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Florence

18 Jun, 2009

Florence

Every year, millions of tourists come to Florence, Italy. This is not surprising as the city is considered a striking gem of Renaissance Italy. More than as an artistic and architectural wonder, Florence is also a bustling trade and business center. The city is known as a magnet to international travelers. Aside from tangible heritage, occasional exhibitions and vibrant art festivals further make Florence an ideal tourism destination. The city is unique in that it could easily blend art and culture in a way that tourists can never run out of beautiful and new things to see or experience.

Florentines are naturally born into a city of extraordinary and timeless beauty. Thus, it is not surprising that such people are able to cultivate their appearance effortlessly. Indeed, Florence is synonymous to style, in the past and even in the present. Tourists are often delighted to see and enjoy phalanxes of stylish shops all lined up along the palazzi and galleries. The gastronomic experience could be equally delighting. Tuscan meals available at restaurants cap a day of great tourism experiences.

Geography

Florence is in a river basin, seemingly walled in by the Senese Clavey Hills in the south and the Apennines’ foothills in the north. The rivers of Arno and three others flow through the city. Because of its geographic location almost at the heart of Italy, it has a distinct Mediterranean climate, sometimes classified as humid subtropical.

The city has humid and hot summers, which to some is as hot as the insides of a pressure cooker. Peak of summer comes in July and August, when temperature can get as high as 31°C. On the other hand, winter season in the city is cool and most of the time wet, coming in December to February. Cold weather does not last long even in winter, making Florence an ideal vacation destination for tourists coming from various cold-temperature nations in Europe and elsewhere.

This wonderful city could be easily accessed from other tourist-popular places around Italy and Europe because it is geographically located within major national railway lines. Florence ‘Verpucci’ airport, located just 5 kilometers away from the urban center, is a regular stopping point for domestic and offshore airlines. A motorway also facilitates link between Florence and Siena.

History

The city was originally founded in 59 BC by Julius Caesar as a settlement site for veteran soldiers. Florence was originally called ‘Florentia,’ which means ‘flourishing’ in English. It was built in an army camp style with main streets decumanus and cardo intersecting at the site of the present-day Piazza della Republica. The settlement instantly turned into a significant commercial center. Emperor Diocletian declared Florentia as the bishopric seat by the beginning of the 4th century.

The city was conquered by Charlemagne in 774. It became part of the region of Tuscany, which had its capital at the time at Lucca. By the rest of the 6th century, population and commerce were revived. In 1000 AD, Margrave Hugo designated the city as his residency, replacing Lucca. The move prompted the rise of Florentine art’s Golden Age. In no time, the popularity and fame of Florence started eclipsing that of Pisa.

After the end of the Medici rule in the 13th century, the Florentines restored the republican style of government. From the 14th century until the middle of the 17th century, the Medicis regained and re-lost rule of the city. Four years after the region of Tuscany became one of the provinces of the new unified Italy in 1861, Florence displaced Turin as the country’s capital city. Consequently, numerous modernization programs ensued to spur further development and progress in Florence.

When World War II erupted, Florence was subjected to German occupation for a year. In 1943, the city was declared ‘open.’ When the German soldiers retreated in 1944, they decided to destroy bridges along the Arno river as a strategy to isolate Oltrarno from the rest of Florence and make it impossible for British war troops to cross. Many historians believe that Adolf Hitler took back orders to blow up other bridges in the city because the structures were too beautiful.

Tourism

There is no doubt that tourism is the most important industry in Florence. The local population is usually outnumbered by vacationers on any given day from April to October. In fact, during such months, entry tickets to Accademia and Uffizi museums are usually sold out. Of course, what could you expect from a city that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982?

Because Florence is the ‘cradle of Renaissance,’ many tourists flock to the city to visit churches, buildings and monuments, which imbibe and exhibit the Renaissance style. The most popular architectural jewel in the city is Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo), a domed cathedral noted as the biggest dome constructed in brick and mortar. Nearby are equally popular and splendid Baptistery buildings and the Campanile.

At the heart of Florence is Fountain of Neptune, designed and made by Bartolomeo Ammanati in 1563. The fountain is more than an art masterpiece; it is a marble sculpture serving as a terminus of a Roman aqueduct. Nearby is the Uffizi, or offices, a site that was the center of the city’s government and civil life for many centuries. Signoria Palace in the area remains the seat of the community government.

The Arno river also serves as a tourist attraction. The body of water cuts through the older portion of the city. Interestingly, the Florentines have had somehow a love-hate relationship with the river. Aside from providing commercial and tourism nourishment to Florence, Arno river also contributes to destruction through flood. One of the worst flooding incidences in the river was in November 1966, when it overflowed and ruined numerous art treasures.

Churches in Florence are almost all tourism magnets. San Lorenzo church houses the Medici family mausoleum and a Medici Chapel. The Medicis, as mentioned in history, was the most powerful and influential family in the city from the 1600s to 1700s. The basilica of Santa Croce has the monumental tombs of great men in history, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. Other significant churches and basilicas include Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, the Tempio Maggiore and the Orsanmichele.

Florence

Florence

Florence

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