Skip to main content

Florence, Italy - my favorite city in the world

il Duomo and the famed dome built by Brunelleschi, and the Campanile to the right.

il Duomo and the famed dome built by Brunelleschi, and the Campanile to the right.

Leonardo Da Vinci.

Leonardo Da Vinci.

Lorenzo de'Medici.

Lorenzo de'Medici.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of "The Prince."

Niccolo Machiavelli, the author of "The Prince."

Florence, Italy - "cradle of the Renaissance"

Now, I haven't been completely around the world and, therefore, I haven't seen everything there is to see, but I can tell you, from all my European, North American and Caribbean travels, Florence, Italy is my all-time favorite city. Being half Italian by birth, of course, I would have no preferences or prejudices in favor of Florence, Italy. And, if you believe that, I have swamp land in Arizona I want to sell you!

Florence, Italy, known as Firenze to the Italians, is located in the northern region of Tuscany. It is famous for its history, art, and architecture. It was known as the center of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of its time. It is the birthplace of the Italian Renissance and led all of Europe in a rebirth of art, culture and the humanities.

Naturally it was originally founded during the Roman rule of the Holy Roman Empire. It has a turbulant political history and includes periods of rule by the powerful de'Medici family. From 1865-1870 it was the capital city of a unified Italian nation under the rule of a monarchy. The historic center of Florence is noted for its Renaissance art, architecture and monuments, its numerous museums and art galleries, most notably the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace. Florence still exerts influence in the fields of art, culture and politics and it is today a major national economic center. It also is one of the clothing fashion capitals of the world.

Brief History of Florence

From the 14th to 16th centuries Florence was a major trading and banking capital and the most important city of all of Europe. Here the Italian middle class rose to power as merchants and guilds and trades became important to the Florentine economy. The language spoken in Florence in the 14th century was and still is accepted as the true Italian language. All writers and poets in Italian literature are somehow and somewhat connected with the city of Florence.

Florence was also the home of the de'Medici family, one of history's most important noble family. Lorenzo de'Medici was the political and cultural mastermind in Italy in the late 15th century. He was a great patron of the arts and commissioned works by Michaelangeo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli. Lorenzo was an accomplished musician and brought composers and singers to Florence. He was known affectionately to the Italians and not so affectionately to some as "Lorenzo the Magnificent."

Leo X and Clement VII were popes who came from the de'Medici family in the early 16th century and Catherine de'Medici married King Henry II of France. After his death in 1559 she ruled as regent in France.

The de'Medici's were the Grand Dukes of Tuscany starting with Cosimo I de' Medici in 1570 until the death of Gian Gastoni de'Medici in 1737. However, in 1494 the de'Medici family fell from power and rule in Florence.

At that time, a Dominican monk, Girolamo Savonarola took over power and rule in Florence. He put forth political reforms that lead to a more democratic rule in Florence. But, he lost power and rule when he accussed Pope Alexander VI of corruption. Florentines turned against him, tired of his extreme teachings, and he was burned at the stake in 1498.

Niccolo Machiavelli was a political thinker from Florence, Italy and renowned for his political handbook, The Prince, which is about ruling and the exercise of power. He had an unusually acute insight into government, politics and rule and his ideas for Florence's regeneration under strong leadership were seen as political expediency and even political malpractice. He was ruthless in his ideas and implimentation of them. He also was commissioned by the de' Medici family to write the Florentine Histories.

Italy became united as one nation under the Hapsburg - Lorraine dynasty in 1861. But by 1870, Rome was to become the capital city of Italy and has remained so up to today.

Inside Brunelleschi's dome.

Inside Brunelleschi's dome.

Ponte Vecchio spanning the Arno River, Florence, Italy.

Ponte Vecchio spanning the Arno River, Florence, Italy.

Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens.

Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens.

"The Birth of Venus" painted by Boccelli, on view in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

"The Birth of Venus" painted by Boccelli, on view in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

What to see in Florence

First, just walking along the narrow streets of the old historic section of Florence is a must. Here the shaded, cool streets meander around the city and all eventually lead to il Duomo, the cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore. It's famous dome, the largest brick and mortar one built in the world even today, was built by Filippo Brunelleschi and is magnificent on the outside and inside. The frescos painted on the inside of the dome are incredible and next to Rome's Sistine Chapel, the greatest painting feat in the world. Nearby the cathedral is the Campanile, bell tower, partly designed by Giotto. You can climb to the top of the bell tower and see a beautiful panorama of the city.

Scroll to Continue

Standing in front of il Duomo is the San Giovanni Baptistery. It was decorated by various artists. But the real treat are the brass doors, called the Gates of Paradise, designed and constructed by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

The center of the city has the original medieval walls that were built in the 14th century to defend this city. In the heart of the city sits the Piazza della Signoria with its Fountain of Nepture (built: 1563-1565). It is a marble sculpture and is the end of a still functioning Roman aqueduct that carries spring water from the mountains. Yes, it is ok to drink this water in Florence. The majority of the city of Florence was built during the Renaissance and around every corner there is something to see.

For shopping in quaint small boutiques and jewelry stores, don't miss the Ponte Vecchio, the old bridge. The shops line each side of the bridge which crosses over the Arno River and cuts the city of Florence in half. The bridge also carries Vasari's elevated corridor linking the bridge to the Uffizi Gallery and the Gallery to the de'Medici residence, the famed Palazzo Pitti. It is believed the Ponte Veccho was originally built by the Etruscans, but it was completely rebuilt in the 14th century and still stands today. Fortunately it survived WWII completely intact, a major feat. It is also the first example in the western world of a bridge using arches.

The Church of San Lorenzo, named for the saint who is the namesake of, none other, than Lorenzo de' Medici, contains the de'Medici chapel and mausoleum of the famed family. Here you can view their own personal chapel within the church - they funded it, so they get it all to themselves - and you can see the tombs of the famed de'Medici members.

The Uffizi Gallery, mentioned earlier, is located on the corner of Piazza della Signora and was founded by the de'Medici family. It is one of the most important art galleries in the world. The de'Medici family were important art collectors during the Renaissance and commissioned works of arts from some of the most important Renaissance artists throughout Italy and Europe, therefore it today houses the works of art of international and Florentine art.

And, who could visit Florence without viewing the great sculpture of David, by Michaelangelo. Sculpted to magnify the great human male body, David is of David and Goliath from the Bible. David stands nude with only his sling shot thrown over his shoulder, indicating he has just slain Goliath with one shot of his sling shot. David stands in the Galleria dell' Accademi which also houses a collection of sculptures and art by Michaelangelo.

And last, but certainly not least, is the Palazzo Pitti, the ancestral palace home of the de'Medici's. It contains part of the de'Medici family's former private art collection. It contains many Renaissance works by famed painters Rafael and Titan. Adjoining the palace are the Boboli Gardens landscaped with beautiful flowers, plants, trees, and Renaissance statues.

Even though immersed in the culture and beauty of the city and with all the art and architecture of the Renaissance surrounding me, it is just fun to sit at a cafe and watch the Italian life pass by. With a glass of my favorite Italian wine, or sipping a cappuccino, the sights and sounds are as important to experience as all the art.

A young couple on a vespa (moped) weaving in and out of the traffic stop to kiss during the red light. The grand Italian lady, with her cute, petite dog on a leash, is walking along with her driver, who is running to keep up, while carrying all her packages. The pizzeria across the square is serving mouth-watering and delicious slices of pizza. The gelato stand where lemon ice and the creamiest ice-cream in the world is being sold to cool patrons on hot Italian summer days. Everywhere, couples of all ages are holding hands and walking along the streets and sidewalks to view the city. An Italian child with the enormous brown eyes bounces a ball at my feet. And not to be missed is the tall, silver-haired Italian gentleman who catches my eye as he is sipping his wine or cappuccino at a nearby table. Hmmmm. Who knows? All this is to be savored too in the great city of Florence, Italy.

Piazza della Repubblica with cafe in Florence, Italy.

Piazza della Repubblica with cafe in Florence, Italy.


Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on January 16, 2014:

ologsinquito: Thanks so much for your comments. It is good to hear you consider this the right amount of information. It is hard to gauge sometimes if a hub is too long or too short. It is a wonderful city and truly is my favorite.

ologsinquito from USA on January 15, 2014:

This is a fascinating article that kept me interested the entire time I was reading. It was just the right amount of information, not too much and not too little. I'm pinning this to my See the World board.

Jack Baumann from St. Louis, Missouri on December 20, 2012:

Oh how I miss Florence, your hubs makes me want to go back!!

Melanie Palen from Midwest, USA on December 03, 2012:

Such a beautiful hub! I'm going to Florence for a study abroad program this and I'm super excited about it! I'll definitely bookmark this and come back to it before I depart. :)

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on September 26, 2012:

It is such an exquisite city. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It is do a romantic city in an artsey way!

Elena from London, UK on September 26, 2012:

It's absolutely beautiful and thanks for sharing the history with photos. Perfect place to visit at Valentines or Anniversaries too.

Mucho Gracia. :-)

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on July 09, 2012:

Cassy: Florence is the best of the best cities in Italy. I like it even better than Venice, although that city is beautiful also. Thanks for the share, I appreciate it. And, I'm so glad you enjoyed this!

CassyLu1981 from Wilmington, NC on July 09, 2012:

Amazing read!!! Florence is also my favorite city in all of Italy. Whenever I think of Italy, Florence is the perfect image! Voted up and shared!!!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on July 05, 2012:

BMax: You have been here, too, so you know what a great city this is. I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece as it was fun to write, reminise and enjoy all over again. Now, I need to stop going back to Europe and see Australia. I hear Down Under is pretty fascinating and enjoyable too.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on July 05, 2012:

BMax: You have been here, too, so you know what a great city this is. I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece as it was fun to write, reminise and enjoy all over again. Now, I need to stop going back to Europe and see Australia. I hear Down Under is pretty fascinating and enjoyable too.

BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on July 04, 2012:

So beautiful, so loving and so sunny hub =) Absolutely fascinating tour. I've been to Florence in 1999, seems like it was yesterday but yet, so far far away... Sparkled many fun and exciting memories in me. Wow. I enjoyed following you here very much! =)

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on July 03, 2012:

Well, I am so glad you enjoyed this article. Thank you for stopping by to read and for your kind comments. They are greatly appreciated. The Italian Renaissance and anything to do with it is a favorite topic of mine. Thanks again!

Joseph De Cross from New York on July 03, 2012:

Echo! Madonna! This was an excellent hub with history and geography for the craddle of renaissance. Machiavelli must've enjoyed part of the architecture that made famous this city. Il Duomo built by Brunelleschi represent the baroque era that change the way Cathedrals were structurally made. Great pics and excellent timeline.


Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 29, 2012:

How romantic! It is a beautiful city. I haven't heard that about Michaelangelo, but it wouldn't surprise me - he was a rebel! He always fought against authority. Thanks for reading and for your comments. It is greatly appreciated.

Mike Russo from Placentia California on June 29, 2012:

suzettenaples: What a great summary of Florence. I don't think you missed a thing. We spent a week there for our 40th anniversary and it is definitely one of our favorite places. The only thing I can add and I'm not sure it is true is that Michaelangelo created David as a symbol of opposition against the Medici family.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 29, 2012:

Thelma: I'm so glad you enjoyed this article and that it has inspired you to get out your photos! Enjoy your "trip" to Florence again. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your input!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 29, 2012:

mckbirdsbks: You are correct, there are no bad choices in Italy. The entire country is a history, art and architects' lovers paradise. Thanks so much for stopping by again.!

Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 29, 2012:

Wow! Your hub reminds me of my short visit in Florence on my way to Rome, a long time ago. Florence is indeed a beautiful city to visit with all its´ background history. I think I have to look at my Florence photos again. Thanks for sharing this informative hub and for reminding me of this amazing place. Voted up and SHARED.

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on June 29, 2012:

I have heard stories of the canals being smelly. I guess we were fortunate not to experience that. The food in Florence was better than that served in Venice. I think there are no bad choices in Italy. This is such a nice presentation.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 28, 2012:

I am so glad you read this and enjoyed it. And, I hope it does inspire you to visit Florence - it is a beautiful city! Thanks so much for reading this article and I appreciate your comments!

Joana e Bruno from Algarve, Portugal on June 28, 2012:

Hi, Suzette, really enjoyed your hub, since I've always wanted to go to Florence... I reckon it all started when I saw that movie "Room with a view over the city" I think that was the name, twenty or so years ago and I never got over it... Now, reading this... I definitely have to visit Florence... Voted up and interesting and sharing... Have a great day!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 28, 2012:

The city is magnificent. I'm glad you want to see this city - you'll get there some day! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate your interest in this beautiful city!

DragonBallSuper on June 28, 2012:

Suzette, this is one of my visit this place.. thecity sounds magnificent

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 28, 2012:

nckirdbks: I know, when I finally saw Brunelleschi's dome I thought I hd arrrived. I had studied it in school and to finally see it was something - I know how you feel. Believe it or not, I've been to Florence about five times and I have never seen the Grand Canyon. I think I better get out west before I go back to Europe again.

I like Venice, too, but the times I've been there the canals were so smelly and polluted that it kind of turned me off a bit. And tour guides pointed out five different houses as Marco Polo's - apparently he really got around Venice when he wasn't in I'm sticking to Florence, but it's ok if you like Venice!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 28, 2012:

snowdrops: You'll make it there someday. It is a beautiful city. Thanks so much for stopping by too read this and for your comments. It is greatly appreciated!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on June 28, 2012:

Brunelleschi's masterpiece, he won a contest to get the job. I was in awe of il Duomo. It gave me the same feeling of awe as The Grand Canyon. It is beautiful. Thanks for the completely unbiased choice of cities as your favorite. You could not have picked a city in any other country as beautiful. (Hinting that Venice may edge out Florence for beauty, but not things to do.)

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on June 28, 2012:

Florence Italy..the home of legends.. I always dream of seeing Italy even for once..

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 28, 2012:

Crystal: By all means live in Italy for as long as you can or take a semester or year to study there. You will be so much more enlightened about life. It really does broaden your horizons, even though I know you have probably heard that cliché many times. Please feel free to contact me by email and I can tell you about living overseas. I've lived in Mexico, Spain and Germany and they were all wonderful experiences. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment. And, if this article helps you to want to live in Italy, then I am very happy.

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on June 27, 2012:

My dream is to live in Italy for several months, to give myself time to travel to all the different areas. Florence is definitely a part of that wish list! Very well done and voted up.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 27, 2012:

mindyjgirl: Well, if you like to travel be sure to see this city. It is great and I can't say enough good things about it. I love to travel too, and I love to return to Florence as much as I can. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and leave a comment. It is greatly appreciated!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 27, 2012:

sandra: Thanks for stopping by to read this piece. I finally got over my shop til ya drop syndrome by the time I was 30. No kidding, I'd rather sit at a cafe and sip wine or a cappucino! But, the shopping is great in Florence - it is full of designer stores and the leather goods are to die for! In my old age (lol) I tend to hang out in museums than the designer stores. Thanks so much for your comments and nice of you to stop by.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 27, 2012:

Alastar: You would take the swamp land in Arizonee lol! You have amazed me again - You know about Pope Alexander VI - I didn't until I did the research, although I had heard of Savonarola, I just didn't know about his demise! Pretty scary stuff - lol. Well, Italy is always close to my heart as my grandfather hails from there, but my other half is German, English, Dutch, and a pinch of Scotch! Germany is always my home away from home and I never visit Italy without visiting Germany also. I am spontaneous, impetuous and passionate like the Italians, but I am also reserved, quiet, and neat as a German! I am a contradiction in terms. You never know what you get each day, but I'll tell you my life is never boring - lol. It is always a great day when I have a visit from you, Alastar. Thanks so much for reading and for your enlightening comments!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 27, 2012:

Hi MHatter99: It is not hard to write about these cities as they are so wonderful and have so much to offer. I'm glad you enjoyed this and your are certainly welcome. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and view. I always enjoy your visits. Just wish I could write a limerick about Florence lol!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 27, 2012:

bdegiulio: Well, you definitely have good taste if this is your favorite city also! I have been fortunate to have visited this city more than once and each time it reveals something new to me. I, too, would go back in a nano second. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. So nice when you visit.

Mindy Bench from Oregon on June 27, 2012:

I love this Hub,I love to travel

Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on June 26, 2012:

You and me, too, suzettenaples. And you didn't even mention the shopping.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on June 26, 2012:

Ha Suzette, I'll take some of that swamp land in Arizonee! You should be partial to your part Italian roots and though i've never been there do know some folks who have; the couple goes on vacation in north Italy every couple of years- lucky devils.

This was a fun story to read Suzette; especially the Medici dynasty and the ruling monk who got burnt by maybe the most corrupt pope of all time, good 'ol Alex the 6th. And What to See with your impressions from the cafe was great too, ah, a city for love it surely is!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 26, 2012:

Thank you for this great tour

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on June 26, 2012:

Great job suzette. Florence is one of my favorite cities in the world. It's a great walking city and has so much culture, history and art. Would go back to Florence in a heart beat. Thanks for sharing. Voting up, A,B,I,U.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on June 26, 2012:

They are really fortunate. They will love Florence. How sweet of you to email them my hub and I hope it is a help to them while they are there. Thanks so much for visiting and reading.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on June 26, 2012:

My daughter and her hubby are on a 5 week European Adventure and they are on schedule for Florence on July 13th, I will email her this hub for reference. Thank you for sharing your adventure!:)

Related Articles