Florence Travel Guide

Florence´s striking buildings, treasure-crammed churches and formidable galleries attest to the Florentine love of display. Even long after it had been eclipsed on the political and economic fronts. The cultural and historical impact of Firenze is overwhelming. Close up, however, the city is one of Italy's most atmospheric and pleasant, retaining a strong resemblance to the small late-medieval centre that contributed so much to the cultural and political development of Europe. The glory of Florence is rooted in its past.

The Medicis commanded the city's fortunes for centuries and, as patrons, they encouraged the Renaissance's influence on the city. They are attributed in today's Florence: their family crest of six balls still adorns many public buildings and their support of many artforms is evident in the city's streets.

Facts in a glance

Area: 3,514 sq km
Population: 374,500
Country: Italy
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 (Central European Time)
Telephone Area Code: 055


200 BC: was founded as a colony of the Etruscan city of Fiesole, later becoming the Roman Florentia, controlling the Via Flaminia.

12th century: Florence became a free comune and by 1138 it was ruled by 12 consuls, assisted by the Council of One Hundred, a bunch of rich merchants.

1207: The council was replaced by a foreign (and thus allegedly unbiased) governer, the podestà.

13th century: the pro-papal Guelphs and pro-imperial Ghibellines started a century-long bout of bickering, which wound up with the Guelphs forming their own government in the 1250s.

1292: The nobles were excluded from government. The city became increasingly democratised, eventually becoming a commercial republic controlled by the Guelph-heavy merchant class.

1348: The great plague had halved the city's population. In the latter part of the 14th century the Medicis began consolidating power, eventually becoming bankers to the papacy. Cosimo Medici, patron of artists such as Donatello, Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, became ruler of Florence.

1469: Lorenzo Medici, grandson of Cosimo,took power. His court fostered a great development of art, music and poetry, and Lorenzo sponsored philosophers and artists such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli.

1494: The Medicis went broke and lost their hold on power. The city fell under the control of Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican monk who led a puritanical republic until he fell from public favour and was hanged and burned as a heretic in 1498.

16th century: The Medicis returned to Florence, having united themselves by marriage with Emperor Charles V, and ruled for the next 200 years.

1737: the Grand Duchy of Tuscany passed to the House of Lorraine, which was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

1875: Florence became capital of the Kingdom and remained so until Rome took over.

20th century: WWI left it spent, shocked, and vulnerable to Fascist rhetoric. The city was one of Mussolini's most faithful strongholds. Florence was badly damaged during WWII by the retreating Germans, who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vecchio.

1966: Devastating floods ravaged the city, causing inestimable damage to its building and artworks, some of which are still being restored. The salvage operation led to the refining of methods which have since saved artworks throughout the world. One good thing to come of the disaster, which left the city covered in a mantle of slimy mud and left countless families homeless, was the evolution of modern restoration techniques.

1995: A car bomb killed five people and damaged works in the Uffizi gallery and this attack was attributed to the Sicilian Mafia.

Florence has rarely hit the headlines in recent times. It leads the quiet dignified life of a regional capital, under a constant influx of tourists.

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