History of Florence and what to see?
History of Florence: when it was founded, famous citizens, significant events. From the time of the Roman Empire to the present day? Why is it called the birthplace of the Renaissance, what prominent attractions of Florence should a tourist see?
Florence, even by Italian, obviously overestimated standards, is an unusual city. The birthplace of the Renaissance, the Renaissance – a cultural phenomenon that marked the end of the dark Middle Ages.
Who directed humanity along a new, much more promising path. Literally cured him of inertia, put an end to stagnation. It gave impetus to development, which led to the formation of the European civilization as we know it today.
Naturally, the city, which stood at the origins of such a large-scale movement, is able to leave many impressions in memory, giving the traveler moments of real happiness. It should be borne in mind that it is quite possible to see Florence in 2-3 days. Not because there are few interesting places here, not at all, but because of their very compact location.
We remember that in the summer, that is, in the season itself, the streets of the capital of Tuscany are not overcrowded with tourists. And therefore, the chances of breaking your forehead when faced with the same lover of beauty are immeasurably higher than having time to consider everything you need!
Best Time to Go
Today Florence remains a fairly large city – about 400 thousand people live here. But in the spring and summer months, the population increases many times over.
Italians themselves, citizens of other European countries, Americans and Canadians are happy to come here for the Easter holidays. Tourists from other countries also arrive in a full-flowing stream.
Therefore, it is most correct to go to the capital of Tuscany in the middle of spring. When the sun is just starting to warm up, and travelers are considering vacation plans.
The weather in Florence in May or even April days is perfect for the inquisitive tourist – and others do not go here!
In summer it can be hot and very stuffy here. The swampy lowland affects, the hills surrounding the city in a ring, with pleasure accumulate moisture in the river valley.
In September and October, the heat subsides, and the rains do not come often enough to spoil the walks in the city. In November, the sky over Florence is constantly covered with clouds, precipitation is frequent.
For those in a hurry, 1 day may be enough to explore the main attractions. In order to truly feel the spirit of the city, along the streets of which Giotto and Dante, Michelangelo and Raphael walked, Leonardo visited, it will take much more time.
The main architectural gems of Florence are within walking distance of the Ponte Vecchio. However, this ancient bridge itself, the creation of the architect Neri di Fioravante, which has preserved most of the old jewelry shops, allows you to fully experience the spirit of the Middle Ages.
A Brief History of Florence
A settlement in the form of a military camp was founded on the banks of the Arno River in 80 BC. This was done by the Roman commander and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
He found the area ideal for protecting the vital Via Cassia. Which connected Rome with the northern regions of the country and the empire.
It can be assumed that the Etruscans pushed Sulla to this step. Whose settlement Fezuly by that time already existed.
Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages
Originally called Fluence, Florence later acquired its modern name. It stands for very simply: “blooming” (florentia).
Due to its extremely advantageous strategic location (from here it is close to the sea), Florence quickly turned from a fortified camp into a city. If during the conquest of this region of Italy (774) by Charlemagne it was not yet considered significant enough to become the capital – Lucca became it – then after only 250 years Florence became the legitimate center of the Margraviate of Tuscany.
And 300 years later, as the chronicles say, it grew so much that it erected the third row of city walls. By the time of the plague of 1348, the population of the city was 94 thousand people. The outbreak has claimed more than half of the lives.
By the 15th century, Florence had become thoroughly rich – the basis of the fortunes of the local oligarchs was trade and banking. In 1406, Pisa was bought from the Genoese for just 206 florins. Once one of the most formidable competitors.
In 1434, a representative of a well-known banking family came to power in the city (they started as doctors and pharmacists – hence the surname) Cosimo Medici, whose power was subsequently inherited by his brilliant descendant Lorenzo the Magnificent. One of the most brilliant pages in the history of the city is associated with the figure of Lorenzo. Under him, Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli worked here.
Restored in 1492, the Republic did not last long (already in 1537, the Medici regained power over the city, proclaiming themselves the Dukes of Florence). But this was enough to decorate the main square of Florence, the Signoria, with Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the statue of David.
Today, in the loggia of Lanzi, there is only a copy of the four-meter giant, and the original adorns the hall in the Accademia Gallery. But the Palazzo Vecchio, the citadel of the rulers of the city, is in place … As is the equestrian statue of Cosimo I Medici, standing proudly towering in the middle of the main square of the old city.
The Medici dynasty ruled Florence for a long time and is identified with this city in the minds of tourists. The family came to an end only in 1737 with the death of its last representative, Gian Gastone. The capital of Tuscany then, together with the entire region, came under the rule of Austria.
Capital of Italy
Conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800, Florence and its monuments suffered little damage. Unless one of the main pearls of the city, the statue of the Medici Venus, which went to France, changed its residence. Not for long – later it was returned.
In 1860, the city became part of the finally united country. And in the period from 1865 to 1871, it was even the capital of Italy.
From that time to this day, Florence has remained aloof from political life and its attendant squabbles, focusing on the reception and service of tourists. And he leads a slightly detached life, as if having little contact with reality.
However, the harsh reality reminded of itself a couple of times. The German fascists retreating under the onslaught of the allies caused great damage to the city. In 1944, they blew up all the bridges over the Arno and spared only the unique Ponte Vecchio.
And in November 1966, the strongest flood of the Arno flooded the entire historical center. It turned out to be the strongest since the 16th century, causing the death of 150 citizens.
Where to Stay
Despite the fact that Florence is not the largest city, we recommend paying a little more and staying in its central part. For it is in this way that one can dive deeper into the history of what was once one of the most important cities of the medieval world.
Check out Aramis Rooms, located on the 2nd floor of a historic building, 200 meters from San Lorenzo Market. The train station is 5 minutes walk, about the same to the Duomo. You can visit the Medici Chapel at least every day. As, of course, in the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
The boutique hotel Flor in Florence, located next to the city’s Botanical Garden, also looks like an excellent choice. Tourists especially praise the good taste in interior design, cleanliness and delicious breakfasts.
For sure, those who arrive in Florence by train will like the Hotel Jolì in a 19th-century building. Breakfasts are great, from Santa Maria Novella train station you can reach it in 3 minutes.
Where to Eat
Don’t expect much. At one time, the author of these lines tried twice to have a bite to eat in restaurants in Florence and each time remained dissatisfied. Not too tasty – store-bought frozen pizza from the supermarket Conad looks better.
Serve without desire and warmth – too many tourists. Yes, and prices … It remains to be consoled only by the fact that in Venice they are even higher.
The most inexpensive pizza in a cafe in Florence will cost 7-8 euros, a plate of pasta at least 6-7. The check will definitely include a service fee – so forget about extra tips.
It is wiser to treat yourself to a piece of pizza from the window and eat it literally on the go. By the way, this is what most tourists do.
The local gelato is much inferior in taste to what you can try while visiting Siena. And it costs from 2.5-3 € for a miniature horn.
How to Get to Florence
Most tourists arriving in the city get through the airports of Pisa or Verona. Then you have to get to the indicated cities and already there to immerse yourself in a train or bus. A rented car or taxi can be ordered directly at the airport.
It is very easy to get to Florence from other cities in Italy, as well as Europe. For example, fast trains Frecciarossa regularly run from Rome to the capital of Tuscany.
TOP Attractions of Florence
Literally a stone’s throw from the Ponte Vecchio, if you go from it to the right, is the heart of Florence, Piazza della Signoria. It is adorned by the imposing town hall building, the Palazzo Vecchio. Supposedly conceived by the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, who built both the city’s Duomo and the magical Basilica of Santa Croce.
Palazzo Vecchio is a magnificent, truly Florentine building made of huge boulders. With fortifications on the roof and a high tower dominating the medieval city (height – 94 meters).
It was here that the Republican Soviets once sat, from here the formidable Medici dictated their will.
By the way, you can climb to the top of the tower and take a look at the roofs and hills from a height. See the Florentine Duomo with its red-brown dome and Giotto’s bell tower, the Bargello castle, the Basilica of Santa Croce…
You can also see the Uffizi Gallery from above, which seems miniature and so precious. And even the Palazzo Pitti – far away, across the Arno River …
The building of the famous museum was built according to the project of the architect Giorgio Vasari in 1560-1581 by order of Cosimo I Medici to accommodate a number of government institutions. Today, the Uffizi is considered the most visited museum in Florence, and maybe even in Italy!
By the way, uffizi – in Italian means “services”, and not the name of some formidable nobleman. As one might think from a common (and not only in Italy) tradition.
The architecture of the building is interesting. It consists of two parallel buildings, stretching from the Palazzo Vecchio to the banks of the Arno, and at first glance it seems like a whole street. In the season it is never empty – tourists are drawn to the ticket office and the entrance.
One visit to the main Florentine gallery is enough to get a good idea of painting in general. From the Renaissance to the 17th century inclusive.
Canvases by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Caravaggio, as well as Van Dyck and Rubens form the basis of the collection. At one time, the former home gallery of the Medici family.
The famous “David” by Michelangelo, created in troubled years for the state (1501-1504) and, apparently, as a warning to various tyrants who constantly attempted to free the republic, stands near the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.
Alas, it’s just a copy. The original marble statue weighing about 6 tons, which had suffered a lot in the open air over the centuries, was transferred in 1873 under the roof of the Florentine Academy of Arts. And today it is kept in the Gallery there.
Interestingly, “David”, like most of the sculptures of that time, was carved from a single block of Carrara marble. A material also mined in Tuscany.
On the square you can also admire the sculpture “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” – this is the original work of Donatello. It first appeared here during the expulsion of the Medici in 1494 and marked the liberation of the city from the tyrant.
The Loggia dei Lanzi, a beautiful 14th-century Quattrocento arcade in Piazza della Signoria, houses several masterpieces from the nearby Uffizi Gallery. And, including, “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Benvenuto Cellini.
By the way, this elegant structure was built just to accommodate armed guards, landsknechts from Germany. Which the authorities intended to use to protect against the frequent uprisings of the townspeople.
If you move north from Piazza della Signoria, then after a short time you will reach the Duomo. The main attraction of the city and one of the most magnificent cathedrals ever built.
The construction of the giant Santa Maria del Fiore was dictated by the desire to throw dust in the eyes of all of Italy. Claiming Florence as the first city in Europe.
The cathedral has become a rare long-term construction (started at the end of the 13th century – completed in the 19th), but it is a truly unforgettable sight. White and green marble, overwhelming scale.
The area is clearly small for such a giant. And truly a genius is the one who will be able to photograph the entire building.
The famous flightless dome of the brilliant architect Brunelleschi, who was the first to come up with a complex, two-hull structure, the most beautiful green-white marble facade decorated with lancet arches and statues and Giotto’s wonderfully proportioned square bell tower together leave an indelible impression.
Next to the cathedral is the Bapsistery of San Giovanni, where all the famous Florentines were baptized. It is said to be the oldest surviving building in the city.
The ceiling of a small Romanesque octagonal building is lined with beautiful mosaic panels. And its amazing bronze gates by Lorenzo Ghiberti are considered one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance.
San Lorenzo and Santa Croce
The harsh brickwork of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence will not be visited by every lover of beauty. Despite the fact that Brunneleschi had a hand in perestroika.
And in the Medici Chapel rest the most prominent representatives of a powerful family. The sculpture for the chapel, the famous allegories “Day” and “Night”, “Morning” and “Evening” were sculpted by Michelangelo. And many art historians consider it the pinnacle of the work of the Titan of the Renaissance.
Very close to the square is the ancestral palace of the Medici-Riccardi. Attracting attention with the mighty stone rustication of the walls, Palazzo Pitti can envy him.
Among the iconic sights of the Tuscan capital, we also mention the Basilica of Santa Croce, once the main Franciscan church in Europe. And concurrently the tomb of the most famous sons of Italy. Here rest: Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, Rossini, Marconi, Fermi.
There is also a gravestone of Dante Alighieri, the famous Florentine. True, he found peace not here, but in Ravenna (Emilia-Romagna), on the other coast of the “Italian boot”.
Despite the requests of the Florentines, Ravenna did not want to part with the ashes of a genius. As if declaring that he would not send the remains of Dante to the city that expelled him during his lifetime.
On the other side of the Arno, if you take it to the left, leaving the Ponte Vecchio, you will find the majestic Palazzo Pitti with the Boboli Gardens behind.
The Renaissance palace was built by the enemy and rival of the Medici in the struggle for power, the banker Pitti. Subsequently, the building was turned into a ransom and turned into their main residence of the Medici. Then the Tuscan dukes also lodged here.
The Palatine Gallery, located in the halls of the palace, is considered the largest art collection in Florence. There are as many as 11 paintings by the great Raphael alone.
As well as paintings by Titian and Tintoretto, Giorgione and Caravaggio, Rubens and Van Dyck, Murillo…
Note that on the other side of the Arno is a relatively little-known treasure of Florence. We are talking about the Basilica of Santo Spirito – to reach it, you need to turn right from the Old Bridge. The church was built according to the design of the great Brunneleschi and is considered literally the quintessence of the Renaissance architectural style.
Do not be deceived by the unpretentious appearance of the building, by the plain, devoid of decor beige walls. Inside, everything is concise, simple, strict and beautiful. There is no splendor, but even a non-specialist will be impressed by the harmony and integrity of the interior
Let’s mention one more wonderful place from where the lion’s share of panoramic photos of Florence is taken. It’s about Piazzale Michelangelo in the southern part of the city. The views around are breathtaking. And therefore no sightseeing tour will pass this point!