The epicenter of the Renaissance in Florence started a cultural explosion. The Medici family led Europe into the Modern Age in the 15th century and out of the shadow of the Church. There was a passion for art and Florence quickly became the art capitol of the western world. The Medici’s were powerful and wealthy bankers and accumulated enormous wealth. Art was first commissioned here just for the sake of art. Lavish frescoes now adorned the walls in palaces.
They started to see a celebration of the human body as seen in the original statue of David at the Galleria dell’ Accademia by Michelangelo. Art and science were now combined. A change in architecture occurred and now architecture was meant to be viewed from all around and not attached (flat) to a building. This was a major departure from the past. We see the rise of Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. They moved from the Gothic (pre-Renaissance) to Renaissance. Major events shaped the Florence we know today including the Black Death in 1348 and while Florence survived other areas like Siena and San Gimignano were devastated.
The Palazzo Vecchio (originally Palazzo della Signoria) was originally a seat of government and the temporary residence of the Duke Cosimo Medici till he moved to Palazzo Pitti across the Arno River. There are wonderful bronze statues in the Piazza of Hercules, Neptune, Perseus and Medusa in the Loggia dei Lanzi on the south side of the Piazza and then there is Cosimo Medici on his horse. This square has been the site of great public events throughout the history of Florence.
The Uffizi Gallery formerly the administrative offices of the Medici was commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici in 1560 and now holds Italian paintings and it is the supreme museum for art history buffs. When the Medici moved their art collection here it became Europe’s first modern museum to to the public.
The Corridoio Vasarino was constructed in 1565 and was an elevated passage and allowed the Medici family to traverse the river without coming into contact with the public. Ingenious! (Thank you to our fabulous guide Elizabeth for showing us this map and enticing us with the history of this amazing city)
The Piazza della Repubblica, the Grand Square was the site of the ancient Roman Forum a mere 2000 years ago and was the core of the original Roman settlement. The triumphal arch celebrates the unification of Italy. What a lively spot now in the evenings with outdoor cafes, musicians and a carousel.
Fun Fact: The Antinori’s were winemakers starting in the 1200’s. This crazy cart was how they took wine to town. Did you know Chianti wine must have Sangiovese grapes? Tignarello was their premier wine and still is and is available here in the US but let’s face it we would rather be drinking it in Florence!
If you love red wine: the Chianti Classico of Tuscany is worth the trip!
Need help planning your next trip to Italy? I highly recommend L’Esperta and Ashley Turney. She is a true expert on all things Italy and Italian!