Florence history or Firenze history and key events
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History Of Florence – Understanding This Beautiful City’s Past

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With its terracotta-tiled roofs, Renaissance architecture, and bridges spanning the Arno River, Florence enchants visitors from around the world. But this city is more than just a pretty face. Florence history is incredibly rich, complex, and impactful and spans over 2,000 years.

From its days as a Roman outpost to spearheading the Renaissance and serving as Italy’s first capital, Florence witnessed and shaped some of Europe’s most dramatic moments. Join me as we journey through the past of this magical city to uncover how it became the Florence we love today.



Early History and Roman Foundation

Firenze’s history dates back to before the Romans arrived in the 1st century B.C. The Etruscans, an advanced and wealthy people from central Italy, settled in the Arno Valley, establishing themselves on the hills where Fiesole stands today. The surrounding area was once a vast marshland, making it inhospitable and inaccessible.

The Romans founded Firenze in 59 B.C., naming it Florentia. Under the leadership of Gaius Julius Caesar, efforts were made to drain the marshes and transform Florentia into a thriving city in a fertile valley.

Florence before being built



Firenze in the Middle Ages

Firenze experienced periods of turmoil and prosperity throughout the Middle Ages. In the 5th century A.D., it was invaded by various barbarian tribes, including the Ostrogoths and Byzantines, but the city survived and flourished again over time.

By the late 13th century, Firenze emerged as a political and religious center with the construction of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Palazzo Vecchio. The city became a hub of artistic and cultural activity, nurturing talents like Dante, Giotto, and the Medici family.

Florence history renaissance and important buildings



Rise of Communal Government

Firenze became a consular commune in 1115, marking its transition to communal government. During this period, the city was characterized by intense rivalries among noble and wealthy families, driven by political and personal interests, as they vied for control.



Emergence of Signorie

The rise of signorie, replacing communal governments, was a hallmark of Italian politics. Amidst this conflict, powerful families seized control, transforming communes into signorie governed by a lord.

Discord among the major families deepened, leading to the formation of two factions: the Guelfs, loyal to the Pope and opposed to the Emperor, and the Ghibellines, loyal to the Emperor and opposed to the Pope.



Florence history and the Medici family
Cosimo de Medici moved from the Medici Palace to the Palazzo Vecchio in 1540, and he commissioned the refurbishment of the palace, including the great hall as an audience chamber and ballroom.


The Medici Family

In the 15th century, Firenze came under the rule of the powerful Medici family, renowned bankers who later became Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Firenze and the entire region remained under Medici dominance for three centuries.

Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was a prominent figure during this period. He was a patron of the arts, a writer, poet, humanist, politician, and diplomat, contributing significantly to the city’s artistic, cultural, political, and economic growth.



Firenze Under The House of Lorraine

The Medici dynasty ended in 1737, and control of Firenze and Tuscany passed to the House of Lorraine, an enlightened family of Austrian origin. Under the Lorraine rule, modern reforms were introduced, including the abolition of torture and the death penalty in 1785, making Tuscany the first state in the world to do so.



Firenze history around the French revolution

Firenze – Capital of the Kingdom of Italy

After the French Revolution, Firenze fell under Napoleonic rule and was part of France for fifteen years.

During the Restoration period, the House of Lorraine regained power, but the winds of change were sweeping across Italy, with movements for independence gaining momentum.

In 1859, the House of Lorraine was expelled, and Firenze joined the newly formed Kingdom of Italy. It even served as the capital from 1865 until the liberation of Rome in 1870.



Final Thoughts On The History Of Florence

In closing, Florence boasts an eventful history stretching across the rise and fall of empires, spans of unrest, golden ages of artistic revolution, and pivotal unification movements. But resilience and vision brought rebirth after each era of turmoil.

I hope this glimpse into Florence’s storied past provides deeper insight into the jewel of Italian cities it is today. When strolling narrow alleys with wine in hand, be sure to reflect on all this city has endured to earn its present glory.

Speaking of strolling in Florence, these guides will come handy if you are planning a holiday to Firenze.

Best Breakfast Spots in Florence
Hidden Gems Restaurants in Florence
How Many Days In Florence
Florence To Tuscany – Best Day Trips



Florence History FAQ

How was Florence during the Renaissance?

During the Renaissance, Florence was a hub of art, culture, trade, and humanism. It was home to influential figures like the Medici, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and led Italy in art, architecture, politics and finance.

What is Florence historically known for?

Florence is historically famous for being the birthplace of the Renaissance in the 14-16th centuries, with influential contributions to art, architecture, writing and politics.

Why is Florence called Firenze?

Florence’s name derives from the Latin “Florentia” meaning “flowering” or “blossoming”, though its residents call it “Firenze”.

Was Florence an Etruscan city?

Yes, Florence was originally an Etruscan settlement before becoming a Roman colony in the 1st century BCE.

What happened to Florence after Medici?

After the Medici dynasty, Florence briefly became a Republic again before coming under the rule of Austria-Hungary. It later became part of the unified Kingdom of Italy.

What does Florence mean in the Bible?

The name Florence does not appear in the Bible. It comes from the Latin “Florentia”.

What is the old name for Florence?

Florence’s old Latin name was Florentia.

What’s the most important event for the history of Florentine people?

The most impactful event was the Renaissance period from 14-16th century, which shaped Florence’s identity and resulted in revolutionary art, writing, architecture and politics.

Was Michelangelo born in Florence?

Yes, the famous artist Michelangelo was born in Florence in 1475.

Who was Niccolò Machiavelli?

Machiavelli was a Renaissance Florentine philosopher best known for writing the political treatise “The Prince”.

When was Florence’s Duomo built?

The construction of Florence’s iconic cathedral domed Duomo began at the end of the 13th century, with its prominent dome completed in the 15th century.

What is Piazza della Signoria famous for?

Piazza della Signoria is famous for its statues like Michelangelo’s David and important political history as the center of civic life.

When was Ponte Vecchio in Florence constructed?

The Ponte Vecchio bridge was constructed in its present incarnation in 1345, having been destroyed previously by floods.

What’s Leonardo Da Vinci connection to Florence?

Da Vinci did some of his most well-known paintings in Florence and also has connections with the city from his apprenticeship days.

Who was Girolamo Savonarola?

Savonarola was a 15th century Florentine religious fanatic who briefly ruled the city as a dictator.

Was Dante Alighieri born in Florence?

Yes, the epic poet Dante was born in Florence in 1265.

Florence was originally founded as a Roman colony in the 1st century BCE, giving it architectural and planning ties back to Ancient Rome.

When was the Republic of Florence formed?

The Republic of Florence was formed in 1115 and lasted until the Medici came to power in the 15th century.

Was Florence ever the capital of Italy?

Yes, Florence was briefly the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1870, before the capital was moved to Rome.

What’s the oldest museum of Florence?

The Uffizi Gallery, housing Renaissance art, is Florence’s oldest museum – it opened to exhibits in 1581.

Who was exiled from Florence?

Dante was infamously exiled from Florence and condemned to death which he shared in his writing of the Divine Comedy.

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