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