Florence was built on the site of an Etruscan settlement and the later ancient Roman colony of Florentia (founded in 59 BC). This Tuscan city became a symbol of the Renaissance during the early Medici period (between the 15th and the 16th centuries), reaching extraordinary levels of economic and cultural development. The present historic centre covers 505 ha and is bounded by the remains of the city’s 14th-century walls. These walls are represented by surviving gates, towers, and the two Medici strongholds: that of Saint John the Baptist in the north, popularly known as “da Basso”, and the Fort of San Giorgio del Belvedere located amongst the hills of the south side. The Arno River runs east and west through the city and a series of bridges connects its two banks including Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita.
Seven hundred years of cultural and artistic blooming are tangible today in the 14th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Church of Santa Croce, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi gallery, and the Palazzo Pitti. The city’s history is further evident in the artistic works of great masters such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Michelangelo.
The Historic Centre of Florence can be perceived as a unique social and urban achievement, the result of persistent and long-lasting creativity, which includes museums, churches, buildings and artworks of immeasurable worth. Florence had an overwhelming influence on the development of architecture and the fine arts, first in Italy, and then in Europe. It is within the context of Florence that the concept of the Renaissance came to be. This heritage bestows upon Florence unique historical and aesthetic qualities.