Romans, Renaissance and Irresistible Romance
From its initial inception as a Roman garrison on the Arno River, right through to its illustrious renaissance and thriving 21st century popularity, Florence continues to maintain its reputation as one of the most historical, cultural locations on the planet.
The name itself is enough to conjure up images of romantic twilight walks across the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, hours spent idling the classical corridors of the Uffizi Gallery and pleasant relaxation in a sunny, street-side café, cappuccino in hand, watching the world go by. Florence has a formidable reputation, and deservedly so!
Just what is it that makes Florence such a popular holiday destination? And, if you’re one of the lucky ones heading to Florence this year, where exactly should you head to to enjoy the atmosphere, culture and rich history to the full?
Here is a helpful guide to this fascinating city and some of the best sights and activities to enjoy during your stay.
Florence: A Brief History
It’s not known just how the city of Florence was founded, though it’s commonly believed that it was founded by none other than Julius Caesar himself, as a useful garrison to control the crossing at the River Arno.
Gradually, this small garrison grew into a town, and through the Middle Ages, was the setting for a continuing feud between two groups, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. This continued until the 14th century, when Florence fell into the control of the famous Medici family. This change saw the beginning of Florence’s heyday, and as the city began to produce talented artist after talented artist, the name of the city became synonymous with the Renaissance.
To this day, people from across the globe flock to Florence to experience the ambience of this Renaissance city and to observe some of the art that made the city so famous.
An Art and History Lover’s Delight: Unmissable Sights in Florence
Florence’s Duomo (cathedral) is rated as one of the three finest buildings in Italy. The soaring bell tower, huge, umber-tiled dome and richly decorated façade provides a classic example of Renaissance architecture, though there are parts of the building that date back even earlier, to the 14th century. Legend has it that when Michelangelo was commissioned to build St Peter’s in Rome, he commented that he would ‘go to build a greater dome, but not a fairer one’. In his opinion, none could rival the Duomo in Florence.
The Uffizi Gallery
The classical corridors and vast galleries within the Uffizi provide a suitably grand and imposing home for some of the most famous pieces of artwork in the world. Famous artworks include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Lippi’s Madonna and Child with Two Angels. Quite simply, as one of the most visited galleries in the world, it’s a vital location to visit for anyone with a passion for art.
Florence is home to one of the most famous sculptures of all time, Michelangelo’s David. The impressive sculpture stands in the ‘David Salon’, also a part of the Uffizi, but be prepared, he’s one of the most popular attractions in the museum, and queues can be extensive. However, most people are unanimous in agreeing that the wait is worth it, and experiencing the sculpture in the flesh is an unforgettable sight.
Enjoy all that jazz
Throughout the summer, the streets of Florence burst into noisy life, with a wide variety of jazz shows in the Piazza della SS Annunziata. The music tends to be extremely eclectic, where traditional jazz blends seamlessly with modern variations, and it provides a fantastic ambience to enjoy on a balmy summer evening in the city.
Explore the Ponte Vecchio
Florence’s oldest bridge is also the most famous. With its low arches spanning the waters of the River Arno, it’s been an important shopping area in the city since the 13th century, with shops selling meat, fish, leather and other products. However, in the 16th century, King Ferdinand announced that only jewellers could trade on the bridge. In the 21st century, jewellery still remains by far the most prolific product on sale here.
Finding a Place to Stay in Florence
As you might expect, accommodation in Florence can be incredibly pricy. As the city is such a popular tourist destination, hotels and bed & breakfast establishments have prices to reflect the demand.
However, for those who want to stay close to the city without the price tag, staying in a neighbouring holiday park can be an excellent option. The Norcenni Girasole Club Campsite is only a short distance from the outskirts of Florence, making day trips into the city a really easy process. The campsite also has the advantage of having a swimming pool to cool off in during the day, a luxury that most hotels within the city itself cannot offer!
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