Florence, city of art and architecture

It’s impossible to describe Florence in it’s glorious entirety, but we can say this, Florence is a city where everything is expressed with great force and gusto: art, culture, fashion, cooking and nature. It is an open air museum surrounded by beautiful hills, where architectural and natural beauty are united with an innate love of food and wine.

Strolling through Florence you’ll be pleasantly suprised by architectural treats, major and minor, that you’ll come across on your travels. It is not necessary to be an art lover armed with a guide. The historical streets of the city lead to the centre – the Piazza del Duomo, with the magnificent cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s distinctive bell tower and the octagonal Baptistery. The road leading south from here towards the River Arno and the Ponte Vecchio passes the Palazzo Vecchio. These Medieval bulidings, some religious and others are civil (the Florence council is still housed in the Palazzo Vecchio) can all be found on this short stretch of road.

Florence is a city of Roman origin, and between the 14th and the 19th Centuries it experienced tremendous growth. It was an important economic centre during the Middle Ages, fundamental to the Renaissance, of strategic importance until the unification of Italy and the capital of the Kingdom from 1865 to 1871). The structure of Florence, both in town and in the surrounding hilltop suburbs, owes much to the powerful Medici family, that governed the city in the 15th to the 17th Century. The new buildings commissioned by the family are in perfect harmony wth the existing medieval architecture and the architecture of the following period of the Lorena during the 18th Century.

These various architectural styles were the creations of some of the most famous architects and sculpturers the world has known. The churchs and palaces, and their ornate decorations, are masterpieces by artists like Giotto, Leon Battista Alberti, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.

In the museums you can see some of the best known pieces of art in the flesh so to speak; from the Annunciazione by Simone Martini (The Annunciation) to the Primavera by Sandro Botticelli, and the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello and Tiziano.

But Florence’s allure is not only its artistic heritage, it is also host to eminent cultural events such as the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and fashion events like Pitti Filati). Florence is also a university town and as such enjoys a vibrant nightlife and meeting place for young people from all over the Tuscany, not to mentionthe many overseas students that flock here every year.

The libraries are one of Florence’s best kept secrets. The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, is the most important in Italy in terms of size and historical value of the manuscripts and books in the collection. The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in the Piazza di San Lorenzo which which was designed by Michelangelo, and is a key reference resource for students of humanism throughout the world, due to its collection of manuscripts.

For those of you who choose to spend your days in Florence there is much more than libraries and musuems to entertain you. This heritage is complimented by the local markets, the high fashion stores, restaurants and artisans shops. The cuisine of Tuscany is celebrated both in the market stalls and in fancy restaurants in Florence. You can get a delicious ribollita soup with an excellent Chianti wine to wash it down, or for the tripe lovers among you, panino col lampredotto – tripe sandwiches – and other typical tripe dishes that are considered a delicacy here.

Its certain that Florence, populated with Florentines, students and tourists is in some areas a chaotic and crowded city. But with respect to other cities it has the beauty that you can escape the crowds easily and get a breathtaking overview of Florence from Fiesole or Settignano. The nearby Medicean villas; La Pietraia, the Villa di Castello, Villa Ambra all offer a further insight into Florence and its architecture and history.

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