Ah, Florence – sublime birthplace of the Renaissance, its historic center full to bursting with elegant squares, imposing palaces, magnificent churches, and museums with such an abundance of riches it could make an art lover weep for joy. The list of illustrious names connected with this city is mind-boggling: Botticelli, Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo. Other colorful and fascinating characters were of dubious reputation: Machiavelli, and the religious extremist Savonarola, with his bonfire of the vanities. For many years the city was ruled by the powerful Medici family, patrons of the arts and bankers to the papacy, whose line included six kings and two popes.
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