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Florence Travel guide

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Florence, like no other European city, epitomizes the spirit of the Renaissance. From the 14th to 16th centuries, what was considered "cutting edge" in the arts, science and architecture found its greatest expression here.
The artists Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Botticelli, the political philosopher Machiavelli, the scientist Galileo and the writers Dante and Petrarch made Florence, at one time or another, their home.


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FLorence - Culture / Sighs
Santa Croce has traditionally always been used for important civic and religious events because it is large enough to contain crowds of people. This is where the Franciscan preachers, as well as St. Bernardino of Siena, during the plague of 1437, addressed the population. This was also where Carnival and May Day festivities were celebrated, as well as tournaments, jousting and carousels, especially during the

Renaissance with the enthusiastic participation of the younger members of the Florentine aristocracy: such events included the famous jousts described by Pulci (1469) and Poliziano (1475), with Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici among the principal protagonists.

The Basilica of Santa Croce dominates the entire square. Constructed between 1295 and 1443 on the site of an earlier and smaller Franciscan oratory, built in around 1225-26, when the Saint was still alive, it was subsequently enlarged in 1252. Arnolfo di Cambio, the brilliant head architect of the City Council was entrusted with the new project and, almost immediately afterwards, the city also commissioned him to construct the new Cathedral and Palazzo della Signoria.

Leaving Porta San Niccolò to your rear, you come to Piazza dei Mozzi after only a short walk from Piazza Poggi along Lungarno Serristori or Via San Niccolò in the direction of the city centre; here you can find the Bardini Museum, one of the less important Florentine museums which, however, possesses a fascination that is all its own. It was originally the house and warehouse of antiquarian and art collector Stefano Bardini (1836-1922) who left it and all its contents to the City Council.

The Uffizi Gallery, founded in Florence in 1581, by the De Medici family, is one of the oldest museums in the world. Many important works of Italian and other schools, dating from between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, are kept here, including the largest existing collection of Tuscan Renaissance paintings. The Web guide contains pictures, comments, biographies and a glossary of artistic movements and techniques.

Piero Pananti founded the Pananti Gallery, located few yards away from one of the most beautiful cathedrals, in Piazza Santa Croce, in 1968 when the painter Mino Maccari stood as its godfather by giving a personal exposition for the occasion. In time the gallery has become a meeting place for literates, poets, painters and critics and has given a number of expositions of the most important italian artists such as Annigoni, Rosai, De Pisis, Morlotti, Guidi, Marcucci, Maccari, Tirinnanzi, Venturi, Faraoni, Capocchini, Scatizzi, Ceccotti, Francesconi, Fazzini, Pincherle, De Chirico, Manzu', Greco and many others. Today the Pananti gallery is the sole agent for several pieces of many of those artists. The Pananti Gallery is also a publishing house: it publishes art catalogues, monographers, fiction and literary series.

Inside its wide and beautiful renaissance rooms have recently taken place very important commemorating expositions of Fattori, Rosai and De Pisis, two of which under the patronage of the President of the Italian Republic. The Pananti Gallery has also received several awards, among which the Librex - Guggenheim "Eugenio Montale for poetry" aword in 1983 with the book "Memorie, racconti, poemetti in prosa".

Florence - history

In the VIII° century, where today is the old bridge called "Ponte Vecchio", there was an Etruscan establishment controlling the ford of the Arno river. In year 59 BC the roman colony of Florentia was founded. During the IV° century Christianity began to spread and the first churches were built. With the fall of the Roman Empire came the invasions of Ostrogoths (405), Byzantines (539) and Goths (541). During the Carolingian period the feudal system began and Florence became a county of the Sacred Roman Empire.

Florence became then a common and fought the nearby city of Fiesole, which was besieged and partially destroyed. Florence's importance grew despite the inner fight between Guelfi (supporting the Pope) and Ghibellini (supporting the German Emperors). The birth of the Fat People, backed up by the Guelfi, brought then a policy of battle for supremacy with the nearby commons. The economic development brought new classes to birth: entrepreneurs, traders, and bankers who formed the "Major Arts" which by the end of the century, were to determine the power of the Commons. Population increased substantially. The domination of the bourgeois classes was menaced by the severe crisis caused to Florence by the default payment of the loans it had given to the king of Neaples and to Great Britain. After the domination of the Duke of Athens, by the half of the century, and the pest of 1348, there were some riots among the lower class.

The bourgeois came to power and started pressing the lower classes that, rebelling with Ciuto Brandini and later with the Ciompi riot, succeeded in forming three new Arts which for a little period would part take to the management of the city. The most important Florentine families (Pitti, Capponi, Alberti, Uzzano, Albizi, Medici) fought for supremacy. The Medici, sustained by the election of the Pope Giovanni dei Medici, prevailed in 1443 with Cosimo. His nephew Lorenzo was the key person of policy and culture in Europe at that time. Piero dei Medici later succumbed to Carlo VIII°. Meanwhile, among the population, a new need for democracy came and found its voice in the person of Girolamo Savonarola.

The arrival of Carlo V° of Spain in Italy caused a riot followed by the return of the throne to the Medici family. City life progressively lost its initial momentum; the city ended its expansion and the Grand Duchy, from commercial power, became agricultural. The Grand Duchy was upheld by the Asburgo-Lorena, who, with Pietro Leopoldo boosted the economy with some reforms. After the French domination between '700 and '800, the Lorena reclaimed Chiana and Maremma.

In 1293, the Florentine Republic, at the suggestion of the notary Ser Mino de Cantoribus, decided to replace Santa Reparata with a larger and more magnificent cathedral, and was also prepared to finance its construction: "so that the industry and power of man are unable to invent or ever attempt again anything that is larger or more beautiful". The population was expected to participate in the costs: all last wills and testaments bore a tax which was then put towards the "Building" of the Cathedral. The project was assigned to Arnolfo di Cambio in 1294, and he ceremoniously laid the first stone on September 8th 1296. The brilliant head architect of the City Council was already revolutionizing the Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce and in 1298 also started work on the construction of Palazzo Vecchio.

Arnolfo worked on the Cathedral from 1296 to 1302, the year of his death, and although the dominating style of the period was Gothic, he conceived a basilica of classical grandeur, with three wide naves that meet in the vast chancel where the high altar stands, surrounded in its turn by the "trefoil" shaped tribune (a schematic representation of the petals of a flower?) on which the cupola rests. The planned diameter for this dome was 45,50 metres, just like that of the Baptistery. Thus Arnolfo spent the last few years of his life completing two bays and the new facade, which he only had time to decorate and complete by half: the sculptures (some by Arnolfo himself) were dismantled and transferred to the Museum of the Opera del Duomo when Grand Duke Francesco I de' Medici decided to construct the new facade in 1586.

With the abolition of the mediaeval corporations and the re-birth of little agricultural proprietorships there were pressures from the Liberals who, having obtained the statute, the freedom of the press and the presence of a civil guard in year 1847, also intended to obtain a constitution from the Grand Duke. Gand Duke Leopoldo II°, having escaped from the city, returned with the help of the Austrians, but in year 1859 was forced to abandon Florence forever. In 1865 Florence became the capital of Italy.

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