Ranked one of the top international tourist destinations, Florence is renowned the world over for its sheer number and quality of monuments and art collections.
Birthplace of the Italian language and literature and centre of the great Humanist and Renaissance movements, Florence is now an important cultural and university centre with an important fashion industry that is also known for its elegant craftsmanship and established antiques market.
Under the dynasty of the Medici family and its most famous member – Lorenzo the Magnificent – Florence became the “centre of the world” for its figurative arts, science and literature.
Between the 13th and 16th centuries, Florence was in fact the main cultural and artistic centre in Italy and Europe and was visited by the most famous 19th century Italian poets including Alfieri, Leopardi, Foscolo and Manzoni.
The second half of the 19th century saw the growth of the Macchiaioli movement, which paved the way for Italian modern art. Many of the works are now displayed in the Gallery of Modern Art in Palazzo Pitti.
The city’s historical centre was stricken by devastating destruction during World War II, and again due to disastrous flooding in 1966.
This was one of the first times in history that the entire world offered substantial assistance to the city to recover most of its immense heritage.
Florence’s art collections have achieved worldwide acclaim: those of the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Gallery, the Accademia Gallery, the National Museum of Bargello, the San Marco Museum, the Silverware Museum (Museo degli Argenti) and a number of minor collections.
A visit to the Uffizi should be planned well ahead of time, as one day may not suffice to truly admire all the works on display. In order to avoid (or at least minimize) the endless entrance queues, it is recommended that visits be booked a few days in advance.
The Uffizi Gallery exhibits the greatest Italian Renaissance paintings alongside Dutch, Spanish and German masterpieces.
Botticelli, Duccio, Masaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Cimabue, Gentile da Fabriano, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti and also Paolo Uccello, Pontorno, Michelangelo, il Parmigianino, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, Cataletto and Goya. These are just some of the most famous artists in this, the only collection in the world donated to the Florentine people by Anna Maria Lodovica, the last of the Medici, in 1851.
If you are interested in beautiful city landscapes, there is no need to venture too far from the centre of Florence, a medieval paradise with the pretty arch of the Ponte Vecchio, the dizzying dome of the Cathedral, the gold splendour of the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the rich Uffizi galleries all in one area.
The historic centre, where most of the palaces and churches are located, is in fact fairly compact and is easily accessible on foot.
Piazza del Duomo, in the very heart of the city, is the ideal starting point for visiting Giotto’s Bell tower in the Palazzo Vecchio, the Baptistery, and the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Cathedral Museum).
Piazza della Signoria lies to the south and is flanked by Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery, while the Chiesa di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross), which houses Giotto’s precious frescoes and the tombs of some of Florence's most illustrious historical figures, lies to the east.
For centuries, Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio were the hub of Florentine political and social circles and the large bell was used to call the citizens to gather there.
The piazza is dotted with statues including Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus, Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women and copies of the Marzocco (Donatello’s heraldic lion sculpture) and Michelangelo’s famous David.
Another work by Michelangelo, the statue of Victory, can be found in the Salone dei Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio, which also has frescoes by Vasari.
On the opposite side stands the church of Santa Maria Novella, with its Masaccio, Brunelleschi and Giotto masterpieces.
The church of Santa Maria del Carmine is famous for the Brancacci Chapel, which is decorated with a series of frescoes illustrating the life of St. Peter. The work was initiated by Masolino, continued by Masaccio and completed by Filippo Lippi. Visitors thus have the opportunity of viewing the work of three generations of Florentine masters, who were models and sources of inspiration for both Michelangelo and Leonardo.
New forms of art that continue the tradition of cultural growth so typical of the city and its inhabitants are exhibited alongside the immortal art exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery, the architectural wonders of Brunelleschi and the rhymes of Florentine poets and ‘fathers’ of the Italian language.
As for music, the Teatro Comunale (Municipal Theatre), the Teatro alla Pergola and the Bòboli Garden host numerous events throughout the year, including important operatic performances and concerts during the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival.
These events are complemented by other music festivals of all genres, which embrace folklore, world music, popular music as well as Electronic and Avant-garde music.