Florence, art city or art work?
The historic centre of Florence contains such a wealth of masterpieces that it is difficult to separate the city from its art works. In 1982 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the motivation being that it encapsulates the whole history of the city, from the ‘Roman quadrilateral’ in the Piazza della Repubblica area to the narrow streets of the medieval city, the splendours of the 16th-century Pitti Palace and the changes wrought at the time when Florence was capital of Italy.
The density of such a fabulously rich legacy – historic and artistic but also scientific and naturalistic – in a small, well-defined space makes Florence city centre quite unique, not only in the eyes of the curious visitor but also in those of scholars and local people. With its extraordinarily beautiful churches, its museums and art collections, historic gardens, piazzas, streets and ancient palaces, Florence can justifiably be defined as an “open-air museum” – not simply a container for art works but a work of art in its own right.
However, to fully appreciate the artistic richness of Florence, one must also look beyond the city centre: the area “outside the walls” and the province as a whole also has an incredible legacy; the Medici and various affluent merchant families left many traces of their presence there over the centuries, and there is an abundance of religious art. Finally, it should be noted that the Polo Museale Fiorentino (a network of twenty city museums, ranging from the Uffizi to the smallest, least-known one) comprises the greatest concentration of art works in Italy and one of the largest in the world.