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The Dom from Florence

The most commonly accepted story tells that Emperor Julius Caesar founded Florentia around 59 BC, making it a strategic garrison on the narrowest crossing of the Arno river and thus controlling the Via  Cassia linking Rome to northern Italy and France. Archaeological evidence suggests the presence of an earlier village founded by the Etruscans of Fiesole around 200 BC.
In the 12th century Florence became a free comune, ruled by 12 priori (consuls) assisted by the Consiglio di Cento (Council of One Hundred), drawn mainly from the merchant class. Agitation among differing factions led to the appointment of a foreign head of state (podestà) in 1207.

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
Palazzo Vecchio in Florence by Night


The first conflicts between two of the factions, the pro-papal Guelphs (Guelfi) and the pro-imperial Ghibellines (Ghibellini), started in the mid-13th century, with power passing from one to the other for almost a century.
In the 14th century Florence was ruled by a group of Guelphs under the leadership of the Albizi family. Among the families opposing them were the Medici, who substantially increased their clout when they became the papal bankers.
Cosimo il Vecchio (the Elder, also known simply as Cosimo de’Medici) emerged as head of the opposition to the Albizi in the 15th century and became Florence’s ruler. His eye for talent saw a whole constellation of artists such as Alberti, Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi flourish. The rule of Lorenzo il Magnifico (1469–92), Cosimo’s grandson, ushered in the most glorious period of Florentine civilisation and of the Italian Renaissance. His court fostered a flowering of art, music and poetry, turning Florence into Italy´s cultural capital. Not long before Lorenzo’s death, the Medici bank failed and the family was driven out of Florence. The city fell under the control of Savonarola, a Dominican monk who led a puritanical republic, burning the city’s wealth on his ‘bonfire of vanities’. But after falling from favour he was tried as a heretic and executed in 1498.
After the Spanish defeated Florence in 1512, Emperor Charles V married his daughter to Lorenzo’s great-grandson Alessandro de’Medici, whom he made duke of Florence in 1530. Seven years later Cosimo I, one of the last truly capable Medici rulers, took charge, becoming grand duke of Tuscany, leading into more than 150 years of Medici domination of Tuscany.
In 1737 the grand duchy of Tuscany passed to the French House of Lorraine, which retained control, apart from a brief interruption under Napoleon, until it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Florence briefly became the national capital before Rome assumed the   task permanently in 1870.
Florence was severely damaged during WWII by the retreating Germans, who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vecchio. Floods ravaged the city in 1966; in 1993 the Mafia exploded a massive car bomb destroying a part of Uffizi Gallery. A decade later, the gallery is undergoing its biggest-ever expansion.
From a garrison town built for Roman war veterans, Florence rose to become the hotbed of Renaissance creativity and one of the most important centres from which modern Western Europe transformed itself after the Middle Ages. The city’s visual splendour stands as testimony to its colourful past. Since then it has been living on the wealth of its historic and artistic heritage.

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Florence is the maintown of Tuscany

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