Visiting the Centre of Florence

This area of Florence is stamped with the character of Cosimo il Vecchio. The man who founded the great Medici dynasty maintained his position of power by astute management of the city's financial affairs, as opposed to resorting to threats and violence. Cosimo was a highly educated and sophisticated man with a passion for building, and he wanted the churches, palazzi and libraries that buildings of ancient Rome. To this end, he commissioned some of the greatest architects and of the time to build the churches of San Lorenzo in Florence and San Marcoin Florence as well as the Medici's first home, the palazzo Medici Riccardi. He is regarded as one of the great innovators of the Renaissance in Florence. Even after the Medici family had moved across the river Arno to the Palazzo Pitti in 1550, the Grand Dukes of Florence made their final journey back to the north of the city to be buried in the extravagant Cappelle Medicee in San Lorenzo. For the tombs in the New Sacristy, Michelangelo contributed his magnificent allegorical sculptures, Day and Night, and Dawn and Dusk.

Around San Lorenzo.

This area is stamped with the character of Cosimo il Vecchio, founder of the Medici dynasty, who commissioned San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Around San Lorenzo, a huge general market fills the streets, its colourful awnings almost obscuring the various monuments. The market is a reminder that Florence has always been a city of merchants. Many of the products on sale – leather goods and silk, wool and cashmere garments – are very good valueespecially if, like the Florentine, you are prepares to bargain.

San Lorenzo.

San Lorenzo was the parish church of the Medici family, and they lavished their wealth on its adornment. Brunelleschi rebuilt the church in Renaissance Classical style in 1419, although the facade was never completed.In 1520 Michelangelo began work on the Medici tombs and designed the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in 1524 to house the manuscipts collected by the Medici. In both the New Sacristy and the Cappella dei Principi, extensive scaffolding has been erected (for an indefinite period) to protect visitors from falling marble.

Around San Marco.

The Tuscany Villas in this part of Florence once stood on the fringes of the city, serving as stables and barracks. The Medici menagerie, including lions, elephants and giraffes, was housed here.Today it is the student quarter, and in term-time Piazza di San Marco is filled with young people waiting for lectures at the university or at the Accademia di Belle Arti. This is the world's oldest art school, set up in 1563, with Michelangelo as a founder.

San Marco.

The convent of San Marco was founded in the 13th century and enlarged in 1437 when Dominican monks from nearby Fiesole moved here at the invitation of Cosimo il Vecchio. He paid a considerable sum to have the convent rebuilt by his favourite architect, Michelozzo, whose simple cloisters and cells are the setting for a remarkable series of devotional frescoes (c. 1438-45) by Fra Angelico.

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