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Florence history and timeline

Now known as the thriving capital city of the region of Tuscany in Italy, Florence has a storied past that includes five years as the Kingdom of Italy’s capital, between 1865 and 1870. This period occurred shortly after Tuscany’s entrance into a united Italy, a nod to Florence’s political, economic, industrial, and cultural strength. Once a center of medieval trade in Europe, Florence and its surrounding area is now home to nearly a million people and is renowned not only for its economic force, but also for its incredible art, architecture and fine wines. The city’s location on the Arno River has contributed to its prosperity, both recent and past. Although now a fantastic blend of the past and present, Florence’s history is one fraught with conflict. The city’s recorded history goes back as far as 59 BC, when former Roman soldiers settled there at the behest of Julius Caesar. The area was given the name Florentia, and the basic infrastructure implemented then is still apparent in some areas of the city. A growing commercial center, Florentia was named capital of the province of Tuscia in the 3rd century AD. The following century saw many periods of fighting under Ostrogothic rule, rapidly diminishing the population, but not wiping out the city. Peace was eventually re-established after the city and country were conquered by Charles the Great (Charlemagne) in 774, becoming part of the duchy of Tuscany. Additional conflict plagued the city in the 13th century but did not prevent Florence from growing economically, politically and artistically. Many of Florence’s inhabitants were supported by the wool industry in the 1300s, and an attempted strike by the city’s wool combers led to a short-lived revolt. The late 1300s and 1400s were influenced first by the Albizzi family, and later, their rivals, the Medici clan. The patriarchal Medicis – Cosimo de Medici, his son Piero, his grandson Lorenzo, and great-grandson Piero II – formed a political dynasty throughout most of the Italian Renaissance. Patrons of the arts, the Medicis commissioned works by some of Italy’s best- known artists, including Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci and Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi (better known as Sandro Botticelli). When the French invaded northern Italy, Piero II chose to resist, only to find the French army overpowering in size and strength. The Florentine people rebelled against him and he was exiled, a republican government taking power in his absence. The Medicis would rise again two times before being driven out of influence for good in the early 1700s. Wealth and good taste were powerful forces behind the artistic, literary and scientific movements of the 14th to 16th centuries in Florence. In combination with problems within the Roman Catholic church, these more humanistic social interests resulted in a reconnection with classical antiquity – the Italian Renaissance, often referred to as the beginning of the modern age. This period was a breeding ground for fine arts, mathematics and printed literature. Florence bloomed under this new direction, and visitors to the city today are still able to enjoy many of the exquisite works created then. Unfortunately, the urban growth exploding through Florence and the rest of Italy formed an environment where Fascism and Mussolini could thrive in the early 20th century. The country was drawn into both World Wars, and suffered a great deal of damage. Even though much of Florence’s art was evacuated from the city during World War II, the Germans created chaos by destroying nearly all the city’s bridges. The bridges were rebuilt after the war, and again following a destructive flood in 1966. Despite – or perhaps because of – Florence’s unsettling history, the city continues to fascinate residents and visitors alike. Its rich stores of museums, elaborate architecture tasty wines and local cuisine, and superb shopping make it a popular tourist destination and attractions that continues to grow and thrive.


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