Fun Facts: Florence
Where in the world is Florence? Florence is the capital of the region of Tuscany in central Italy.
Historic fact. Nearly a third (let me repeat: A THIRD!!!) of the world’s art treasures reside in Florence.
Fiorentino. The people of Florence are called Florentines, or Fiorentino in Italian.
Paving the way. In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe with paved streets.
Architectural wonder. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (or, the Duomo di Firenze) took approximately 140 years to build. It is the 3rd largest in the WORLD (behind St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s in London).
Four quarters. The city of Florence is traditionally divided into four quarters, named after the most important churches—Santa Maria Novella, San Giovanni, Santa Croce, and Santo Spirito.
Ponte Vecchio. Florence was severely damaged during World War II by the Germans who blew up all its bridges except the Ponte Vecchio. Allegedly Hitler declared it too beautiful to destroy.
The Marzocco. The heraldic lion—also known as the Marzocco lion—holds a protective paw over a red lily, the symbol of the city. The most famous Marzocco is in Piazza della Signoria, but you can spot them throughout the city (including on every cornerstone of the Ponte Vecchio).
Pane toscano. Tuscan bread is traditionally made without salt, and it’s been this way since the 12th century. According to popular legend, Florence and Pisa were at war and when the Pisans blocked shipments of salt, the Florentines simply did without.
Where’s the beef? A famous Florentine speciality is the bistecca alla Fiorentina, a Porterhouse steak, grilled rare over a wood fire. The dish is so typical that if you ask for a fiorentina in a restaurant in Italy, without saying more, this is what you will be served. The recipe is exquisitely simple, but in Italy, a true bistecca alla fiorentina is made with Chianina beef, the largest and one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world.
Fun fact: How do the Italians really eat pasta? The correct technique involves piercing some pasta near the edge of the bowl, not in the center but at the twelve o'clock position, then twirling the pasta around the fork against the rim of the bowl. (No spoon!)