Florence is the capital of the region of Tuscany and around the beginning of the 14th century is was politically, economically and culturally one of the most important cities in Europe for almost 250 years. Today the city is regarded as a cultural, artistic and architectural gem.
Briefly, here are some facts that outline just how important and influencial Florence and its people have been.
The people of Florence were the driving force behind the Age of Discovery with bankers financing Henry the Navigator and the Portuguese explorers who pioneered the route around Africa to India and the Far East.
Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio were the first to use a language other than Latin, namely Tuscan which eventualy became the recognised Italian language. This was the beginning of the end of Latin being used as the common language throughout Europe.
The Florentines invented both Renaissance and neoclassical architecture, a fact which greatly influenced and revolutionised the way Rome, London, Paris and every other major city in Europe was built.
Scientists in Florence, one of whom was Gallileo, pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy and anatomy.
Opera was invented in Florence.
The Medici family were from Florence and were perhaps one of the most important families to have ever lived and one that changed the world more than any other.
Many famous artists came from around Florence, including Giotto, Uccello, Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Nowadays, Florence is a wonderful city to visit and as it is small and compact, the best way to see and discover it is on foot. The city skyline is dominated by the dome of the cathedral, which is, incidentally, the third largest Christian church in the world. Florence has many other churches which are all filled with of some of the finest art in the world.
This leads us on to the art galleries. Two of the most famous picture galleries in the world can be found here, Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. The Bargello and the Museum of the Works of the Duomo are sculpture galleries, filled with some of the most brilliant and revolutionary creations of Michelangelo, Donatello and Verrochio. One of the most well known and possibly one of the greatest and most unique masterpieces, that of Michaelangelo's David, can be found at the Academia. This gallery also houses many of his unfinished works such as the prisoners and slaves that were to be for the tomb of Pope Julias II.
As well as all these wonderful art galleries, Florence has over 80 museums. The list is too great to mention them all but the most famous are the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio, the Archeological Museum, the Museum of the History of Science, the Palazzo Davanzatti, the Stibbert Museum, St. Marks, the Medici Chapels, the Zoological Museum and the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.
There are many other things to do and see in this wonderful city. Giotto's Tower, which is next to the cathedral is one of them. If you are brave enough you can climb the 414 steps to the top of the tower where your efforts will be rewarded by a 360 degree view of the city and surrounding area. It is also possible to climb the Duomo or it's bell tower for equally spectucular views of the city. If you really don't fancy climbing all those stairs then you can take a bus to Piazzale Michelangelo just south of the town centre. From here you have a good view of the city and it is particularly pretty at night when the city is lit up.
The elaborately landscaped Boboli Gardens with their interesting sculptures are an excellent place to stroll and the city views from here are also good.
The banks of the river Arno and many its bridges are also good places to walk and around and discover other aspects of this amazing city. There are medieval back streets, superb shopping streets and an area that is a smaller version of Paris's Left Bank. The oldest, and most famous, bridge over the River Arno is Ponte Vecchio and was the only bridge in Florence to survive World War II. This bridge is lined with shops, mainly jewellers, and is a wonderful place to walk or just stand and watch the amazing buzz of Florentine life.
Population density: 3,683.3 per square km
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