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Florence

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It was built on the site of an Etruscan settlement and the later ancient Roman colony of Florentia (founded in 59 BC). The city symbolises the European Renaissance from the 14th to the 17th century and it rose to economic and cultural pre-eminence under the Medici family in the 15th and 16th centuries. The city is renowned for its prolific artistic activity which can be seen in the 13th century cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), the Uffizi Gallery (one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world), the Basilica of Santa Croce (consecrated 1443) and the Pitti Palace (the core of which dates from 1458), the work of great masters such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Michelangelo. The Arno River runs through the city and notable bridges include Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita. Today, with approximately 382,000 inhabitants (1,520,000 in the metropolitan area); Florence is the most populous city in Tuscany. The historic centre, bounded by the remains of its 14th century walls, covers over 1200 acres and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It attracts 1½ to 2 million tourists per year. My photos below are accompanied by brief descriptions. This web page is far from comprehensive (for example, I don't have a photo of the Uffizi!); for further information about visiting the city, a good starting point is the official tourist website Here.

Above: Florence Cathedral - The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower). This iconic building is the main cathedral of the city and construction started in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio. The famous dome was engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 - 1446) and the cathedral was structurally complete and consecrated in 1436.

Below: Giotto's bell tower (campanile) of Florence Cathedral. The tower is freestanding and is one of the showpieces of the city's Florentine Gothic architecture. Designed by Giotto it contains seven bells and the design is such that three upper levels increase in size the further up they are giving the impression from the ground that they are all dimensionally equal.

Florence Baptistery East doors, or Gates of Paradise, by Lorenzo Ghiberti. The Baptistery is one of the city's most important religious buildings, dedicated to his patron saint, John the Baptist. The door shown here is the one of most note. Commissioned in 1425 and completed/installed in 1452, Ghiberti's masterpiece contains ten large panels depicting some of the principal scenes from the Old Testament from the Labours of Adam and Eve to the Meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Michelangelo described the doors as ‘the gates of Paradise’:

Basilica of Santa Croce. This is the city's principal Franciscan church and a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the burial place of some of the most renowned Italians from a wide range of disciplines, such as Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli and Gioachino Rossini, to name a few. Because of this, the Basilica of Santa Croce is also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories:

Below: the Tomb of Galileo Galilei inside the Basilica of Santa Croce.

Fountain of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria - This is the work of the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. It was commissioned in 1565 for the occasion of the wedding of Francesco I de' Medici with Johanna of Austria. The fountain sits in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the city's town hall:

Palazzo Vecchio overlooking Piazza della Signoria. A replica of Michelangelo's David erected in 1910 stands at the entrance (the original stood here from its completion in 1504 to 1873) and this is flanked by Baccio Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus:

Ponte Vecchio - The name in English means 'Old Bridge'. The bridge spans the Arno river at its narrowest point and is a Medieval stone arch bridge noted for having shops still built along its length. Once flanked by butchers, today the shops are aimed at the tourist. The bridge itself has a long history and so for a brief summary, click Here (external website). Having walked back and forth over the bridge, my memories are akin to standing underneath the Astronomical Clock in Prague - Tourists, sardines and tin are words that spring to mind. Nevertheless, not to be missed:

Bronze cast of Michelangelo's David on Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) - Shown below, this is located in the Oltrarno district of the city. The piazza was designed by architect Giuseppe Poggi and built in 1869. It sits atop a hill just south of the historic centre. At the time, Florence was the capital of Italy...

This leads on to the final photo on this page; below, a panoramic stitch of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. This is 'the' spot to get your picture postcard photo of the historic centre and the Arno river.

Suggested Further Reading:

1. Florence and Tuscany (Cultural Guides) by Marianne Mehling, Phaidon Press Ltd (1986)

2. Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the Great Cathedral in Florence by Ross King, Pimlico (new ed. 2001)

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