Running circles around Florence

If you were a bird and could fly over the city of Florence, you would notice that there is a broad roadway that, in conjunction with the Arno river, encircles it.  This system of 4 to 6 lane highways are known as the Viali di Circonvallazione and it was constructed following the medieval walls that formerly encircled Florence.

Pretending you are a bird, this is what you see as you fly high over the city. Look for the yellow lines that surround the city with the Arno as the southern border.

 

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It might be easier to see it here:

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Starting in 1865, the medieval walls were demolished in an attempt to modernize and make Florence look more like other European capitals (especially Paris). Giuseppe Poggi designed an extensive urban plan for the city which was to create a Florence that was at same time more grand and more functional.

Many large tree-lined avenues, surrounding the historic center, were constructed in emulation of the grand boulevards of Paris.

When Poggi et al tore down the medieval walls, they fortunately spared almost all of the ancient gates to the city.  Large piazze were constructed near many of these gates, from which sprang wider and straighter roads.  Many residential palazzi were built to house the federal bourgeoisie that ran the newly united country.  I just happen to live on one of these leafy avenues now, and I send a silent but heartfelt thank you to Poggi up in heaven with Michelangelo and the rest of the artists I love.

A tramway was planned for Florence in 1873.  The trams made a circular route along Florence’s ring roads and provided transportation for the public. Line 19, for example, ran from Piazza dei Guidici near the Uffizi all the way along the Lungarni and ending at Piazza Vittorio Veneto on the east end of the Cascine.  This Google map will show you how the line ran along the Arno.

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Florence’s tram system was in operation until 1958.

Interestingly enough, Florence is in the midst of building a new electric tram system and all of us residents can’t wait until it is done and the construction sites are finally gone.

 

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