It all began with a certain Roman general: In the year 59 BC, Julius Caesar founded a colony known as Florentia – named after the Roman goddess of flowers and crop growth. The namesake proved to be a real blessing for the settlement. Florentia grew and flourished so majestically that Emperor Diocletian made the city the capital of Tuscany and Umbria in the third century AD. Florence’s influence waned after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 and things didn’t pick up again until the twelfth century.
Tuscany’s biggest city reached the height of its importance in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when Florence was considered Europe’s cultural center. Artists and scholars including Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and da Vinci left their mark on the city. And one son of the city wrote a work on the art of rule which many a decision-maker continues to use as a guide to this day: With Il Principe (The Prince), Niccolò Machiavelli delivered a blueprint for the doctrine of raison d'état. According to Machiavelli, a ruler must be able to “break the rules of traditional morality” in order to meet the elementary needs of the state, otherwise they will go down together with the state.
At the same time as Florence reached its cultural zenith, it also evolved into a center of trade and finance. The Medicis rose to become the city’s most important family. Cosimo I excelled here, becoming Duke of Florence after his brief exile and creating a network of politicians, businessmen, and high-ranking church clerics. Florence experienced a meteoric rise for two centuries during the Medici era. When the dynasty came to an end, the city also went downhill – only reclaiming some of its importance in the nineteenth century, becoming Italy’s capital between 1865 and 1871. Incidentally, a famous liar is also a Florentine: Between 1881 and 1883, Carlo Lorenzini published Le Avventure di Pinocchio.
During the rule of the National Socialists in Germany, many German intellectuals settled in Florence, but left again following the passing of Italian racial laws. Between 1943 and 1945, Florence was then occupied by German troops, who left behind a huge trail of destruction and blew up all of the bridges – except the Ponte Vecchio, which Hitler allegedly thought was too nice to destroy. The city’s economic fortunes picked up again after the end of the Second World War.
In cultural terms, Florence remains one of Europe’s most important cities: The city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. In addition, Forbes magazine named Florence one of the most beautiful cities in the world. According to UNESCO, the city is home to almost a third of the world’s art treasures.
It is therefore no surprise that there are a number places in the city where historically and culturally significant events took place: On the Piazza della Signoria in 1301 the Florentines sent Dante into exile and in 1497 they burned jewelry, cosmetics, musical instruments, and other items in a “bonfire of the vanities” initiated by Girolamo Savonarola. The following year, they then burned Savonarola himself in accordance with a decree issued by the Pope. This was also the original location of Michelangelo’s David, which is now housed in the Accademia di Belle Arti, having been replaced by a replica. There is also the Fountain of Neptune and an aqueduct that is still in operation. Other places of interest include the Piazza della Repubblica, the aforementioned Ponte Vecchio, and of course the Uffizi Gallery, home to the world’s biggest collection of Renaissance art, brought together by the Medicis.
Apart from the places of interest, Florence has also been home to a Rutronik office since 2004. We have put together a list of other places that are well worth checking out when you visit Florence:
Hotspot: Piazzale Michelangelo
The copy of Michelangelo’s David is located in the center of the Piazzale – that alone is worth seeing. Even more impressive is the panoramic view of the city, which is especially breathtaking and romantic at night.
Hotspot: Giardine di Boboli
Behind the Palazzo Pitti, the main domain of the Medicis, are the 4.5-hectare Boboli Gardens with long axes, wide gravel pathways, and an absurdly high number of statues and fountains typical of the Renaissance period. The gardens can be visited, but there is an entry fee.
Restaurant: Bella Ciao (http://www.ristorantetripperiabellaciao.it/)
Situated on a hill with a majestic view, the Bella Ciao serves typical Florentine cuisine, such as Trippa alla fiorentina (tripe) and Lampredotto, which is similar in nature to tripe and made from the darker and tenderer abomasum stomach of the cow.
Restaurant: La Fattoria, Tavernelle Val di Pesa (Strada del Cerro, 11, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa)
A Chianti, a typical Florentine steak, and a secluded inner courtyard: La Fattoria serves an authentic slice of La Dolce Vita. The bistecca and the filetto come highly recommended and the wine list also leaves nothing to be desired.
Restaurant: La Reggia Degli Etruschi (https://www.lareggiadeglietruschi.com/)
This former monastery is set in the hills of Florence and is one of the city’s most exclusive restaurants. The view alone is appetizing, as is the tastefully decorated interior – and of course the quality Tuscan wines and traditional Florentine cuisine.
Bar: Giubbe Rosse (https://www.giubberosse.it/)
The Giubbe Rosse literature café has always been a place where artists and literary figures hang out and remains at the heart of numerous cultural events to this day. The ambience alone suggests its past and present as a meeting place for creative minds – immediately making the Italian espresso taste twice as good!
Bar: Il Rifrullo (http://www.ilrifrullo.com/en/)
An American vibe in Florence: Established in 1981, the Rifrullo was the first American bar in Florence and has always been a popular meeting place for locals and tourists alike. The breakfast is especially recommended, with freshly baked croissants and a quality cappuccino.
Hotel: Hotel 500 Firenze (http://www.hotel500firenze.com/) Built on the ruins of a Renaissance villa and centrally located by the A1 and A11 expressways, the Hotel 500 Firenze has 60 rooms and several meeting rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a chapel, and much more besides.