Florence

Florence, Italy.

The mere mention of the city brings to mind images of towering cathedrals, open-air markets, beautiful people, and pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. Once the most influential city in Italy, termed the capital of the Kingdom of Italy in its prime, Florence still casts a shadow over its fellow cities as being of the finest examples of Italian culture, the so-called birthplace of the Renaissance. Home to the infamous Medici family and a slew of painters, architects, and sculptors known round the world, one cannot visit Italy without experiencing the largest city in Tuscany.

Located on the River Arno, Florence brought in most of its wealth through trade. It was the financial hub of Medieval Europe, prominent Italian bankers financing everyone from the Kings of England during the 100 Years War to the papacy. However, due to its location, Florence saw its fair share of war, conquests, and defeats, ruling and serving in equal turns throughout the ages. At the turn of the 20th century, the city saw a tripling of its population due to growth in trade, tourism, industry, and distribution of financial services. One of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany, inundated with history, it’s no wonder that so many people want to live here or just visit. Featured in films all over the world, Florence earns plenty of publicity without even trying.

A Few Important People of Florence:

Cimabue: painter and creator of mosaics, regarded as one of the first great Italian painters to break away from the Italo-Byzantine style

Donatello: early Renaissance painter,  known for his work in bas-relief, a form of shallow relief sculpture; worked on the Florence Baptistry and sculpted the Bronze David

Botticelli: Florentine painter best known for his Primavera and The Birth of Venus paintings; worked under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici

Leonardo da Vinci: a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientists, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer; (They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, do they?)

Michelangelo: painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer; genius behind the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, among other things

Salvatore Ferragamo: shoe designer responsible for the invention of the wedge heel and cage heel

Guccio Gucci: Italian businessman and fashion designer, the founder of The House of Gucci

Emilio Pucci: of one of Florence’s oldest noble families, fashion designer and politician; best known for colorful geometric prints

Machiavelli: historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer, one of the main founders of what is now called political science; worked under the Medici family for a time and most famous for his works The Prince and Discourses on Livy

Dante: known for The Divine Comedy, also called “The Supreme Poet” and “the father of Italian language”

A Few Famous Sites in Florence:

Ponte Vecchio: famous for still harboring shops (current tenants being jewelers), as was once custom; one of the oldest all-stone bridges in Europe

Piazza della Signoria: also known as Palazzo Vecchio,  focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic, still regarded as the political hub of the city

Church of San Lorenzo/Medici Chapel: one of the largest churches of Florence at the centre of the city’s main market district; burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family

Boboli Gardens: home to a distinguished collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries, with some Roman antiquities

Uffizi Gallery: one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western World; houses works by Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio, and more

Palazzo Medici Riccardi: one of the principle homes to the Medici family during the peak of their power in Florence

Palazzo Rucellai: commissioned and lived in by the wealthy banking Rucellai family; now the site of the Institute of Palazzo Rucellai

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