There’s a reason why I call Florence home. Round every corner there’s a monumental piece of architecture, a museum to wander round for hours, little streets to get lost down, independent shops with craftsmen working quietly out the back, then there’s the food and of course the wine…But how did it become to be one of the most important cities of Italy? How did it become the starting line for the Renaissance? How did it become one of the most distinguished hubs for political, cultural, economic and artistic centres in the world?
For the most part, this was all in the transition between the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but that comes later. I want to start right at the beginning, and see how Florence came about, and what made it what it is today.
Prehistoric Florence. In the Quaternary Age, the plain of Florence, Prato and Pistoia was covered in a great lake surrounded by Monte Albano in the West, Monte Giovi in the North, and the foothills of Chianti in the South. After the water had retreated, the plain, now around 50 metres above sea level, was covered with small lakes, ponds and marshes until the 18th century, when the land was reclaimed.
It is believed that there was already a settlement at the confluence of the Mugnone with the Arno rivers between the 10th and 8th century BC. Nowadays the Mugnone river runs North-East of Florence and flows into the Arno upstream at Viadotto dell’Indiano. The original course of the river flowed into the Arno near the current Ponte Vecchio, and the confluence between these two rivers was the site where the Etruscans are believed to have settled between the 7th and 6th centuries BC. These early inhabitants identified and utilised the ford of the Arno near the confluence, and a bridge or a ferry was probably constructed here a few metres from the current Ponte Vecchio. But the Etruscans, preferring to build a town further uphill for defence reasons, relocated just North of Florence and settled in the area of Fiesole (then called Vipsul).
Next in were the Romans…