If you are just arriving in the grand old city of Firenze, I can promise you two things: you are about to fall in love, and you have much to learn! As a veteran of this crazy rollercoaster ride called study abroad, I would like to share some of the more helpful and interesting facts that took me four months to learn. Florence is a city that is rich in wonderful secrets and illusive quirks. No matter how small or strange a question might seem, everything in Florence has a story, so don't be afraid to ask! My aim is to fill you in on what I felt my guidebooks and orientation left out so that you can spend your next few months digging even deeper!
Outsmarting your tour guide
What's the deal with all the Pinocchios? It's no lie that Carlo Lorenzini, a native Florentine, wrote Pinocchio in 1880. He adapted the pen name C. Collodi, in honor of the town of Collodi where his mother was born, despite the popular misconception that he himself was from Collodi. He is buried at San Miniato al Monte Basilica in Florence.
I personally explained with great satisfaction to my visiting family members that the cupola of the Duomo designed by Brunelleschi was completed in 1436, while work on Giotto's bell tower began a century earlier, in 1344. What I did not know to explain was that duomo doesn't mean ‘dome', in reference to the cupola on the top of the church; it means ‘house of God', and every town's most important church is called the Duomo. The real name of the cathedral is Santa Maria del Fiore.
Don't let Dante's stony grimace make you feel like an outsider as you approach the church of Santa Croce. Dante was exiled in 1301 as a result of the power struggle between the Guelfi Bianchi, the White Guelphs, Dante's party, and the Guelfi Neri, the Black Guelphs. Although he participated in rebellions to try to regain entry into Florence, all ultimately proved unsuccessful and Dante spent the rest of his days in exile, during which time he wrote his famous masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. In 1315 a law was passed allowing exiled persons to pay a fine to regain their citizenship, but, showing his true Florentine roots, the stubborn poet preferred to remain an exile rather than pay to regain his rightful citizenship. Florentines eventually came to regret his banishment and attempted to recover his remains from the city of Ravenna where he died-to no avail. The keepers of his body were so determined to prevent the remains from being taken to the city that had treated him so poorly that they hid the them in the monastery walls. In 1829, an empty tomb was built in the Santa Croce Basilica.