Rich in art and architecture, a centre of medieval European trade and finance, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and once the capital of the Kingdom of Italy.
Florence is so rich in art that some first time visitors experience the Florence Syndrome, a phenomenon observed and described with more than 100 cases among tourists and visitors after many descriptions of people experiencing a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, hallucinations and fainting while taking in Florentine art. Named after a famous 19th century French author Stendhal (Stendhal syndrome), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy.
Florence keeps an artistic heritage which is a marvelous evidence of its aged culture. Their works, together with those of many other generations of artists are gathered in the several museums around the town, so many of which that it is impossible to do it all in a weekend. Florence is so rich in art and history that a visitor requires several stays to take as much of it in, a feast for the eyes of the lover of art and culture.
Contained in medieval walls that were built in XIV century to defend the city after it became famous and important for its economic growth and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 by the UNESCO for the importance of its cultural heritages. Known as the "cradle of Renaissance" for its monuments, churches and buildings, the best-known site of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo. The dome, 600 years after its completion, is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.
Tourism is the most significant industry within the centre of Florence. Though the local population is greatly outnumbered by tourists from all over the world. The Uffizi and Accademia museums are regularly sold out of tickets, and large groups regularly fill the basilicas of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, both of which charge for entry.
Florentine food grows out of a tradition of peasant eating, the vast majority of dishes are based on meat. The most famous main course is the bistecca alla fiorentina, a large one inch high T-bone steak of Chianina beef cooked over hot charcoal and served very rare on a bed of arugula, often with slices of Parmesan cheese on top with local olive oil.
It comes as no surprise that notable residents of Florence include Leonardo da Vinci, famous for his Mona Lisa and other paintings, inventions, and scientific experiments. Galileo Galilei, Italian physicist, astronomer, and philosopher. Amerigo Vespucci, explorer and cartographer, naming the America. Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, also famous for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and David. Donatello, sculptor. Raphael, painter. Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone. Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing, and a noted statistician. Roberto Cavalli, fashion designer and Guccio Gucci, founder of the Gucci label.
The worlds favourite dessert, ice cream, also was created in Florence, invented by Fernardo Buontalenti in 1565, who apart from being famous architect in his day, was also employed by the Medicis as their master of ceremonies at court. He discovered how to freeze the ingredients of egg yolks, honey, milk, butter and a drop of sweet wine.
Video of Florence Italy 2012 © Joe Mendonca
At the heart of the city in Piazza della Signoria is Bartolomeo Ammanati's Fountain of Neptune, a marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct. It is still the setting for a number of statues by other sculptors such as Donatello, Giambologna, Ammannati, Cellini, although some have been replaced with copies to preserve the priceless originals, including Michelangelo's David.
The Uffizi, one of the finest art galleries in the world, founded from the last member of the Medici family, is located at the corner of Piazza della Signoria, a site important for being the centre of Florence civil life and government for centuries. In addition to the Uffizi, Florence has other world-class museums: The Bargello concentrates on sculpture, containing many priceless works of art created by such sculptors as Donatello, Giambologna, and Michelangelo, and one must not forget the Palatine Gallery.
The Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno collection highlights are of the original Michelangelo's David, which much to my delight was more impressive to be seen with the eyes, the white marble appears almost like flesh, the body almost perfect, with the expression of a warrior after a kill. The hands of David appear larger than the body, though this may be to give support to the sculpture, I can now understand why this is such an important masterpiece.
The Santa Croce basilica contains the monumental tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Dante, and many other notables. The San Lorenzo contains the Medici Chapel, the mausoleum of the Medici family, the most powerful family in Florence from the 15th to the 18th century.
The Arno river cuts through the old part of the city, a love-hate relationship with locals, the Arno, which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood. The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), a symbol of Florence, whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges. What were once the shops of butchers who simply threw the bones into the river, now only glimmering gold is on offer to draw lovers who get filled by the romance of it all. Constructed in ancient times on stilts, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.
See Florence - Wikipedia for the history of Florence