Study Abroad in Florence

About Florence

Official Language: Italian
Population: 400,000 in city/900,000 greater area
Square Mileage: 3,514 sq km (1,357 sq. miles)
Currency: Euro (Italy is a member of the European Union)
Symbol: €
Climate: Temperate climate – sunny and dry much of the year
Winter – damp and cold
Spring – dry and warm
Summer – dry and hot
Fall – mild and dry
Nickname: “Athens of the Middle Ages” and “City of the Lilies”

Florence, Italy, has been an international center for the visual and literary arts for over a thousand years. So it isn’t surprising that two of England’s most celebrated 19th century poets, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, settled in Florence after their legendary romantic elopement. Initially attracted by the mild climate, they soon found that the weather was only one of the city’s many attractions. Writing home to her family in 1847, Elizabeth exclaimed, “This Florence is unspeakably beautiful.” And it still is.

Florence lies on the Arno River surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges—the Chianti to the south and the Apennines to the north. Founded in 52 B.C. by retiring legionnaires from Julius Caesar’s army, the center of town still reflects a chessboard pattern typical of Roman army camps. But the architecture that dominates Florence today began a thousand years later during the Golden Age of Florentine art, when the spirituality of the Middle Ages gave way to the intellectual awakening of the Renaissance.

During the Renaissance the Medicis and other powerful political rulers sponsored the work of the finest architects, designers, sculptors, painters, and goldsmiths to turn Florence’s churches, public spaces, and the Medicis’ own palaces into priceless treasures. The city also gave birth to the literature of Dante and Boccaccio, the world-changing philosophies and theories of Machiavelli and Galileo, and the magnificent buildings of Brunelleschi and Cambio. As a result, Florence is home to half of Italy’s greatest works of art, an astounding fact when you consider that Italy claims 60 percent of the world’s most beloved masterpieces!

Touring San Marco, the Uffizi Museum, the Pitti Palace and the city’s other famous landmarks, you’ll actually find that the walls are covered with the paintings of Botticelli, DaVinci, Raphael, Giotto, Fra Angelico, Fra Lippi Lippo and dozens of other old masters. Breath-taking sculptures are everywhere as well, including Michangelo’s David, Donnatello’s The Annunciation, and Cellini’s Perseus Holding the Head of Medusa.

But the glories of the past are just the beginning of Florence’s wonders. The city is teeming with the energy, innovation, and excitement of a new generation of artists setting their own gold standard for tomorrow. Marvel at their work in jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge where goldsmiths have offered their wares since the 14th century. Hear musicians play melodies old and new in dozens of open air cafés as you sip rum-laced Mojitos during the free concert; bargain with craftsmen for their wood carvings, paintings, stationery, and leather goods at the San Lorenzo Central Market. And, of course, you’ll want to visit the outlet shops of designers like Gucci, Prada, Fendi, and Armani as well as their upscale showrooms on the Via dei Tornabuoni.

Whatever you do in Florence, your own adventures will surely give you a new appreciation of Robert Browning’s sentiments when he wrote, “Open my heart and you will see, Graved inside of it, ‘Italy.’”
American InterContinental University Study Abroad Programs
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