By Ela Vasilescu – Writer –
Florence, a city of wonders, of art, of history. Many dream to walk its narrow streets, to experience its beauty and sometimes its flaws. It is said that the city calls its visitors back to its gates and finally, after a few visits, after playing a charming game with their eyes, taste buds and feelings, it allures them to build a home inside its walls. But the city also has its secrets, known by few, craved to be known by many. Here are ten of Florence’s miracles that build its mysterious character eve more.
During the World War II, Florence was severely damaged by the Germans, all its bridges destroyed. All except for one: Ponte Vecchio. Hitler was persuaded not to blow up the bridge due to its beauty and historical value.
Many of us know who Florence Nightingale was: an incredible nurse, a social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. What few know is that Nightingale was named after the city she was born in.
One of the symbols of Florence is the Marzocco, a seated lion with the emblem of Florence resting on its paw. The name derives from Mars, which was the very first symbol of Florentia, later replaced by the lion. One little-known curiosity is that live lions were once kept in cages behind Palazzo Comunale, in the street that is still known as Via dei Leoni today.
Tuscany was the first region to adopt pavements. In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe with paved streets.
In 1817, French author Henri Stendhal staggered around the streets of Florence emotionally overwhelmed at the aesthetic beauty of the city. His symptoms of dizziness, palpitations and panic attacks on seeing so many exquisite works of art gave rise to the condition, medically diagnosed as recently as 1982, known as Stendhalismo.
Calcio storico, a traditional sport regarded as an ancestor of soccer, dates back from the Middle Ages and is still played yearly in Piazza Santa Croce. This spectacular sport was reserved for rich aristocrats who played every night between Epiphany and Lent.
The Grand Duke of Tuscany was the first state to abolish capital punishment in November 1786.
Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral also known as the Duomo took 140 years to be built. Its conical roof was crowned with a gilt copper ball and cross, containing holy relics, by Verrocchio in 1469. In 1600 the copper ball was struck by lightning and fell down. It was replaced two years later with a larger one.
The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
According to UNESCO, almost a third of the world’s art treasures reside in Florence.