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.
The 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.
The 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.
Bapistry 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.
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.