Fun and interesting facts about Florence Italy for kids, school project, trivia nights and travel.
Florence is a very interesting city with a long, important history.
Whether you are planning a trip, working on a school project or just found yourself itching to find answers to your questions about the ‘cradle of the Renaissance’, this article is for you!
These are our favorite fun facts about Florence.
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Where is Florence?
Florence is a city in Italy and more specifically in the region of Tuscany.
It is located inland, it is crossed by the river Arno and surrounded by hills and it is well connected to the rest of Italy by motorways and a high-speed train service.
Florence also has an international airport.
How big is Florence?
Florence has 708,000 inhabitants and it is the 8th biggest city in Italy (2020 data)
How old is the city of Florence?
The official date of the foundation of Florence is the spring of 59BC, when Julius Caesar settled here his troops.
However, historians and archaeologists know that the Etruscan lived in this area before the arrival of the Romans.
They seem to have settled in Fiesole, the small town on the top of the hill overlooking Florence.
What’s the name of the river in Florence?
Florence’s river is the river Arno. It separated the historical city center from the area called ‘Oltranrno’, which means ‘beyond the Arno’ aka on the other side of the river.
The Arno caused terrible floods in Florence, including a devastating one in 1966. The damage was so big and the logistical challenges so demanding that this experience lead to a positive outcome: the creation of a special body for emergency situations, the Italian Civil Protection System (Protezione Civile), now part of the Italian government system.
Where does the name Florence come from?
Florence is called Firenze in Italian but this has not always been its name.
Before the name Firenze, the city was called Florentia and then Fiorenza, a name that seems to be associated with with the Latin word for ‘flower’ (Flor), which we can still see in the English name of the city (Flo-rence; Flo-wer).
Some say that the city was called Florentia to honour Flora, the Goddess of spring and flowers, that the Romans celebrated in spring, the time when the city was founded.
Others say that the name was given to the city for good luck, to identify a place that would ‘flower’, or bloom into splendor.
In the Middle Ages, as the language evolved, the name Florentia became Fiorenza and then slowly turned into Firenze, how we call it now.
Is Florence UNESCO world heritage site?
Florence City center became UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
Unesco recognized the historical city center of Florence as unique and deserving of this recognition for several reasons that have to do with its appearance, the role it has in history, art, science and philosophy and what it can teach us about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
In particular, they recognized Florence as:
- A unique artistic realization, an absolute chef-d’œuvre, the fruit of continuous creation over more than six centuries
- A place that exerted a predominant influence on the development of architecture and the monumental arts
- A location that attests in an exceptional manner, and by its unique coherence, to the power of Florence as a merchant-city of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance
- A city materially associated with events of universal importance, due to the presence of personalities that shapes the world of the art and science for centuries to come.
What is special about Florence? Fun facts about Florence that make it unique
There are several things that make Florence unique.
Florence city center has the greatest concentration of universally renowned works of art in the world, comprising buldings, museums and individual works of art such as paintings and sculptures, preserved in museums and in public spaces around the city.
Walkaing around town is like walking through an open air museum.
This is a place like no other to learn about life in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and a city that offers incredible opportunities to understand how a powerful city operated in the past.
Among the most important works of art and museums in Florence there are:
- The Uffizi – one of the most famous art museums in the world
- The Accademia – famous art museum especially known for preserving Michelangelo’s David
- Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi – the main historical Piazza in Florence
- Medici’s chapels in San Lorenzo church – important chapels with the tombs of the Medici Family, ancient rulers of Florence, known especially for their priceless decorations and paintings
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – Florence’s Duomo, one of the biggest and most impressive in the world for architectural value
- Church of Santa Maria Novella, an important church preserving stunning frescoes
- Church of Santa Croce, famous for its decorated chapels
- Santo Spirito Church in Oltrarno, famous for work by Brunelleschi and Michelangelo, among others
- Boboli Gardens, a unique example of Italian style Renaissance gardens
Good to know! Despite the variety of things to see in Florence, the historical center of Florence is quite compact and can be explored on foot, as you can see following this walking itinerary to see Florence in one day.
Which important people were form Florence?
Florence was the hometown of some of the greatest artists and scientists in the world: the poet Dante, the artist Michelangelo and Donatello, scientist and philosopher Leonardo da Vinci all operated in Florence and these are only some of the best known personalities that called Florence home.
Other personalities who were born or operated in Florence are:
- Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) – Italian poet
- Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) – Italian author of the the Decameron
- Giotto – (d. 1337) painter and architect
- Galielo Galilei (1564- 1642) – scientist, physicist and engineer
- Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472) – Italian renaissance humanist and author
- Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 -1446) – architect and designer and one of the e a founding father of Renaissance architecture
- Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) – painter, whose ‘Birth of Venus’ can be seen in the Uffizi Gallery
- Florence Nightingale (1820- 1910) – the founder of modern nursing
- Guccio Gucci (1881-1955) – creator of the Gucci fashion house
Why is Florence called the ‘cradle of the Renaissance’?
The city of Florence went through a period of great power and splendor during the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, in centuries XIV-XV.
At this time, the city acquired most of the beautiful churches, palaces and works of art that we see today and grew in importance and beauty like not other place in Italy and the world.
It is in Florence that all the great Renaissance artists operated and it is from here that they then proceeded to export the Renaissance and taste to the rest of Tuscany and to Rome.
Because of the role in the birth of Renaissance art, Florence is commonly called ‘the cradle of the Renaissance’.
Florence had the first paved streets in Italy
Florence was the first place in Europe to have paved streets: they were first built in the city in 1335.
Gelato was invented in Florence
Gelato as we know it today was invented in Florence and we can thank for its invention Bernardo Buontalenti, a local architect, who also gave the name to a delicious gelato flavor you can stiil taste in Florence!
You can find it at gelateria badiani, in the area of Florence called Le Cure, and it is creamy and delicious, the original cram gelato flavor!
The piano was invented in Florence
Florence is the place where the piano was first invented.
Its creator was Bartolomeo Cristofori who, originally from Padua in the North of Italy, perfected its invention while in Florence, where he worked as musician at the medici court.
What else was born in Italy? Find out in this article with fun and interesting facts about Italy!
Opera was born in Florence
The musical genre of the opera was born in Florence in the XV century.
While choral and lyrical chants existed before this time, it is only in the XV-XVI century that the Camerata d’ Bardi (Florentine Camerade) codified this type of music and therefore gave birth to the opera as we know it today.
Fun fact: Italy is home to the most prestigious opera house in the world but it is now in Florence but rather in Milan, Teatro La Scala. You can find more fun facts about Milan here.
It took over a century to build Florence cathedral
Florence cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, was started in 1296 but only finished in 1446, when the dome lantern was added.
The dome of the church was bult by architect Brunelleschi and, at the time of its construction, it was the biggest dome ever built.
When Brunelleschi won the commission for this project, he celebrated with hist workers with a sumptuous breakfast with wine, bread and sweet oranges!
The dome is still nowadays the largest masonry dome in the world and the cathedral is the 5th largest cathedral in the world.
Santa Maria Novella is now one of the most famous landmarks in Italy and the square around it is one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy.
Florentine was considered the basis of ‘proper’ Italian language
The Italian language as we know it today is the result of a long and complex history that saw it evolving from Latin through vulgar and then through several regional dialects and languages, partially still in existence today.
Florence had a special role in this development as its written language was, for a long time, considered the ‘standard Italian’ the language that should be used for the written word.
Famously Alssandro Manzoni, the writer behind the first Italian Novel ‘The Bethroted’, went to Florence to revise its manuscript and refine its language.
The expression he used for this task was ‘to do laundry in the river Arno’.
You can find saying and famous quotes about Italy here.
Florence was the first city in the world to abolish the death penalty
On the November 30, 1786 Pietro Leopoldo, the head of the Great Duchy of Tuscany (Gran Ducato di Toscana), abolished the death penalty.
This made Tuscany and Florence, its capital, the fist civil state to have abolished capital punishment.
Pinocchio was born in Florence
Pinocchio, the world’s most famous wooden puppet, was created in Florence by the hand of Carlo Collodi, who was born in Florence in 1826.
The book was a huge success and has been translated into 240 languages.
Good to know! Pinocchio is so popular, it now has an amusement park devoted to it, Parco Pinocchio, one of the best places to explore if you are planning a visit to Tuscany with kids.
Florence was one of the capitals of Italy
Florence was one of the first capitsls of Italy.
When the Kingdom of Italy first became united, the capital was set in Turin.
In 1865 however it was moved to Florence: Florence stayed as capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871, when Rome was taken from the Pope and made capital of Unified Italy.
Pnte Vecchio is the oldest bridge on the Arno River
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge on the Arno River and it was built in 1345.
When built, the bridge was used as a market. Stalls of grocery and butchers were perched on the two sides of the bridge to have easy access to the water, where they would throw left overs from the day trade.
This habit created excessive stench in the area and, in the XVI century, a city order was issued that only allowed goldsmiths to trade on the bridge.
This is still the case today.
The bridge now has a main area for pedestrians, shops on both sides and is also crossed by a secret corrideor, the Vasari corridor.
This was ordered by Cosimo de Medici, who wanted a passage between Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery with the Pitti Palace, his residence in Oltrarno. The Vasari corridor is open to visitors: you can find tickets here.
Ponte Vecchio is unique and it is said to have even been admired by Hitler, who gave explicit order to spare it when bombing the city.
Fun fact: Ponte Vecchio is not the only work of art the war spared. A somewhat similar fate was shared by the leaning tower of Pisa: learn why here.
Fun fact about Florence – Florence is where the Stendhal syndrome first happened
Stendhal’s Syndrome is a psychosomatic condition that can affect people when in the presence of great works of art.
It takes its name from Stendhal who, in front of the church of Santa Croce in Florence, is said to have felt so overwhelmed by its beauty to experience rapid heartbeat, confusion and even fainting.
Since this condition was first described in Florence, it is also often called Florence’s syndrome.
The Uffizi collection dates from the 15th century
The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most important and visited art museums in the world.
Its collection started under Cosimo de’ Medici in the XV century and was kept alive and enriched by his descendants. It opened to the public in 1743, as a gift “to the people of Tuscany and to all nations”.
The Uffizi are so popular, booking tickets in advance is mandatory. You can get them here.
Florence is famous for artisan marbled paper
Florence is famous for a very special type of artisan product: marble paper. Artisan workshops are still operating in the city and Florence is one of the few places in the world where you can still learn this ancient tradition.
Florence invented the Tuscany no-salt bread
Bread with no salt is a staple of Tuscan cuisine and one of the most beloved foods in the area and it was invented in Florence.
The story goes that Pisa, who dominated the maritime routes the salt arrived from, imposed a high tax on the product, an act that triggered Florence’s reaction.
Rather than paying to their enemies, the starting backin bread without salt and they were so successful it is still nowadays one of the preferred breads in the area and beyond!
If you like food facts, you can find lots of fun facts about Italian foods here.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Florentine steak is from here
Florence is the place of birth the famous Florentine steak, succulent and very expensive piece of beef coming from a local type of cow, the Chianina.
Served grilled, on the bone and dressed exclusively with salt and a drizzle of olive oil at most, it is an expensive and iconic food from the city and a reason of food pride for the city.
I hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Florence!
You can save this fun facts about Florence posy on Pinterest using the image below!