Florence is one of the world’s capitals of art, history, and culture. What else is Florence famous for?
In this article, you’ll find loads of fun and interesting facts about Florence, the “City of Lillies”!
Table of Contents
General Florence Facts
- Florence (Italian: Firenze) is the capital city of the Tuscany region in Central-Northern Italy.
- The city lies at the confluence of two small rivers, the Arno and the Mugnone.
- Florence is considered one of the great historical, artistic, architectural, cultural, economic, and fashion centers of Europe.
- It was the birthplace of the Renaissance, a political, artistic, and cultural rebirth that followed the Middle Ages.
- With a population of 372,038 (metropolitan area: 1.5 million), Florence is the eighth largest city in Italy, after Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Palermo, Genoa, and Bologna.
- From 1865 to 1871, Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Before that, the capital had been in Turin since the kingdom was established in 1861, and after Florence, the capital was moved to Rome for the remainder of the Kingdom (until 1946) and till the present.
- The Florentine dialect is the basis for Standard Italian language and was officially made the national language during the Kingdom of Italy.
- Florence is antipodal to the Chatham Islands of New Zealand.
- Florence has over 20 sister cities, including Bethlehem, Kyoto, and Philadelphia.
- Florence has been called one of the world’s most beautiful cities by Condé Nast, Forbes, and Rough Guides. Travel and Leisure also called it the “Best City in Europe” in 2017.
Artistic Facts and other Achievements
- Ponte Vecchio is Florence’s famous covered stone bridge that houses several shops. It was the only bridge in Florence to survive WWII.
- Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo both hailed from Florence.
- Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, at the time controlled by Florence, and did much of his work in Florence.
- Other famed artists from Florence include architect Filippo Brunelleschi, painters Masaccio, Giotto, and Sandro Botticelli, poets Giovanni Boccaccio, Petrarch, and Dante Alighieri, and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli.
- The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze) had the largest dome in the world at the time that it was built. It remains the largest brick dome in the world today.
- Masterpieces including Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring and The Birth of Venus, and Titan’s Venus of Urbino are housed in Florence.
- Lions were kept in front of the Florence Cathedral for hundreds of years and became a symbol of the city.
- An early form of football or rugby called Calcio Fiorentino (Florentine kickball) originated in Florence.
- Opera originated in Florence in the late 16th century.
- It is believed that Bernardo Buontalenti invented gelato in Florence in the 16th century. He was the first to add eggs and milk. After serving it to Spanish dignitaries, other cooks present took the recipe to other parts of Italy.
- The piano was invented in Florence around the year 1700. Inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori had been unsatisfied with the lack of controls players had over the harpsichord, the precursor to the piano.
- Guccio Gucci founded the luxury fashion brand Gucci in Florence in 1921, and it is still headquartered there today.
- Salvatore Ferragamo, another luxury fashion brand, is also headquartered in Florence.
- Today some of the best luxury hotels in Italy are located in Florence and surrounded areas in Tuscany.
- Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, was from Florence.
- The region where Florence sits was covered by a huge lake in ancient times. Much of it remained marshland until the 18th century.
- There was a small settlement at the confluence of the Arno and the Mugnone rivers as early as the 10th century BCE.
- The Etruscans founded a settlement on a hill near Florence around the 7th to 6th century BCE.
- The Romans founded a military village at Florence, calling it Florentia, in 59 BCE. They dedicated it to the god Mars. In the following two centuries, they built bridges, a theater, a thermal complex, an amphitheater, and city walls.
- In 313 CE, the city converted to Christianity following the famous conversion of Constantine in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), capital of the Byzantine Empire.
- In the early Middle Ages, Florence fell under control of the Byzantines, Ostrogoths, and Lombards.
- Around the year 1000 CE, Florence began to prosper and became the capital of Tuscany.
- In 1018, San Miniato al Monte was built, considered one of the finest Romanesque churches in Italy.
- In 1080, Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s famous stone bridge spanning the Arno River, was completed.
- The Republic of Florence emerged in 1115 CE and became a powerful force. It had its own currency, the florin, or gold Florentine coin, which became the dominant currency across Western Europe.
- In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe to pave all of its roads.
- In 1348, the Black Death plague arrived in Florence, killing half of the city’s residents and causing many others to flee.
- As Florence continued to expand, enormous wealth accumulated in the city, sparking the Renaissance period.
- In the 15th century, the Medici Family rose to power. They were the bankers of the Pope and great patrons of the arts, commissioning many works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and so on. They ruled for 350 years.
- In 1436, construction of the Florence Cathedral was finished. In total, it took 140 years to complete.
- In the 15th, 16th and 18th centuries, Florence was taken over by France, Spain, and Austria (centered at Vienna), respectively, and the period was dominated by power struggles.
- Tuscany became a province of the Kingdom of Italy when it was created in 1861. Florence became the Kingdom’s capital in 1865, until the capita was moved to Rome in 1871.
- During WWII, German forces occupied Florence from 1943–1944. Allied bombings at the time destroyed many buildings in the city.
- In 1966, the Almo river flooded the city, killing 40 people and damaging many historic treasures.
- In 1982, UNESCO designated the Historic Centre of Florence a World Heritage Site.
- In 1993, a Sicilian mafia-planted bomb went off on Via dei Georgofili in Florence, killing five people.
- The first European Social Forum was held in Florence in 2002.
- In 2009, the Florence–Bologna High Speed Railway began operating.
- In 2010, the first of Florence’s two tram lines began operating.
- In 2014, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had their wedding in Florence.
- In 2015, the Province of Florence (the city’s former administrative title) was changed to the Metropolitan City of Florence.
- In 2020, as COVID gripped Italy, a video of the opera singer Maurizio Marchini performing Nessun dorma from his balcony in Florence went viral on the internet.
- In 2021, Florence began experimenting with smart trams.
- In 2022, Florence was shortlisted as one of the “European capitals of smart tourism”, but in the end was beat by Bordeaux (France) and Valencia (Spain).