The two images above just about sum up my presumptions of Florence.
On the first picture, the gods seem to be dancing on this magnificent city, enjoying recollections of past events. On the second, the sheer architectural beauty cries out to be explored and feast upon.
Florence is the capital city of Italy’s Tuscany region and is famous for its glorious history. This includes being one of the the wealthiest cities of the medieval period and the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is widely regarded as the "the Athens of the Middle Ages". It was also home to the Medici family, the most powerful family in Florence who ruled the city during the Renaissance era from the 15th to the 18th century.
Classed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Florence is one of the most visited places in the world, attracting millions of tourists each year who come via coach tours to see the amazing architecture and monuments, and abundance of museums and art galleries bulging with Renaissance art.
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As a tourist, I believe my 5 main attractions would be as follows..........
1. The Duomo
The most famous site of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as The Duomo. The actual dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi around 600 years ago and is still classed as the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.
The exterior is covered in a mixture of pink, white and green marble, while the interior has a striking array of mosaic flooring. The only way to see the inside of the dome up close is to climb its 463 steps to the top, while also admiring Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9) on the way up.
2. The Tower of Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is another architectural masterpiece which dominates Florence's skyline, and literally towers over Florence at 95 metres high.
This majestic Tower is also an art museum, and overlooks the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue and the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.
An interesting fact links to the replica of Michelangelo's David statue. The original stood at the tower entrance from 1504 but was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873, with the replica subsequently being erected in 1910!
3. Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo's David is a Renaissance marble statue standing at 5.17 metres and was created by the great artist between 1501 and 1504.
The statue represents the Biblical hero David, and was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roof line of the Florence Cathedral. This never happened, so instead the statue was placed outside the Palazzo della Signoria, and later moved to the Accademia Gallery.
Another interesting fact in regards to David is that during World War II, he was entombed in brick to protect him from damage coming from airborne bomb strikes!
4. Ponte Vecchio
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The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge which sits over the Arno River in Florence and is a truly magnificent piece of architecture that also houses an array of shops built along its edges and held up by stilts.
This wonderful bridge is known as the Old bridge and is also unique because of its Vasari Corridor, a covered passageway which runs above the shops.
The current bridge was rebuilt in the 14th century, and interestingly, is the only bridge in the city to have survived World War II intact because the retreating German troops chose to spare it in 1944!
5. Florence Baptistery
The Florence Baptistery has the status of a minor basilica and is famous for its Gates of Paradise, magnificent doors found on the east of the building and created by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in the city and has eight equal sides with a rectangular addition on the west, built in the florentine Romanesque style. It is crowned by a magnificent mosaic ceiling and decorated with majestic statues on its exterior.
Did you know that the "Gates of Paradise" situated in the Baptistery today are a copy of the originals? After five hundred years of exposure, it was decided that the panels were to be removed and preserved for future prosperity in a more protective environment in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the museum of the Duomo's art and sculpture.