Florence was founded by ancient Romans in the 1st century BC and became an important commercial center during imperial times. The most glorious period of Florentine history came centuries later during the period of the Republic of Florence and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Between the 14th and 16th centuries, the Florentine state was one of the most powerful countries in the world. As evidence of Florentine economic power, its currency–the FLorin (fiorino d’oro)–was used as a standard unit throughout Europe at the time and became the official currency of the Holy Roman Empire (Reingulden, later Reighsgulden). Due to the literary tradition of Florence, its language became accepted as the preferred language throughout the Italian peninsula.
In 1439, Florence became the center of attention for the Christian world when it hosted the Council of Florence, an attempt to reconcile the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Patronage of the arts flourished in Florence at this time under the Medici, the powerful banking family of Florence who unofficially ruled the city until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was formed in 1569, after which the medici officially ruled as Grand Dukes.
Florence is often credited as the cradle of the Renaissance. Famous Florentine artists include Brunaleschi, Fra’ Angelico, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. As a medieval city-state that turned into a Renaissance duchy, Florence has monuments that abound with stories of dramatic artistic transitions.
Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
The Pitti Palace was constructed in the mid-15th century, but became the official residence of the rulers of Florence, the Medici, a century later. Accordingly, it contains the private art collection of these powerful patrons of the Renaissance, the so-called Galleria Palatina, or Palace Gallery. The collection includes masterpieces of Raphael, Perugino and Titian, among others. Within the palace grounds are the Boboli Gardens, one of the earliest formal 16th-century Italian gardens, filled with sculptures and fountains. The gardens were first laid out by Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici, and have undergone numerous expansions and additions over time, today encompassing 11 acres. Website: http://www.uffizi.firenze.it/en/musei/index.php?m=boboli
The Uffizi (“the offices”) were designed by Geirgio Vasari in 1560 and were built as the administrative offices for Florentine magistrates, the Tribunal and state archive. Because the Medici displayed a number of noteworthy pieces of art there, it quickly turned into a gallery. Although the Uffizi were open to visitors since its beginning, it was turned into a public museum in 1765 and has become one of the most famous museums in the world. Its masterpieces include works by all the great Florentine artists and numerous other Italian works.
Academia & Museum of San Marco
The Academy of Fine Arts in Florence was founded by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1563 as a place for training and supervising the best artistic production in Florence. In the 19th century, Michelangelo’s masterpiece David was brought to the Academy for purposes of conservation, but has now taken up permanent residence there. The David, which measures 17 feet tall and was created between the hears 1501 and 1504, has achieved the status of being one of the most recognizable works of art in the world.
The Museum of San Marco is a former Dominican convent of Florence, famous as the house of both Girolamo Savonarola and Fra’ Angelico. Each cell of the convent contains a fresco painted by Fra’ Angelico. The museum also displays a number of other masterpieces from the 15th century. Website: http://www.polomuseale.firenze.it/en/musei/?m=accademia
San Miniato Monstery
The present Romanesque church of San Miniato al Monte was built in the 11th-13th centuries on one of the highest points in the region of Florence, affording its visitors impressive views of the city below. It is adjoined to a monastery of Olivetans, a branch of Benedictine monasticism. The cloister of the monastery dates to the 15th century. Within the church is the tomb of Cardinal James of Lusitania. Displaying a collaboration of several art forms, this chapel is considered a fine example or Renaissance funerary art.