After looking for the common between our city of Plovdiv and the cities of Rome and Thessaloniki, today the team of Lost in Plovdiv will point to the similarities with Florence. And they are not one and two - the cities are the heart of two Renaissances - the Italian Renaissance and the Bulgarian Revival and have a lot in common in history, economic development, and even geography.
The river and the hills
The regions in which the two cities are located are quite different. Trakia is flat and the Plovdiv hills stand out for miles, while Florence is located in Tuscany, which is surrounded by hills. Both regions, however, are fertile, and over the years have contributed to the economic development of the cities.
The cities themselves are similar. Maritsa flows through Plovdiv, and the Arno River - through Florence. Both rivers bring a lot of benefits to the city as an important transport corridor, but in some moments they have also caused misfortunes. The Maritsa River has overflowed many times over the centuries, with the last memorable flood in 1957, demolishing bridges and flooding many houses in Karshiyaka. The 1966 flood of Arno is famous for the floods of many works of art in Florence.
Besides rivers, the cities also have heights. The Florentine version of the Plovdiv hills is in the neighborhood on the other side of the river. Just like Plovdiv's Karshiyaka ("the other shore"), the Florentine neighborhood’s name is also related with the water corridor - Oltarno, or "beyond Arno". Beyond the river begin the steep hills of Tuscany, where there are both medieval churches and Renaissance castles and huge Baroque gardens.
The Italian Renaissance and the Bulgarian Revival
The two renaissances - the Italian and the Bulgarian - are another significant resemblance between the two cities. In the XV century, because of a number of circumstances, Florence became rich economic and cultural center, which according to many historians was the beginning of Italian Renaissance culture, which will extend over almost the entire Apennine Peninsula. The engine of this revival were many rich families who were competing to finance churches and to build beautiful castles in which to place many magnificent murals or paintings. Some were bankers, others were traders of, for example, various fabrics.
Some of the wealthy families of Plovdiv in the 19th century were also dealing with fabrics. The context, of course, is quite different. But there are similarities - these wealthy families invested in the construction of churches and their decoration by the best artists of the period. The rich also donated funds to schools, such as Chalakovtsi's attempt to invite Neofit Rilski to head a Bulgarian School. Similarly, Florentine rich people patronized the greatest thinkers of the Italian Renaissance, such as Marsilio Ficino or Angelo Poliziano.
In Plovdiv, the race for decorating churches and donations was not on an individual or family level, but at a national one. The Bulgarian elite donated many funds for the construction of churches in which to read in Bulgarian.
There is also a curious coincidence in the two "bombings" targeting some of the city's rich. In 1478, the competitors of the highly influential family of the Medici, the Pazzi family, organized a conspiracy to kill Lorenzo il Magnifico. The plot, however, failed and only his younger brother, Giuliano, was killed.
In the same way, Dimitar Gyumyushgerdan fell victim to his older and more influential brother in 1856. Intimidated by the activities of the rich Mihalaky Gyumyushgerdan, a group of Rhodopians ordered his removal, but the killer mistakenly killed Dimitar from the influential family, who were the richest citizens of Plovdiv in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Art, culture and religious temples
Revival history can be traced back to the development of art and culture. We’re talking about trying to attract Neofit Rilski to Plovdiv - that remained unsuccessful, but Chalakovtsi and the other rich Bulgarians managed to create the first Bulgarian high school - Men's High School Cyril and Methodius.
In Florence, in the 15th century, Florence Platonic Academy was working. The Medici succeeded in creating an art school where young Michelangelo, for example, studied.
The dream of Zahari Zograf and his nephew Stanislav Dospevski was to establish a School of drawing in Plovdiv. However, their desire remained unrealized. But they were part of a number of artists, part of the Revival art, center of which was Plovdiv.
Center of the Italian Renaissance in arts was Florence. There was a number of famous artists and sculptors, among them the most famous are Botticelli, Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo. Plovdiv can’t brag about great success in sculpture, but the achievements in painting are extremely valuable. The painted by Zahari Zograf, Dimitar Zograf, Nikola Obrazopisov, Stanislav Dospevski and other masters icons and murals - both in Plovdiv and in the region, for example in the Bachkovo Monastery, are among the greatest examples of Revival art. And like the Florentine masters, they were patronized by the rich in the city and even painted the images of those rich in frescoes.
A curious coincidence among the religious temples is the place of the central churches in both cities. Florence's Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was built on the older Santa Reparata, a church from the Middle Ages. It is literally under the Florentine temple known for its dome. The main Catholic church of Plovdiv was also built in the immediate vicinity of the Christian center of the medieval city. St. Ludwig is only a few meters away from the so-called. The Great Basilica in Plovdiv, whose mosaics remind of the mosaics in the Florentine Santa Reparata.
The similarities between today's cities
Plovdiv and Florence resemble each other not only in history but also today. Both cities are rich in cultural and historical heritage, which can meet you everywhere. Of course, Florence is a world-famous center with remarkable examples that attract millions of tourists each year. Plovdiv can also brag about valuable finds, but for the moment the tourist flow is much more modest compared to Florence.
However, the life of the two cities is very similar. The climate is similar and people love public spaces - gathering in outdoor cafes or simply in gardens or city squares. Florence's historic bridge, Ponte Vecchio, is half-covered but rich in shops. Just like the historic bridge of Plovdiv - the pedestrian, which however is quite changed today and completely covered. But on both bridges, you can meet many merchants, albeit very different from each other.
The city center is pedestrian-friendly, the streets themselves are narrow and curved. You will often see Florentines moving on bicycles. Well, unlike in Plovdiv, there is no ban in Florence on pedestrian areas, and despite the millions of tourists around, for example, Santa Maria del Fiore, children, businesspeople, retirees ride their bicycles in pedestrian areas - unlike the banned for bikers the Main street and some of the parks in Plovdiv.
But the overall feeling in the two cities is very similar - especially in the living history that is still in the everyday life of the people, and in the tranquility of the locals who like to fill the public spaces and the city cafes at every possible moment of the day.