Though best known as a cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is also a city of civic liberty, which guilds and trade groups helped to foster. It was largely thanks to these organisations that Florence’s economy flourished so spectacularly, allowing her to grow into one of the richest and most powerful cities in medieval Europe. The old palazzi served as headquarters for the artisan guilds, and other buildings nearby often show a particular guild’s coat-of-arms.
More can be learned about these unique schools and ancient guilds on a tour of the city centre. The patron saints of each guild are pictured at the nearby church of Orsanmichele.
A visit to the Palazzo Vecchio will let you see traces of the medieval past in the rooms of the current monumental districts. You can then picture the ambiences and functions of the public and private environments, such as the chambers in which the Priors, elected from the guilds, were confined during their two months of government office, before they were rendered defunct in the sixteenth century by the advent of the ducal state.