Music video by Shakira performing Nothing Else Matters/Despedida Medley. (C) 2011 Sony Music Entertainment US Latin LLC
Who Else Want to Visit Florence Italy?
Once the great center of the Florence Renaissance, Florence Italy is one of the world’s most artistic & architecturally beautiful cities, with countless Florence museums and galleries packed with masterpieces, and with fabulous shopping and tremendous cuisine and restaurants.
Florence dates back to the Etruscan era, when Fiesole, an important center in Etruria, dominated the valley. The Romans conquered the city in 59 BC, who set up camp by the River Arno in a place that became known as Florentia, “destined to flower”. During the course of the next thousand years, a small population struggled under successive Byzantine, Goth, Lombard and Frankish rule. The number of residents began to grow from the tenth century onward, with the city being ruled by an autonomous commune from 1115. But the city soon became a battleground in the violent conflict between the pro-imperial Ghibelline faction and the pro-papal Guelphs. However, a strong merchant base, founded on wool and supported by a powerful currency (the florin) saw the city gradually grow.
By the 13th Century, a merchant elite ruled Florence Italy. Powerful families such as the Albizi and then the Medici came to dominate the city. With this oligarchy interrupted by spates of republican rule – influenced by the likes of radical Dominican prior Savonarola and the nobleman Machiavelli – Florence grew ever stronger and richer.
It is during this period when Florence assumes its decisive role in European and world history specially Florence history. Experts in both banking and commerce (the Medici financed many of the adventures that opened up trade routes around the globe), the city grew spectacularly rich. The families flaunted their affluence, and money was poured into patronage of the fine Florence art. The city became a home to sculptors, artists, architects and musicians. While scholars were rediscovering the fertile literature and archaic culture of Greece and Rome, Europe began to emerge from the Dark Ages; meanwhile the likes of Michelangelo, Donatello and Brunelleschi, as well as countless others whose works adorn Florence Italy today, were pushing the bounds of creativity and artistic creation to ever-greater heights. A literal explosion of intellectual power and creativity in the city saw a new crop of radical thinkers, and the spreading of their ideas through the new medium of printing. During this time, the Florentines’ ever-growing expertise in banking, accountancy, and the creation of credit saw the entire system become ever richer. Florence, it is often said, was the cradle of all Europe.
Florence Italy next became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, but by the mid-1700’s the city was consumed by Austria. In 1859 it was swallowed up by the kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont, and only two years later Tuscany proper became part of the new country of Italy. For six years (until Rome joined the union) Florence Italy was actually the capital of Italy. 20th century Florence thrived on the back of tourism, financial services, heavy industry and its old staple – trade. Occupied by the Germans between 1943 and 1944, the city suffered the further misfortune of flooding in 1966, when the Arno burst its banks.
Walking through its narrow, windy streets, it is hard to identify this city with just one symbol. It may be the sculpture of David by Michelangelo, or perhaps the romantic Ponte Vecchio, or Giotto’s bell tower. Then again, Florence is equally synonymous with famous people such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo or Dante Alighieri, to name but a few.
Also, of course, there’s the world-famous “Duomo” which is perhaps the most recognizable of Florence’s monuments. Construction of the Gothic Florence cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore began in 1296 and was completed by Brunelleschi in 1436 with the famous Dome, which was painted inside with frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari. The square Bell tower designed by Giotto in 1334 stands on the right-hand side of the Florence Cathedral and is covered in white, green and red marble. The Baptistery of San Giovanni, one of the oldest monuments in Florence (1128), is located opposite the Cathedral and is built in Florentine Romanesque style.
Today, even though most of Florence’s greatness lies in its enchanting Florence history, the city still thrives. It has marvelous shopping, airy gardens & parks, fabulous cuisine, an exhilarating artistic atmosphere and breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
When you aren’t admiring the works of artists and sculptors in churches, galleries and museums such as the Uffizi and Accademia, you can wander around the luxury of world famous boutiques, watch craftsmen at work on traditional Florentine leatherwork, and peruse numerous bustling street markets. You can eat in the finest restaurants or in simple trattorie with delicious home cooking. Or buy the ingredients for a quaint open-air picnic at the Mercato Centrale or Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. Grab a bottle of Chianti, and make an excursion to the Boboli Gardens or to the ramparts of the Belvedere Fort with its stunning views.
Florence Italy has endless fascination. There’s nothing in the world quite like it.
Dominic Siano is president of Tour Italy Now (http://www.touritalynow.com), the largest online travel tour operator. A lover of all things Italian, Dominic has worked extensively in the Italian tourism industry. To learn more about Dominic visit his blog at http://www.domsiano.com.