Florence's Historic Center

Photo by: JaCZhou 2015/Moment via Getty Images

Florence is history, tradition, art and culture. The Capital of Tuscany, as Stendhal described it, possesses a “subtle charm” and boasts an historical-artistic legacy known throughout the world. Its historic center is a living archive of both European and Italian culture, composed of properties that earned Florence’s nomination as one of the very first Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in 1982.

Ancient Florentia, as it was called in 59 B.C., was a leader in Italian and European history from the beginning. As the Capital of Italy for some years, the city gave birth to innumerable artists that not only contributed to, but essentially created art and literature in 13th-Century Florence. Petrarch and Boccaccio, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Cimabue, Leonardo Da Vinci, Lorenzo de’ Medici, and Niccolò Macchiavelli demonstrated that Florence is a story best told via their artistic and literary masterpieces.


Dante Alighieri was born here in 1265, eventually becoming an icon of his native city that he, in turn, rendered iconic. In the same century, celebrated architect Filippo Brunelleschi designed the cupola of Florence’s Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore. 

Also brilliant is Giotto’s Gothic bell tower, adorning one side of the Duomo whose façade boasts Michelangelo’s bronze “Gates of Paradise.” Both face towards the St. John's Baptistry, covered in inlays of white marble from Carrara and green marble from Prato.

David di Michelangelo

Moving through the narrow streets of the historic center, one is able to imagine the intense and bustling merchant activity, and the secrets and intrigues of day-to-day politics – for example, in Piazza della Signoria, where a copy of Michelangelo’s majestic David towers over the scene. The original statue, now housed inside the Museo dell’Accademia, used to stand and watch passersby from the Loggia della Signoria, an authentic open-air art gallery.

Palazzo Vecchio

Perpendicular to the Loggia is Palazzo Vecchio, one of the most important public buildings in Medieval Italy.

Galleria degli Uffizi

It is from here that visitors enter the Galleria degli Uffizi, Europe’s oldest modern art museum.

Ponte Vecchio

Florentine life also unfolds along the Arno, the River that traverses the city. A stroll over the Ponte Vecchio, window-shopping its historic gold and silver workshops, is obligatory. The part of Vasari’s (long) Corridor that connects the palazzi on the Right Bank with Palazzo Pitti on the Left, was used by the Medici Family as a protected passageway through which they could reach their residence. 

Palazzo Pitti is the most monumental structure in Florence, and hosts the Palatine Gallery with works by Giorgione, Raffaello and Tintoretto. From here, entering the Boboli Gardens, with their ornate statues and fountains, one can fantasize about the lavish court parties that took place amidst the grottoes, sculptures, water springs and rare plant species.

Church of Santa Maria Novella

During the same arc of time in which Dante was becoming the Father of the Italian Language, Giotto was revolutionizing painting by introducing visual perspective, as evidenced by his Crucifix in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, a Gothic masterpiece that also conserves an extraordinary fresco by Masaccio. The Peruzzi and Bardi Chapels, inside the magnificent Basilica of Santa Croce, are decorated in other of the artist’s significant fresco works. Nearby is Donatello’s own take on David in bronze, as well as Michelangelo’s bust of Brutus, both on view in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello.

Apart from its good taste in food and wine, Florence is an ancient city that knows amusement, music, concerts and sports. 

To fully enjoy the magic of the city and its environs, walk the hills that surround it; the sunset over the Arno and a night in one of the characteristic agritourisms is one of the best ways to live the magic of Florence.

The fashion seekers, rather, usually gather in Piazza della Repubblica, hub where typical cafes and shopping opportunities abound (between the elegant Via della Vigna Nuova and Via Vacchereggia, lined by refined boutiques and sumptuous buildings). 

In the Mercato Nuovo district, the Porcellino Fountain, a bronze boar, awaits the visitors that will throw him coins and make a wish.To locate characteristic Florentine artisan products, search the Medieval streets along the River, especially between the Grazie and Carraia Bridges.

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