|Florence lies on the Arno River and it is known for its history and its importance in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially for its art and architecture. A centre of medieval European trade and finance, the city is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and was long ruled by the Medici family. In fact, the city has been called the Athens of the Middle Ages. Just here, in the XV century, were put the basis to flourish again the Italian art and culture: thanks to writers like Dante, Petrarca and Machiavelli, the Italian language was born and thanks to the operas of artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi and many others, it is become one of the artistic capital of the world. The "Historic Centre of Florence" was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1982.
Florence's museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. The most popular and important sites in Florence include the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Uffizi, the Bargello, and the . The churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are veritable art galleries, and the library of San Lorenzo is a magnificent exhibition of Michelangelo's architectural genius.