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Shadows of Florence
Florence, City of (1425)

Florence, City State of (1425)
Population: 250,000

Government: Republic (Rule by representatives from Noble Houses, Wealthiest Merchant and Banking Families, and Guilds)
The government is fractious and byzantine in nature. Rule of the city resides in the Signoria, a body comprised of 54 representatives, each from a single municipal faction (12 from the wealthiest merchant and banking families, 21 from traditional Noble Houses, and 21 from major guilds). From among these 54 representatives, nine are chosen by lot every two months, and these comprise the actual ruling council which rules by vote, the other 45 serving in an advisory capacity. Extraordinary levels of corruption exist, however, and the lot drawing is often rigged in the favor of the wealthiest. While a republic in theory, the wealthiest families rule Florence in actuality.

There is a high level of rivalry between these various factions, especially between the older Noble Houses who see their power waning and the younger mercantile class that seems bent on supplanting them. Currently the most powerful faction in the city is the Medici Family run by its patriarch Colisimo De Medici.

Florentine politics thus typically involves bribery, thuggery, and often outright assassination. Each of the power factions maintains its own small militia of armed retainers used to protect and advance their own interests.

Parallel in power to the Signoria, of course, is the Church of Deum Lumine. In the city, the Archbishop of Florence (His Excellency, Amerigo Corsini), rules supreme and answers only to the Holy Pontiff (His Holiness, Pope Martin V) in Rome. While devoted to spiritual matters in theory, the church is deeply embroiled in secular politics and commerce, and finds itself riven with corruption.

Physical Environment: The city of Florence is crowded and dirty, but very colorful, a place of labyrinthine streets and alleys. It isn’t really organized or zoned into clear districts as say a modern city (ie. a section for the wealthy, a slum, a commercial center). Rather, the city stands as a sprawling heterogeneous jumble with the palaces of the powerful (Palazzos) scattered equally throughout as are markets, piazzas, tradesman’s workshops, taverns, brothels, tenements, churches, and hovels.

The only thing approaching real organizational units of urban geography in Florence are the wealthy noble or merchant families which tend to control the neighborhoods around their palazzos.
The city center, when viewed from a distance, appears as a dense block of masonry; with narrow streets and alleys windings chaotically through it. In many places buildings are braced by archways over the streets which have, in turn, been used as the construction for more structures above. Florence is also a city of towers, many towers, which range in height from five to ten stories.

Above all, Florence is a city of streets. Her thoroughfares, streets, and alleys bustle continuously with energetic throngs of people going about their daily routines. Over there you may see a craftsman hurrying to his workshop, or spot elderly widows wending their way through the crowd to visit nieces sequestered at a convent. Gangs of rowdy boys taunt each other, posturing for the benefit of young female spectators peering down and giggling from windows three stories overhead. Fisherman haul their morning catch from the Arno, while merchants and bankers openly conducted business, making deals as they amble along the city’s avenues. The streets are also the scene of numerous processionals. Weddings, funerals, in short almost every significant life event is celebrated by family and friends with processionals that move through the streets accompanied by horns, flutes and drums. And of course there are processionals to celebrate each of the numerous Saints’ Day celebrations and carnivals that make up Florentine public life.

Florentine street life can also be violent; rivalries and vendettas often resolving themselves with public duels and brawls in the streets. In short, Florence’s streets are always crowded, colorful, smelly, and wonderful.

Interestingly, below Florence lies an extensive subterranean world of sewers, ancient crypts, and secret passages. Some of these are known and are used extensively by the powerful thieves guilds and the various heretical mystery cults that secretly worship in defiance of the orthodox church. But many more are forgotten and waiting to be discovered.

Below are some images of Florence's streets and alleys. While there are obviously modern elements in some of these photographs, they are merely meant to give a sense of the physical environment of the city and evoke the atmosphere of the campaign.

Surrounding Geography:
Florence lies in the region of Tuscany, a hilly environment with a relatively mild climate. In fact, only 8% of Tuscany is flatland, the rest being comprised of hills and mountains. The city lies in the Arno River valley, the Apennines to the north and the Chianti Mountains to the south. It has grown up at a crossroads. 63 miles to the north (1.5 days ride), over the Futa Pass (elev. 3,000’) through the rugged Apennine Mountains lies Bologna. Pisa, on the Ligurian coast, lies some 50 miles to the west down the Arno River. And 164 miles to the south (4 days ride) lies the holy city of Rome, but 45 miles along this same road lies Florence’s historic rival, Siena.

Roughly speaking, the land in a 15 mile radius around Florence is cultivated and devoted to producing livestock and agriculture to feed the gigantic city. This region spreads down the Arno River valley and upwards onto the slopes to the north and south contains numerous peasant villages and hamlets dotting the hilltops, along with noble villas and monastic communities.

Beyond this sphere of influence, however the roads can be dangerous and travelers are advised to go armed or with an armed retinue as bandits and goblin tribes do prey upon the vulnerable especially in the mountains.
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This is going to be such a cool (and different) campaign locale. As much as I'm enjoying my campaign, I can't wait to start this one!