Florence is universally recognized as the birthplace of the Renaissance, yet many people are unaware that the city has a pre-Renaissance past of great cultural importance. This period is defined by buildings constructed more than a century earlier than those of Brunelleschi, Alberti and Michelangelo. You can appreciate the historical development of the city by exploring the dwellings of a small area beginning in the piazza dei Davanzati and extending to via de’ Tornabuoni, spanning about 500 meters and 500 years. What better way to celebrate the reopening of culture in Florence than a walk through history?
In the 12th century, about 100 towers filled the center of town. They were erected by clans with blood or political affiliation into dwelling-connected towers called società delle torri (tower consortia). An excellent example known as the Torre dei Foresi can be found on the corner of piazza dei Davanzati and via Porta Rossa. The tower is made of stone in a square plan and rises up about six floors (some towers reportedly rose to the height of the bell tower of Florence). The imposing tower is heavily rusticated, with little fenestration, and is punctuated by small square openings that were used for scaffolding and supports for wooden balconies or awnings. The Foresi Tower exemplifies Florence during a precarious time when clans used their towers for security and to express their power.