Florence is in a very scenic position, at the center of a wide basin
crossed by the Arno River and surrounded by hills on three sides. The Ponte Vecchio
[Old Bridge], with its characteristic jewelry
shops, is one of the symbols of the city; this is the only one of the city's bridges to survive the
Second World War intact. The noble Corridoio Vasariano
[Vasari Corridor] crosses the river on the
upper story of the bridge. Florence was an important financial, commercial and cultural center in
Medieval Europe, but it is known above all as the place where the
Renaissance originated and is
recognized the world over as one of the cradles of art and architecture.
The heart of Florence is Piazza della Signoria,
with the majestic Palazzo Vecchio, the
Loggia dei Lanzi, a gallery of sculptural masterpieces,
and the nearby Galleria degli Uffizi, which houses
paintings by painters such as Leonardo da Vinci,
Raphael and Titian.
Here one finds also Botticelli's Venus.
This Venus and Michelangelo's David
(at the Galleria dell'Accademia) represent for Florentines
the best examples of male and female beauty in art.
Not far from the Uffizi stands the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore,
with its majestic dome, alongside the Campanile di Giotto
[bell tower] and facing the Baptistry of San Giovanni
with its celebrated bronze doors, of which the gilded Door of Paradise
is the most famous. The
numerous other museums of Florence include the Bargello,
with sculptures by Donatello and
Michelangelo, the regal Palazzo
Pitti, the Galleria Palatina, and the
Galleria d'arte moderna.
The masterpieces of Renaissance Florence include works by Filippo Brunelleschi
(the Spedale degli Innocenti and the churches of
San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito)
and Leon Battista Alberti (Palazzo
Rucellai and the façade of the church of Santa Maria Novella).
Other periods of art history have
left absolute masterpieces in Florence, from the Romanesque San Miniato al Monte
to the Gothic Santa Croce (where
Dante Alighieri is buried: he is the most important of the many literary figures
who were born and lived here in the capital city of Tuscany), to the Manneristic extravagances of
Giambologna and Bernardo Buontalenti
(the Neptune Fountain and the Boboli Gardens),
to the masterpieces
created by great 20th century Italian architects, such as the Santa Maria Novella Station and the Artemio
Franchi Stadium, designed by Giovanni Michelucci
and Pier Luigi Nervi, respectively.
On the left side of the Arno River, the Oltrarno area is also rich in monuments,
and here amidst the centuries old artisan shops one breathes still the atmosphere of the Florence of the past.
The Festival dei Popoli and the
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino are two of Florence's most important cultural events.