Florence

Colonia Florentina was one of the colonies for veterans of Julius Caesar's campaigns.

There were years where power between guilds, merchants and nobles seem to consume the town. There were divisions created between those supporting the papal or imperial rulers. Feuds between the Guelfs and Ghibellines last from 1216 until 1302 with one or the other being banned or re-admitted or dividing into their own sub-groups.

By the 13th Century Florence became an important banking centre. The bankers, known as Lombards, became the money-lenders well outside the bounds of Florence. The florin, Florence's own gold coin was accepted as currency across much of Europe. But when Edward III of England, in 1399, wrote-off the debt he owed, two of the largest banks of Florence went broke.

OrsanmicheleThe Orsanmichel, shown to the right, was originally a grain market with an emergency storehouse to hold grain when the city was being attacked. In 1304 the market was relocated, the building was left to the powerful guilds of Florence and it became a trades meeting hall. Then in 1380 it was converted into a church.

In the 15th Century two prominent families, the Pazzi and the Medici shape the ongoing development of Florence. The House of Medici was the largest merchant in Florence. The Medici became patrons of the arts as well as political leaders in Florence. One of the sons, Giovanni, became a cardinal at the age of 14 and then Pope Leo X at the age of 38.

Girolamo Savonarola, preaching fundamental themes, lead the famous Bonfire of Vanities at the Piazza della Signoria in 1497. Paintings, fancy clothing, carnival masks and books were collected and thrown into a fire. A year later he also burned in a similar fire and his ashes were thrown onto the Arno to float away.

By 1512 the Medici were able to return to Florence

While there was heavy bombing of Florence during World War II, one bridge, the Ponte Vecchio was not destroyed.

There is much to see in Florence, and there are plenty of people there seeing it! Be prepared for crowds and the endless pressure of tourists. The Duomo, the Bapistry, the Cathedral Museum, the Uffizi, the Bargello the Pitti Palace and the Accademia and the Medici Chapels at the San Lorenzo are all sights that would be on a list of things to do.

Many of the galleries and museums have specific closing dates and times Sites such as Polo Museale Fiorentino provide detailed information on when things are open or closed.

 

DavidThe Accademia Gallery
Via Risasoli, 60

It was the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo of the Lorraine House governing Tuscany at the time at who in 1784 brought together the Florentine drawing schools into a single academy.

The gallery received considerable attention in 1873 when Michelangeol's David was taken from the Piazza Signoria to be exhibited at the Accademia.

My first visit was many years ago, before the advance ticketing and the numers of tourist made a visit a test of endurance. Just walked in, camera and all, and enjoyed the works of art.

The Accademia is closed on Mondays and pre-purchased tickets will give you a time slot for a visit.

 

BaptistryBapistry of San Giovanni
Piazza S. Giovanni

The Bapistry of San Giovanni is one of the oldest buildings in Florence.

The building dates to the 7th or 9th Century and it has been enhanced over the centuries. The guilded bronze doors are by Pisano (south door, 1336) and Ghiberti (north 1427 and east 1452). The east door is the "Gates of Paradise" and the a copy with the originals in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo.

The inside has mosaics that date from 1266 and the 14th century.

 

Brunselleschi's DomeDuomo
Piazza Duomo

The Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore is covered with green and white marble similar to the Bapistry, which was built much earlier. Work started in 1290.

The dome, the Cupola, was not finished until 1426 and can be seen from many locations in the city.

Once you visit Florence you can close your eyes, the red dome will be there. The exterior of the cathedral was enhanced in 1888 with the addition of the statues and other features.

Piazza della Signoria

This was for hundreds of years the main piazza of Florence. On a number of our trips we have had the pleasure of staying at the B&B In Piazza della Signoria, one of our Great Places to Stay, which is located right on the Piazza.

This used to be the political centre for Florence. The Bonfires of the Vanities took place here. This was the burning of the vanities of people - books, clothes, art where heaped on a bonfire in the centre of the Piazza.

LoggiaThen a year later the burning of Savonarola took place in the same location.

Walk the piazza and you will see a small marker designating the spot.

The Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia dei Lanzi as well as sculpture and copies are all impressive. The loggia has three graceful arches. It was a reviewing stand for city officials and it was designed and built around 1370. Now it is a beautiful outdoor sculpture gallery.

 

 

 

Plazzo VecchioPalazzo Vecchio

Built in the 1550s it has served many purposes and the Medici Family at one time did live in the palace.

Today it holds the City Hall function for Florence as well as Michelangelo's statute of Victory. The statue was originally created for Pope Julius IIs tomb in Rome.

 

Bargello

Located behind the Palazzo Vecchio, originally the Palazzo del Popolo was a residence for the Medici Family. Later the Medici decided a large palace was needed and they moved to the larger Palazzo Vecchio. The Popolo was used as a prison. Today it holds a collection of sculpture and is the Museo Nazionale.

 

Uffizi

UffiziThe Uffizi, a world famous museum, was commissioned by Cosimo I de Medici, the patriarch of the Medici family, and designed by Georgio Vasari. The building was originally intended to be offices, or uffizis, for the magistrates of Florence.

When the Medici fell out of power, Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress, established the museum through a family pact that stated all of her possessions were never to leave Florence and then opened up the museum to the public in 1765.

Some of the statues were relocated to the Bargello and there has been ongoing work to make maximum viewing space.

In 1993 a car bomb exploded in the Via dei Georgofili causing damage to sections of the palace. Five people were killed. The frescoes of the that section were damaged beyond repair.

 

 

 

Ponte VecchioPonte Vecchio

To many, next to the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the most known locations in Florence.

It was built in 1345 and like many medieval bridges shops and houses were built on the bridge.

Today gold shops occupy the bridge top, that but only came about after 1500. Prior to then, the bridge wasthe home to the butchers of Florence. The smell and mess was too much and they were ordered off the bridge.

Not only it this bridge remarkable in its architecture but also in more recent history. It was the only bridge that was not bombed in World War II. Buildings at each end of the bridge were destroyed and ruble piled up so that no one could use the bridge, but it was saved from destruction.

 

Santa Maria Novella

Work on this church started in 1246. It holds beautiful art treasurers. The Green Cloister has frescoes - the story of Noah.

Medici Chapels

The entrance is on the Piazza Madonna degli Aldobrandini and Traalythey house sculptures by Michelangelo.

Pitti Palace

This was built in 1457 by a banker named Luca Pitti. In 1540 Cosimo Medici bought the palace and the grounds, the Bobli Gardens. The Medicis then moved from the Palazzo Vecchio to make this their home.

In 1860 Florence was the capital of Italy and the Savoy Kings lived at the Pitti Palace.