What is Florence Italy known for?

Renascence, gelatos, and the Medici are some of the things people immediately associate with Florence. Let’s explore these and other things Florence is known for.

Located in Central Italy, Florence is the capital and largest city of Tuscany. Its metropolitan area is home to about 1.5 million people making it the 6th largest in Italy. Florence is about 275 km north of Rome, which takes almost 3 hours by car and only 1h30 by high-speed train.

Florence is one of the most popular destinations in Italy and the world. As you would expect in Italy, it is an ancient city with incredible architecture and impressive landmarks. In fact, thanks to its former glory it has some of the most famous landmarks in Italy.

So, with no more delays, let’s examine what is Florence, Italy famous for?

10 things Florence Italy is known for

Renaissance

The first answer to what is Florence, Italy known for is kind of obvious. Florence is known as the cradle of the Renaissance. It was in Florence that the Renaissance was born and where it was most vigorous. At that time, Florence was the world’s wealthiest and most influential city.

The Renaissance is the period in European history that marks the transition from the Middle Ages to the Modern Ages, going from the late 14th century to the 16th century. Though precise periodization is impossible as it occurred with different timings throughout Europe, and there’s no major event to mark it.

Characterized by the effort to rediscover and surpass the ideals and achievements of classical antiquity, the Renaissance had its intellectual basis in a version of humanism, putting the human in the center of all things. This radically new way of thinking manifested in everything from every kind of art to science and politics.

The Republic of Florence was the source of the Renaissance. The wealth accumulated in Florence due to its trade success and its social, civic, and political peculiarities made Renaissance possible. With so much money to spend and the rediscovery of Greek philosophy, the wealthy citizens of Florence (and the Medici in particular) could afford to support artists, scientists, and thinkers, stimulating new ideas and artistic movements.

Florence was the cradle of the Renaissance, but other Italian city-states quickly followed. Venice, Genoa, Milan, and Rome were also essential in developing this new Era. Then, from Italy, it developed to the rest of Europe.

What is Florence Italy known for
Statue of Neptune in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence | What is Florence, Italy famous for

Medici

The house of Medici was the most important and affluent family in Florence during the Renaissance, when the city was one of the major centers of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of that period.

The initial wealth and influence of the Medici came from wool production and trade, but their prominence came mostly from banking and politics during the 15th century. During this period, the Medici Bank became the largest in Europe and was one of Europe’s most prosperous and respected institutions.

At one time, the Medici were probably the wealthiest family in the world, which facilitated the rise of their political power. Four Popes came from the Medici: Pope Leo X (1513–1521), Pope Clement VII (1523–1534), Pope Pius IV (1559–1565), and Pope Leo XI. They also received the hereditary title Duke of Florence, which was later elevated to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

The Medicis ruled Florence and created an environment where humanism, art, and science flourished, originating in the Renaissance era. They (and other families) were great patrons of arts and science, financing the construction of grand monuments and the production of amazing art pieces. It is even said that they have funded the invention of the piano and opera.

The Medici were patrons of artists, architects, and thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Botticelli, Machiavelli, Galileo, Francesco Redi, and many others, which takes us to the next thing Florence is famous for, all the art and museums.

Art and Museums are what Florence is known for
Pitti Palace, Palace where the Medici lived in Florence | What is Florence known for

Art and Museums

The Renaissance Era and the Medici family left a considerable legacy in Florence. This legacy is visible everywhere in Florence as the city bursts with artworks, Renaissance buildings, and museums. When an art enthusiast thinks of Florence, they immediately think of museums full of Renaissance paintings, sculptures, and architecture.

About 80 museums in Florence hold countless art pieces, including some world-famous masterpieces. The most famous and popular museums in Florence include:

  • Uffizi Gallery – the largest and most famous museum in Florence, it includes hundreds of beautiful artworks, including the Birth of Venus and la Primavera of Botticelli, the Venus of Urbino, painted by Titian, and so many others.
  • Pitti Palace – an enormous palace with impressive rooms and a vast collection of paintings, including several works by Raphael.
  • Galleria dell’Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is located.
  • Palazzo Bargello (Museo Nazionale) – has an impressive collection, particularly of statues – including Donatello’s David.
  • Palazzo Vecchio – an impressive building with several outstanding works of art and one of the best things to do in Florence. It also allows a visit to the Vasari Corridor, which was constructed to provide a safer and faster route to Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi.

Despite all the museums, we also need to mention that you can also find impressive artwork in the city. For example, a replica of Michelangelo David is in front of Palazzo Vecchio. Or you can enjoy the view of the fascinating Brunelleschi’s dome from several city points. It is an overused expression, but in Florence’s case, it’s true: the whole historic center is a museum!

Well known things about Florence
Inside the Pitti Palace with an extensive art exhibition – Famous Things in Florence Italy

Banking

Besides the revolution in the art and scientific worlds, northern Italy was home to another revolution with the creation of modern banking. As usual in this era, Florence was one of the leaders and where most of the most prominent players emerged. However, prosperous cities like Lucca, Siena, Venice, and Genoa were also pivotal.

We can trace modern banking back to the Renaissance period when many innovations appeared. The first known deposit bank was Banco di San Giorgio, founded in Genova in 1407, and the oldest continuously operating bank is Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena created in Siena in 1472.

Nevertheless, the affluent families from Florence dominated banking in this period. During the 14th century, the Bardi and Peruzzi families established branches spread all over Europe, lending money to risky enterprises, particularly to finance the monarchy and their wars.

The Medici Bank was possibly the most famous and powerful bank of the 15th century. Created in 1397, it was the financial arm of the all-powerful Medici family. Though it only lasted until 1394, during its prime, it was Europe’s largest and most respected bank.

The Medici bank was also a pioneer in banking, contributing to its evolution from early medical banks to modern banking by improving the general ledger system by developing the double-entry system of tracking debits and credits.

They are not the most fashionable inventions, but they were pivotal in wealth creation, allowing everything else, like the impressive landmarks we love today.

Interesting things about Florence
The beautiful city of Florence

Impressive landmarks

The rich history of Florence led to the creation of some of the most famous landmarks in Italy and Europe. They are mainly medieval and Renaissance buildings created and designed by some geniuses living in Florence at the time.

As we said earlier, Florence was one of the most important cities in the world, attracting artists and scientists that created some of the most impressive monuments in Europe. We are talking about geniuses like Brunelleschi, Giotto, Michelangelo, Donatello, da Vinci, and Vasari, among many others.

This massive concentration of wealth and talent left a beautiful mark on Florence. Some of the most well-known and impressive landmarks are:

  • Santa Maria Del Fiore with Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto’s Tower
  • Baptistery of St. John
  • Uffizi Galleries
  • Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens
  • Ponte Vecchio
  • Palazzo Vecchio
  • Vasari’s Corridor
  • San Lorenzo Basilica
  • Santa Croce church
  • Bargello Palace
Everything about Florence Italy
Santa Maria Del Fiore with Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto’s Tower – Famous things in Florence

Leather

Florence and nearby regions are the biggest leather producers in Italy and are famed for the quality of their products. The tradition of producing and working leather dates back to ancient times when the proximity to the Arno River provided the enormous water supply needed for the tanning process.

This century-long tradition is still kept alive today by artisans who continue to love their hand-crafting leather. Their leather is exceptionally soft and supple, but they still design new textures, embossing, and colors.

While walking through Florence, it is possible to find endless shops offering leather jackets. So many stores and markets offer leather jackets in Florence that it can be overwhelming. Though one thing is for sure, you won’t have problems finding where to buy a traditional leather jacket.

Huge tourist crowds

It is no secret that Florence is a fantastic tourist destination. It has excellent food, beautiful monuments, museums, and a long and fascinating history. Plus, everything comes together in a relatively small walkable area. It is perfect for romantic escapades, solo travelers, and groups.

The problem? Well, everyone knows this… almost everyone has a good reason for going to Florence, so it attracts millions yearly. In 2019, there were about 16 million overnight stays in Florence – a city of less 400 000 people and where you can walk from north to south in about 20 minutes.

Many people in a small place mean huge crowds, particularly in Summer. Though, we should note that Florence is crowded the whole year. When visiting Florence, we need to count on having to deal with crowds at all times.

Though we are not complaining (well, maybe a bit), the city is amazing, and it’s only normal that so many people want to experience it, as do we and probably you. Just be prepared for it. One of the best ways to escape the crowds is going to one of Florence’s many fantastic rooftop bars. You will still enjoy the city’s beauty and find some excellent Italian food in most of them.

Cool things about Florence
Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most visited attractions.

Bistecca alla Florentina

Bistecca a la Florentina is possibly the most famous food from Florence. It is thickly cut and a huge Tuscan T-bone steak. You won’t have any problems finding this delicacy, and it is on many restaurants’ menus – many of them claiming they have the best Bistecca in town.

The origin of the name Bistecca alla Florentina is curious. Legend says that Bistecca is a corruption of the words “beef steak.” During the Renaissance, a few English knights were waiting to be served and started to ask for beef steak loudly. The Italians liked the name, and it stuck. So, bistecca alla Florentina simply means Florentine beefsteak.

The Bistecca alla Florentina is a simple dish with few ingredients but a very detailed process. The meat typically comes from Chianina cattle (though several other breeds are used) and should be aged for at least two weeks in cold rooms and at room temperature when cooking. The cut should weigh at least 1kg and have a height of 5-6cm ( two-three fingers)

The Bistecca is grilled over red-hot coals and should be turned only once after cooking for 3 to 5 minutes per sire. No more than that, as this is a rare cooking dish. The outside forms an aromatic crust, while the interior is soft and red with myoglobin.

Gelatos

Gelatos, or ice creams, are typical deserts in Italy and one of the things people associate with Florence. The true origins of Ice Cream are unknown, and it isn’t hard to believe that at some time in history, different people came up with the idea of mixing ice or snow with something sweet.

Very early records of frozen drinks or sweets are being consumed in China, Persia, and even Sicily. However, these were all much more similar to sorbets than ice creams. The turning point to creating ice cream came during the Renaissance when the simple mixture of ice with sweets became the pasty, creamy gelatos we love today.

This change happened in Florence when eggs, milk, and sugar were added to the ice creating dense and soft gelatos. Then all the other flavors were added. And, Italians being Italians, made an art out of it, elevating ice creams to their perfection. The new invention quickly spread through European courts, but only much later did it become readily available to the public.

What is Florence famous for
What is Florence Italy known for? Delicious gelatos

So, when in Florence, having one gelato is almost mandatory. It’s also a historical and cultural experience, and if it wasn’t, it’s all good – Italian gelatos are absolutely delicious.

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Things to know about Florence

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