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Florence History

In 59 BC, Roman soldiers established the modest colony known as Florentia. As a result of its opportune location along the Arno River, the settlement grew rapidly and eventually became a hub for commercial trade. Like any developing city, Florence experienced growing pains and pleasures throughout the following centuries. Most notably, the late 12th century marked the beginning of a chain of feuds between Florence and neighboring Siena. During the 13th century,

internal conflicts between the Guelphs, supporters of the Pope, and the Ghibellines, supporters of the Emperor, shifted the city’s power from one faction to the other. By the end of the 13th century, the two groups declared peace, only for the Guelphs to later experience a split among their own people and successive conflict.

In the mid 14th century, Florence was scarred by the devastation of the Black Death, which eliminated over half of the city’s population. In addition, the internal political turmoil placed the aristocracy and the lower classes at constant opposition, causing further conflict. Despite all of the political unrest, Florence continued to grow artistically, as buildings, such as the Church of Santa Maria del Fiore, were commissioned during this time period.

As the 14th century came to a close, the people of Florence began to witness the beginnings of the Renaissance. The beginning of this century initiated the Florentine golden age, which exemplified a cultural expansion that included the realms of art, literature, and science. The masterpieces produced by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance, are characteristic of the glory of Florentine history. The powerful Medici family, throughout each generation, commissioned many of these priceless works of art. The Renaissance also marked the continuous rise and fall of the Medici family as leaders of Florence. In the mid fifteenth century, Cosimo de Medici, and later Lorenzo the Magnificent, unofficially ruled Florence. Cosimo was known for his instillation of peace among the once feuding people, and both of these leaders brought the city to a cultural height.

Although the Medici family experienced periods of defeat, they nonetheless regained their titles, and in 1569 were crowned the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. For centuries, the Medici’s continued to rule, despite a general decline in Florentine economy during later years. When the last Medici died in the 18th century, much of the family’s property, including a vast collection of artwork, was bequeathed to the city. The Duke of Lorraine succeeded the Medici, and gradually aided the city in financial and cultural reconstruction.

Foreign rule in Florence completely ended in the 1960’s, when the city became part of a unified Italy. During this period, which lasted until the early 20th century, Florence started to experience the stress of urbanization. During the early 20th century, the city began to grow by the tens of thousands. As a result of this extreme increase in population, the city began to incorporate more modern residential and commercial buildings. Also in recent years, several of the city’s ancient monuments have undergone renovations. Many of original Church frescoes and outdoor statues have been removed to more secure areas, so that future generations can enjoy the work of early Florentine masters. Today, while the city has obviously been affected by urbanization, you will still be amazed by its overall classic appearance, both from the point of view of the magnificent skyline to the up close look at architecturally brilliant buildings.

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