Valentine’s Day is a wonderful time to be in Florence, which must be one of the most romantic cities in the world. Over the centuries these historic palaces and alleyways have seen generations of hopeless romantics, star-crossed lovers, secret affairs and vows of eternal love.
The climax of one such love story took place here, on the Ponte Vecchio. A young Florentine nobleman in the 1200s, a handsome young man called Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti, was murdered here as he rode by on a white horse. He had promised to marry a girl from the house of Amidei, but, having for unknown reasons abandoned her at the alter, was killed in revenge.
This church is known as the church of Dante, as it was supposedly here that Dante Alighieri met for the first time and fell in love with his beloved Beatrice Portinari. Her family’s tombs are inside the church. Officially known as the church of Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, it can be found on Via Santa Margherita.
The English poets, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barret Browning, escaped to Florence after their secret marriage in London in 1846, and lived here in Florence for most of the rest of their married life. Her father had opposed their marriage so strongly that they had chosen to flee the country rather than stay to face his wrath. They lived here, in Casa Guidi, in Piazza di San Felice, and Elizabeth’s tomb can be found in Florence’s English Cemetery in Piazza Donatello.
Another romantic story focuses on the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio who lived here in Settignano, on a beautiful hill above Florence, between 1989 and 1909. Here he fell in love with the actress Eleonora Duse, and wrote ‘Il Fuoco’, the story of their passionate relationship.
The most famous love story in Florence is that of Francesco I dei Medici and Bianca Cappello. Unhappily married to a Florentine, the Venetian Bianca and the son of the grandduke, who was also married, fell madly in love, conducting their affair here in Palazzo del Mondragone, and when both of their spouses died they were finally able to marry.