General Information About Florence
FLORENCE, capital of the region of Tuscany, has a population of around half a million inhabitants, spreads on the banks of the Arno, between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian seas, almost in the middle of the Italian peninsula. It is a city which bustles with industry and craft, commerce and culture, art and science. Being on the main national railway lines, it is easily accessible from most important places both in Italy and abroad. The Florence "Vespucci" airport, where both national and international airlines stop, is located 5 Km. from the city centre. The main motorway, A1, connects Florence with Bologna and Milano in the North and Rome and Naples in the South. The motorway A11 to the sea joins it to Prato, Pistoia, Montecatini, Lucca, Pisa and all the resorts on the Tyrrhenian sea. There is also motorway which connects Florence to Siena. The climate is temperate but rather variable, with breezy winters and hot summers.
The Chianti area, between Florence and Siena, is one of the most beautiful countryside’s in Italy and a famous wine production area.
The city of Florence has many options when it comes to accommodation. You can find hotels, hostels and Florence apartments to rent to suit all styles and budgets. The city is a little expensive, but it's still possible to find hotels in Florence in good locations and save some money during your stay.
HISTORY City of Florence
Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence began its rebirth after the decadence of the barbaric ages, in the Carolingian period, and reached its highest pinnacles of civilization between the 11th and 15th centuries, as a free city, balancing the authority of the Emperors with that of the Popes, overcoming the unfortunate internal dispute between Guelfs and Ghibellines. In the 15th century, it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. This in fact was the period when the city was at the height of its glory in art and culture, in politics and economic power. The Grand Duchy of the Medicis was succeeded, in the 18th century, by that of the House of Lorraine, when in 1860 Tuscany became part of the Kingdom of Italy of which Florence was the capital from 1865 to 1871. In this century, the city has once more taken up its role as an important centre for culture and the arts.
ART AND CULTURE City of Florence
Florence contains an exceptional artistic patrimony, glorious testimony to its secular civilization. Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, lived here, along with Arnolfo and Andrea Pisano, reformists of architecture and sculpture; Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, founders of the Renaissance; Ghiberti and the Della Robbia; Filippo Lippi and l'Angelico; Botticelli and Paolo Uccello; the universal geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Their works, along with those of many generations of artists up to the masters of the present century, are gathered in the city's many museums. In Florence, thanks to Dante, the Italian language was born; with Petrarch and Boccaccio literary studies were affirmed; with Humanism the philosophy and values of classical civilization were revived; with Machiavelli modern political science was born; with Guicciardini, historical prose; and with Galileo, modern experimental science. Up to the time of Charlemagne, Florence was a university town. Today it includes many specialized institutes and is an international cultural center. Academies, art schools, scientific institutes and cultural centers all contribute to the city's intense activity.
Florence was founded to control the only practicable north-south crossing of the Arno River to and from the three passes through the Apennines: one to Faenza and two to Bologna. Two thin streams, the Mugnone and the Affrico, come down through town to meet the Arno. The Affrico, not far away from its source in the Apennines, is usually a grudging gurgle amid wide gravel beds far below the quays, but sometimes it rises and swells into a powerful stream, ravaging the city with floods. The city’s water supply has also served as an asset, however, making possible the washing, fuelling, and dyeing of cloth, resulting in the development of a major industry.
Florence’s position as a major crossroads between Bologna and Rome made the city vulnerable to attack. Its hills offered some protection, but the citizens nonetheless felt compelled to erect imposing walls during the period 1285 -1340; although the walls were largely torn down during urban expansion in the 1860s, their former presence remains clearly visible in a girdle of roads around the original city. Moreover, because the hillier south bank of the Arno has prevented urban growth, segments of the walls are preserved.
Beyond the historic centre of Florence, the city has expanded over the past century to accommodate waves of migration. Vast housing projects have been constructed, such as those at Isolotto (1954–55). These peripheral zones have actually grown to dominate the city centre, creating a kind of “open urban system”- and a vast and successful industrial district-that stretches northwest to Prato and southeast as far as Arezzo. Huge satellite towns such as Scandicci have grown to rival the centre of Florence itself.
Florence’s location in a small basin encircled by hills is a determining factor for its changeable climate. Summers tend to be extremely hot and humid, and winters are cool and wet. The average monthly temperature for July and August is about 73 to 75 °F (23 to 24 °C), with an average daytime high of about 95 °F (35 °C); the average monthly temperature for January is 41 °F (5 °C). Winters tend to be short-lived, ending generally in mid-March, and bring rain rather than snow. Unpleasantly cold showers can persist into April, however, much to the discomfort of the throng of Easter tourists. The most delightful seasons in which to visit Florence are late spring and fall, when the sky becomes an azure vault and the sun warms but does not scorch.
Florence’s greatest poet, Dante, harshly characterized his city’s people as tightfisted, envious, and haughty. A touch of this severe judgment still clings to the Florentines, in whose makeup one tends to miss the exuberance and warmth associated with Italians in other towns and regions. Perhaps the Florentines, many of whom are descendants of long lines of Florentines, are reserved in self-defense against the massive stream of tourists, several million of whom crowd the historic sections of Florence.
The city’s population increased significantly during the 20th century. Immigrants before the 1970s were mainly from the Tuscan region but also from the south of Italy. Many Chinese actually had arrived earlier, and since the mid-1970s the city and its region have attracted other people from outside Italy who found work in the area’s tourist-linked service economy. These immigrants have begun to change the cultural composition of the city. Indeed, some of the first explosions of racial animosity in Italy took place in Florence in the early 1990s, when Italian locals organized raids on immigrant street vendors, leading to a national debate over immigration.
Industry, commerce, and services
Thousands of Florentines work in industrial suburbs, where they are engaged in the production of furniture, rubber goods, chemicals, and food. Yet the city lives primarily from tourism and the money brought in by foreign (mainly American) students. Traditional handicrafts - glassware and ceramics, wrought iron, leatherwork, wares of precious metals, art reproductions, and the like-are still of some importance, along with some high-fashion clothing and shoe production. Key fashion companies operating in the city include Gucci and Ferragamo. Florence hosts numerous fairs throughout the year, including international antiques fair, international fashion shows, and countless artisans’ exhibits. For a long period after World War II, Florence was Italy’s fashion capital, holding an annual show at the Pitti Palace. In the 1970s, however, Milan began to dominate the fashion sector.
In the central area of Florence a solid pair of walking shoes is the best mode of transportation, especially since the historic section has been closed to motor vehicles. Buses and taxis are also available, as are bicycles for hire. The main highway, the Autostrada del Sole, passes west and south of the city. Because Florence lies on the country’s main north-south train line, rail connections are highly dependable and efficient. The Eurostar connects Florence with Milan in less than three hours and with Rome in less than two. In addition, Florence has its own airport, Amerigo Vespucci (formerly Peretola), only 3 miles (5 km) from the city centre. It is too small for intercontinental traffic, but Pisa’s Galileo Galilei International Airport is an hour’s train journey away.
Florence Culture and History
History of Florence:
Florence's foundation the foundation of Florence dates back to Roman times, despite evidence existing to show that Florence was already occupied in prehistoric times. The oldest part of the city bears the imprint of these Roman origins as it originated as one of Caesar's colonies. For the sake of defense, the city was set at the confluence of two streams, the Arno and the Mugnone, where the oldest populations had previously been located.
Rectangular in plan, it was enclosed in a wall about 1800 meters long. The built-up area, like all the cities founded by the Romans, was characterized by straight roads which crossed at right angles. The two main roads led to four towered gates and converged on a central square, the forum urbis, now Piazza della Repubblica, where the Curia and the Temple dedicated to the Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva) were later to rise. Archaeological finds, many of which came to light during the course of works which "gave new life", to the old city center, have made it possible to locate and identify the remains of various important public works such as the Capitoline Baths, the Baths of Capaccio, the sewage system, the pavement of the streets and the Temple of Isis, in Piazza San Firenze. At that time the Arno was outside the walls, with a river port that constituted an important infrastructure for the city, for in Roman times the river was navigable from its mouth up to its confluence with the Affrico, upstream from Florence, and the first bridge in Florentine history was built in all likelihood somewhat upstream from today's Ponte Vecchio, around the first century B.C..
The city developed rapidly thanks to its favorable position and the role it played in the ambit of the territorial organization in the region and it soon superceded Arezzo as the leading center in northern Etruria. Economic power was the driving force behind the urban growth of the young colony. Commercial activity and trade thrived thanks to the fact that important communications routes, land and water, intersected at Florentia and offer an explanation for the presence of those oriental merchants, probably on their way from Pisa, who first introduced the cult of Isis and then, in the 2nd century, Christianity.
The earliest indications of the Christian religion are bound to the cults of the deacon Lorenzo and the Palestinian saint, Felicita and so the first Florentine churches were built: San Lorenzo consecrated in 393, the first diocese, and Santa Felicita, whose origins go back to the 4th and 5th centuries. However, the Florentines do not seem to have had a bishop prior to the late 3rd century. The first one recorded is San Felice who participated in a Roman synod in 313.
THE BYZANTINE AND LOMBARD PERIOD
The Barbarian invasions seriously impaired the importance of Florentia. In 405, the city managed to halt the hordes of Radagaisus, but later it could not avoid being involved in the disastrous Gotho- Byzantine war. Its strategic position as bridgehead on the Arno and strong point in the communications route between Rome and Padania explains why the city was so keenly contested between the Goths and the Byzantines. In 541-44 new city walls were built utilizing the structures of various large Roman buildings: the Campidoglio, the reservoir for the water of the Baths and the Theater. The wall was trapezoidal and its modest size testifies to the decline of the city, greatly depopulated; there may have been less than a thousand inhabitants.
Around the end of the 6th century when the Lombards conquered northern and central Italy, Florence also fell under their dominion. This was the beginning of what may be considered the darkest period in the city's history. Cut off from the major routes, the main reason for its existence suddenly vanished. For their north-south communications, the Lombards abandoned the central Bologna-Pistoia-Florence route as being too exposed to the incursions of the Byzantines who still held control of the eastern part of Italy and Lucca was chosen as the capital of the duchy of Tuscany as it lay along the road they used for internal communications.
In any case, during the period of Lombard domination, especially after Queen Theodolinda had been converted to the church of Rome, a number of religious buildings were founded in the city, including the Baptistery of San Giovanni (St.John the Baptist) although not of course in its present form and size and its foundations are still visible in the "subterraneans" of the church.
THE CAROLINGIAN PERIOD
In the Carolingian Period, 8th century, a feudal system was installed and Florence became a county of the Holy Roman Empire. Various facts seem to testify to a revival of the city in Carolingian times: in the 9th century a public ecclesiastic school was set up and the bridge over the Arno, which had previously been destroyed, seems to have been rebuilt. At the turn of the century new city-walls were built, probably for fear of the Hungarian invasions. This third set of walls partly followed the line of the old Roman walls, widening on the south to enclose the suburbs which had grown with prosperity while to the north, for political reasons, the Baptistery, Santa Reparata, the Bishop's Palace, and the adjacent Palatium Regis where the Emperor's representative held his court of justice, were excluded.
Towards the end of the 10th century, Countess Willa, widow of the Marquis of Tuscany, who owned an entire district within the city-walls, founded and richly endowed a Benedictine abbey in memory of her husband called the "Badia Fiorentina". Countess Willa's son, Hugo, greatly contributed to the development of Florence thanks to his decision to leave Lucca. His choice of the city on the banks of the Arno as his dwelling place reinforced its administrative character.
EARLY MIDDLE AGE
Around the middle of the 11th century the position of Florence in Tuscany became even more important because Lucca was no longer the seat of the marquisate and because of the city's decisive participation in the movement for the reform of the church. The struggle to eliminate secular interference in ecclesiastical affairs and the affirmation of the independence of the papacy from imperial power were to have their leading representative in San Giovanni Gualberto, the son of a Florentine knight, who founded the order of Vallombrosa.
In 1055 Florence even played host to a council, under Pope Victor II with the presence of Emperor Henry III and the participation of 120 bishops. Many old structures were rebuilt during the second half of the 11th century, the cathedral of Santa Reparata, the Baptistery and San Lorenzo among others. On November 6, 1059, Bishop Gerard, who had become pope under the name of Nicholas II, reconsecrated the ancient baptismal church of the city which had been rebuilt in more imposing form, much like what it is today. The building, octagonal in plan, with a semicircular apse on one side and three entrances, seems to have been covered by a pointed-arch dome divided into eight sectors and the outside was not yet faced with its fine marble casing.
After the death of her mother and of her husband (Geoffrey the Bearded), Matilda, daughter of Countess Beatrice, became the sole countess of Tuscany. She had always adhered to the ideas of the Reform and the policies of San Giovanni Gualberto and during the struggle for investiture she gave her support to the most influential of the reformers, Hildebrand of Sovana who later became Pope Gregory VII, thus finding herself in open contrast with the emperor, Henry IV. After the episode of Canossa, Henry IV's victory in 1081 led to the official deposition of the Countess who was abandoned by all the Tuscan cities except Florence. This faithfulness to the deposed Countess cost the city an imperial siege in July of 1082, which failed. Matilda's special attachment to Florence and the consequent rupture with the emperor led to the construction, in 1078, of a more efficient system of defense and the city was supplied with new walls - those which Dante was to call "la cerchia antica". This fourth walled enclosure for the most part followed along the lines of the Carolingian walls but on the north included the Baptistery, the cathedral of Santa Reparata and the residence of the Countess. In this period the city was divided into quarters which took their names from the four main gates: the Porta San Piero on the east, the so-called "Porta del vescovo" to the north, the Porta San Pancrazio to the west and the Porta Santa Maria to the south.
Like all the early medieval cities, the town plan of 11th century Florence must have been characterized not only by the recovery of its antique urban structure (walls, various remnants of roads) but by a basic homogenity, expressed in a casual distribution of the various landmarks, the most important of which were probably the religious buildings.
THE PERIOD OF THE "COMMUNES"
When Countess Matilda died in 1115 the Florentine populace to all effects already constituted a Commune. The numerous privileges conceded by her and the events in which the Florentine community had played a leading role in the struggle against the emperor, induced the people to organize autonomously and to undertake action aimed at weakening imperial power. It was therefore inevitable that in 1125, upon the death of the last emperor of the Franconian dynasty, Henry V, the Florentines decided to attack and destroy Fiesole, the neighboring rival city. As a result the two counties were conclusively united and remained as separate entities only on an ecclesiastic level with Fiesole maintaining its own diocese.
The first mention of an officially constituted Commune dates to 1138, when at a meeting of the Tuscan cities it was decided to constitute a League, for fear that Henry the Proud who had in precedence oppressed them as imperial legate might be elected emperor. At that time the community wasmade up of religious and secular representatives, with three dominant social groups: the nobles, grouped into consorterie, the merchants, and the horse soldiers, the backbone of the army. Although the nobles held most of the power in the 12th century, it was nevertheless mainly the merchants who were responsible for the growth of the city. The rise of the merchants accelerated in the second half of the century, as trade with distant countries was intensified and became a new and much richer source for the accumulation of capital. Extensive trade and its inseparable companion, credit, were the basis for the economic and demographic expansion of the city.
This process of expansion underwent a temporary halt when Frederick Barbarossa advanced south into Italy. In 1185 the emperor even deprived the city of its contado and restored the marquisate of Tuscany, but the provision had a brief life. In 1197, taking advantage of the death of Barbarossa's successor, Henry VI, Florence regained control of her contado.
Clear evidence of the power Florence had acquired in the course of the 12th century is to be found in the expansion of its urban territory. All around the circle of Matilda's walls, in correspondence to the gates, populous suburbs had sprung up. In 1172 the Commune therefore decided to enlarge the city walls and incorporate the newest districts. The perimeter of the new city walls, raised in barely two years, from 1173 to 1175, was twice that of the "old circle" and enclosed an area that was three times as great. As far as the suburbs across the Arno were concerned, it was not until later that they were fortified, even though a small part of the "Oltrarno" was enclosed in the walls as early as 1173-1175. As a result the Arno became an infrastructure within the city, as a communications route, a source of energy and a water supply for industries.
In the 12th century the skyline of the city was punctuated by numerous towers: in 1180 thirty-five were documented, but there were certainly many more. Later the towers were used as houses, but in the 12th century the towers still served for military purposes and gave birth to the phenomenon of the "Tower Societies", associations which reunited the owners of various towers enabling them to control a portion of the city. A considerable number of small and large churches also sprang up as the size of the city increased. In two centuries the number of churches in Florence was tripled, so that at the beginning of the 13th century the city had as many as 48 churches (12 priories and 36 parishes).
FLORENCE IN THE '900
Throughout this century, Florence has been suffering from a process of degradation. The old structure can no longer cope with the demands of modern urban life and has become the "problem" of a complex reality. Its meaning must be recuperated in a new context which never quite reaches an organic equilibrium to thus become a new and successful urban form.
After Giuseppe Poggi's plan for "Florence, capital of Italy" (1864-1870) and its implementation - with demolition of the city walls to construct the ring road boulevards, creation of Viale dei Colli and Piazzale Michelangelo and the initial development of new residential districts both inside the ring road (the Mattonaia district around Piazza dell'Indipendenza and the Maglio district around Piazza d'Azeglio) and outside (Savonarola, San Jacopino, Piagentina) - and after demolition of the city centre around the old market (1885-1889) to create the grand Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II (now Piazza della Repubblica) and construct buildings mainly intended for office use, thus beginning the tertiarisation of the city centre, in the first decades of the 20th century, in line with Poggi's urban planning scheme, the city spread rapidly as far as the foothills - to Via Vittorio Emanuele II to the west, to Viale Volta to the east and across the Arno along Via Pisana beyond Pignone, where the foundry represented the first industrial nucleus together with the associated workers' housing.
Until the First World War, the city's problems apparently accumulated without tangible intervention from the public authorities. On a social level, the workers' movement developed in defence of a class living in great hardship.
Between 1890 and 1915, the population grew by fifty thousand. Between 1905 and 1913, 36,652 rooms were constructed and about 2,000 low-rent dwellings were built. The terraces of middle class two-storey houses known as "trenini" ("toy trains") from Ricorboli to San Gervasio and from the Mugnone valley to San Jacopino and Rifredi are a somewhat provincial version of a modern European form which, however, now appears as not devoid of quality in its neatness and dignity with respect to the constructional anarchy of today.
The character of the new middle class residential areas emerges from this passage by Aldo Palazzeschi: "Two months later, I found myself on the opposite side of the city in what were - and still are - the new districts of Florence at Barriera delle Cure, known to the Florentines simply as all Cure. Here the farmland has only recently started to be licked, violated, strewn and invaded by the new buildings. Farewell to the grand and austere mansions, the severe and magnificent architecture, the cantilever roofs, capitals and cornices. Another life, another light, a different air
VENTS City of Florence:
International Crafts Fair (April-May), Antiques Biennial, Music Festival in May, Opera and Theatre Seasons, Fashion shows (famous "Pitti" fairs, spring and autumn), Festival dei Popoli (December).
FOLKLORISTIC City of Florence:
The most important Folkloristic events in Florence are The "Burst of the Cart" (Easter), the Feast of St. John (June) and The "Historic Football in Costume" (June, July).
SOME FAMOUS PEOPLES
Giovanni Cimabue (artist, 1240-1302),
Dante Alighieri (poet, 1265-1321),
Giovanni Boccaccio (poet, 1313-1375),
Filippo Brunelleschi (architect, 1377-1446),
Lorenzo Ghiberti (sculptor, 1378-1455),
Donato dei Bardi, called 'il Donatello' (sculptor, 1386-1466),
Luca della Robbia (sculptor, 1400-1482),
Filippo Lippi (artist, 1406-1469),
Antonio Pollaiolo (sculptor, 1432-1498),
Alessandro Filipepi called 'il Botticelli' (artist, 1445-1510),
Domenico Bigordi called 'Ghirlandaio' (artist, 1449-1494),
Lorenzo the Magnificent (the most famous of the Medicis, 1449-1492),
Leonardo da Vinci (artist, 1452-1519),
Amerigo Vespucci (explorer who gave the name to the continent of America, 1454-1512),
Michelangelo Buonarroti (artist, 1475-1564),
Francesco Guicciardini (historian, 1483-1540),
Andrea del Sarto (artist, 1486-1530),
Niccolò Machiavelli (politician and historian, 1489-1527),
Benvenuto Cellini (goldsmith, 1500-1571).
- Location: Florence, Italy
- Duration:5.5 hours (approx.)