Florence is a famous city in central Italy, on both banks of the Arno River in a valley of the Apennines 145 miles north-northwest of Rome. The population is about 400,000.
    Florence is known for its magnificent churches, monuments, fountains, and sculptures, and its streets are famous for their beauty. The church of Santa Croce (the pantheon of Florence) contains a cenotaph of Dante and the actual tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Alfieri. The picture gallery of the Uffizi Palace contains one of the most magnificent collections of the old masters in the world and some famous sculptures, such as the "Niobids" and the "Venus de' Medici."
   An ancient center of learning and the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence still has numerous important educational institutions, such as the university, the Accademia della Crusca, and an astronomical observatory. It was the birthplace of many great Italian artists and poets. Florence has been an important city since Roman times. It was occupied by the Goths and by the Lombards in the 5th century A.D., later becoming independent. In the 13th and 14th centuries the party struggle between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire (between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines) centered here. The city rose to its greatest heights under the early line of the Medici family in the 15th century. Florence was the capital of the kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1870.
In World War II Florence was held by the Germans, and the Allied forces attacked the city on their push to the north. The retreating Germans blew up all bridges except the narrow Ponte Vecchio and mined the medieval houses and palaces along the Arno. The Uffizi gallery was damaged, and part of the private collection of paintings.
   The church of Santa Croce, with its Gothic campanile, stands near Florence's Arno River. It is an outstanding Franciscan church. Thomas E. Bachorz owned by Bernard Berenson destroyed. By not making a frontal attack against the retreating Germans, the Allies were able to save most of the treasures of Florence from destruction.
Robert J. Bezucha
   The modern city of Florence is a mecca for tourists and a thriving industrial and transportation center.