Province of Florence
Florence, as well as its province, is famous worldwide for its Renaissance period, for its arts and culture, its good food, its friendly people as well as for its beautiful Tuscan villas, its marvellous holiday homes in the Chianti area, its vineyards and olive groves, its castles and its old farmhouses dotting the gently rolling hills.
Just a few notes, intended, not for the ordinary tourist but, for the wise traveller, ready to relish the town, to capture that special flavour which will urge him to return in the future, so as to add a new tessera to the never-ending mosaic of Florence. Enjoy the experience of spending a remarkable holiday in one of the rental apartments in Florence, right in the old town, just a few steps from the Cathedral, the Palazzo Vecchio, or the Uffizi Gallery, in touch with the breathtaking atmosphere of this pearl of Tuscany.
The history of Florence and its province has ancient origins, but let us start from the town's religious hub and enjoy the great visual impact of the dramatic dome of Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi.
Where does all this come from?
From the Renaissance which has left permanent marks in the town’s cultural milieu.
Under the impetus of brilliant artists, 15th century Florence was enriched and renewed, without fundamentally altering its appearance. It was Brunelleschi, with his research into perspective and his precocious ideas about city planning, who dominated the architectural scene in the first half of the century. Besides the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, he built the Ospedale degli Innocenti (the Foundling Hospital), designed the Old Sacristy in the basilica of San Lorenzo, started Santo Spirito, built the Pazzi Chapel in the monastic complex of Santa Croce as well as the central block of Palazzo Pitti.
Generally speaking it was an extraordinary time in the artistic life of Florence with painters such as Masaccio at work in Santa Maria del Carmine, Paolo Uccello in the Green Cloister of Santa Maria Novella, Ghirlandaio in its main chapel as well as in the Sassetti Chapel in Santa Trinita, Fra Angelico in the convent of San Marco, not to mention sculptors like Ghiberti, Donatello and Luca della Robbia.
Undoubtedly a primary role was played by the Medici, a powerful and influential family who governed Florence from the 14th to the 18th century, including popes and rulers like Lorenzo the Magnificent, Cosimo the Elder and women like Catherine and Marie, both destined to rule the fate of France. Starting from a banking activity they established a seigniorial government, headed by Cosimo the Elder. With the aid of his favourite architect Michelozzo, he promoted a number of important architectural projects, ranging from the construction of the Dominican convent of San Marco to the renovation of his own residence, the austere palace on via Larga (now via Cavour : see apartment for rent in Florence in our webpage, ref. 126) that was to provide a model for so much of the 15th century civil constructions. This was the case with the large palace that Filippo Strozzi had built by Benedetto da Maiano.
The golden age ushered in by Cosimo the Elder was continued by his grandson Lorenzo, the “Magnificent” who, unlike his grandfather enjoyed presenting himself in the guise of a prince. More than a businessman, he was a fine politician and a cultured man. A poet and a writer himself, he chose to surround himself with men of keen intelligence, gathered together in the celebrated Platonic Academy at the Medici villa at Careggi. This was his great legacy to Florence before the period of political upheaval to which the city was subjected for several decades after his death in 1492.
At the beginning of the century the most significant artists in Florence were without any doubt Leonardo and Michelangelo. Both were commissioned by the gonfalonier Pier Soderini to fresco a battle scene (actually never finished) in the Salone dei Cinquecento, Hall of Five Hundred, in Palazzo Vecchio, but the former soon left the city, never to return, while the latter had already begun to pay frequent visits to Rome. Among Michelangelo’s greatest creations are worth a mention the Laurentian Library and the New Sacristy in San Lorenzo.
The definite reestablishment of a cadet branch of the Medici rule, through Cosimo the 1st, ushered in a long period of political stability, centred on the strong personality of the duke, the true architect of regional unification. An excellent organizer, he set about the creation of a strong state, increasing his power with his prestigious marriage to the daughter of the viceroy of Naples, Eleonor of Toledo. He transferred the court to the former Palazzo dei Priori, then subjected to incessant works of restoration and enlargement. While lacking the humanistic culture of Lorenzo, he continued the family tradition of patronage, embellishing Florence with fountains, statues, columns, and arcades. The building that now houses the Uffizi Gallery was also intended to produce a scenic effect: a curious U-shaped structure designed by Vasari between the Piazza della Signoria and the river to house the principal magistracies of the duchy of Tuscany. Cosimo extended it with a corridor up to Palazzo Pitti, passing over the ancient Ponte Vecchio, as a “secret” link between the heart of political life, represented by Palazzo Vecchio, and the new family residence of Palazzo Pitti.
In fact his wife, disliking the enclosed spaces of the building on Piazza della Signoria, urged a move to the more salubrious suburban 15th century palace opening onto the scenic Boboli Gardens built for the banker Luca Pitti. Today it is one of the city's most important monumental complexes, a sort of citadel of museums housing the ducal collection of paintings (Galleria Palatina) along with collections of silverware, semiprecious stones, gems, ivories and porcelain that belonged to the ruling dynasties.
Under Cosimo, and later his sons Francesco and Ferdinando, there was a shift in the traditional centres of power. While under Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent the urban area was comprised between the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Annunziata, including San Marco, the hub of political life was now located between Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Pitti. This did not prevent the dukes from leaving symbols of their authority all over the place. The basilica of San Lorenzo became the Medici pantheon thanks to Ferdinando, also responsible for the construction of the Belvedere Fort at the top of the Boboli Gardens and the splendid Villa di Artimino, outside the city walls. Later Florence would face a long period of economic stagnation up to the Lorraine dynasty, whose most enlightened figure, Peter Leopold, managed to operate fundamental changes in the fields of economy and law.
More incisive interventions in the urban fabric were to appear in the 19th century with the opening of wider and straighter streets, the construction of new bridges, the realization of the Neo-gothic facades of Santa Croce and of Santa Maria del Fiore and the project to transform the city into the capital of the new kingdom of Italy. A radical reorganization over a few decades drastically altered its appearance, bringing it closer to the contemporary cities of Europe, inflicting permanent wounds such as the demolition of the city walls replaced by a ring of roads on the model of the Parisian boulevards and the destruction of the old marketplace along with the Jewish ghetto in the area now occupied by Piazza della Repubblica and its adjacent streets.
It is worthwhile remembering the numerous museums, ranging from the Uffizi, to the nearby Bargello Art Museum, from the Academy, to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop for Hard Stones), up to San Marco where, among the winged creatures of Fra Angelico, our wise traveller might satisfy the need of escaping to the silence of the inner time.
This holiday accommodation in Chianti
is a 15th century farm in full production, at 500 mt above sea level on the dazzling Tuscan hills overlooking the Arno Valley. Due to its geographical location it benefits from a fine climate as well as stunning views over the surrounding vineyards and olive groves. The holiday farmhouse consists of 5 comfortable self-catering apartments, accommodating from 2 to 4 people, and an independent villa for up to 6 people. The flats have been carefully renovated and furnished in respect of the traditional Tuscan style and have an outdoor terrace area with table, chairs and beach umbrella. Also available to clients are a sitting room with satellite TV, a swimming pool with solarium, sun beds, chairs and beach umbrellas, a laundry service, mountain bike rental and a restaurant serving Tuscan meals with the farm’s own products such as olive oil and wine. Pets welcome. On request possibility of organizing cooking and art courses, Italian lessons, wine and/or olive oil tasting, and tours to the art centres of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Arezzo, as well as information on local festivals and events.
In the vicinities of these holiday apartments in Tuscany
there is the famous Vallombrosa Benedictine Abbey and its huge forest with marked walking trails through the nature and for “shopaholics”, at 10 km, the large Outlet, “The Mall”, with famous brand shops (Valentino, Fendi, Tods, Armani etc.).
This charming holiday home in Chianti
is located in the countryside of Montelupo Fiorentino, one of the most important centres of European pottery production of the Renaissance, just on the outskirts of Florence. Surrounded by olive trees and age-old cypress trees, this renovated barn enjoys, from its hilltop position, a breathtaking view. This elegant and comfortable cottage has preserved its original architecture maintaining the local stone works, the wooden beam ceilings and the Florentine terracotta tile flooring. Furnished in the typical Tuscan style, the house is dotted with exceptional objets d’art, such as fine paintings, ceramics coming from Montelupo and typical ornaments. This Tuscany accommodation
is in an ideal position for those wishing to spend a peaceful vacation in a beautiful surrounding and also enjoy visiting art centres, medieval villages and much more. Easily reachable are Florence, Leonardo’s hometown Vinci, San Miniato, Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Volterra, Monteriggioni and San Gimignano, to mention just a few.
This self-catering accommodation consists of a fully equipped kitchen, a large sitting room with two sofas, of which one is a double divan bed, two double bedrooms and two bathrooms with shower. Also available are Sat-TV, DVD player, CD player, safe, first aid box. Outdoors there is a large, sunny veranda, fully equipped, where one can sunbathe or enjoy open-air meals. There is also a swimming pool with Jacuzzi corner completely furnis
This beautiful and elegant holiday villa in Tuscany
is located at Casale, a tiny medieval village in the heart of the Tuscan Apennines, surrounded by forests and uncontaminated nature, with a wonderful scenic view over the valley. This incredible holiday accommodation has recently been tastefully refurbished and consists of the villa, which can accommodate 6 people, and a charming annex, which can accommodate other 3 people. The villa has a fully equipped kitchen with fireplace, a living room with Sat-TV, a dining room a study and a bathroom with hydromassage shower on the ground floor. On the first floor there are 3 double bedrooms and a bathroom with corner bathtub for two. The annex has a double bedroom, a living room with dining area and a single divan bed, and a bathroom with shower. The property has a big floral garden with a large swimming pool, a fitness room, a spacious, furnished veranda, a wood-burning oven, a barbecue, a fountain from which one can drink the fresh spring water of Ortale and even a small private consecrated chapel.
This splendid villa for rent in Italy
is in an ideal position for appreciating both the cultural and the natural aspects of Tuscany. Florence is nearby but the area is dotted with historical villages, like San Godenzo, founded in 1028, with its famous old Benedictine abbey, or Dicomano, dominated by the Romanesque parish church of St. Maria with its vigorous bell tower on one side, or Vicchio, the birthplace of Giotto, o