Florence

Invite yourself to explore Florence in one day and make the most out of one day in the beautiful city of of Medici family and Dan Brown novel. The name of Florence or Firenze was derived from the flower that traditionally grows in the area around the city: Iris Fiorentina. Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that era. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called 'the Athens of the Middle Ages'. A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. The city attracts millions of tourists each year, and the Historic Centre of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. Florence is the city that gave birth to incredible artists, amazing scientist and an enthralling history of discovery and power that has filled novels and movie theatres. Wondering how to take advantage of one day spent there? Follow our guide! Piazza del Duomo The square is located in the heart of Florence. The cathedral, named in honour of Santa Maria del Fiore, is the city's most iconic landmark. The vast Gothic structure with its breath-taking pink, white and green marble façade and graceful campanile (bell tower) were built on the site of the 7th-century church of Santa Reparata. Its construction took 150 years and was finished in 1436. The red-tiled cupola was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Unlike its decorative façade, the interior is pretty stark and plain. In fact, the relative bareness of the church corresponds with the austerity of religious life, as preached by Girolamo Savonarola. The exception is the biggest artwork of the cathedral: the Last Judgment painted by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari. Right in front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Baptistery of St. John is one of the most important monuments in Florence. Described by Dante as 'my beautiful San Giovanni', the building is the oldest religious site in all of Florence. It is believed that the Baptistery was built on the ruins of Roman temple. Up until the end of the 19th century, all Catholics in Florence were baptized within its doors. If you fancy a glimpse of a suggestive landscape of Piazza del Duomo, make your way to beautiful Giotto's Bell Tower. Prepare yourself for some breath-taking experiences. Not only because of the fact that you have to climb 414 steps, but also because you can be amazed by the memorable view over the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore. Chiesa di San Lorenzo San Lorenzo is the burial place of the Medici family and another building where we can see the impact of Filippo Brunelleschi. He rebuilt the church in 1419 on the site of one of the city's oldest churches (consecrated in AD 393). It is also a place intriguingly connected to Michelangelo. He was the one to create the façade to cover the rough-hewn exterior. In the end, it was never added. Still, we can enjoy his sculptures for the tombs of Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici. Stroll around Piazza San Lorenzo to taste the typical Tuscan food from the oldest and largest Florence market. Chiesa di S. Maria Novella The church, even though not listed at the top of your list of places to visit in Florence, is one the most important Gothic churches in Florence. Built between 1279 and 1357 by Dominican friars is located just outside Florence's medieval walls. Its façade is not only the oldest of all the churches in Florence but it is also the only church with its original, planned façade still in place today! Here we can see one more influence from Brunelleschi. Thanks to his layout of clever colouring of the central arches, the church looks even longer than it is in reality. Chiesa di Santa Croce Santa Croce, positioned outside of the city walls, is one of the more prominent and recognizable churches in the city of Florence. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world and its most remarkable features are the sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto. Also known as the Temple of the Italian Glories, it is the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians, including Michelangelo and Galileo. Not Dante, though. The church hosts an elaborate but empty tomb monument of the artist. Much to the dissatisfaction of the jealous Florentines, Dante's actual burial place is in Ravenna: the quiet place only 170km from his hometown. Because of his thinly veiled references to powerful people of Florence, the artist was not necessarily welcome in the city. He was exiled to Ravenna, where he eventually died in 1321. Palazzo del Bargello Palazzo del Bargello hosts a remarkable collection of Renaissance sculpture and works of art. The fortress, with its powerful embattlements surrounding the austere façade, was built to house the Capitano del Popolo (Captain of the People) and later the Podestà (the high official person), Council of Justice and a prison. Piazza della Signoria The square has been the centre of political life in Florence since the 14th century. It was the scene of great triumphs, such as the return of the Medici in 1530 as well as the Bonfire of the Vanities. They were instigated by Savonarola: a preacher who powerfully denounced the corrupt lifestyles of the clergy. He was then himself burned at the stake here in 1498 after he was denounced by the Inquisition as a heretic. A marble circle inscription in the middle of the square shows the location where he was burned. The sculptures in Piazza della Signoria bristle with political connotations, many of which are fiercely contradictory. The David of Michelangelo was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio as a symbol of the Republics defiance of the tyrannical Medici. Uffizi Gallery The Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery) boasts the world's largest collection of Renaissance art, largely collected by members of the Medici family during the 16th and 17th centuries. Located in the centre of Florence, the Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and best-known art museums in the world. It is organized as a long labyrinth of rooms with amazing artworks displayed roughly in chronological order along a U-shaped Renaissance building which was never intended to be a museum. Cosimo de' Medici had entrusted his favourite architect Giorgio Vasari to create a pompous building right next to Palazzo Vecchio. The name "Uffizi", which means offices in Italian got its origin from the intention of Medici. This seat of power was about to host the magistrates, the seats of the Florentine Guilds, a vast theatre and judiciary offices. This is so you understand that these spaces were not 'born' as a museum nor ready to welcome up to an average of 10.000 people a day, which they do now. Academia Gallery Together with the Uffizi, the Academia Gallery is one of the most visited museums in Florence. The place hosts the Dante death mask, which plays a key role in Dan Brown's Inferno novel. The object is situated on the first floor, between the Apartments of Eleanor and the Halls of Priors. Among the most famous and beautiful masterpieces hosted by the Academia, the imposing marble statue of David, over 4 meters tall, is definitely the work of art that attracts the most attention. Created by Michelangelo in 1504, the statue was originally placed outside of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria. Exposed to weather and to acts of vandalism through the centuries, the David was finally transferred to the Academia in 1873. Palazzo Vecchio Palazzo Vecchio is the main symbol of civil power for the city of Florence, where art and history have been indissolubly bound for centuries. Crossing the corridors of this impressive building will take you for a trip back into history to three eras. You will be able to experience the Roman ruins, a medieval fortress and amazing Renaissance chambers and paintings. Pier Soderini, who was appointed gonfalonier for life, selected the two greatest Florentine artists of the time, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo Buonarroti to depict the battle victories of the Republic. The two geniuses of the Renaissance had an opportunity to work face to face, but none of their work was ever completed. Ponte Vecchio The Old Bridge is an everlasting symbol of Florence. Built on the narrowest part of the river Arno, it was the only bridge until 1218. When the Medici moved from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river, they decided they needed a connecting route that would enable them to keep out of contact with the people they ruled. The result was the Vasari Corridor which runs above the Ponte Vecchio. Since 13th the bridge hosted all kinds of shops, including fishmongers and butchers. Its 'industrial waste' caused a pretty bad smell that disturbed the Medici family walking over the bridge. That's why in 1593 Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers be allowed to have their shops there. Chiesa di Santo Spirito Built in the 15th century, Santo Spirito is the last masterpiece of Brunelleschi. Even though the façade is rather simple, the inside hides many artistic treasures. The historic district of Santo Spirito is the destination for the ones who want to get to know the true and picturesque Florence. It is still the place inhabited by many native Florentines and a meeting spot of excellence for intellectuals, artists, and bohemians. Palazzo Pitti This enormous palace is one of Florence's largest architectural monuments. Guess who it was designed by. That's right. The original palazzo was created by Filippo Brunelleschi for the Pitti family. Then, the building was sold to the Medicis and became the primary residence of the grand ducal family. Right now it houses some of the most important museum in Florence: Palatine Gallery, Royal Apartments, the Silver Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. Giardino di Boboli The beautiful gardens are spread out over 111 acres behind the Palazzo Pitti. Come here to enjoy the break from museums and wander around a wide range of sculptures, fountains and other works that merit to be admired. We don't encourage having a picnic here, but you can still enjoy a discreet snack in many 'secret' spots of the park. Piazzale Michelangelo Enjoy the magical skyline of Florence from Piazzale Michelangiolo. It is not only a perfect photo opportunity, but also a moment of wonder. This picturesque spot never fails to capture the heart and imagination of the one who follows the path to the very top. Cool facts 1. Nearly a third of the world's art treasures reside in Florence, according to UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization). 2. In 1339 Florence became the first city in all of Europe with paved streets. 3. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the lower valley of the Arno River in the territory of Florence on April 15, 1452. 4. Pinocchio, the wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies, came from Florence. Le Avventure di Pinocchio was published between 1881 and 1883 by Carlo Lorenzini (pen name Collodi), a Florentine by birth. 5. On November 30th, 1786, under the reign of Pietro Leopoldo, Tuscany was the first modern European state in the world to do away with torture and capital punishment. 6. 'Il Duomo' of Florence took approximately 140 years to build. Construction initially started on September 8th, 1296, but the cathedral was not completed until March 25th 1436. 7. The emblem of Florence is a red lily, the representation of which derives from the Florentine iris, a white flower that was very common in the local area. 8. Florence is traditionally divided into four quarters, named after the most important churches. Three of them are on the right-hand bank of the Arno; Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni and the quarter of Santa Croce. The only quarter south of the river is Santo Spirito. 9. Florence was severely damaged during World War II by the Germans, who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vecchio. Hitler declared it too beautiful to destroy. 10. Amerigo Vespucci, the famous explorer and navigator, was born in Florence on March 9th, 1454. 11. Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio were the first to use a language other than Latin, namely Tuscan which eventually became the recognised Italian language. This was the beginning of the end of Latin being used as the common language throughout Europe. 12. The right hand of the statue of David is disproportionately large compared to the body because in the Middle Ages David was commonly said to be of "manu fortis": strong of hand. 14. Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches of Florence. 15. Fiasco is an Italian word referring to a glass bottle or flask with a long neck. According to the Oxford English dictionary fiasco meaning 'a failure or complete breakdown'; comes from the Italian expression 'fare fiasco' to make a bottle.

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