the judicial bodies and of the administration of the various Art Corporations of Florence.
  • Galleria dell’Accademia: It is located in Via Ricasoli, near to Piazza San Marco and is a famous for the presence of the original David by Michelangelo. Inside the Museum it is possible to visit various rooms were musical instruments belonging to the Medici are exposed. The museum was originally built in the XVIth century by the will of Cosimo I aiming to create an Academy of Drawing. Since the end of the XVIIIth century, it was converted into a museum open to the public by the will of the Lorena family. In this museum various models and plaster casts are exposed together with pieces of arts that were accomplished by the students of the Academy.
  • Ponte Vecchio: the bridge is located in the narrowest point of the Arno River. Originally it was a wooden bridge but after being plundered many times it was rebuilt and became a masonry bridge. The today’s structure dates back to 1345 and was accomplished by Gaddi or Neri di Fioravante. In 1442 the Florentine population decided to push away all the butchers of the city in the same place because of the bad smell they created; the butchers where therefore forced to move to Ponte Vecchio so that they could throw all discarded parts directly into the river instead of on the streets. In order to have a bigger workplace, the butchers of Ponte Vecchio widened the shops driving poles into the river-bed, a sort of piles. In 1593 Ferdinand I had the butcher’s replaced with less bad smelling shops: goldsmith’s. Therefore many schools of goldsmith’s art were built near Ponte Vecchio and the Florentine style in this field was and is still famous. Typical goldsmith’s Florentine styles are the Florentine filigree and the manufacturing of red gold.
  • Vasari Corridor: The famous corridors starts Palazzo Pitti and reaches Palazzo Vecchio passing through Ponte Vecchio. It was built in 1565 by Vasari by the will of Cosimo I on the occasion of the marriage of his firstborn with Joanna of Austria.
  • Palazzo Pitti: It is situated on the square that has the same name in the Oltrarno area. It was the last residence of the Medici and after them also the Lorena and the Savoia lived in it. The Pitti family got up to their neck in debts to build this palace because they wanted the most luxurious palace in the whole city. They fell into disgrace before the palace was finished; therefore the project was given to Fancelli, scholar of Brunelleschi. In 1550 Bonaccorso Pitti sold the residence to the Medici. Eleonora di Toledo (wife of Cosimo I) chose Palazzo Pitti as her favourite residence because of its location that war better for the health conditions of her and her children. In 1560 Ammannati was hired to widen the palace. Nowadays there are several museums inside the palace that are worth being visited: The Palatine Galleri, the Monumental Apartments, Museum of Silver, Galleria del costume, Museum of coaches and Museum of chinaand the bovoli garden.
  • Boboli Gardens: They are part of the Palazzo Pitti complex and it is one of the best examples of renaissance gardens. They border Forte Belvedere and are rich in lakes, fountains, little temples. The architectural style is manly rococo.
  • Palazzo del Bargello: it was built in 1255 and originally wasthe seat of the Podestà, then it was converted into a jail. In the XIXth century the frescoes in the palace were restored and was therefore elected as National Museum.
  • Palazzo Spini Feroni: it is located in Via Tornabuoni and was built in 1289 for General Spini on the acres he bought from the Santa Trinita monks. IT was the only palace in the city that was as big and beautiful as Palazzo Vecchio, particularly under a stylistic point of view. Around 1670 it was partly owned by Marchese Feroni. At that time the palace was frescoed by various artists. In 1832 the palace was owned by the Hombert family, who turned it into the Hotel d’Europe. In 1846 the palace was bought by the city that used it as the seat of the municipality, in the period of the restoration of Palazzo Vecchio (from 1865 to 1871, at the time when Florence was the capital city of Italy). In 1881 the palace was owned by the savings bank and finally in 1991 in was owned by Salvatore Ferragamo. Today the palace hosts the Museum of Shoes by Ferragamo.
  • Palazzo Strozzi: it is located in Via Tornabuoni and was built in 1490 by the will of Filippo Strozzi, who belonged to an important Florentine family that was at war with the Medici. Artists like Giuliano da Sangallo, Benedetto di Maiano, Simone Pollaiolo and Baccio d’Angolo worked together to build the palace. The palace could be built also thanks to Lorenzo il Magnifico, who had the buoldings nearby demolished. Filippo Strozzi died in 1937 and he was the last heir of the family; therefore the palace was owned by the Italian Institute for Assurance. Nowadays Palazzo Strozzi is a property of the State and it is used to host temporary exhibitions.
  • Palazzo Medici - Riccardi: it is situated in Via Cavour and nowadays it is the seat of the Provincial Council. The palace was designed and built in 1444 by Michelozzo by the will of Cosimo I, who chose Michelozzo’s project instead of the one made by Brunelleschi because it was less pompous. The palace is in fact located in the area owned by the Medici near to the San Lorenzo Church and to the Medici Chapel. It is one of the most important renaissance palace.
As a rule, museums are closed on Mondays except: Medici Chapel, Palazzo Vecchio, the Baptistery, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Bargello, Villa Petraia, Villa Castello, Galileo Museum, Ferragamo Museum, Marino Marini Museum.

Typical local dishes:
Florentine Steak, Baccalà alla Fiorentina (dried salt cod), Castagnaccio (local pie), Fagioli all’uccelletto (beans and sausage based dish), Pappardelle alla leper, Ribollita, Pappa al Pomodoro, Panzanella, Lampredotto, Cenci, Frittelle di Riso (rice pancakes), Schiacciata con l’uva (local pie with grape), Trippa alla Fiorentina, Tortelli di patate mugellani, Spezzatino.

Illustrious people of the city: Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello, Carlo Collodi

Following the best tour guide of Florence we suggest.

Francesca Meoni:+39 392 7619600
Luca Misuri: +39 346 8616386
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