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Baltic Cruises

About Florence

Aerial View at Dawn

Located in Italy’s fabled region of Tuscany, Florence is considered the gateway to the Italian Renaissance. The entire city is a fantastic living museum of the art and culture of this unprecedented historic period of creativity and innovation that changed the course of the world. Wide-open piazzas, opulent palazzos, magnificent art and architecture and an authentic medieval atmosphere invite endless exploration here.

Florence is also known for its tumultuous political and social history. It began as a Roman city in 80 B.C. Its position along the fertile banks of the Arno River and its close proximity to Rome attracted its earliest settlers.

The city quickly blossomed into a rich center of commerce. By the 15th century, Florence had developed a reputation throughout Europe for its wealth and economic strength. The 15th century also marked the rise of the powerful Medicis, who would rule the region during three separate periods. During their first period in power, control of the city was passed down successively through four generations until the French dethroned the family in 1494.

The Medici regained control twice more until their rule finally came to an end in 1737. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Florence found itself governed alternately by Austria and France. Control of the city was finally returned to Italy in 1861.

Florence Sights and Landmarks

Florence has long preserved its culture and arts. Even during the most casual visit, a magnificent treasure turns up on every street corner, elevating the simplest stroll to the sublime.

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower, is the chief Florentine church. This Gothic-style cathedral took over 100 years to complete. Located in the Piazza del Duomo, the elaborate polychrome basilica and beautifully decorated interior are truly something to behold. The basilica’s towering dome, or duomo, can be seen from miles around – a massive testament to the ingenuity and brilliant engineering of the Renaissance.

As you cross the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, a medieval-era triple-arched span over the Arno River, you will find multiple shops and booths overflowing with all manner of locally made goods, from jewelry to clothing to leather.

A visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce, the final resting place of Michelangelo, provides an unforgettable journey through Italian art history. The church itself is a beautiful 15th-century structure and remains the largest Franciscan church anywhere in the world. The interior is meticulously adorned with frescoes by Giotto, and features paintings, sculptures and other pieces by an impressive array of artists, including Giorgio Vasari, Donatello, Luca della Robbia and Giovanni da Milano.

A short drive through the Tuscan countryside will take you to nearby Pisa. In the city’s famed Piazza dei Miracoli, or Square of Miracles, you can wander among one of Catholicism’s most sacred complexes. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and adjacent Leaning Tower of Pisa paint a stunningly beautiful canvas of Romanesque architecture. The circular Baptistery, also in an elegant Romanesque style, is the largest of its kind in all of Italy. A tour through this magnificent building leads to the renowned bronze statue of St. John the Baptist. The entire piazza, which predates the Roman Era, is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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