From religious sites and traces of Roman antiquity, to Medieval wonders and Renaissance art, Florence has been able to cater to evolving tourist tastes and interests for centuries. While tourism has made its mark on the city – from graveyards for foreigners to tourist clogged streets, souvenir shops, and hotels – Florence has in turn made its mark on them, influencing its own reputation through what it chooses to share.
Guidebooks reflected not only how Florence was presented and viewed, but also their audience. The structure, contents, materials, and price of the book all give some clue as to the interest of the reader, their social class, and sometimes even their gender. Some guidebooks even hold traces of the thoughts or actions of their owners in the handwritten notes left behind in the margins, pages worn thin from frequent use, or even from cigarette burns on the page. The 19th century Florentine guidebooks mark the important changes that evolved modern tourism and travel into what we know today.
Guidebooks, as both practical compilations and symbolic representations of changing interests, have grown with the city – capturing the evolution of tourism, Florentine urban development, shifting interests in art and architecture, emerging trends in advertising, the rising influence of the middle-class, and discoveries in technology. Tourism has thrived in Florence for over 500 years and continues to be a defining aspect of the city – one that still leaves a mark in the pages of the handy guidebook.