Tuscan villa for rent with luxurious accommodations in the countryside of Florence
Florence historic map
Florence Duomo by night
Florence historic map
The city of Florence
The city of Florence is a grand museum, brimming with art, history, culture and beauty. Famous Florentines have left their mark over the centuries, from the likes of Dante, Machiavelli and Michelangelo to Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Brunelleschi and Donatello. The city’s cultural and artistic inheritance in the world is nothing short of remarkable - peaking in the glorious Medieval and Renaissance periods - and can still be admired in the city today.
Florence was founded as a colony by the Romans under Julius Caesar in 59 BC and given the name Florentia, nestled off the Arno River. Looking at a map, still today you can see the ancient Roman “footprint” of the colony in the rectangular shape at the heart of the city, marked by a regular grid of streets along the cardinal directions. At the core of the grid was the Forum, contributing to the commercial success of the city which together with its location in central Italy along a navigable river helped it become a successful trading center by the 3rd century AD.
In the 5th century the Roman empire was invaded by the Barbarians from the north, beginning the so-called Dark Ages as the city was occupied by Ostrogoths, Byzantines and Longobards. By the 9th century Florence like most of Italy came under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor, of which Charlemagne was the first in a long line of Emperors. Civil war erupted, with the population divided into two factions caught between loyalty to the Pope (the Guelfs) and Emperor (the Ghibellines). Centuries of unrest and war in Florence - evidenced today in the surviving defense towers throughout the medieval center - led to the eventual triumph of the Guelfs and subsequent establishment of the Comune or republic of Florence in the 13th century. The 14th century saw Florence as a prosperous and wealthy republic and trade center, one of the largest cities in Europe with a population boom reaching 100,000. Industries like the wool and banking trades contributed to Florence’s success and glory and the city became ruled by the wealthy merchant class. Affluent Florentines could afford to commission expensive works of art from local artists, and the trend to artistic flourishing in the city began.
By the 15th century the Medici, a wealthy banking family, rose to power, ruling Florence for more than 300 years first as ex-facto leaders and then as Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The first important patron was Cosimo de’ Medici, a successful banker who spent a fortune on artistic commissions in the 15th century when the new Renaissance style was taking shape. Interest in the classical world as well as a desire to depict figures and images in a more naturalistic manner mark this artistic and cultural moment which was born in Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance. Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent continued generous patronage during the rich artistic and intellectual fervor that created the Renaissance movement. During this period painters, architects and sculptors beautified the city by filling it with great works of art, many still visible today.
After the Medici demise in the 18th century, Florence was ruled by a series of less remarkable rulers until the re-unification of Italy in the mid-19th century, when Florence was the capital from 1865 to 1871 before it moved to Rome.
Walking the streets of Florence today allows you to relive the glorious years when greats like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Dante and many others helped change the world forever. Dedicating a few days to exploring the museums, churches, piazzas and streets of Florence will take you back in time to one of the most exciting periods of art and culture the world has known.