Matt and Jian’s English class 3: Let’s go to Florence, in Tuscany, Italy

—Ninmen Hao!

Welcome to our third English language class. Last class we talked about some of Tuscany’s traditional food culture, and the traditional way of making and eating that food.

This week, we will read about some of the architecture and history of Florence, the capital of Tuscany, explain some of the word and phrases, and have some group questions. Then we will have a break (for 20 minutes). Then in part two, we will read a little about the some of the art of Florence and have some more group discussion. 

Part One: Florence, architecture (jiànzhú) and history (lìshǐ)

Tuscany is an Italian province (Yìdàlì shÄ›ng) famous (zhùmíng) for its history and culture (wénhuà). The region’s (dìqÅ« de) capital is the medieval town (zhōngshìjì chéngzhèn)  Firenze, which the English call Florence. Florence is renowned (wénmíng) for its beautiful  (piàoliang, hÄ›n mÄ›i) architecture, including the bridge — the “Ponte Vecchio ” —  which means the “old bridge” (lÇŽo qiáo). There has been a bridge crossing  (héngguò) at this narrow (xiázhÇŽi) part of the river Arno (Arno hé) since the time of the Roman Empire (LuómÇŽ dìguó). However (rán’ér), the bridge we can cross today is the result of reconstructions (chóngjiàn) that started in the 14th century. Florence: Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio and the river Arno in winter (dōngtiān)


The Ponte Vecchio is lined by a series of small shops (xiÇŽo shāngdiàn) which originally (bÄ›nlái)  included butchers (túfÅ«), fishmongers (yú fàn), and grocers (záhuò diàn). In the 16th century the ruling Medici family built a covered passage called the “Vasari Corridor” (zÇ’uláng), (after its architect [jiànzhú shÄ«] Georgio Vasari) over the shops so they could walk safely (Ä€nrán), and privately (sÄ«zì), from their residence (zhùzhái), a new villa (shù) on the southern bank (án’àn) of the Arno river called the Pitti Palace.

The route of the Vasari Corridor
view from vasari
What the Medicis saw (view from the Vasari Corridor)

The wealthy (fùyù) Medicis using the corridor complained (bàoyuàn) about the smell (wén) of the food shops and had them replaced(gēnghuàn) with Goldsmiths (Jīn jiàng) and Silversmiths (Yínjiàng) shops. To this day the bridge remains famous for the jewelry shops (zhūbǎo diàn) and their long history.

Elisa Piccini at her family Goldsmiths “Piccini Fratelli”. The second picture shows their workbench (gōngzuò tái) and the third picture shows their clay molds (niántÇ” táoyÄ›) for jewelry

At the end of the Ponte Vecchio is the “Piazza della Signoria”, (which meant the square [guÇŽngchÇŽng] of the ruling body [zhízhèng jÄ«guān]). The origin (láiyuán)  of the square goes back to the thirteenth century when the area was owned by the Uberti Family, at the time the most powerful (wÄ“iwÇ”) family in Florence.


The square is overlooked (hÅ«shì) by the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace, GÇ” Gōng), originally named the “Palazzo Popolo” (Palace of the People). The Palace, which was completed in 1322 gave the square a key role in the city’s political life (zhèngzhì shÄ“nghuó). From the fourteenth century, Florentines (Florence de rén) gathered (jùjí) here for important political occasions and rulers — such as the Medicis  — often addressed (jÄ«ngcháng jiÇŽnghuà) the citizens (shìmín) from the Palace.

At this time Europe was ruled by city-states (shì-zhōu) like Florence and Venice, not nation-states (mínzú guójiā) like Italy or France. The Medicis were very powerful (wēiwǔ), and Florence was very wealthy (fùyù).

Part Two: Some Art (yìshù) of Florencefer

Florence is also famous for its art (yìshù). If you walk around the “Piazza della Signoria” you can see some of the historical sculptures (xíng). statue of david1The most famous one is the statue (diāoxiàng) of David by Michelangelo, sculpted around 1501-1504.  The statue of David in the square is a copy (käpÄ“), and the original is in the “Galleria della Accademia” (the Accademia Gallery [guÇŽn]).  The statue represents (biÇŽoshì) the biblical hero (yÄ«ngxióng) David, famous for defeating (jíbài) the giant (jùrén) Goliath, an enemy (dírén) of King Saul. Because of the hero it represented, the statue came to symbolize (biāozhì) the defense (bÇŽowèi) of civil liberties (mínquán) of the Republic of Florence (1115-1532).

The Square is also overlooked (hūshì) by the Uffizi Gallery, whose art work (yìshù pǐn) display continues (jìxù) through the Vasari Corridor:


Maybe the most famous art work in the Uffizi is the Birth of Venus:

birth of venus
Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus  (1482-5) maybe the most famous  Renaissance painting in the Uffizi Gallery,

Caravaggio is another famous Renaissance painter. Some of his art works are housed in the Uffizi Gallery.

His oil painting (yóuhuà) emphasized darkness (hÄ“i’àn) and light (guāng). Many later artists were influenced (yǐngxiÇŽng) by his style (yàngshì), including the female artist (yìshùjiā) Artemesia Gentileschi.

Judith and Holofernes Caravaggio
Judith beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, 1599-1602

Some Questions about the capital of Tuscany

  1. Tell us about the city’s famous bridge.
  2. Tell us about the city’s famous square.
  3. Tell us about the city’s famous corridor.
  4. If you have been to this city, what did you see? What did you like or dislike?
  5. Have you been to another famous Italian or European (Ōuzhōu de) city? If so, can you tell us what you saw, and what you liked or disliked?
  6. How does Florence compare to Tianjin? What are the similarities? What is different? What do you like?

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