It is abundantly clear how Leonardo Bruni feels about the city of Florence. In Panegyric to the City of Florence, he expresses nothing but the highest praise for the city. Every aspect of Florence is backed by a clear reason why it is the best, and there is no other city in the world that can compare. According to Bruni, Florence has extraordinary beauty, architecture, geography, history, government, and people. This, of course, is only one persons opinion. In the diaries of Buonaccorso Pitti and Gregorio Dati, they too give their opinions on the city of Florence. In general, they do not seem to give Florence the same recognition and praise that Bruni gives.
Bruni explains that Florence is a beautiful city, one which cannot even be described in words. He notes that Florence is not ostentatious, but rather, it is elegant in its moderation (23b). The city is physically beautiful, but it also possesses the clearest and purist speech (42a). The study of literature in Florence grows in full vigor, Bruni points out. Pitti indirectly shows that he agrees with the art of literature by writing a sonnet in his diary (Pitti 71). Everything from the buildings to the land it sits on, Florence is claimed by Bruni to be the most gorgeous city in the world. The city is also amazingly clean (24a). Everywhere you go, Bruni is positive that you will find nothing disgusting to the eye (24a). However, according to Pitti, his family had to leave the city because they had taken refuge from the plague then raging in Florence (Pitti 64). Pitti again mentions how he and his family had to leave because of the plague in 1411 (Pitti 87). Dati also states that there was a plague in the year 1411 (Dati 129). In addition, Pitti recalls a time when citizens left the city to avoid the pestilence (Pitti 102). Neither the plague, nor the pestilence is mentioned by Bruni. To him, Florences cleanliness, its attractive buildings, its good climate, and its large population all work towards making this the worlds most beautiful city (24a).
The architecture in Florence is very distinguished according to Bruni (24b). He is in awe of its spacious and ornate buildings (24b). Not only are the everyday buildings throughout Florence a spectacle, but there is nothing more magnificent than the churches (25a). Sacred buildings are decorated appropriately, including the tombs as well (25a). Even the homes of the private citizens are designed, built, and decorated for luxury, size, respectability, and especially for magnificence (25a). The unparalleled architecture in Florence is not only limited to one part of the city, but it is diffused throughout the whole city (25b). Florence is surrounded by a wall (23b); but once outside the fortress, there are country houses even more spacious than those found in Florence (25b). These homes have the luxury of being comfortable and pleasant (25b). Bruni believes that anyone would be amazed when at a distance he sees from the top of a mountain the massive city, beautiful and splendid, surrounded by many country houses (26a). He also points out that in the center of Florence is a tall and handsome palace of remarkable workmanship (25b). This palace stands out above the private houses, and it dominates all of the buildings around it (25b). Bruni restates that the awe invoking architecture can be seen in the grandeur of its buildings, its splendor and magnificence, the lofty towers, the marble churches, the domes of the basilicas, the splendid palaces, the turreted walls, and the numerous villas (26b). Bruni cannot expresses his love for Florences architecture enough.
Bruni insists that the geography of Florence is unlike any other. It is neither in the high mountains, nor in the vast plains; it lies midway between the dangerous extremes (23b). Bruni acknowledges the wonderful climate Florence possesses because of this. It causes people to never want to leave due to the fact that wherever they go they will meet either a greater cold or a hotter sun (23b). This is interesting considering that Pitti was very frequently traveling to other cities. Dati traveled somewhat as well. Geographically, a river also runs through the middle of Florence, yet it never disturbs the streets that cross the city (24b). In addition, Florence has an abundance of high quality crops (27b). The city is fortunate enough to be independent of outside help either for necessities or even luxuries (27b). Florence is not on the water, however Bruni believes this to be a good asset. There are a great many inconveniences that beset seaports and dangers that they must undergo, Bruni notes. He shows that even land armies can arrive unexpectedly, therefore fleets by way of sea would be even more dangerous (28a). He also looks back on past cities that met their demise due to being set on the sea (28a). It might be useful for buying and selling products (27b); but Florence is distant enough from the coast to be entirely free from all the difficulties that proximity to the sea carries with it, yet near enough to seaports so that it is not at all deprived of the use of the sea (28b). All in all, Florences geographic location is seen as an amazing asset by Bruni, and he truly believes that this is one of the qualities that makes Florence the greatest city in the world.
The history of Florence proves to be full of many wars, and it has been victorious over some very powerful enemies (26a). The city mustered a great number of troops and immense resources, not to mention the vast amount of money needed for the war (26a-26b). However, the men of Florence especially enjoy perfect freedom and are the greatest enemies of tyrants (30b). From its very founding Florence conceived such a hatred for the destroyers of the Roman state and underminers of the Roman Republic that this hatred still exists today (30b). Bruni believes this hatred is due to the well-deserved respect given to the ancient fatherland, seeing as the struggle against tyranny was begun a long time ago when certain evil men undertook the worst crime of allthe destruction of the liberty, honor, and dignity of the Roman people (30b-31a). Bruni points out that Florence is even more honored by its own excellence and achievements, than that of its descent (33a). The city has prospered at home and abroad (33a). The Florentine army was very talented, and their military skill enabled them to win many battles (37a-37b). Pitti and Dati mention the wars and battles of Florence in their diaries. The entire history of Florence is a large part of what makes the city the city it is today, and the one Bruni loves so much.
Another aspect of Florence that Bruni raves about is the government. He explains that there are public and private crimes; a private crime derives from the intentions of the individual wrong-doer and public ones are the result of the will of the entire city (34a). Florence uses law and tradition to make judgements and the view of the majority has always been the view of the people (34a). The city has outstanding officials, magistrates, judiciary, and social classes according to Bruni (39b). Florence is extremely fair in all respects, and the government is always trying to carry out justice, punish criminals when needed, and make sure that no one stands above the law (39b). It is made abundantly clear that everyone is of equal rank in Florence, and the same protection offered Florences citizens also protects foreigners (42a). However, according to Pitti, at one point Messer Gregorio was arrested and the whole city was under martial law (Pitti 30). Not exactly the same view Bruni supplies. In addition, Pitti adds that our leaders are divided amongst themselves and have so sacrificed the common good and honor to private grudges and secret feuds that two sorts of citizens, youths and upstarts, have managed, by taking advantage of their dissensions, to worm their way into government (Pitti 74). Bruni claims that Florence even has a reputation for the quality of practical wisdom, of generosity, and of being a safe haven (34b). Finally, Bruni calls attention to the fact that since faithfulness and integrity have been so highly valued in this city, it has scrupulously observed agreements even with its enemies, and as a result, Florence has never been accused of defaulting on its promises (35b).
The Florentine people are an important part of what makes this city great. They arose from the Roman race; and there is no nation more distinguished, more powerful, and more outstanding is every sort of excellence than Rome (29b-30a). Their dominion was equal to the entire world, and they governed with the greatest competence; these traits are also true of the Florentine people (30a). Bruni feels that if the magnificence of the parents can also make the sons outstanding, then no people in the entire world can be as worthy of dignity as are the Florentines (30a). In addition, it is said that no one will ever think that he really lacks a homeland so long as the city of Florence continues to exist (34b). The Florentines welcome exiles, and even help them with gifts and money (34b-35a). In contrast, Pitti speaks at one time of a henchman of the clique in power in Florence who was in the habit of insulting Florentine exiles to their faces whenever he met them (Pitti 32). Bruni gives off a totally different image of the people. Bruni adds that a huge trait that makes Florence so great is that it has never tolerated injuries to other cities, nor has it ever allowed itself to be an idle onlooker while other states were in trouble (35a). An opposing opinion believes that renaissance Florence was inhabited by individuals who placed the greatest importance upon visible, tangible, material objectives, and who thought first of themselves and their own interests (Brucker 16). In addition, Pitti adds that his own impression is that we have grown arrogant and careless (Pitti 74). Bruni believes that Florence greatly excels beyond all other cities in the dignity and nobility of its origin (32a). The government Bruni speaks of is a fair and impartial system that only increases the greatness of Florence.
In conclusion, Bruni has full confidence that once this magnificent and splendid city is seen, it dispels all doubts about its greatness and converts former disbelievers to the truth (27a). There are obviously many reasons why Florence is a wonderful city, but according to Pitti and Dati there is nothing about the city as amazing as Bruni makes it out to be. Bruni never truly speaks of the combination of misfortunes–wars, internal upheavals, pestilence, famine–which seriously damaged the economy (Brucker 13). Pitti and Dati were not writing for the sole reason of praising Florence, but they also do not go out of their way to mention its many qualities. Unfortunately, Bruni never writes directly about money or business, whereas most of what Pitti and Dati write about are only those subjects. Overall, Bruni offers a much different perspective of Florence in his Panegyric to the City of Florence, than the views Pitti and Dati offer in their diaries.