|Historic Centre of Florence*|
|UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|State Party|| Italy|
|Criteria||i, ii, iii, iv, vi|
|Region†||Europe and North America|
|Inscription||1982 (6th Session)|
Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital city of the region of Tuscany, Italy.
From 1865 to 1870 the city was also the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Florence lies on the Arno River and has a population of around 400,000 people, plus a suburban population in excess of 200,000 persons. The greater area has some 956,000 people. A center of medieval European trade and finance, the city is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and was long ruled by the Medici family. Florence is also famous for its magnificent art and architecture. It is said that, of the 1,000 most important European artists of the second millennium, 350 lived or worked in Florence. The city has also been called the Athens of the Middle Ages.
The historic Center of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1982.
Florentine, spoken by inhabitants of Florence and its environs, is an immediate parent language to modern Italian. Its vocabulary and pronunciation are largely identical to Italian, though the hard c, when not the first letter of the word, (as in ducato) is often pronounced as a fricative, similar to an English h. This gives Florentines a distinctive and highly recognizable accent.
Florence's recorded history began with the establishment in 59 BC of a settlement for Roman former soldiers, with the name Florentia (Flourishing) . Julius Caesar had allocated the fertile soil of the valley of the Arno to his veterans. They built a castrum in a chessboard pattern of an army camp, with the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. This pattern can still be found in the city center. Florentia was situated at the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome and the North. Through this advantageous position, the settlement could rapidly expand into an important commercial center. Emperor Diocletian made Florentia capital of the province of Tuscia in the 3rd century AD.
St Minias was Florence’s first martyr. He was beheaded at about 250 AD, during the anti-Christian persecutions of the Emperor Decius. The Basilica di San Miniato al Monte now stands near the spot.
The seat of a bishopric from around the beginning of the 4th century AD, the city experienced subsequent turbulent periods of Ostrogothic rule, during which the city was often besieged and ravaged. The population may have fallen to as few as 1,000 persons.
Peace returned under Lombard rule in the 6th century. Conquered by Charlemagne in 774, Florence became part of the duchy of Tuscany, with Lucca as capital. Population began to grow again and commerce prospered. In 854, Florence and Fiesole were united in one county.
Margrave Hugo chose Florence as his residency instead of Lucca at about 1000 AD. This initiated the Golden Age of Florentine art. In 1013, construction began on the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. The exterior of the baptistry was reworked in Romanesque style between 1059 and 1128.
Piazza della Repubblica in Florence.
Part of the skyline of Florence, viewed from the Palazzo Pitti
Ponte Vecchio and the River Arno
Pisa (defeated by Genoa in 1284 and subjugated by Florence in 1406 ), and the exercise of power by the mercantile elite following an anti-aristocratic movement, led by Giano della Bella, that resulted in a set of laws called the Ordinances of Justice (1293).
Of a population estimated at 80,000 before the Black Death of 1348, about 25,000 are said to have been supported by the city's wool industry: in 1345 Florence was the scene of an attempted strike by wool combers (ciompi), who in 1378 rose up in a brief revolt against oligarchic rule in the Revolt of the Ciompi. After their suppression, Florence came under the sway (1382-1434) of the Albizzi family, bitter rivals of the Medici. Cosimo de' Medici was the first Medici family member to essentially control the city from behind the scenes. Although the city was technically a democracy of sorts, his power came from a vast patronage network along with his alliance to the new immigrants, the gente nuova. The fact that the Medici were bankers to the pope also contributed to their rise. Cosimo was succeeded by his son Piero, who was shortly thereafter succeeded by Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo in 1469. Lorenzo was a great patron of the arts, commissioning works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.
Following the death of Lorenzo in 1492, he was succeeded by his son Piero II. When the French king Charles VIII invaded northern Italy, Piero II chose to resist his army. But when he realized the size of the French army at the gates of Pisa, he had to accept the humiliating conditions of the French king. These made the Florentines rebel and they expelled Piero II. With his exile in 1494, the first period of Medici rule ended with the restoration of a republican government.
During this period the Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola had become prior of the San Marco monastery in 1490. He was famed for his penitential sermons. He blamed the exile of the Medicis as the work of God, punishing them for their decadence. He seized the opportunity to carry through political reforms leading to a more democratic rule. His monomaniacal persecution of the widespread Florentine pederasty and of other worldly pleasures both influenced and foreshadowed many of the wider religious controversies of the following centuries. But when Savonarola publicly accused Pope Alexander VI of corruption, he was banned from speaking in public. When he broke this ban, he was excommunicated. The Florentines, tired of his extreme teachings, turned against him and arrested him. He was convicted as a heretic and burned at the stake on the Piazza della Signoria on 23 May 1498.
Florence's skyline at night from Piazza Michelangelo
A second individual of unusual insight was Niccolò Machiavelli, whose prescriptions for Florence's regeneration under strong leadership have often been seen as a legitimisation of political expediency and even malpractice. Commissioned by the Medici, Machiavelli also wrote the Florentine Histories, the history of the city. Florentines drove out the Medici for a second time and re-established a republic on May 16, 1527.
Restored twice with the support of both Emperor and Pope, the Medici in 1537 became hereditary dukes of Florence, and in 1569 Grand Dukes of Tuscany, ruling for two centuries. In all Tuscany, only the Republic of Lucca (later a Duchy) and the Principality of Piombino were independent from Florence.
The extinction of the Medici line and the accession in 1737 of Francis Stephen, duke of Lorraine and husband of Maria Theresa of Austria, led to Tuscany's temporary inclusion in the territories of the Austrian crown. It became a secundogeniture of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, who were deposed for the Bourbon-Parma in 1801 (themselves deposed in 1807), restored at the Congress of Vienna; Tuscany became a province of the United Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Florence replaced Turin as Italy's capital in 1865, hosting the country's first parliament, but was superseded by Rome six years later, after the withdrawal of the French troops made its addition to the kingdom possible. After doubling during the 19th century, Florence's population tripled in the 20th with the growth of tourism, trade, financial services and industry. During World War II the city experienced a year-long German occupation (1943-1944) and was declared an open city. The Allied soldiers who died driving the Germans from Tuscany are buried in cemeteries outside the city (Americans about 9 kilometers south of the city , British and Commonwealth soldiers a few kilometers east of the center on the north bank of the Arno )
A very important roule is played in that years by the famous café of Florence Giubbe Rosse from its' foundation until the present day. Piazza del Mercato Vecchio was destroyed (Old Market Square), and then was renamed Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. It is known today as Piazza della Repubblica, and is the location of the Giubbe Rosse. In that years (the end of the l9th century) the city administration of Florence decided to raze the old neighborhood of Mercato Vecchio to the ground, in favour of a new square dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II. "Non fu giammai così nobil giardino/ come a quel tempo egli è Mercato Vecchio / che l'occhio e il gusto pasce al fiorentino", claimed Antonio Pucci (poet) in the fourteenth century, "Mercato Vecchio nel mondo è alimento./ A ogni altra piazza il prego serra". The area had decayed from its original medieval splendor". Nowadays the literary café Giubbe Rosse is publishing books of famous Italian authors such: Mario Luzi, Manlio Sgalambro, Giovanni Lista, Menotti Lerro, Leopoldo Paciscopi.
In November 1966, the Arno flooded parts of the center, damaging many art treasures. There was no warning from the authorities who knew the flood was coming, except a phone call to the jewelers on the Ponte Vecchio.
Florence and the Renaissance
The surge in artistic, literary, and scientific investigation that occurred in Florence in the 14th-16th centuries was precipitated by Florentines' preoccupation with money, banking and trade and with the display of wealth and leisure.
Added to this, the crises of the Roman Catholic church (especially the controversy over the French Avignon Papacy and the Great Schism), along with the catastrophic effects of the Black Death, led to a re-evaluation of medieval values, resulting in the development of a humanist culture, stimulated by the works of Petrarch and Boccaccio. This prompted a revisitation and study of the classical antiquity, leading to the Renaissance. Florence benefited materially and culturally from this sea-change in social consciousness.
Florence has what is classified as a warm temperate continental climate. It consists of hot, dry summers and cool, damp winters. The summers in Florence are well known to be very humid, due to the geographical position of the town: surrounded by hills on a valley crossed by the Arno river, Florence becomes extremely hot and damp from June to August. Summer temperatures are higher than those along coastlines due to the lack of a prevailing wind. The small amount of rain which falls in the summer is convectional in type. Relief rainfall dominates in the winter, with occasional snowing.
Florence Duomo and Campanile (bell tower).
Combination picture of the view from the tower looking towards the Duomo.
The best-known site and crowning architectural jewel of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo. The magnificent dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. The nearby Campanile tower (partly designed by Giotto) and the Baptistery buildings are also highlights. Both the dome itself and the campanile are open to tourists and offer excellent views.
At the heart of the city in Piazza della Signoria is Bartolomeo Ammanati's Fountain of Neptune, which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct.
Church of Santa Felicita.
The Duomo in Florence is constantly being cleaned to remove the effects of pollution.
The bridges of Florence at sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
The Arno river, which cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the men who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno — which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood.
One of the bridges in particular stands out as being unique — The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. The bridge also carried Vasari's elevated corridor linking the Uffizi to the Medici palace (Palazzo Pitti). First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.
The San Lorenzo contains the Medici Chapel, the mausoleum of the Medici family - the most powerful family in Florence from the 15th to the 18th century. Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art galleries in the world - founded on a large bequest from the last member of the Medici family.
The Uffizi ("offices") itself is located on the corner of Piazza della Signoria, a site important for three main reasons:
In 1301, Dante was sent into Exile from here (a plaque on one of the walls of the Uffizi commemorates the event).
In 1497, it was the location of the Bonfire of the Vanities (a plaque in the middle of the plaza commemorates that event), followed in 1498 by the execution of its instigator, Girolamo Savonarola
In 1504, it was the original location of Michelangelo's David (now replaced by a reproduction as the original was moved indoors to the Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno), in front of the Palazzo della Signoria (also known as Palazzo Vecchio).
In addition to the Uffizi, Florence has other world-class museums:
The Bargello concentrates on sculpture, containing many priceless works of art created by such sculptors as Donatello, Giambologna, and Michelangelo.
The Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno (often simply called the Accademia) collection's highlights are Michelangelo's David and his unfinished Slaves.
Across the Arno is the huge Pitti Palace containing part of the Medici family's former private collection. In addition to the Medici collection the palace's galleries contain a large number of Renaissance works, including several by Raphael and Titian as well as a large collection of modern art, costumes, cattiages, and porcerlain. Adjoining the Palace are the Boboli Gardens, elaborately landscaped and with many interesting sculptures.
The elaborate Santa Croce church contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante (actually a cenotaph), and many other notables.
Other important basilicas in Florence include Santa Maria Novella, San Lorenzo, Santo Spirito and the Orsanmichele.
The city's principal football team is AC Fiorentina.
Florence has been the setting for numerous works of fiction and movies, including the novels and associated films Hannibal, Tea with Mussolini and A Room with a View.
Other points of interest
As of 2004, the greater Firenze (Florence) area had a population of 957,949 inhabitants, 93.30% being ethnic Italian. Immigrants in the city number 6.70% of the greater Firenze area. Of the 64,421 immigrants living in the Firenze area, 27,759 are of European origins other than Italian. The majority are of Albanian, Romanian, and German ethnicities. An increasing Asian population numbers 19,488, mostly recent immigrants of Chinese, and Filipino origins. The African population numbers 10,364, where half are comprised of those who are North African Arabs, while the other half are sub-saharan blacks. The remaining numbers constitute immigrants from the Americas.
Like much of Europe, many cities are undergoing an ageing process due to the low fertility rates among the women. As a result, the pensioner population outnumbers that of youths. However, in the past decade there has been an increase in the number of births contributing to the slow, continuing positive growth of the city.
The principal public transportation network within the city is run by the ATAF and Li-nea bus company, with tickets available at local tobacconists, bars, and newspaper stalls. Individual tickets or a pass called the Carta Agile with multiple rides (10 or 21) may be used on buses. Once on the bus, tickets must be stamped (or swiped for the Carta Agile) using the machines on board unlike the train tickets which must be validated before boarding. The main bus station is next to Santa Maria Novella train station. Trenitalia runs trains between the railway stations within the city, and to other destinations around Italy and Europe. The central station, Santa Maria Novella Station, is located about 500 meters NW of Piazza del Duomo. There is also another important station, Campo Di Marte, but it is not as well-known as Santa Maria Novella.
Long distance buses are run by the SITA, Copit, CAP and Lazzi companies. The transit companies also accommodate travelers from the Amerigo Vespucci Airport, which is five kilometers west of the city center, and which has scheduled services run by major European carriers such as Air France and Lufthansa.
The centre of the city is closed to through-traffic, although buses, taxis and residents with appropriate permits are allowed in. Within the city walls most places can easily be reached by foot.
An urban tram network called the TramVia is currently under construction in the City.
Economy and industry
Tourism is unquestionably the most significant industry within the center of Florence. On any given day between April and October, the local population is greatly outnumbered by tourists from all over the world. The Uffizi and Accademia museums are regularly sold out of tickets, and large groups regularly fill the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, both of which charge for entry.
Florence is also home to the legendary Italian fashion establishment Salvatore Ferragamo, notable as one of the oldest and most famous Italian fashion houses not located in Milan. Gucci, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, and Chanel also have large offices and stores in Florence or its outskirts.
Food and wine have long been an important staple of the economy. Florence is the most important city in Tuscany, one of the great wine-growing regions in the world. The Chianti region is just south of the city, and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Supertuscan blends. Within twenty miles to the west is the Carmignano area, also home to flavorful reds. More recently, the Bolgheri region (about 100 miles southwest of Florence) has become justly celebrated for its Supertuscan reds like Sassicaia.
Florentine food grows out of a tradition of peasant eating rather than rarefied high cooking. The vast majority of dishes are based on meat. The whole animal was traditionally eaten; various kinds of tripe, (trippa) and (lampredotto) were once regularly on the menu and still are sold at the remaining food carts stationed throughout the city. Antipasti include crostini toscani, sliced bread rounds topped with a chicken liver-based pâté, and sliced meats (mainly prosciutto and salami, often served with melon when in season). The typically saltless Tuscan bread frequently features in Florentine courses, especially in its famous soups, ribollita and pappa al pomodoro, both usually served with local olive oil, and in the salad of bread and fresh vegetables called panzanella that is served in summer. The most famous main course is the bistecca alla fiorentina, a huge steak of Chianina beef cooked over hot charcoal and served very rare with its more recently derived version, the tagliata, sliced rare beef served on a bed of arugula.
Leone Battista Alberti, polymath.
Dante Alighieri, The famous poet & writer of La Divina Commedia.
Filippo Brunelleschi, famous architect.
Giovanni Boccaccio, famous poet.
Giotto di Bondone, early Trecento painter of the Arena Chapel in Padua, the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels in the Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze, and many great panel works including the Ognisanti Madonna  (Uffizi Gallery).
Michelangelo Buonarroti, a famous sculptor, also famous for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Girolamo Mei, historian and humanist
Lorenzo Ghiberti, sculptor
Leonardo da Vinci, famous for his Mona Lisa and other paintings, inventions, and scientific experiments.
Niccolò Machiavelli, famous Renaissance poet and philosopher
Giorgio Vasari, painter, architect, and historian
Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher.
Frescobaldi Family, notable bankers and wine producers
Oriana Fallaci, journalist and author
Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing, and a noted statistician.
Gabriel Batistuta, Highest scoring Argentine Footballer and a Fiorentina legend
Salvatore Ferragamo, Legendary "shoemaker to the stars"
Angelo Acciaioli, first bishop of Florence
Michael Cassio, fictional arithmetician and Lieutenant in Venetian army in Othello.
Sister cities include:
- Kraków, Poland
- Athens, Greece
- Dresden, Germany
- Kassel, Germany
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Granada, Spain
- Rheims, France
- Riga, Latvia
- Turku, Finland
- Istanbul, Turkey
- Aaiun, Western Sahara
- Asmara, Eritrea
- Fes, Morocco
- Gaziantep, Turkey
- Isfahan, Iran
- Kiev, Ukraine
- Kuwait City, Kuwait
- Kyoto, Japan
- Nanjing, People's Republic of China
- Nazareth, Israel
- Philadelphia, United States
- Providence, United States
- Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
- Sydney, Australia
- Tirana, Albania
- Yerevan, Armenia