Between the third and second centuries B.C. the Romans started their conquest of the Florentine territory, taking advantage of the little fortified town of Fiesole on the hills above. In the first century Caesar Augustus’ soldiers created Florentia, that was to become an important trading and military hub. This is the period when imperial monuments started to appear in Florence, together with streets following a grid plan, which still make up the heart of the city center, around the current Piazza della Repubblica. With the decline of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the barbaric hordes, Florentia was invaded and raided, faced epidemics and became just a little fortified military camp during the Byzantine era. Starting in the High Middle Ages, quick economic and trading growth combined with military superiority, and after difficult and bloody battles, the city obtained a firm political supremacy over Tuscany. The prosperity of Florence was enhanced by the development of the production of various crafts, with the birth of the corporations of the Guilds, and also by great financial power consolidated in the hands of its banks. The harsh rivalry between Guelphs and Ghibellines, emblematic of the factious spirit that has always characterized the city, ended with the victory of the Guelph party when Matilde di Canossa sided with Pope Gregory VII. Thus the Republic of Florence was founded: consuls supported by a city council and a parliament were to rule, giving rise to one of the first examples of democratic civic institutions in Europe. Florence’s supremacy reached its climax in the fifteenth century, thanks to the rise and consolidation of a new ruling class.The fifteenth century belonged to the Medici: thanks to this family Florence became the world capital of the arts, and under their rule painting, sculpture, literature and music flourished. The city assumed the role of a leading cultural center nobody could erase.After the death of the last member of the Medici, Maria Luisa, the "Elettrice Palatina", Florence passed on to the Lorena family. Later came a brief period under Napoleon and the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy. The violence of the contemporary era was visited on Florence many times: the bombings of World War II didn’t spare its historical center, and in 1966 a devastating flood covered the city and caused untold damage to its historical and artistic heritage. In 1993 an aggressive act of the Mafia sent a car bomb against the Pulci Tower, the seat of the Accademia dei Georgofili, destroying it and badly damaging the nearby Uffizi Gallery as well.
Situated at 322 mt. above sea level in the heart of Tuscany, this city built on hills still retains its typical medieval appearance, with narrow alleys and noble palaces filled with history. Siena is of Etruscan origin and later became a Roman colony called Sena Julia; its greatest importance was attained during the Middle Ages. The city reached its peak after becoming an autonomous "comune" in 1147, adopting an expansive policy towards the bordering areas. The confrontation with Florence became inevitable and the war, through many vicissitudes, lasted until 1555, when after a long siege Siena was defeated by Florence, thereby losing its autonomy and becoming part of the Granduchy of Tuscany, with whom it shared a destiny until the unification of Italy (1861). Events: Palio delle Contrade (2nd of July and 16th of August), Festa di S.Caterina (29th of April), Settimane Musicali at Siena (September).
Of Etruscan origin, Pisa became a faithful ally of Rome during the Punic Wars, when its port was reinforced to function as a strategic base for military operations in the Mediterranean. During the Middle Ages, Pisa became one of the powerful Città Marinare (Cities of the Sea) together with Amalfi, Venice and Genoa. It was a period of great commercial prosperity that started to inexorably decline in the thirteenth century: the dramatic Meloria battle in 1284 marked the defeat of Pisa at the hand of Doria’s Genoese fleet and in 1509 Pisa definitively surrendered to Florence. Medici rule in any case brought prosperity back to Pisa, as it, too, joined the Granduchy of Tuscany. The Piazza del Duomo, the so-called Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracles), with the famous leaning tower which is actually the bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, are sights that cannot be missed. The tower was proposed as one of the seven wonders of the world of modern times.
Surrounded by imposing walls, Lucca was created by the Etruscans, though the most significant ruins go back to Roman times. In 1200 A.D. Lucca became a flourishing trading post and reached its peak under Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli. At the end of the sixteenth century, with the aim of defending its precious freedom, the city built the third set of walls, that remains beautiful and intact to this day. After Napoleon’s brief sway, the city became a duchy under Maria Luisa di Borbone-Parma, and later passed to Leopoldo di Lorena, becoming part of Tuscany.
Arezzo is a city resting on the Tuscan hills at the bottom of the Tosco-Emiliano Apennines at 80 km from Florence. In the big square of the medieval centre of Arezzo every year the Giostra del Saracino takes place: it is a medieval tournament involving the four historical quarters of the city. Particularly important is the Palazzo delle Logge, designed by Giorgio Vasari, one of the most famous persons to come from Arezzo. The first Sunday of every month the Palazzo delle Logge houses the Antiques Fair. The Christian medieval architecture reaches one of his highest peaks with Pieve di Santa Maria and its stunning façade covered with statues by Antelami’s school. A careful and elaborate renovation restored the splendour of the “Leggenda della Croce”, the frescoes by Piero della Francesca inside the Basilica of S.Francesco. The church of S.Domenico possesses a beautiful crucifix by Cimabue.
It was one of the twelve cities making up the Etruscan confederation, and one can still admire pieces of its huge primitive walls slightly modified by the medieval walls. Except for a few outstanding Renaissance palaces, the prevalent style of the buildings in Cortona is medieval, which contributes to making the narrow steep alleys very suggestive. Given its high position (600 mt. above sea level), from every spot in Cortona one can enjoy a gorgeous view that encompasses the whole Val di Chiana. In the Museum of the Etruscan Academy, among many works of several epochs we find one of the most beautiful Annunciations by Beato Angelico. The medieval churches of San Francesco and San Domenico and the medieval Palazzo Casali with its Renaissance façade are quite remarkable. Outside of the city there is the Etruscan tomb called “Tanella di Pitagora” (II century B.C.), in Cannaia, and some Etruscan underground tombs dating back to the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. The “Via Crucis” by Severini (XX century) follows the mystic ramp uniting the center of the city with the sanctuary of Santa Margherita towering above, itself dominated by the powerful structure of the Fortress of Girifalco.
Orvieto, symbiotically connected to the stone it was built with, is an exceptional example of integration between nature and the work of men. Visiting this city is like walking through history, because one finds layered and concentrated traces of every era covering three millennia in a preconceived physical space. An ideal itinerary is evoked and suggested to contemporary tourists by the two statues of Bonifacio VIII at the farthest doors of the city, that is, Porta Soliana, later called Porta Rocca after they built the Albornoz fortress from which the pope entered the city, and Porta Maggiore which he used to leave it.