Florence was an important centre of medieval culture and trade, and it is also considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Hence it is home to some of the best Renaissance art and architecture in Italy. It is quite a compact city and easily explored on foot. Most of the interesting sights are within a 3 square kilometre radius.
Florence was the seat of the powerful Medici family. They controlled vast wealth and also political power, but they were also great patrons of the arts. They commissioned works from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and other prominent artists and musicians of the time. A lot of these works are now housed in the Uffizi Gallery and the Galeria dell'Accademia - 2 of the most important museums in Europe.
Piazza della Signoria - the point of origin of Florence, is still the social and political centre of the City. It is not a very big square, but is surrounded by several impressive and imposing buildings - especially the Palazzo Vecchio with its crenellated tower.
Pallazo Vecchio was once the home and office of the Signoria - the ruler of the city who was elected from among the most powerful families of the time.