"Florence - Art Capital of the World" Florence by Willettsworld
Florence Travel Guide: 5,246 reviews and 11,830 photos
Florence is a vast and beautiful monument to the Renaissance, the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century. Writers such as Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli contributed to its proud literary heritage, though it was the paintings and sculptures of artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo and Donatello that turned the city into one of the world's greatest artistic capitals.
While the Etruscans had long settled the hills around Fiesole, Florence first sprang to life as a Roman colony in 59 BC. Captured by the Lombards in the 6th century, the city later emerged from the Dark Ages as an independent city state. By the 13th century a burgeoning trade in wool and textiles, backed by a powerful banking sector, had turned the city into one of Italy's leading powers. Political control was wielded first by the guilds, and later by the Florentine Republic. In time, power passed to leading noble families, of which the most influential were the Medici, a hugely wealthy banking dynasty. Florence, and later Tuscany, remained under the families almost unbroken rule for three centuries. During this time the city was at the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe, its cosmospolitan atmosphere and wealthy patrons providing the impetus for a period of unparalleled artistic growth. Artists, sculptors and architects flocked to the city, filling its streets, churches and palaces with some of the world's greatest Renaissance works. By 1737 the Medici had died out, leaving the city under Austrian (and briefly Napoleonic) control until Italian Unification in 1860. Between 1865 and 1871 Florence was the capital of the new Kingdom and Italy. In recent history it streets and artistic heritage were ravaged by the Arno floods of November 1966.
Historic Florence is a surprisingly compact area and the majority of the sights can easily be reached on foot. The Duomo is probably the most popular destination for visitors to head for as it's right in the very heart of the city. Make sure you have plenty of time to visit the Duomo (especially the dome which offers wonderful panoramic views of the city) as queues can get quite long.
To the south is Piazza della Signoria, long the city's political heart, flanked by the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's town hall. Across the Ponte Vecchio and the Arno - the river that bisects the city - is the district of Oltrarno, dominated by Santo Spirito and the vast Pitti Palace with its lovely gardens.
To the north of Duomo, lies the area around the Convent of San Marco and the church of the Holy Annunziata. To the east lies the church of Santa Croce, home of frescoes by Giotto and the tombs of some of Florence's greatest men. To the west stands Santa Maria Novella. the city's other great church, also adorned with fresco-filled chapels.
Florence contains some of the world's greatest art ever known to man. There are numerous museums and art galleries to please all tastes.
The Uffizi is Italy's greatest art gallery containing the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings from artists such as Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Filippo Lippi, Raphael and of course Leonardo da Vinci.
The Galleria dell'Accademia contains perhaps the most famous sculpture of them all - Michelangelo's "David". Other works include Botticelli's "Madonna del Mare" and "Venus and Cupid" by Jacopo Pontormo. The art collection displayed here was formed in 1784 to provide material for students to study and copy.
The Archaeological Museum exhibits an outstanding collection of Etruscan, Greek, Roman and Egyptain artifacts. The cathedral museum is dedicated to the history of the cathedral. It holds statues from Arnolfo di Cambio's workshop which were once placed in the cathedral's niches. Michelangelo's "Pieta" has pride of place on the staircase. Other works include two choir lofts by Luca della Robbia and Donatello's "La Maddalena".
Small hotel near the duomo right in the heart of the city within easy access to all the major sites. The hotel is... more travel advice
The Boboli Gardens are a lovely place to go and escape the rigours of sightseeing. Many people sit or lie back on the... more travel advice
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