Florence, now the capital of Tuscany  built in the fertile valley of the River Arno, was founded in 80 BCE by the Roman General Cornelius Sulla as a retirement settlement for his veteran troops. It was laid out in the formal "playing card" pattern of an army camp, with the Piazza della Repubblica now at the intersection of the old cardo and decumanus.


Following the fall of the Roman Empire warfare raged for two centuries between the Ostrogoths who conquered northern Italy in the mid 6th century, and the Byzantines to the south, until the Lombards eventually took control of the city in the 6th century.


Florence became part of the Duchy of Tuscany, part of the Holy Roman Empire, following its conquest by Charlemagne's Franks in 774. By the start of the second millennium the golden age of Florentine art had begun, and Florence was awarded city status in 1115.


The 14th century was a time of great wealth, Florence becoming a centre of finance, with the banking family the Medici as its rulers, the Florin became standard currency across Europe. Florence, one of the largest cities in Europe, became the birthplace of the Renaissance, which was to spread across Europe. The Medici, who were bankers to the pope and even provided two popes from the family, commissioned lots of building works by Botticelli, da Vinci and Michaelangelo.


Amongst the most outstanding architecture in Florence is the largest brick domed cathedral in the world and fourth largest church in Europe, the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, with its Campanile (bell tower) and the Baptistry with its golden "Gates of Paradise."


The Piazza della Signoria with its Fountain of Neptune and a copy of Michaelangelo's statue of "David," has the Uffizi Gallery one of the largest museums in the world built alongside it, as is the large crenulated Palazzo Vecchio, which is the town hall, and contains an art museum.


Crossing the River Arno near the Uffizi is the Ponte Vechio, which has the shops of gold merchants built upon it, and a corridor between the Medici Palace and the Uffizi.


In the Piazza Santa Croce, stands the main Franciscan church in Florence. The Basilica of Santa Croce, holds the tombs of many famous people including Galileo, Machiavelli, Marconi, Rossini, and Michaelangelo, but although there is a memorial to Dante he was buried in Ravenna.


In 1865 Florence replaced Turin as the Kingdom of Italy's second capital before being superseded by Rome six years later.




Italian Tour



The Duomo




Ponte Vecchio




Dante's House


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