In the summer of 1999, western countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were in the final stages of negotiating a peaceful end to the Kosovo War. For much of the 90’s, conflicts had erupted between ethnic Serbs and Albanians over the Kosovo region of Southeast Europe, an area occupied by both ethnic groups. NATO eventually intervened in 1998 by initiating an air-bombing campaign that was covered extensively in the media. By June of 1999, a ceasefire had been called and a peace agreement was reached, which included a NATO-led occupation of Kosovo in a peacekeeping role. But it was in the crucial moment between the ceasefire and the peace that probably one of the biggest international incidents ever was avoided.
The city of Florence, capital of the Italian region of Tuscany in north-central Italy, is full of history, wonder, and beauty. It is one of the most-visited places in Europe, attracting over 1.7 million tourists a year. Florence is also a popular destination for students traveling abroad. As the birthplace and heart of the Rennaisance, Florence is bursting with art and culture and begets a great sense of wonder and awe. It is widely believed that Florence has the highest concentration of art in the world.
It is the birthplace of men whose names will live on throughout history – Michaelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, Giotto, Dante Alighieri, Donatello, DaVinci, Raphael, Florence Nightingale, the Medici family, and our continent’s namesake, Amerigo Vespucci. Together, these people provided us with the foundation of western culture as we know it today. They also made Florence one of the greatest exporters of culture the world has ever seen. Fiorentinis are quite proud of this fact, and will tell you that their cultural heritage is continuing on in the names of designers such as Roberto Cavalli and Gucci, as well as Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone.
Florence is certainly one of the most amazing cities worldwide, and it has an incredible ability to turn out brilliant minds known the world over. Anyone who has been to Florence can attest that there is a certain aura about the city – you can feel it in the air that you are in a historic place. However, there is also something slightly unsettling about that aura too. This is because that history is quite sordid. While Sicily gets most of the attention for being home to the Italian mob culture, Florence has a gruesome history that includes two of the most infamous bloody ordeals in Italy in the last millennia. This is the first of those two.