Brief History of Florence
Florence is renowned for its art, culture, and history and is one of the most popular destinations in Italy. There is so much to absorb in the city even a week seems too little time to uncover all the treasures the city has to reveal.
Florence lies on the banks of the Arno River surrounded by low hills, olive groves, and vineyards. Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region of Italy and between 1865 – 1879 was the capital of the kingdom of Italy. The city is also the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
The city of Florence (then known as Florentia) was founded by the Romans around 59BC on an important road linking Rome to France. Julius Caesar chose the area as a virtual retirement village for his veteran soldiers. The soldiers were allocated land in the valley where they built a village in an army camp style (what else!). Strategically located along the Arno River it wasn’t long before Florence flourished commercially as a centre for European trade and finance. Click for more history of Florence…
Things You May Not Know About Florence
In 1339 Florence became the first city in Europe with paved streets.
From 1865 to 1870 Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Stendhalismo (Stendhal’s Disease) is the unfortunate effect of being over-awed by Florence’s magnificence. Feeling faint and unable to walk is a sure sign. The disease was named in honour of the French writer Stendhal, who virtually collapsed outside the Church of Santa Croce after being overwhelmed by its beauty. It seems the doctors of Florence treat several cases a year.
The Fountain of Neptune was once used as a wash trough by the locals. It became such a common occurrence and annoyance that a marble plaque was placed on the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio (still there) which gives the address of the nearest police station and a nice little warning against using the fountain to wash or throw rubbish into.
Florence Nightingale was named after the city she was born in, on the 12th of May, 1820.
The residents of Florence were expected to assist in the costs of building the elaborate cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, so all last wills and testaments had a ” building of the Cathedral ” tax placed on them. Brunelleschi’s dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) was built without the aid of scaffolding or exterior support and today it is still the largest masonry dome in the world.
On the 21st of August, 1911, Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, Mona Lisa, vanished from off the wall of the Louvre in France. On the 29th of November 1913, a Leonard Vincenzo (aka Vincenzo Peruggia) contacted wealthy arts dealer Alfredo Geri to see if he was interested in purchasing the painting. Armed with the director of Forence’s Ufflizi Gallery, Geri agreed to meet this crackpot, only to discover he actually did have the painting. Whilst the investigation, arrest and paperwork was being sorted, the Mona Lisa was temporarily hung at the Uffizi Gallery. Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in Florence between 1503-1506.
The Ponte Vecchio is Europe’s oldest segmental arch bridge and the only bridge in Florence the Germans didn’t destroy during World War II.
It is believed that when Ammannati was commissioned to build the Ponte Di Santa Trinita by the Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici, he used the original designs of his mentor, Michelangelo.
During the Florence Floods of 1966 over an estimated 1,400 pieces of artwork and 2 million books were completely destroyed as the city lay under nearly 7m of water. More would have been lost, had it not been for the volunteers known as the “mud angels”, who came to the city’s aid.
In 1991 a crazy man, wielding a hammer, attacked Michelangelo’s statue of David, damaging several toes. As a result of the original statue, which resides inside the Galleria dell’Accademia, can only be viewed from behind a Plexiglas barrier.