A brief history of Florence

Florence was first called Florentia and originally founded by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. Located on an important road linking Rome to France, it found itself destined to fame and fortune. It became a significant trade center with powerful artists' guilds in the 13th century, trading primarily in wool and silk throughout Europe. Florentine bankers issued the first monetary bills along with the famous florin. To this day some of the same Tuscan Banks carry on business under the names and in the places they did then.

There were many wealthy families in Florence, among which the renowned dynasty of the Medici family stands out. The Medici were bankers who became influential rulers in Florence and Tuscany for over three hundred years. From their position of power and prestige they commissioned artists and building projects, and during the 15th century Lorenzo "the Magnificent" de Medici became known as the Prince of the Renaissance. He fostered the arts, philosophy, intellectualism, poetry, and politics so that they became a dominant element of support for invention, science, and humanism.

Florence's cultural spirit was one of progressive open-mindedness, seeking to achieve a balance between nature, order, and a true-to-life representation of nature in its art. The passion of the Florentine school was in the study of classical Greece and Rome. Additionally, it is said that the Tuscan countryside around Firenze is so beautifully laid out and the quality of light so dramatic that Florentine artists were profoundly motivated to capture the essence of what they saw around them in their works. This is seen in their particular style, the clarity and perspective, the graceful lines, and the harmonious geometry and rhythm.

Among the most noted architects, painters, sculptors, writers and other members of the artistic community over the centuries in Florence were Michelangelo, Giotto, Dante, Machiavelli, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi, and Donatello. The sheer number of the world's most treasured works of art that can be seen in Florence is astounding.