The Renaissance craddle
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Florence is situated in the plain of Arno River , surrounded by the wonderful hills that made it famous.The historic centre of Florence (named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982) is amazing: it shows buildings of great architectural and historical value and a huge number of artworks. The buildings are characterized by different origins: they cover in fact a large time span that goes from the Middle Ages to the XX century.
Florence is considered such a beautiful city not only for what the city can offer, but also for its marvelous surroundings. Villas, convents, parish churches and small suggestive villages make the landscape an absolute must see. Florence had its most glorious period between the XIV and XVI century with the Medici dynasty. Moreover, the city was a great contributor for the development of the Renaissance: an artistic, cultural and literal movement in the history of Europe. The Renaissance developed from the second half of the XIV century till the XVI century. For this reason, Florence is also known all over the world as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”. The movement changed the mindset and customs of Italy and beyond. Many of the greatest artists of that period were born, lived or just worked in this city. It is in fact thanks to their works that today millions of visitors come to Florence.
The city’s origins date back to the Etruscan Age, but the well-known history of Florence started in 59 BC. During the Roman Age the town was called “Florentia”, that means “destined to thrive”. Its rise started in the I° century BC and culminated three centuries later. After the Middle Ages, an age of stalling economy all over Europe, Florence knew a remarkable development and made a name for itself as one of the most important cultural centers of the peninsula. From the XI century the city gained more and more autonomy and established itself as a free Commune in the year 1115. Despite that, the first internal conflicts between feudatories and the artisan class began to emerge soon. They ended up in two factions: the so called Ghibellini, in favor of the imperial cause, and the so called Guelfi, in favor of the Pope. In spite of the internal conflicts, Florence succeeded in winning the wars against Arezzo, Pistoia, Siena and Volterra, and expanded its territory. Between the end of 1200 and the beginning of 1300, the city was one of the main centers in Italy, mainly thanks to the presence of bankers and artists like Giotto or Dante Alighieri. In 1348 the plague hit the city: it was a very difficult time. At the end of 1300 there were civil fights between the rich bourgeoisie and humbler people. In 1372 the Ciompi’s revolt (the Ciompi were the wool workers) caused the overturning of the government and favored the humbler classes’ rise to power. In the same time the prestige of the Medici family began to rise. In this family, loved by the florentines for its patronage of artists and liberality, some figures stood out. The most prominent member was surely Lorenzo de’ Medici, also called Lorenzo the Magnificent: thanks to him the city gained fame in Europe in the artistic, cultural and economic field. Until his death (1492), he had an important role in the mediation between the Italian States, always in conflict, and assured the nation a period of economic prosperity .
The Sixteenth Century saw the rise of Florence as a Republic, but then in 1537 the dynasty Medici came back. Thanks to Cosimo de’ Medici Florence became a Grand Duchy in 1569 and in the next centuries the city passed into the Lorena dynasty’s hands. After a short Napoleonic period, Florence took part in the Italian Wars of Independence till its final annexation to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1859, that became the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Florence was Italy’s capital city from 1865 to 1871. The population doubled in the XIX century and triplicated in the XX century due to the increase of tourism, trade, industry and financial services. During World War II, the city was occupied by German troops, but then got free on the 11th of August 1944. The 4th of November 1966 is remembered by Florentines as the day of the Florence flood. Great part of the city center was invaded by the waters of the Arno River. The force of the waters brought death and destruction. This immense tragedy was lived worldwide with a unique dedication and solidarity.
Today, the glorious city center can be visited only on foot and is rich of must see points of interest: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with the dome realized by Brunelleschi, which symbolizes the great cultural tradition and the city’s civil awareness; Basilica di Santa Croce, where the graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Alfieri, Canova, Machiavelli, Rossini and Foscolo are; the Uffizi, one of the world’s most visited museums, where are exposed some works of Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello; Ponte Vecchio; Palazzo Pitti, that contains hosts other important museums; and Piazza della Signoria.
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