Florence (Italian: Provincia di Firenze) is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy, with an area of 3,514 sq. km and a population of 933,860 (2001) in 44 comuni. Built on both sides of the Arno River, Florence has been during its long history a republic, a seat of the duchy of Tuscany, and a capital (1865–71) of Italy. Founded as a Roman military colony in the 1st century BC, it was controlled in turn by the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. A leading city of Tuscany by the late 12th century, it was ruled after 1434 by the powerful Medici family. It became a republic under religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola, after whose downfall the Medici were restored as dukes of Florence (1531). Florence’s vernacular became the Italian language, and from the 14th to the 16th century Florence was among the greatest cities of Europe, preeminent in commerce, finance, learning, and the arts. Many notables flourished there, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Filippo Brunelleschi, Dante, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Galileo. The buildings, including the Baptistery of St. John, the Gothic Duomo, and the Uffizi Gallery, are works of art themselves abounding in yet more works of art. Among the palaces and parks are the Pitti Palace and its Boboli Gardens. The university was founded in 1321. The economy is based primarily on tourism, though it also has developed newer sectors such as information technology and high-fashion clothing. The region around the city has a modern and dynamic economy based on small industrial production and quality exports.
Particular places of beauty and interest in the province include Barberino Val d’Elsa, Fiesole, Greve in Chianti and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Ponte Vecchio: Best known of all Florence’s treasures, this glorious bridge was the only one spared by the retreating Germans in the summer of 1944. Over the centuries flooding unfortunately, took its toll; few traces of the 10th century bridge remain. Today’s bridge, built in the middle of the 14th century, was originally filled with a wide variety of shops that included wool merchants and greengrocers. Grand Duke Fernandino I had these replaced with goldsmiths to gentrify royalty’s route to Pitti Palace, reached via the Vasari Corridor that passes over the bridge.
Piazza Michelangelo: Renowned for its panoramic views of Florence and the Arno valley, this terrace is a popular spot with locals and tourists. Created as part of major restructuring of the city walls, Poggi’s sumptuous terrace is typically 19th century. In 1871, Poggi designed a monument base dedicated to Michelangelo. The monument itself was to be composed of copies of Michelangelo’s works, including David and the Medici chapel sculptures from San Lorenzo. When the terrace was finished, Poggi designed the hillside building, now a restaurant, as a museum for Michelangelo’s works.
Boboli Gardens: Inside this garden lies the Buontalenti grotto (1583-1593). Decorated with mannerist-style scenes from Greek and Roman mythology, the grotto includes copies of Michelangelo’s famous “Slave” series, the originals of which were transferred to the Galleria dell’Accademia. In the 17th century, the garden was extended as far as the Porta Romana, adding the Vasca d’Isola (pond) at the centre with a fountain and a statue of Neptune. In the late 18th century, Zanobi del Rosso built the Kaffehaus pavilion.
Piazza del Duomo: As the city’s skyline symbol, the legendary duomo is famous above all for its dome: Brunelleschi’s Renaissance masterpiece, completed in 1436, created a double dome shell so that the dome is entirely self-supporting. Building started in 1296 on the site of the Roman basilica of Santa Reparata of which there are still visible remains. The existing neo-Gothic façade was added in the 19th century. Covering a massive 3600 square meters, the frescoes inside the dome depict the Last Judgement. Services: 7.30am, 9am, 10.30am, midday and 6pm Sunday. San Miniato Al Monte:
San Miniato is one of the city’s most striking examples of Florentine Romanesque architecture, characterized by its bicoloured (white and green) marble façade. The altar, pulpit and transept recess feature fine marble decor, while the floor, in keeping with the Romanesque style, is decorated with symbolic ornamental motifs. Halfway along the nave on the left is another chapel, the ‘Cappella del cardinale Portogallo’, which was designed by one of Brunelleschi’s pupils, its architectural.
Certosa del Galluzzo: Both architecturally and artistically unique, this monastery commissioned in 1342 by Niccolò Acciaioli, viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples, was originally home to Carthusian monks. Today Cistercian monks (who have lived here since 1958) give visitors a guided tour of the complex’s treasures. The tour winds its way through the monastery, taking in the Chiostrino dei Monaci e il Capitolo, a cloister featuring Albertinelli’s 1506 work, “The Crucifixion.” Other architectural works, completed in different periods, make up the Certosa complex.
Santa Maria Novella: This church was built in 1278 by architects (Brother Sisto, and Brother Ristoro) who were part of the Dominican order, the work was carried on by Brothers Jacopo Talenti and Giovanni da Campi, and was constructed along Gothic lines. The church still bears evidence of the Gothic style in the lower part of the façade in its avelli (grave niches) with its pointed arches, which are clad in green and white marble these colours are to be found in the upper part of the façade elegant.
Uffizi Gallery: The Medici family reserved rooms for their prestigious collection during use of the gallery as magistrate’s court in the 1700s. Made up of 40 rooms, the gallery contains works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus . Note the collection of Flemish.