Florence contains an exceptional artistic patrimony, glorious testimony to its secular civilization.
Cimabue and Giotto, the fathers of Italian painting, lived here, along with Arnolfo and Andrea Pisano, reformists of architecture and sculpture; Brunelleschi, Donatello and Masaccio, founders of the Renaissance; Ghiberti and the Della Robbia; Filippo Lippi and l'Angelico; Botticelli and Paolo Uccello; the universal geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Their works, along with those of many generations of artists up to the masters of the present century, are gathered in the city's many museums.
In Florence, thanks to Dante, the Italian language was born; with Petrarch and Boccaccio literary studies were affirmed; with Humanism the philosophy and values of classical civilization were revived; with Machiavelli modern political science was born; with Guicciardini, historical prose; and with Galileo, modern experimental science.
Up to the time of Charlemagne, Florence was a university town.
Today it includes many specialized institutes and is an international cultural center.
Academies, art schools, scientific institutes and cultural centers all contribute to the city's intense activity.
Fino dai tempi di Carlo Magno, Firenze fu sede di una Università che oggi comprende decine di istituti specializzati e un Centro di Cultura per Stranieri.
The origins of Florence probably date back from several centuries B.C. Later it became a Roman colony.
In the Middle Ages, Florence released itself from feudal government quite early and became a free city that was already flourishing by the early XIII century.
The city's growth continued unhindered from that time on, in both the artistic-cultural fields as well as juridical-social and politican to reach its peak in the Medici rule that gave Florence a splendor that was to last more than three hundred years.
We must also mention the exceptional trading relations Florence enjoyed with the rest of europe.
In fact, this provided the basis for the Medici's wealth and power.
It was during that same period that the grew enormously.
Florence is set in the Arno valley, amidst a circle of harmonious hills.
The spots to enjoy this view are: Piazzale Michelangelo, immediately overlooking the city; Forte di Belvedere, Fiesole, Bellosguardo and the road leadint to the city from the Via Bolognese, where it narrows between the Fiesole hill and Monte Rinaldi.
The austere greatness of the Florentine Middle Ages flowed into the classic serenity of the Renaissance.
From Dante to Machiavelli, from Giotto to Brunelleschi, from Masaccio to Donatello, from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo, Florence was the most active center of Italian through and art.
This great past has left incomparable marks on the city's outer appearance as well as inside its archives, libraries, museums and galleries. The city centere consists of Piazza del Duomo (the square facing the cathedral of Santa Maria del Flare) built in Florentine-Gothic style between the XIII-XIV centuries.
The belle tower, designed by Giotto the great painter, was erected in the mid-fourteenth century.
And one hundred years later the cathedral was "crowned" by Brunelleschi's majestic dome.
Facing the cathedral stands the magnificent Baptistry, dedicated to the city's patron, St.John the Baptist.
It is embellished by three famous doors, including the Lorenzo Ghiberti's "Door of Paradise".
Not far from Piazza del duomo we come to Piazza della Signoria dominated by Palazzo Vecchio which, along with the Loggia della Signoria and the Piazzale degli Uffizi forms a setting that is unique in the whole world.
Palazzo Vecchio, certainly the most beautiful of all the town-halls built anywhere in italy during the Middle Ages is an enormous structure: massive below and then gracefully tapering upwards to touch the sky with Arnolfo's tower.
The Palazzo degli Uffizi, a sixteenth century project by Vasari is home of the gallery with the same name and hence, of one of the greatest art collections in the world. Not far from Piazza della Signoria are the Palazzo di Parte Guelfa, enlarged by Brunelleschi and the church of Orsanmichele.
Crossing the fourteenth century Ponte Vecchio, we can admire the jewelry shops flanking both side of the bridge; if we look to the left we can see the long corridor that joins the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. This last building stands on huge piazza and is the home of the Palatine Gallery, a fine complement to the Uffizi.
Next to Palazzo Pitti are the Boboli Gardens where fine performances of the "Maggio Musicale" festival are held annually.
The renowned Via Tornabuoni is a succession of exception buildings, including Palazzo Strozzi, the finest example of the Florentine Renaissance home.
The street runs as far as the Arno and the Ponte Sta.Trinita, the famous bridge that was destroyed during World War II and faithfully rebuilt according to the original plans.
Other major buildings are Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Via Cavour, not far from the Cathedral Palazzo Rucellai near Via Tornabuoni, designed by Alberti, the Medieval Bargello (right behind Palazzo Vecchio) and currently the National Museum containing works by Donatello, Michelangelo and other greats.
Some of the most noetworthy churches are: San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito, two masterpieces by Brunelleschi; the Laurentian library (adjacent to the church of San Lorenzo), designed by Michelangelo and famous for its collection of ancient manuscripts and documents, and the New Sacristy with Michelangelo's sculptures; Santa Maria Novella, with its unusual facade: Romanesque-Gothic below, fifteenth-centry (by Alberti) above; SS Apostoli, Sta Trinita, the church of the Carmine with frescoes by Masaccio; Santa Croce that houses works by Giotto, Donatello, Benedetto da Maiano and others, the pantheon of Italian greatness, (another masterpiece by Brunelleschi, the Cappella dei Pazzi, in is the cloister); SS Annunziata, with a miraculous image that is an object of great devotion for Florentines; S Salvatore al Monte, by Cronaca at Piazzale Michelangelo, and not far from the top of the hill, San Miniato al Monte, a fine Romanesque basilica building during the XI century.
As to museums and galleries, in addition to those we already mentioned (Uffizi, Palatine and National Museum), we must not overlook the Museo di San Marco, famous for the paintings by Fra Giovanni Angelica, the Galleria dell'Accademia with its collection of masterpieces by Michelangelo and the Archeological Museum.
The truly unique attraction of this rich grouping of artisti and natural beauties is enhanced and complemented by a series of institutions and events that make Florence a truly active part of today's world.
In the field of art and culture, it is the setting for the Maggio Musicale, an annual event that draws a great audience from around the world (concerts, special editions of great operas, ballets).
Each year Palazzo Strozzi and the Forte Belvedere host great exhibitions of antique and contemporary art, displaying masterpieces from all over the world in their majestic rooms.
The Scoppio del Carro (or explosion of the cart), the Calcio in Costume (a XVI version of football, played in period costumes), the flower and plant fair in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, the Festa del Grillo (or cricket festival) at the Cascine Park (on the right bank of the Arno) on Ascension Day, and the Feast of St. John the Baptist- the city's patron saint-are just a few of the city's interesting traditional events.
In recent years Florence has attained a record in the world of fashion; shows are held periodically, presenting styles that have achieved international fame in a short time.