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Florence Italy travel guide

Florence history from foundation to nowadays

In this section you can find a short but clear description is given for each of the main historical periods. Just choose one of the following sub-sections and you’ll be launched into the wonderful history of Florence !!!

The Foundation: Florence was born in Roman Republican times when the conqueror Sulla went to Tuscany in order to build new Roman colonies. The year was the 82 BC and in that period Rome was fighting Fiesole, a small village on the hills near Florence. The name Florence, in Italian “ Firenze “, came from the God “Flora”, the flowers’ Ancient Romans God. They used to remember “Flora” God in spring, and the new colonies were usually built up in that Season, so the city was named Florence.The first Roman village was built near the Arno river, approximately in the same place of the historical centre of the actual city. The first old village was very small, 300 x 400 meters, and was given to a lot of veterans. They had also a lot of terrains in the countries near the village and began working hard on them. In a few years the village began to become important for commerce and cultivation so that Rome decided to expand and to fortify Florence. During time of Emperor Hadrian the first bridge of Florence was built a lot of meters far from the actual Old Bridge. It was a wood bridge. During the second century AD, Florence was a shining Roman style city, water-supplied, with a lot of temples and theaters.

The Barbarian Age: During the first centuries of the I Millennium Italy was invaded by a lot of Barbarian tribes coming from North Europe. Those rough and dirty populations came to Italy in order to steal food and goods in beautiful Italian cities. Also Florence was attacked by the Ostrogoth tribe, but during 405 AD the barbarian tribe lost the war and Florence was still free, but just for a few years. In facts during the second Gothic war Florence was conquered by Totila and after him Longobards dominated the city. During the reign of the Longobards the “Tuscia” (Tuscany) region was controlled by Dukes that gave importance also to the others Tuscany towns as Lucca and Pisa. The Longobards controlled Florence until 770 AD. Monuments of this period : Roman temples: The Ancient Roman Forum and Temples are buried under the newest city buildings. 120 AD : The first wood bridge was built up across the river Arno. 488 AD: San Giovanni Battista Cathedral was built.

Charlemagne became Emperor in 800 AD. A new empire called “Sacro Romano Impero” was created comprehending a lot of states in all Europe. Also Italy was a part of this Empire, so that many French dukes had the control on Italian cities. Under Charlemagne, in Florence, new schools and institute were built to teach culture to young children. After Charlemagne, under Ottone I empire, Florence had special privileges and economical help in order to develop culture and art. During the following years in Florence began the typical Middle Age history. Dukes and important families fighting to control the city, murders, impeachments, death sentences and other facts characterizing the “dark” Middle Age in Europe and in Italy. In this period Florence fought to conquest other Tuscan cities. A lot of them were dominated, Siena, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo, so that Florence became a very reach and powerful city dominating Tuscany.
Guelfi and Ghibellini: Guelfi and Ghibellini were two opposite and rival factions fighting to control Florence. This civil war began at the beginning of 1200. Ghibellina faction was composed by people of high social rank and families of noble descent. Guelfa faction was composed by merchant and people involved in trade. Also Dante Alighieri, famous writer of that period ( “Divina Commedia”) took part in those internal battles that came to an end at the beginning of 1300 when the Guelfa faction won. The Guelfa faction was divided in two parts, “White Guelfi” from one side and “Black Guelfi” from the other. The “Blacks” represented the richest part of the merchant class, components of the Cerchi family represented White’s leaders. After the Guelfi dominated Ghibellini the two Guelfi internal factions fought for the leadership. The Black Guelfi oligarchy was based on the “Arti”, “the arts”, that is the name given to the few families holding all the power. They were merchants, traders and many banks were governed by them. In 1378 poor people rose in revolt against rich families governing Florence. In a famous place of Florence a very bloody battle was fought and the place was named “Ciompi Place”. After that, Florence was governed for only four years by Michele di Lando, a democratic leader representing common people. However rich families of the city took the power again after a few years. Those years of internal wars took Florence to the end of 1300.
The dark Middle Age was coming to an end while the Renaissance age was beginning. Monuments of this period: 1059 AD : The Battistero was consecrate. 1278 AD : The construction of S. Maria Novella Cathedral began. 1295 AD : Arnolfo di Cambio projected S. Croce Cathedral. In those years Arnolfo di Cambio projected S. Maria del Fiore Cathedral. 1334 - 1337 AD : The “Giotto Tower” was built following the “Duomo” style. The “Old Palace” and the Bargello Palace were also built in this period. The “Loggia dei Lanzi” was built in “Piazza Signoria”.

Medici family: At the beginning of 1400 AD Florence, as many others Italian cities, was governed by a Lordship. In particular there were many important families aspiring to leadership; Medici’s family was one of those. They managed to gain power writing Florence history for many years. They became rich because of their ability in commerce and trade. In 1433-1434 “Cosimo de Medici” fought ,by common people side, the rich oligarchy dominating Florence. After that he was the triumphing and well-liked Lord of Florence. The public opinion put Florence in his hands because he was able to take wise decisions for the city and to govern in peace. Cosimo signed many peace treaties with the most important Lordships in Italy to ensure a period of quiet and stillness. During this period art and culture were incremented by the Duke that loved to be surrounded by the most famous artists of the period. After Cosimo, Piero de Medici became Lord and after him Lorenzo “il Magnifico” governed the city. Many times the opposite families tried to drive the Medici out from the city but this never happened for many years. Piero, succeeding Lorenzo, was not so able to govern Florence and because of wrong decisions he was driven out .

The Florentine Republic was founded ( 1494-1530 ). The Republic finished when the Emperor Carlo V came in Italy restoring the Medici Leadership. Many poets and artists lived in Florence during this years, many libraries were built and a lot of Literature Academies grew. The following Medici Lords governed Florence until 1737 when Tuscany was annexed to the Lorena’s reign. Monuments of this period: The porch of the “Ospedale degl’Innocenti” in SS. Annunziata place. The decored doors of the Battistero. Rucellai palace, designed by Leon Battista Alberti. Strozzi Palace, designed by Benedetto Da Maiano. Medici-riccardi Palace decored by Michelozzo Michelozzi. Pitti Palace, designed by Brunelleschi. Uffizi Gallery, designed by Vasari.

In 1737 Florence became the capital of the Absburgo Lorena family reign also comprehending the rest of Tuscany. When Tuscany was joined to the Sardegna Reign in 1860 the Absburgo-Lorena were driven out. During the following years Italy became an unique State and Florence was the capital from 1865-1871. The remaining history of the city follows the modern Italian history, through the two world wars arriving to nowadays. Florence was not directly interested in the first world war but during the second war German soldiers destroyed a great part of the city while running back in retreat to German.

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