Florence, formally called "Firenze" (pronounced "Fear enn zay"), is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the Metropolitan City of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,083 inhabitants (as at 2013), expanding to over 1,520,000 in the metropolitan area.
The Etruscans initially formed the small settlement of Fiesole (Faesulae in Latin) in 200 BC, which was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 80 BC. The present city of Florence was established by Julius Caesar in 59 BC as a settlement for his veteran soldiers and was named originally Fluentia, owing to the fact that it was built between two rivers, which was later changed to Florentia ("flowering"). It was built in the style of an army camp with the main streets, the cardo and the decumanus, intersecting at the present Piazza della Repubblica. Situated along the Via Cassia, the main route between Rome and the north, and within the fertile valley of the Arno, the settlement quickly became an important commercial centre.
Starting from the late Middle Ages, Florentine money -in the form of the gold florin- financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon and Hungary. Florentine bankers financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War. They similarly financed the papacy, including the construction of their provisional capital of Avignon and, after their return to Rome, the reconstruction and Renaissance embellishment of Rome.
Florence was home to the Medici, one of European history's most important noble families. Lorenzo de' Medici was considered a political and cultural mastermind of Italy in the late 15th century. Two members of the family were popes in the early 16th century: Leo X and Clement VII. Catherine de Medici married king Henry II of France and, after his death in 1559, reigned as regent in France. Marie de' Medici married Henry IV of France and gave birth to the future king Louis XIII.
From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy. The Florentine dialect forms the base of Standard Italian and it became the language of culture throughout Italy.
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