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Access Florence & Venice 8e
Italy has a long history of conflicts—between city-states, between noble families, and, in recent times, between political parties. In fact, the nation was unified only about 140 years ago. Rivalry could be said to be a defining characteristic of the country, responsible for molding Florence and Venice into two remarkably individual cities, and their respective regions of Tuscany and the Veneto perhaps even more so.
Shaping the character of Florence is its magnificent artistic heritage, of which the city is justly proud. It was here, after all, that Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Masaccio shook off the weight of the Middle Ages and started the Italian Renaissance. During the Renaissance the city also produced some of the greatest writers, philosophers, and scientists since the ancient Greeks; Dante, Machiavelli, and Leonardo da Vinci all helped define the Florentine character. But the power of Florence was not limited to its artists and thinkers; under Medici rule the city was a force to be reckoned with—not just in Italy but throughout Europe as well.
Venice also influenced events in Europe, but its eminence derived more from its mastery of eastern trade routes than from the power of any one family. Although its luster mayhave faded some since it held the title "Queen of the Adriatic," this radiant city remains one of the world's most tempting tourist destinations. The vast wealth of its once-powerful court is still here, preserved in the palaces lining the Canal Grande (Grand Canal) and in the great achievements of its master artists—Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto. Venice is still a city of merchants, from purveyors of designer clothing to hawkers of tacky souvenirs—the inheritors of a tradition that goes back to a time when the city brought Europe the sumptuous silks and exotic spices of the Far East.
Those who are weary of the sameness of Western mall culture can find refuge in these two cities, still more notable for their differences than for their similarities. Between them, Florence and Venice hold some of Italy's—and the world's—most famous works of art and architecture, alongside some of its finest hotels and restaurants. The tourist who sees both the lucid Renaissance grace of Florence and the incredible Byzantine lightness of Venice will come to love the crucible of human achievement known as Italy.
The approach to either city gives visual evidence of the power and prestige surrounding their rise to prominence. The Tuscan countryside is studded with medieval hilltop towns that have lost little of their original atmosphere, and with Renaissance palaces filled with art influenced by Florentine maestros. The hillsides and canals of the Veneto sit replete with municipalities made grand and gorgeous through their connection to the Venetian Republic. From majestic walled cities with their thrusting images of military strength to luxurious Palladian villas evoking the ease and elegance of triumph, the region offers a journey through Venice's historic fortunes.
Excerpted from Access Florence & Venice 8e by Richard Saul Wurman Copyright © 2007 by Richard Saul Wurman. Excerpted by permission.
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