Birthplace of the Renaissance and home of Machiavelli, Michelanglo and the ruling Medici family, Florence (pics) is packed with history, art, towers, palaces and beauty. The historic center of Florence is relatively small and invites you to wander and explore.
The Lonely Planet guidebook calls Duomo, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore one of Italy’s “Big Three”, alongside Pisa’s Leaning Tower and Rome’s Colosseum. Personally, I would put Pompeii in that list but Duomo is an impressive sight. It’s pink, green and white marble, neo-Gothic façade and red tiled dome invite closer inspection.
During the 14th century, the Medici family rose to prominence in Florence from their beginnings in the wool markets. They excelled in banking and helped Florence to gain a footing as a financial power in Europe. The Medici’s ruled for over three centuries and at times could claim a Pope and French queens among its members. Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti in Florence are among the residences inhabited by the Medici’s.
Alongside Palazzo Vecchio is the Loggia dei Lanzi, an open air art museum.with many impressive sculptures. Among them are Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze “Perseus” and Giambologna’s “Rape of the Subine Women” impressively carved from a singe piece of marble. Nearby, at the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio stands (a copy of) Michelangelo’s “David”. The original stood here until 1873 until it was moved to Galleria dell’Accademia.
Florence is a beautiful city that must be walked in order to appreciate its many charms. It’s clean and has plentiful cafés and open markets. As you walk you may notice a whimsical twist has been applied to some of the street signs. A local artist seems to enjoy playing this game with the local authorities.