Florence travel guide

Florence in Italy

Capital of the region called Tuscany (Italian: Toscana), Florence (Italian: Firenze) has more than 300 thousands inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the wider metropolitan area. The city is located on a plain crossed by the river Arno and other smaller streams. Although the urban area is devoted to the industrial and commercial sectors, the surrounding hills are definitely destined to agriculture.

The Chianti area, between Florence and Siena, is one of the most beautiful countrysides in Italy and a well-known wine production region.
 

History

In the Roman Times, the region surrounding Florence was land of the Etruscans, conquered by the Romans in 396 BC. Julius Caesar established a colony in 59 BC, Florence, which soon became a very important trading centre. In the fifth century AD, with the fall of the Roman Empire, Florence was ruled by "Barbarian" kings until the advent of Charles the Great (French: Charlemagne) in the eighth century AD. To secure his loyalty, the Pope gave him the title of Holy Roman Emperor. Most of Italy came under the rule of the Emperor, and this led to future conflicts between the Emperor and the Pope. The population of Florence was divided over their loyalty into two factions: the Guelphs, who supported the Pope, and the Ghibellines, who followed the Emperor. The two factions fought against each other until the thirteenth century, when a fight internal to the Guelphs (between the White and Black Guelphs) put an end to this war. At the end of the fourteenth century, the House of Medici rose to power. During the reign of Lorenzo de' Medici, called the "Magnificent" (il Magnifico), Florence was caught by an artistic and intellectual fervour that created the Renaissance movement. The contacts with examples of Greek and Roman antiquity gave rise to a new spirit and the city became the centre in which Humanism was forged. Man is eager for rational knowledge and bent on affirming his dominion over the nature that surrounded him and the history that preceded him. After the Renaissance, over the following centuries, Florence was ruled by members of the Duchy of Lorraine, who left the city for other great cities of Italy and Europe. During the re-unification of Italy in the nineteenth century, Florence was made temporary capital of Italy for five years (1865-1870), until Rome finally joined the newly created Italy.
 

Tourism

Florence is very rich in things to see and do. Here is a list of some attractions and monuments to visit.

  • The Old bridge: The Old Bridge was built by Giorgio Vasari for Cosimo I De' Medici in 1565 in order to unite the Old Palace and the Pitti Palace. This very beautiful bridge was populated until 1565 by vegetable sellers and nowadays by jewellers and goldsmiths.
  • The Old Palace: This palace, which is also called Palazzo della Signoria, houses the City Hall of Florence as well as an art museum. This Romanesque fortress-palace overlooks the Signoria Square with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue. The name Palazzo della Signoria was given to the palace because it was the seat of the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence in the fourteenth century.
  • The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore: The cathedral construction started in 1296 by Arnoldo di Cambio and finished in 1436. The exterior is faced by polychrome marble in green and white shades. Very renowned is the dome designed and developed by Filippo Brunelleschi, a famous Italian architect. The cathedral complex includes the bell tower, designed by Giotto, and the octagonal Baptistery, built between 1059 and 1128. The three buildings are part of the UNESCO world heritage site.
  • The Basilica di Santa Croce: the basilica is the largest Franciscan church in the world and it is divided in 16 chapels. It was built in 1294, and is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, and Rossini, thus it is also known as the "Temple of the Italian Glories".
  • The Chapels: the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine is the location of the Brancacci Chapel housing outstanding Renaissance frescoes by Masaccio and Masolino da Panicale; the Medici Chapels in the church of San Lorenzo, built in the sixteenth and seventeenth century to celebrate the Medici family.
  • The Uffizi Gallery: The Uffizi is one of the most famous galleries in the world and is filled with the creations of Donatello, Verrocchio, Cimabue, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Giotto, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo and others.

 

Curiosity

Among the many attractions in Florence, of particular interest is the Church of Santa Margherita de' Cerchi. It is first recorded in 1032 and it is said to have been the location of Dante's wedding to Gemma Donati in 1295. The church was the Donati family's parish church and it was said to be the church where Dante fell in love with Beatrice, the female protagonist of his Divine Comedy. Visitors here will find Beatrice's grave stone and may write her letters to ask her to fix their love lives, leaving the letters in a basket next to her shrine.
 

Gastronomy

Florence is a very renowned place among food and wine lovers. Typical of Florence is the so-called Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a kilo steak of Chianina beef, best when cooked rare. The Fiorentina steak should be eaten while drinking a good red wine. The most famous Tuscany red wines are: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Montepulciano, but one can find many other red and white varieties.

 

Map of Florence with hotels

The blue pins with the letter H indicate the location of various hotels in Florence. Click on the blue pin for more information about a specific hotel.