The capital of the Tuscany region in Central Italy
Florence in Central Italy is where the Renaissance was born and is the capital of the Tuscany region and the place where you can find many art and architectural masterpieces. In this city, you’ll find Michelangelo’s “David” and the artworks of Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Florence is an amazing city to view from a bridge that spans over the Arno River. It is also home to many fashion designers such as Gucci and Cavalli, who were both born here. The hills around Florence are lush with vineyards.
You’ll find the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery. This magnificent palace was built between 1560 and 1580 at which time it was meant to house government offices. The art collection here was given to the city by the Medici family in 1743 under the condition that it was never to leave Florence. The best-known paintings of Italy can be viewed here like the profile portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesco and The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. This world-famous art collection is displayed in chronological order and spans the history of art from ancient Greek sculptures to 18th-century Venetian paintings with its core being the Renaissance collection. After you have feasted your eyes on all of this awesome artwork then head on up to the rooftop cafe and sit in the terraced hanging garden where you can relax, refresh yourself, and get fantastic views of the city.
Florence’s most iconic landmark is its Duomo, capped by a red-tiled cupola created by Fillipo Brunelleschi. It has an amazing pink, white, and green marble facade and a graceful bell tower. Work on the Duomo began in 1296 by Sienese architect Arnolfo di Cambio but construction took practically 150 years and finally, it was consecrated in 1436.
Inside you can see frescoes by Vasari and Zuccari and 44 stained glass windows.
A most impressive sight is Vecchio Palace, a fortress palace with a 94m high tower that was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio between 1298 and 1314. From the top of the tower, you can get spectacular views of the rooftops of the city. Inside you’ll find Michelangelo’s sculpture Genius of Victory in the Salone dei Cinquecento. This incredible painted hall was created for the city’s 15th-century ruling Council of 500. There are amazing battle scenes painted from floor to ceiling by Vassari. There are lots of other incredible things to see and fascinating rooms to explore with much to delight the eye.
The Academia Gallery is where you’ll find one of the most impressive artworks of the Renaissance – Michelangelo’s David. Every year visitors flock to see this statue but it doesn’t matter that it’s a long wait to get inside the statue is worth it. It is a work of art that has been created so that you can see veins in the arms and muscles in the legs. It was carved from a single block of marble that had already been worked on by two sculptors who then gave up and finally became Michelangelo’s most famous work. When it was first placed on the pedestal in front of Vecchio Palace on Signoria Square in 1504 it was adopted as a powerful emblem of Florentine power, liberty, and civic pride. The gallery also displays other artworks by Michelangelo and there are rooms displaying paintings by Andrea Orcagna, Taddeo Gaddi, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, and Sandro Botticelli.
The incredible Santa Croce Basilica is a huge Franciscan basilica with a marvelous neo-Gothic facade with varying shades of colored marble. Here visitors can visit the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Ghiberti. Of special delight are the frescoes created by Giotto and his apprentices in the chapels to the right of the altar. This basilica was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio between 1294 and 1385 and it owes its name to a splinter of the Holy Cross that was donated by King Louis of France in 1258. There are many impressive artworks to be seen here.
An incredible and lively square is Signoria Square which has been full of social activity since the 13th century. Here you can see the impressive city hall of Florence, Vecchio Palace, and the 14th-century Loggia dei Lanzi, an open-air gallery that showcases Renaissance sculptures like Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna. This is the spot where the pious preacher-leader Savonarola set fire to all of the art in the city – books, paintings, musical instruments, mirrors, fine clothes, and a lot more. This was his famous “Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1497. Savonarola was hung in chains and burnt as a heretic a year later.
At the spot where both fires were burnt, there is a bronze plaque embedded in the ground right in front of the Neptune Fountain created by Ammannati. The fountain has pin-headed bronze satyrs and divinities that frolic at the edges of this huge fountain. In the center of the square is the equestrian statue of Cosimo I the artwork of Giambologna and the western entrance to Vecchio Palace has been guarded by a copy of Michelangelo’s David since 1910 in the same spot where the original stood since 1873.
Right in the heart of the historic center of Florence, you’ll find the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo or New Market. This arcade has wide Renaissance-style arches and today is a very lively marketplace that has stalls full of merchandise.
What attracts visitors to this place is the famous Fountain of the Piglet found on the south side. Copies of this fountain can be found in countries like Belgium, France, and Australia. The Fountain of the Piglet is looked upon as being one of the most popular monuments in Florence. It is traditional to touch the nose of this statue for good luck and with all the rubbing going on the piglet now needs some cosmetic powder because its nose has become shiny. To make sure that you’ll have the luck you have to place a coin in the boar’s mouth and then wait until the water flowing through makes it fall. If your coin slips through the grate over the drain you’ll have luck if not you won’t.
A rambling fort, Fort Belvedere was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti for Grand Duke Ferdinando I at the end of the 16th century. The fort underwent five years of renovation and is now open to the public again. The fort hosts contemporary art exhibitions and you can take in incredible views from its walls.
The largest park for strolling and relaxing in Florence is Cascine Park. It has many playgrounds for children. On the weekends families come here for many different activities like rollerblading, kite flying, jogging, bike riding, and picnicking. In the summertime, people can swim in Le Pavoniere swimming pool. At one time this was a private hunting reserve for the Medici dukes but Peter Leopold opened it to the public in 1776. Horse racing took place here in the late 19th century.
At the west end of the park, there’s a monument to Rajaram Cuttiputti, an Indian maharajah, who died in Florence while on holiday in 1870. He was cremated by the river and four years later British artisans erected a statue and memorial to him.
Piazzale Michelangelo is a terrace above Florence that offers the best views. It has become a stop for tour buses. It is lovely to walk here through the gardens climbing up from the riverbank.
At the top is the lovely church of San Miniato al Monte.
The Boboli Gardens lie on a hillside behind the Pitti Palace. It was built for Grand Duke Cosimo I and became the model for royal gardens all over Europe.
There are fountains, statuary, and a faux cave with stalactites and stalagmites carved into the hillside, the Grotta del Buontalenti.
The terrace of the Kaffeehaus is at the highest point.
Casino del Cavaliere overlooks Boboli Gardens and is home to a collection of porcelains owned by ruling families like the Medici and the Savoy.
Bardini Museum was created in the late 19th century by artist and collector Stefano Bardini. To build the museum he used architectural features salvaged from demolished Medieval and Renaissance buildings.
He purchased a neighboring garden that overlooked the river and made it into the Bardini Gardens. In April the gardens are particularly lovely when the fragrant purple wisteria blooms.
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