Italian Adventures: Fun Facts about Florence

brown concrete bridge over river
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Fun facts about Florence…

Bevenuti a Firenze – Welcome to Florence: The seat of The Renaissance and one of the most beautiful (bellissma) cities in the world.

As an art lover and history buff, Florenceis a piece heaven on earth for me. It is a crossroads of thousands of years of historical drama and intrigue, amazing architecture and the artistic birth of what we call The Renaissance.

A visit to Florence is a dream – the city (like so many in Italy) is like stepping back without sacrificing modern conveniences. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and modern influences converge…Every corner and side street in Florence is saturated with charm and history.

We’re going to start our Florentine Adventures with fun facts about the city…in future posts we’ll then explore Florence’s Museums, great food, shops, history and more…

  • Florence was founded by Julius Caesar in 59 BCE as an outpost for Roman solidiers. The Garrison town became to quickly attract merchants and others rapidly including Florence’s population.
    • The origin of the name Florence is disputed, but the Latin florentia means flourishing and it certainly has flourished throughout the ages.
  • The area around Florence was settled by ancient peoples including The Etruscans…you can visit remnants of their settlement in nearby Fiesole
  • Florence’s location on The Arno River made it an important center for industry including dyers, woolworkers, leathermaking and the livestock industries.
  • Fashion has been central for Florence since the Medieval era from woolmakers and dyers to the leather industry. In fact The Gucci Family got startedin fashion making leather goods.
  • If you like shoes Florentine designer Ferragamo made his mark his amazing shoe collections – you can visit the Ferragamo and Gucci museums in Florence
  • Florence was the first city in Europe to have paved roads – the bankers and financiers supported this civic initiative in 1339…other cities soon followed suit
  • Florence was known as a banking empire – with families like The Medici owning banks throughout Europe
  • The oldest bridge in Florence is The Ponte Vecchio and it was the only bridge not destroyed by retreating German troops in World War II
    • The bridge is home to fine gold shops! – We’ll walk across the bridge in a future post
gelato on stainless trays inside a display freezer
  • Florence offers some fo Italy’s finest dishes and is the meat capital of Italy
  • Florence is known for the Florentine Steak (Bistecca all Fiorentina) and it is delicious.
  • Another popular meat dish is: lampredotto (meat made of stomach of a cow). I’ll admit I wasn’t brave enough to try it, but my traveling companion did and said it was delicious
  • Florence is also the purported inventor of ice cream – Gelato! The origins of Florentine Gelato are traced to two individuals: Ruggeri and Buontalenti
    • Legend has it that Ruggeri, a humble chicken seller entered a competition sponsored by the Medici Court. The Medici’s ask: “to prepare a singular dish never seen before.” Ruggeri conocted an early form of gelato (more akin to sorbet). It was so popular that Catherine de Medici took Ruggeri with her to France when she married the King of France. There, Ruggeri taught the art of his cooking to French cooks.
    • Gelato took his present day shape when Medici scientist and architect (multi-talented) Bernando Buontalenti introduced milk and eggs to the mixture. Buontalenti was responsible for his work on The Boboli Gardens.
    • Florence has hundreds of gelateria (places to buy gelato) – but one stands out – Vivoli is the oldest gelateria in Florence and is known internationally as a center of gelato
photograph of the sculpture of david of michelangelo
Photo by Brian Banford on

Florence and Art are synonymous

Everything in Florence is tied to art in some way – even the of food and wine…Florentines have a passion for life and creating.

Florence was the birthplace of The Renaissance and home to such amazing figures as:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Donatello
  • Michelangelo
  • Massachio (first painter to use linear perspective)
  • Brunelleschi (sculptor and architect of buildings like The Duomo)
  • Giotto (born nearby and built Giotto’s Tower)
  • Dante (who sadly was exiled during politcal toil in the city)
  • Botticelli
  • Amerigo Vespucci (first to officially recognize America as a new continent*)
  • The Medici rulers
  • Gaileo
  • Machievelli and the list goes on and on…

The entire city of Florence is a world heritage site with historic churches, architecture, buildings and of course masterworks in the world of art.

In fact, Florence has so much beautiful art, some who visit suffer from Stendhal Sydrome – feeling faint from so much beauty – and this is a real thing – read more.

Florence is home to over 70 museums, including The Uffizi (home to Botticelli’s Primavera) and The Accademia (home to Michelangelo’s David)

Florence is also home to over 100 churches including it’s oldest

  • San Lorenzo (originally dating to 393 AD) and later rebuilt/remodeled by Brunelleschi. This was The Medici’s Church
  • The Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria of the Flower is the largest brick and mortar dome in the world and remains an engineering marvel. We’ll tour it on American Nomad soon.

Next time we’ll explore the Top Museums to Visit in Florence

Until then arrivederci!

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