The regional capital of Tuscany, Florence is one of the most significant capitals of the arts in Italy and in the world. The dominion of Florence and the Medici family coincided with the most influential art period of the entire millennium. Resting on the banks of the Arno River, Florence is blessed with a charming atmosphere that has never failed to delight its visitors. At first erected as a Roman "castrum", Florence soon assumed the appearance of a real town with a Forum (now Piazza della Repubblica), thermal baths (via delle Terme), and amphitheatre (via Tòrta).
A period of decline arrived with the political fragmentation from which the feudal system sprang up. The town began to expand until it spread over half of the Arno valley and surrounding hillsides. Despite internal struggles, first between rival families and then between the Guelfs (loyal to the Pope) and the Ghibellines (loyal to the Emperor), from the thirteenth century onwards it began to flourish as a city of art, culture and international trade, reaching its peak in the fifteenth century under the Signoria of Cosimo and Lorenzo de’ Medici.
Santa Maria del Fiore, the Gothic cathedral erected over the ancient basilica of Santa Reparata, was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio who began construction in 1296. Brunelleschi completed it in 1436 with the elegant dome, the inside of which was entirely frescoed by Vasari and Zuccari.
Palazzo Vecchio & Piazza della Signoria: Construction of the most important civil building in the city began in 1299. It was the headquaters of the Priori delle Arti, of the Signoria and the ducal residence.
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the greatest museums in Italy and the world. It was founded in 1581 by Francesco I de' Medici, who collected numerous artworks in the building designed by Vasari. Today the Uffizi Gallery contains masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists from the 13th to 18th century such as Cimabue, Giotto, Masaccio, Beato Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Caravaggio, along with Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya and many others.