Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany.
Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. It is considered by main academics the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called “the Athens of the Middle Ages”. Wealthy families in Florence commissioned works of art in order to flaunt their wealth and this in turn drew in artists who wanted to make their name known. Today one can see works by some of the greatest names ever such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Donatello.
Its turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city served as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
The city attracts millions of tourists each year, and UNESCO declared the Historic Centre of Florence a World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments and is a magnet for all art-lovers. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics.
Towering over the city is the unmistakable sight of the is the domed cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore referred to locally as the Duomo and no matter how many times one visits Florence it will still be the Piazza del Duomo located in the heart of the historic center of Florence which will first draw you in, it is one of the most visited places in the World. Many of the main sights of Florence are situated on the Piazza del Duomo – the Duomo or Cathedral with the Cupola del Brunelleschi, the Florence Baptistery with it’s magnificent bronze doors, the Giotto’s Campanile, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the Loggia del Bigallo and the Arcivescovile and Canonici’s palace. The west zone of this square is called Piazza San Giovanni.
The imposing Gothic Duomo of Florence or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (1296-1436) stands on the remains of the existing cathedral which was built in the 5th – 6th century, these remains can be seen in the crypt. It is the largest building in medieval Europe, and is the fourth largest church in Europe , its length is 153 m (501.97 ft) and its height is 116 m (380.58 ft). The Dome was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The cathedral complex, in Piazza del Duomo, includes the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. These three buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence and are a major tourist attraction of Tuscany. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until the development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
The octagonal Florence Baptistery, also known as the Baptistery of Saint John, has the status of a minor basilica. It stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza San Giovanni. The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128 in the Florentine Romanesque style. The Baptistery is renowned for its three sets of artistically important bronze doors with relief sculptures. The south doors were created by Andrea Pisano and the north and east doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptized in this baptistery.
Giotto’s Campanile is part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy.
The Bell Tower stands 84.7 metres tall and offers wonderful views over the city of Florence and beyond, but there are 414 steps to climb first.
Standing adjacent to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistry of St. John, the tower is one of the showpieces of Florentine Gothic architecture with its design by Giotto, its rich sculptural decorations and its marble encrustations. The building was started in 1334 by Giotto but unfortunately he died before it was completed. Giotto’s campanile contains seven bells that date from 1705 to 1956.
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral) in Florence, Italy is a museum devoted to conserving many of the original and most precious works of art created for the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral Florence. The museum is located just east of the Duomo, near its apse. It opened in 1891, and now houses what has been called “one of the world’s most important collections of sculpture.” The ground floor contains works from the earlier cathedral which was pulled down in the 16th century.
Among the museum’s holdings are Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral called the Gates of Paradise, the cantorias, or singing-galleries, designed for the cathedral by Luca della Robbia and Donatello, Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene.
The collection also includes The Deposition, a pietà sculpted by Michelangelo which he intended for his own tomb.
One of Florence’s finest squares is the Piazza della Signoria, situated in front of the Palazzo Vecchio it was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the main point of the origin and history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political focus of the city. It is the meeting place of Florentines as well as the numerous tourists, located near Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza del Duomo and gateway to Uffizi Gallery.
Buildings of interest on the Piazza della Signoria include the impressive 14th-century Palazzo Vecchio with its crenellated tower, the Loggia della Signoria, the Uffizi Gallery, the Palace of the Tribunale della Mercanzia (1359) and the Palazzo Uguccioni.
There are many interesting statues around the square including:
Michelangelo’s David – at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio (copy )
Equestrian Monument of Cosimo I– by Giambologna (1594)
Fountain of Neptune – by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575
Il Marzocco, (the Lion) with a copy of the Florentine Lily – originally made by Donatello
Judith and Holofernes – by Donatello (copy)
Hercules and Cacus – by Bandinelli (1533)
The Rape of the Sabine Women – in the Loggia dei Lanzi by Giambologna
Perseus with the Head of Medusa – in the Loggia dei Lanzi by Cellini (1554)
Medici lions – by Fancelli and Vacca (1598)
Statues in Piazza della Signoria
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of the city. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the square with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy, and it hosts cultural points and museums. The building was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio and worked began in 1299 but was not completed until early in the 14th century. The nine ruling Priori lived in the palace as did the Medici when Cosimo l came here in 1540, when he later moved to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno river this palace became known as the Palazzo Vecchio or Old Palace
Florence contains numerous museums and art galleries where some of the world’s most important works of art are held. The Uffizi is one of these, having a very large collection of international and Florentine art. The gallery is articulated in many halls. Engendered by the Medici family’s artistic collections through the centuries, it houses works of art by various painters and artists. The Vasari Corridor is another gallery, built connecting the Palazzo Vecchio with the Pitti Palace passing by the Uffizi and over the Ponte Vecchio. The Galleria dell’Accademia houses a Michelangelo collection, including the David. It has a collection of Russian icons and works by various artists and painters. Other museums and galleries include the Bargello, which concentrates on sculpture works by artists including Donatello, Giambologna and Michelangelo; the Palazzo Pitti, containing part of the Medici family’s former private collection. In addition to the Medici collection, the palace’s galleries contain many Renaissance works, including several by Raphael and Titian, large collections of costumes, ceremonial carriages, silver, porcelain and a gallery of modern art dating from the 18th century. Adjoining the palace are the Boboli Gardens, elaborately landscaped and with numerous sculptures.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is located in Santa Maria Novella square and contains works by Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Filippino Lippi and Domenico Ghirlandaio. The church, the adjoining cloister, and chapter house contain a multiplicity of art treasures and funerary monuments. Especially famous are frescoes by masters of Gothic and early Renaissance. They were financed by the most important Florentine families, who ensured themselves funerary chapels on consecrated ground.
The Ponte Vecchio or “Old Bridge” is a medieval stone bridge over the Arno River noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers and tanners initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times, when the via Cassia crossed the river at this point.
In 1944 the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence spared from destruction by the Nazis to try and halt the allies, it was rumoured to have been spared on the instructions of Hitler.
The Piazzale Michelangelo was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869 situated south of the historic centre. The Piazzale was built as a terrace offering wonderful panoramic views of the city.
The square, which is dedicated to the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, has bronze copies of some of his marble works found elsewhere in Florence: the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. The monument was brought up by nine pairs of oxen on 25 June 1873.
Poggi designed the loggia in the neoclassical-style that dominates the whole terrace, which today houses a restaurant. Originally it was intended to house a museum of works by Michelangelo, never realized.
The view captures the heart of Florence from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Beyond the city are the hills of Settignano and Fiesole.
The Piazzale Michelangelo can be accessed by car along the tree-lined Viale Michelangelo, constructed at the same time, or by walking the stairs or going up the ramps from the Piazza Giuseppe Poggi, also known as the “Poggi Ramps” in the district of San Niccolò.
The Horticultural Garden is located in Florence, Via Bolognese, with an entrance facing Via Vittorio Emanuele.
A pedestrian walkway past the railway leads to the so-called “Parnassus garden”, a small green area set on a panoramic drop, where a snake or dragon-shaped fountain stands out, winding imaginatively up the steps. This garden, in particular the area near the entrance from Via Trento, is one of the best spots in the city to see “I Fochi di San Giovanni”, the fireworks display held every year on June 24th for the feast of San Giovanni, patron of Florence. In this garden there is the Garden of the Righteous along the lines of the one existing in Jerusalem.
The Dragon winding down the steps is known as Foggini’s dragon. Giovanni Battista Foggini (1652 – 1725) was a Florentine sculptor renowned mainly for small bronze statuary.
- Waiting times for Museums such as the Uffizi Gallery can be very long especially during the high season, so booking tickets in advance is always a good idea.
- Enjoy visiting local food markets? then make time to visit the Indoor San Lorenzo Market or Mercato Centrale in the centre of Florence which is the biggest and oldest, dating back to the 19th century, in Florence, here you will also be able to enjoy something to eat and drink in some it’s bars, restaurants or cafés. Another good market to visit is the Sant’Ambrogio Market, in the Sant’Ambrogio area of Florence. The outdoor markets are a good place to shop for leather goods.
- Talking of food there is something that you must not miss and can only be obtained in Florence and that is the panino con lampredotto. There are stalls all around the city selling this delicacy. It is a bread roll filled with delicious chopped tripe cooked in broth and topped with a green salsa verde sauce. Make sure to give it a try.
- Climb the 463 steps to the Cupola del Brunelleschi in the Florence Duomo and be rewarded with the breathtaking views of the city below. The dome is the largest brick dome ever constructed. Or climb the 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s Campanile nearby.
- Browse the Art and Jewelers shops in the bustling Ponte Vecchio the centre of the bridge is open to views along the river. To get the best photo of the bridge go to the Ponte Santa Trinità further along the River Arnoor the Ponte alle Grazie in the other direction.
- A walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo offers a magnificent panoramic view over the city. The square contains the large bronze statue of Michelangelo’s David as well as artists, cafes and ice cream sellers.
- A visit to the beautiful Basilica of Santa Croce is home to the tombs of some of the most influential Renaissance artists and scholars in the world including Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, Ghiberti, and Michelangelo.
- With the huge amount of Gelato shops around Florence then it is a must do to sample some of the delicious flavours on offer.
Florence – Christmas Markets in Italy
Advent is a time when the city comes alive with twinkling lights, decorated chalets and the sounds, sights and smells of the Christmas Markets, it is a wonderful time of year to visit the city and to join in the celebrations and to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Discover the dates and times of the Christmas celebrations held in the city ‘Here’
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